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16 April 2006
'Secret Creek' fishing report [15 April 2006]

Secret Creek steelhead fishing - broken-off steelhead bendAfter getting skunked on the White earlier in the week, we were looking forward to a weekend steelhead fishing trip to cure our fish-deficiency ills. B picked up some spawn to help improve our chances. We headed out early and, before 9:00 AM, were hiking downstream on our favorite, most local steelhead stream - 'Secret Creek.' There were already several cars parked at each of the first few access points we drove past. But there were no cars parked at the low swampy, brambly access we've learned well over the past few years.

We fought our way through the low, wetland brambles, vines and brush and crossed the small stream to the first good steelhead holding spot - a wide deep bend just upstream from some good spawning gravel. I parked myself here for awhile while B headed downstream 50 yards to another dark, deeper hole. Before I could cast even once, a large dark form splashed out of the water. They're here! I drifted spawn through this section for a good 30 minutes while steelhead breached the surface above and below me several times. None of them seemed to notice my spawn however. B caught a little trout right away in her spot then moved on downstream. I saw a couple more steelhead in the shallow gravel stretch and finally gave up on this bend though it was clear that it held several big fish.

Resting in the sunshineWe hiked through the swampy landscape and fished several more deeper darker stretches, criss-crossing the stream. Along the way, we saw several steelhead - on gravel, splashing clear of the surface, and darting away from the bank and our menacing terrestrial figures. We hiked and fished our way quite a bit further downstream than we've been yet this spring. B caught a couple more trout; I had stimulated nothing more than a couple of small trout nibbles. B had also hooked and lost a nice steelhead after fighting it for a minute or two. It broke her off in some downed wood. I was feeling a bit frustrated, so I rested in the sunshine on the bank for awhile. Two little downy woodpeckers and a group of 3 flickers entertained me with minor disagreements. When B returned, she reported hooking and losing two more steelhead, a mature adult and a skipper. A skipper is a smaller, immature steelhead returned to the stream after only 2 years in the big lake. They're usually 12 to 18 inches long and 2 to 5 pounds in size. Fully mature adult steelhead return to the stream after spending 3-4+ years in Lake Michigan and generally range in size from 8 to 12 pounds.

Skunk CabbageI was feeling a little dejected. I switched back to flies and began drifting and swinging a small egg-sucking leech through the darker spots as I made my way back upstream. This little river was relatively loaded with steelies and I couldn't get one to notice my lovely spawn or streamer. Jeez. I did catch 2 king-sized chubs finally. They were brightly colored, horny-headed and spirited, but still not particularly satisfying to catch. I do feel a twinge of guilt about judging the relative values of natural creatures in this way. But so it is. Why is a trout more satisfying to catch than a chub? Because a trout is more discriminating and harder to catch? Because a trout is associated with cleaner, colder water? Bigger? Different ecosystems? Why is the catch-value of steelhead even greater than for trout? I don't know really and, in my present fish-slump, I don't care. I'd just really like to feel a steelie at the end of my line.

Maybe next weekend....

Fleece quotient: 0!, shortsleeves for awhile even
Lost flies: 3 or 4
Wildlife sightings: woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, chickadees, marsh wren, black stoneflies, BWOs, northern flickers
Steelhead score: 0/3, but none for me
Air temperature: almost 70 oF
Water temperature: not measured
Injury report: mild depression
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nope.
Enjoyment grade for the day: B-

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