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17 March 2006
'Secret Creek' fishing report [11 Mar 2006]

B drifts a nymph through a promising runB and I snuck out again for a quick steelhead fishing trip last Saturday afternoon. The skies were seriously overcast but calm, and the afternoon air temperature maxed out near 60 oF (15 oC). I chose to don my summer-weight breathable waders rather than neoprene. We last fished this small stream on March 6 when the flow was definitely on the low side of normal - I guessed it to be maybe 100 ft3/s then. This little creek is too small to warrant an official USGS streamflow gauge, so I'm just guessing at the volume. On Saturday, however, the rain and melting snow had increased the flow to probably 8 to 10 times the volume at our previous outing. The stream was still crossable, however, if you know where to attempt it. But it was flowing high, dark and fast, and well out of its banks.

We were surprised to find 3 other trucks parked at our access point - a sure sign that the spring steelhead season is underway. We could access most of our favorite spots and so headed straight for them since we were getting a late start. The creek looked well-suited to a spring steelhead run, but I quickly felt my fishing confidence dissolving in the high, murky water. I drifted eggs and nymphs under a bobber for a short time before switching to a heavy sinktip line and a dark streamer. With the water so high, the fish could be hanging out almost anywhere and I had little confidence in my approach. I chose the alternative of slowly sweeping a buggy-looking streamer through as much of the 43 oF (6 oC) water as I could, hopefully avoiding most of the underwater snags. I gently swung both dark and bright wooly buggers deeply and made my way downstream, addressing the stream more like pocket water than the long, wood-strewn riffle that it really is. The high, fast water and submerged, hidden TroutGrrrl-trippers helped me make this decision. I had to circumnavigate a stinky deer carcass on the bank at one point. Later, I'd have to hike over or around 2 older, less aromatic ones. Stumbling onto one of those little carnage scenes in the brush, while you're otherwise focussed on not snagging your precious waders and flyrod on twigs and barbed wire, is a rather startling experience. I fished downstream a few hundred yards, as far as I could go, catching nothing but sticks, leaves and grass, then hiked back upstream to find B. I did quicken my pace past the smelly ghost-of-deer-past.

I caught up to B. She was fishing in the hole where I'd started and reported that she'd caught nothing either. We hiked back up to the road for a quick snack and a drink of water. All but one of the trucks was gone - a sign that the fishing results were probably not particularly positive for anyone. We then headed across the bridge and upstream to find a few more good spots.

Picking our way through the prickly, brambly brush, we shortly came upon a wading gentleman that we first met on Secret Creek over a year ago and have subsequently bumped into a number of times. He's a really warm, friendly guy with lots of fishing experience and lots of interesting stories to share. Last year, he and I quickly figured out that we both work within the small world of Michigan agriculture and have had occasion to contact each other for work purposes too. Meeting him on the stream on Saturday turned out to be the high point of the outing. We chatted briefly and, not wishing to distract his fishing time or ours, continued on our way.

B and I made our way up to the upper reaches of stream access, slowly swung streamers through all the likely water way too many times, and then made our way back downstream toward the road. At my regular crossing point, I ran into our friend again and, after a short chat, learned that he'd just returned from a business trip to northwestern Montana. What a lucky guy. I mentioned that B was also lucky enough to have a professional reason to visit Flathead County late this spring, and he quickly promised an email with a list of 'must-fish' spots. We chatted a while longer about Michigan, Montana and trout fishing and several points in between. The 3 of us waded and hiked downstream together and called it a day. No fish, but it was a few hours well-spent.

Fleece quotient: 1 heavy
Lost flies: 3 or 4
Spills, mishaps, slip-and-fall accidents: 0!
Wildlife sightings: noisy red-winged blackbirds, a couple red-tailed hawks, LBBs
Air temperature: almost 60 oF
Water temperature: 43 oF
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Sorta, my little one.
Enjoyment grade for the day: A

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