The Fall/Winter run on the SW Tribs of Lake Michigan have been very difficult these last 2 years to say the least. After talking to a lot of fisherman who have fished these rivers a hell of a lot more than myself for many many years, it’s clear the number of fish are way down. When you see a couple guys fishing one of your favorite pools with spin rods, live spawn, and minnows, yet they have nothing to show for their efforts…you know you’re in for a rough season. I remember last year was the first Fall/Winter run where I never grabbed a trout’s tail on the local tribs and this year was shaping up to look the same. Anthony even started calling the Milwaukee the Milskunkskee River.
The two week forecast was about to change to steady freezing temperatures with the occasional sub-zero low, so Anth and I strung up the switch rods on a mix of snow and rain January day to get some redemption on a lack lust season. Fishing all the way into January is a pleasure and we owe it to our Spanish friend El Nino. Which is Spanish for…Anyway, I was lucky enough to get a small bright Steelhead and a healthy looking post spawn Brown. Anth was broken off from an aggressive Brown that continued to drift out of the run to pursue a strip/swung streamer even after the break off and a fly change.
These past couple seasons have been psychologically rough and revealing. When you reach the point of doubting if there is even a single fish in the river seeing your presentation, it really makes you wonder how you got up hours before sunrise, geared up, and drove 3 hours round trip to wave your stick around the river like you were actually fishing to fish. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether fish are in the river or not. If you love swinging flies for Winter Steelhead with switch rods like we do, and there’s always a chance, no matter how terrible the run is, you’re going to hear your reel scream and see a dime bright mini-sub flash you mid-swing…the only thing you stand to lose is the hot fish you’ve been paying your dues for since that last one you’re probably still talking about. Stubbornness and blind faith are a few qualities a lot of Steelheader’s have in common. My fingers are already crossed for the next warm weather pattern so I can swing a fly once more before the freeze.