Nov 10, 2017
BATTLE SALMON AND TROUT UP-STREAM IN LATE FALL!
By Captain Lee Haasch
There was a chill in the air as we sat on the tailgate of the truck and wiggled into our waders. There was also a slight crispness to the air. We had already seen frost in October and a bit of an Indian summer to boot, but pretty soon the first fluffy white snow would be appearing on the rooftops. The breeze was a familiar northeasterly and brought the chill from nearby Lake Michigan piercing through the trees. The slight cloud cover and light, hazy fog over the water was keeping the darkness near black, just giving us enough time to slide down to one of Tyler’s favorite holes to attack a few brown trout and salmon.
As we zigzagged down the trail to the stream, the sky was just starting to lighten a bit. It wouldn't be long before it turned to crimson orange and the first rays of the sun would pierce through the yellowing leaves of the trees and start casting shadows on the trickling stream. Tyler reminded me that if we play this just right, we could double up on some salmon with our first couple drifts of his custom, hand-tied spawn sacs with bright orange beads. Precision, timing, a little direction from the master and, yes, a little luck wouldn’t hurt either. As we neared the stream, I snuck slowly toward the bank and readied my first cast just as Tyler had instructed.
I flipped the sac right where he told me and it was seconds before the pool erupted; not once, but twice! Tyler had mirrored my cast only a few yards downstream and knowing the pool, he had a feeling that several large, late kings rested along the bank. A double! Game on! I’m used to doubles in the dark on the boat, but 15 yards apart on a 30-foot wide section of tributary stream, well, that is exhilarating. My 6’6” medium action Ugly Stik Elite was bent almost in half and my Abu Garcia Revo SX was peeling out 10-pound test line as I hung on to battle this monster of muscle for what seemed like an eternity. But in reality, the battle lasted about 20 minutes. What a thrill! A double on 20-pound monster kings and the day had just started!
After a few photos, we slipped the pair back to the stream to continue their spawning journey upstream. During a short rest, I chatted with stream guide extraordinaire, Tyler Yunk. Tyler and his partner, Tim Maher, own Habitual Guide Service, which specializes in stream guiding for kings, steelhead, coho and brown trout in the tributary streams on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Tyler explained that with Lake Michigan levels up the past couple of years, the tributaries had excellent water levels and that last year the fall run was one of the best ever, with excellent fishing right up to Christmas. They had outstanding action on steelhead, brown trout and coho salmon right up to ice time. Spring and fall are their premier seasons, but they also attack trout through the ice in the same streams during the winter months. In the summer months, Tyler is also a charter captain out of the port of Algoma. When it comes to salmon or trout, Tyler knows his stuff. He pays very close attention to every detail; right down to the Mr. Derks custom beads and netting he uses to add just the right look to match the color of the water and the sky conditions.
In my younger years, (I prefer not to totally date myself with how long ago, but it was a while back), I tramped up and down these very same stream waters each spring and fall and laid plenty of kings on the bank. Now, it is not all about the meat, but the thrill of the chase and the quality of the fight that brings these young guides full circle, teaching an old salty veteran of the fishing league a thing or two. I’m kind of a “gramps” to these young studs of the streams. I’ve always felt the part of teacher when these two young captains would come by my boat for advice or general information, but now it was my turn to learn from the next generation of anglers.
I had never seen up close a rod and reel combo like Tyler sported that morning. It was a 13’ custom Raven rod with a Colville center pin reel. It almost looked like a hybrid fly rod. Tyler offered to let me have a go, but I thought it best to watch him for a while. The casting was a very different motion, and Tyler was smooth, deliberate and very accurate, almost as if the rod was an extension of his body. With a long, smooth motion he laid the bait and Raven float right above the ripple of current above the hole. Almost immediately, the water exploded with the furry of a giant king ripping at the custom spawn sac and, in one swift motion, Tyler raised and reared the rod over his head like a willow branch bending in a stiff wind! He masterfully used his hand to control the drag on the reel and it left me wondering if the king had any chance at all. In this case he didn’t! I could tell that this was a skill learned over time and for an oldster like me, my 6’6” Ugly Stik Elite would be my best tool in the arsenal. Today, I was looking for an escape from the world of "hustle, bustle and frustration." So, casting frustrations were not what I was looking for. I was very content with the tranquility of Mother Nature. It was just what the doctor ordered. That, and a few moments of a great battle with a big king salmon tearing downstream!
There is something special about being one with nature, no noise, no engines, only two fishermen and the kings. I had the day to remember. It had been way too many years since I fished the streams like this and I can tell you one thing, I am not waiting that long to do it again. You can bet, I will be joining Tyler next spring for yet another adventure and tackle some Lake Michigan steelhead during their annual spawning run up these very same tributaries. Thanks Tyler for a great day!
If you are not sure where to go or what kind of equipment and bait you'll need, Habitual Guide Service can “hook you up.” I have always believed that the first time or two tackling something new, you can spend an awfully long time learning on your own. Or, you can have someone show you how and then duplicating from there on is easy. You can check them out on Facebook, or on the web at, www.habitualguide.com, or call Tyler Yunk at 920-255-7865.