Driftless Trout Anglers

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NBrevitz  
#1 Posted : Sunday, September 25, 2016 6:57:15 PM(UTC)
NBrevitz
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 3/16/2013(UTC)
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Man
Location: Lake Elmo, Mn

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Faced with a horrid weather forecast in the Driftless and the tales of our northern friend The Squatch, I began dreaming of the tannin stained waters of the northern shore of Lake Superior. A quick check of the radar revealed a sizeable band of rain headed right over Nipigon Country, and I was off. Here's a not so short report of my 3 day trip, along with a story/achievment I doubt I'll ever replicate again, not that this broke ass college kid really wants to. Also, serious fish porn ahead, feel free to skip ahead to the big boys.

Day 1: Pinks and Yuppies
After convincing my parents that I indeed wouldn't attempt to shoot the Nipigon in my kayak, I was off and shooting up 35. Only my kayak wasn't so agreeable in the 30-40 MPH gusts along the ride up. I tightened the straps until my fingers bled, said a quick prayer, and continued the drive. One State Patrolman even decided to follow me for 10 minutes to make sure I wasn't trying to kill anybody. First stop was a good sized stream just south of Grand Marais. The area was packed with tourists, but surprisingly no fishermen. A quick peak revealed a pod of 30-40 pinks packed into a small riffle. Out came the medium light and a #6 bugger. The fish always seemed to bite whenever the yuppies showed up to gawk at them, so at this point I began to tolerate their presence.
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I caught 15 or so in a couple hours, keeping one that decided to run into the rapids and not come out until he had thoroughly exhausted himself. I'd had enough of the small children vaulting past me to grab the fish at this point, and decided to continue on north.
I quickly stopped at another river about 30 miles north to find more fish, but none of the vaunted Coasters I was truly seeking on this trip. Beautiful river though, several of you will likely recognize it from this HWY 61 pic.
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"Enough with the Pinks", I said, and proceeded to clear customs like a pro (unlike Eddie) and drive the last 2 1/2 hours to my chosen stream for the next day. It was a bit unnerving sleeping in the wilderness by myself without any sort of protection, but I consoled myself with fact that I had brought absolutely NO FOOD whatsoever, though this would bite me in the ass later. 4 hours of freezing cold sleep followed.

Day 2, Part 1: What did I do to Deserve This?
I woke up at 7 the next morning to find temps in the low 40s and a strong wind out of the northwest. Lovely. After layering up, I splashed the kayak and set off for the river outlet about 1 mile up the lake.
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The lake had a bit of a chop and made for a grueling, splashy ride up the lake. With that said, I was no longer shivering, so that was a plus. I left my kayak at the outlet and headed downriver into the gorge.
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Bit of a drop...
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I caught a nice Rainbow right at the bottom of this fall.
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Further down I encountered the barrier fall, gorgeous.
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I was a little discouraged when I didn't see any Salmon at the barrier fall, but I was truly targeting Coaster Brook Trout, so I wasn't too concerned. I caught a couple small resident Brookies as I continued downstream. I was rounding another bend about 200 yards down from the waterfall when I about stepped on a Chinook in 18" of water. I smiled, looked up, and saw at least 30 pinks and 6-7 Chinook and Steelhead holding in a knee deep run along the outside corner. I continued down to allow this sizeable group of fish to calm down for later.
The next 2 bends down held quite a few fish, and I fought a Chinook I unintentionally snagged for 5-6 minutes before he sent the lure back into my chest. I'd heard that Lake Superior Chinook rarely top 6-8 lbs, but these fish were all easily 10-12 lbs and up. My medium light began to feel like an ultralight. The Chinook managed to spook all but a couple of Pinks, and after releasing the second fish I headed back up 150 yards to where I saw the large group from an hour before.

At this point, the bugger that had done so well the day before came back out. Minimal splash is a big plus when fishing for Salmon that are used to having lots of water over their backs. A smattering of Pinks soon followed, and a big buck Steelhead in the upper 20 range even gave me a long chase before he backed off. About 4-5 drifts later, the biggest Chinook in the pool grabbed the bugger. He didn't exactly smash it like every single fish so far this trip, he just grabbed it and lowered himself back down. The hookset woke him up, but only a little bit. He leisurely swam upstream until I began to pressure him a bit.

At this point, all hell broke loose... He quickly pulled drag into the large pool above the other fish, where he hunkered down briefly. I tried pulling him back out, only to have him return to the pool with force. It was going about as well as it could at the moment, with a snag free pool where he could tire himself in the current. He decided he didn't like that idea, and launched himself out of the water a good 3 feet several times in rapid succession, peeling drag the entire time. On the last leap, the brand new rod, that had just landed a 5 lb Brown with minimal difficulty a month before, snapped at the 5th guide. I now had to fight this fish without any benefit of a rod bend. Also, the rod tip that was now in his lip seemed to tick him off even more, and he headed downriver with me powerless to stop him, spooking about 50 other Salmon that I could see on his way down.

About 80 yards later, he settled down a bit in a deep pool. I threw in a chew while keeping minimal tension, thinking I would never land this fish and, if I even had a chance, I had to calm down and fight him with the drag until he wasn't green. Over the next 30 minutes (no exaggeration whatsoever), I would pull him within 5-10 feet of the bank, only for him to peel drag back out to the center of the giant deep pool. Over and over again... He was slowly beginning to tire, but so was I. My right forearm was throbbing, having to yank that fish to the top and skate him back so many times. After about 4-5 near misses, I managed to grab the fish with one hand, while standing in waist deep water, and throw him on the bank. A truly massive Chinook for Superior and I had bested him with 8 lb test and 2/3 of a rod... Further inspection revealed that I had set the hook hard enough to anchor it deep into his upper jaw bone. The connection was comparable to that of a trailer hitch. That said, I'm truly amazed he didn't bust me off. I was extremely lucky. 34" long with a 22" girth, he probably weighed 21 lbs.
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After gutting the fish, which I had endearingly named Fat Bastard, I hiked out with the still very heavy fish back upriver to the lake. The climb around the waterfalls about did me in... I reached my kayak, strapped him in, and paddled back through good sized rollers.
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You can see that this fish had already survived 2 attacks from Sea Lamprey while out in Superior. I had such respect for this fish, but I knew after about 20 minutes of fighting it that it'd probably be best that I landed it and took it, I doubt he would've had enough energy to make it to the barrier.

Day 2, Part 2: Well OK Then...
Heading back towards Nipigon, I stopped for a quick bite, fished a smaller creek for a bit with a few Pinks to hand, and headed to a river Eddie and I fished last summer with some big Brook Trout. Brook Trout season is closed in Ontario but Salmon season never closes, so if anyone asked I was Salmon fishing. That said, I broke out a #9 Panther Martin... and started using my Pike stick for the rest of the trip. As it turns out, 8 lb test and a medium heavy outfit can whip a good fish quite nicely, and the casting distance is outstanding. Within 2 minutes, a nice native came to hand. I quickly released my unintended catch.
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This particular pool, which produced quite a few 12-15" Brookies for me last June, was unusually quiet after the nice Brookie. I chucked once more into the pool, really letting that phucker sink. 3 reel turns later, I was smacked by a good fish. I was slightly disappointed to not see a red belly, but that quickly faded when the nice Chinook made a Tarpon like leap. That said, its much easier landing fish with an intact rod, and 3-4 minutes later I hoisted up the 8 lb male. Despite being 5 miles up this steep ass river, he was still pretty fresh and I quickly subdued him.
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At this point the pool was truly dead after he had thrashed in it for 5 minutes, so I continued up into the riffle water below the falls. A smattering of Steelhead smolts and a couple Brookies soon followed.
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I quickly made it to the barrier fall. Pretty impressive.
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The sun was getting pretty low, so I quickly hopped up the rocks to the bottom of the falls. Due to higher water, Eddie and I were unable to reach the base of the falls last trip, so now I would exact my revenge. The pool was, uhmm, cavernous. It looked like a meteor of about 60 feet in diameter had struck the riverbed. I casted to the base of the falls, let that phucker sink once more, and began a slow retrieve. About 2/3 of the way through, a big Chinook smacked me once more. The fish was essentially trapped but still took plenty of drag for the next 10 minutes before I trapped her in the rocks. A damn nice female of about 16-18 lbs.
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Deciding I'd done enough for one day, I proudly carried my damn near 30 lbs of Chinook back up the hill. They got pretty heavy after a while.
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While later gutting my fish in the Husky Parking Lot, I was startled to see someone had come out of the woods to take a look. Actually he was eating the kitchen scraps they had left out for him, but I could see him sniffing the air and staring in my direction afterwards. I figured if they were already feeding him I may as well toss him the guts. He didn't take offense and ate the salmon heads whole... He looked to be a good 250lbs.
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Day 3: Brooks and Done
I was running out of cooler space to start day 3 and began the long trek home. A quick stop at the mouth of the same river I had fished the night before brought several Pinks and a small Coaster of about 13".
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Not wanting to buy more Canadian gas than I needed to, I hung it up and limped across the border. A quick trip to a couple proven spots of mine brought a quick limit of Brookies for Ron Schmidt. The drive into the second spot is one many would savor.
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I quit just as it was getting dark and drove home through a thick fog. The haul from the trip was pretty damn good. Redneck Caviar anyone?
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Edited by user Monday, September 26, 2016 2:52:11 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
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West Branch  
#2 Posted : Sunday, September 25, 2016 7:20:58 PM(UTC)
West Branch
Rank: May Fly

Joined: 9/23/2012(UTC)
Posts: 183
Location: West Branch, IA

Way to go! Great report and a really nice bunch of fish.
William Schlafer  
#3 Posted : Sunday, September 25, 2016 7:59:25 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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Joined: 7/24/2011(UTC)
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ThumpUp ThumpUp ThumpUp

What an adventure! Well done.


-Bill
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
donjuan  
#4 Posted : Sunday, September 25, 2016 10:20:33 PM(UTC)
donjuan
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 5/23/2011(UTC)
Posts: 418
Location: WI, IA

SWEET pictures and story. That sounds amazing
rschmidt  
#5 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2016 5:19:44 AM(UTC)
rschmidt
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Epic Nick, delicious as well. Thanks for the care package and good to see ya. R
NBrevitz  
#6 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2016 9:52:47 AM(UTC)
NBrevitz
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 3/16/2013(UTC)
Posts: 1,366
Man
Location: Lake Elmo, Mn

Thanks: 49 times
Was thanked: 35 time(s) in 30 post(s)
Thanks guys! Wish I could've found more Coasters but it was still a great trip.
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
trapper  
#7 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2016 4:25:11 PM(UTC)
trapper
Rank: Super Fly

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Great report
Get Reel
MNFishhunter  
#8 Posted : Monday, September 26, 2016 5:26:17 PM(UTC)
MNFishhunter
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 4/3/2013(UTC)
Posts: 401
Location: S.E. MN

Take me fishing Nick?
s.t.fanatic  
#9 Posted : Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:52:50 AM(UTC)
s.t.fanatic
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Looks like an amazing outing!!
DanE  
#10 Posted : Tuesday, September 27, 2016 10:49:30 AM(UTC)
DanE
Rank: Dragon Fly

Joined: 9/18/2014(UTC)
Posts: 1,238
Location: Prairie Du Sac, WI

Nice job Nick! Those of us who are tied down with work and family obligations are jealous of your trip.
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