There are fish in the river. Been some good, bad and ugly days at catching. The only theory I know for sure is you can’t catch them if you don’t have a fly in the water. It is so…..
It is the picture,,,,,,,, and it’s your responsibility.
Besides hooking, playing and landing a Brule River Steelhead, there is absolutely nothing more exciting than watching one of your buddies survive the heart pounding, forearm burning, assault from this piscatorial member of the Flying Wallendas. Selfies of these bad boys(and girls) are next to impossible and would probably end in disaster for these rare survivors of Gitche Gumee. We all carry nets. Big nets, in order to ensure these fish are safe when they come into our world, and return to theirs. When someone hooks up, it is general ethic to stop everything you’re doing and offer assistance. Some anglers need to hook, land and net their own fish. Once you have done this by yourself, or lost a fish trying to do this, you are grateful for the assistance. After all, the experience becomes more satisfying and credible, when shared. Having an epic battle and landing a trophy fish by yourself is awesome, and for those of us who are solitary hunters, that is the rule. However, the experience shared, is how Brule legend and lore has been built throughout history. The more anglers in the gallery, the better the story. I know that one particular fish I hooked and landed back in 2004 has now grown to over 35 inches. Just keep telling that story, I love it.
Above is my friend Doug with a fresh fish. I did not take this photo but I have a good idea who did and they did a great job capturing the story. This fish was caught last week, Wed or Thurs. I was supposed to be on the river with them, but a mandatory ISO/TS safety/quality meeting for my new day job required my attendance. Thats a whole other story. I understand the fishing was epic for a couple of days and to those of you who were able to identify and converse with the members of the Goat Herd they appreciated the recognition. Never hesitate to stop and chat, provide or ask for some intel or request to slip into the rotation. They may look like big dicks, but there not. They are smart anglers with Bentley’s Balls attached to their rigs.
This email came in this morning. A tribute to the herd;
Good morning Andy, it’s a beautiful crisp morning in the north country and as I sit here (debating work or the river) I am reminded of the great encounter I had with some of your fellows this past Sunday on the Brule. As a new arrival to the Duluth area (and a former resident of Montana) I quickly fell in love with the Brule. The problem was, I had not a single clue how to fish it. Thankfully, I came across a crowd this past Sunday who were more than willing to show me the ropes. As the title suggests, I can’t for the life of me recall their names, but we spent a good deal of time talking about their fishing exploits with you, so I figured I had best reach out to ease my conscience. As I recall, the cast of characters included a UW River Falls grad who once noosed a Muskie on a small mouth, a bearded Tennessean who certainly fishes more than he works, and Pearce (Pierce?) who went above and beyond helping me out, and who refuses (as he should) to tip his flies with worms! There was also a trophy topped with an angler, but who doesn’t carry one of those around in their truck? They gave me some great pointers while on the water, and we had an even better conversation in the lot afterward. Hopefully, you can forward my many thanks to them.
Tips for good photos of Brule Steelhead
***This is not professional quality photography advice. This is angler advice to angler****
-Photos are taken over the water, not on shore. If the Wallenda gets spooked, and decides to take one more leap, it is much safer for the fish
-Keep Photo opps short lived. The fish should be in the net, in the water, upright and breathing reasonable, before lifting it for the photo.
-Keep talking to the catcher and snapping pictures. Tell him/her how you want them to hold the fish. Zoom in, zoom out. Remember, the angler is in a different world. There are numerous brain chemicals that are toying with their neural transmissions. Talk to them softly and remain calm. Be in control. DO NOT YELL AT THEM. Adrenaline levels are high and they will likely yell back, this can lead to a lot of yelling and some angry photos. From my experience, catchers are all very cognizant about the welfare of their fish. Reassure them if they move smoothly and swiftly their fish will swim away strongly and the photos will be outstanding.
-Always end with the arm extended photo. Many times this turns out to be the most memorable photo for the catcher. By this time your subject is calm, smiling and proud. This picture will give the fish its largest appearance. Very few photos tend to do justice to the memories we have of the experience. Only occasionally, will the photo tell the whole story.
Here are 3 photos I shot of the Brian’s fish. Brian did not get top billing on this post because he scooped me with my own photo by spreading it all over social media before I had the chance to post it. I am sure you have seen the final picture already. The battle and netting story will be left for later.
Fish Photos With a Story
These photos tell the story, but in a different way. Subjects must remember that photographers are under great stress and pressure to capture this important moment. The photographer is required to preform so many tasks in a short period of time. Sometimes he gets a great photo that is not a perfect photo, if you know what I mean.
Angler 1, who will eventually be the subject of the photo, is fishing the hole up stream of Angler 2. Angler 2 is about 100 yards down stream fishing a pile of rocks and a little back eddy known as the Birthday Hole. The hole that Angler 1 is fishing, is big and deep. Hooked fish almost never leave this water and the whole fight can take place in a big pool of relatively still water complete with leaps and runs. Once the fish is tired, the landing can take place safely with nice photos to follow. A big problem occurs however if the fish decides to exit the comfort of the deep water. Although Angler 1 knows how to put the hammer down, and attempt to control the raw power of an angry steelhead, sometimes letting them take line is the only course of action if one wishes to have a close encounter with the super star steelhead. The problem however, is traveling on foot through 200 yards of bouldery, tree lined, high gradient water to the next likely landing pad.
– Angler 1 has hooked a steelhead. After a short fight, the fish runs directly at Angler 1. The rod tip is wedged in overhead trees and the line is not only wrapped around Angler 1′s head, it is also tangled in the trees. The trout now decides to bolt down stream. The speed of the steel decent causes the loops of line to close quickly, sheering dead branches like numerous guillotines and littering Angler 1 with debris from above. The final coil of line nearly does the same to angler 1′s head. Luckily the line springs free and the rod bends again. Angler 1 is shouting, stumbling, clearing the bark and sticks from the back of his collar and pointing his rod down stream as he rounds the corner of the bend pool. Although Angler 2 cannot hear a word over the din of rushing water, the mannerisms of angler 1 tells him, his assistance is needed. He reels up his line and unhooks his net from his jacket.
Angler 2 now has become guide, coach, net man and photographer. It will be a team effort if the fish is to be landed. He makes his ascent on land and enters the water approximately 20 yards down stream from Angler 1. Angler 2 is now wading sideways and backwards, endangering his own welfare to call out wading obstacles while stumbling, slipping and holding onto tree branches. The campaign continues. Angler 1 must continue his trek down stream. The current and the fish are much too strong to control. Exchanges between the anglers have moved from the anxious banter of strategy, to jokes and laughter. As they stumble and slip, slide and snort, they both realize how physically demanding the struggle is and how much fun they are having. Just to hold a spectacular fish that lives in the largest fresh water lake in the world and swims up a little river to continue its circle/cycle of life seems like an odd reward to some. To these anglers, it is a difficult to explain gift of life.
Angler 1 is tiring and has been in this situation many times before in life. Twisted-up and physically smoked, there is one more ounce of effort left. One more cup of resolve, one more action to ramp-it up. It is him or me! Pushing the limits of tackle and tenacity, the big hammer is lowered and the fish is moved from behind the mid-stream rock, to the waiting net of Angler 2. The command from the net man was to release the line tension comes. The trout floats back into the basket.
There were hoots and high fives. This was a nice catch, size range similar to the photos above. The fish had been in the river a while. Angler 2 was on his camera phone snapping photos. He sent me his favorite. I love the photo. It tells the story of how Angler 1 almost lost his head.
Here is a steelhead my buddy caught off of one of the many snag monsters lurking in the Brule. This catch was foul(anal hook-up)hooked but landed. It is a bright fresh fish. I believe it was caught on a wolly worm.