An Excited Justin Bayes "Dude, where's Charlie Brown from?"
A Confused Scott Schmidt "Uh What? I have no idea."
Bayes, Still Overly Excited "I think he was from Duluth, right? Yea!"
I was still bewildered by the statement, but thought it had potential, as we cruised up Hwy 61 alongside Lake Superior. The mood was light and thoughts were random as we went back and forth singing parts of songs we thought we remembered from the '90s.
We were a couple of Kansas boys on our first Steelhead adventure. I had picked up Bayes at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport the night before. And after a late-night stopover at a Downtown Duluth Motel, we were headed for running water! No familiarity with the area. No Steelhead fishing experience between the two of us. Didn't matter. This was a break from our usual Spring trip to the White River in Arkansas, and we were up for a new challenge.
This picture does a good job depicting the attitude we held most of the first day. Is what we're about to try a good idea or not?
Bayes eventually decide against trying to cross, but the day was very much trial and error. Reports of where the Steelhead were, or were not running were almost impossible to come by. We knew this going in. This trip was pretty much a crapshoot. It didn't help that for the duration of our time here, the wind would blow 30 mph, the temperatures would stay below 40 degrees, and snow or sleet would be a daily occurrence.
We traveled up and down the Lower North Shore in search of fish, or people catching fish, or second-hand rumors of others catching fish. Day One was a recon mission. We tried fishing several spots that looked fishy to us. But without confidence that where we were fishing held fish, it was hard to stay long.
By 4 p.m. we had fished 3 or 4 tributaries, and stopped on bridges to look over bridges at at least 5 more. We talked to cold fishermen in parking lots that had given up for the day. Word on the street was the water was still too cold, but there were some fish further south. I won't name any names, but it's no secret. The river is basically the community hole. We wanted to find fish on our own. But with only 2 1/2 more days we were ready to look for hand-outs.
So we headed South again. Our plan was to observe large groups of fishermen to see if ANYONE hooked anything. While we were watching, we talked to a local fishermen who gave us a bit of common knowledge. This was about the only river that had fish in it so far. He also took a look at the fly line on our rods and said "It's gonna be a lot harder with that." The most effective technique to catch these fish involved spooling monofilament line onto the fly reel, only using the fly rod for a longer reach. The thinner line allowed the hook and weight to travel more naturally along the bottom, was less affected by the wind, and was less likely to spook the fish. Oh, and if you really want to catch something, ditch those yarn flies and give 'em a stinky spawn sack.
This last bit of advice struck a nerve. We were elitist fly fishermen. Purists. We would have no part of this sacrilege.
Yeah right! Where's the bait shop?
Previously cold and disheartened, we were now rejuvenated with new-found optimism! After buying bait and weight, we checked into the Voyageur Motel in Two Harbors. The camping gear in the back of the Honda was just taking up space. We were getting softer by the second.
Bayes immediately spooled up some mono. I had a beer, and a plan to lengthen my leader a few feet in the morning. We walked on over to the Landing Sports Bar and ordered some drinks and a pizza. Tomorrow was going to be our day.