A Great Lake steelhead has been a fish that I have had on my list for a while now. Several attempts to put hands on my first had all failed, including two trips already this spring. I knew at some point what seemed to be impossible would be inevitable, but when would that be?
For the last several years Abigail and I have attended the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo held in St. Paul as visitors. There we met Carl and Jade, a married couple that are responsible for putting the expo together and are heavily involved in Minnesota Trout Unlimited and other industry related causes. We had communicated with Carl and Jade in the past while helping write content for the MN TU newsletters, but hadn’t personally met them until a few years ago.
This year, I volunteered to help Carl and Jade for a day at the expo, during which we called out the fact that we had yet to fish together. I mentioned my desire to catch a steelhead and Carl quickly suggested we meet up on Minnesota’s north shore, where he and Jade live. We picked a date a few months out that happened to be the weekend of Abigail’s birthday.
As the weekend of May 17th finally rolled around, Abigail and I made our way up to Duluth to meet up with Carl and Jade and hopefully catch some of the large migratory trout that were temporary residing in the nearby rivers. In true Duluth fashion, the weather went from 60 degrees the week prior to the low 40s with a constant, drizzly rain; but that didn’t stop the 4 of us from heading out. We rigged up our rods inside Carl and Jade’s warm, restored farmhouse, put on our rain jackets and headed north along Lake Superior.
In short time, we arrived at a river that Carl had wanted to try first. The North Shore is littered with rivers, so the trick is bouncing around until you find fish. After a short hike up river, we were swinging our bugs through pools, hoping that a steelhead would cause our indicators to go below the water’s surface.
Within 30 minutes of working a pool, the unexpected happened—my indicator went under, I set the hook and felt weight. This weight was different than the rocks I had been occasionally hitting earlier, it moved and fought back. “FISH! FISH!” I yelled loudly as I began to battle the chrome fish on the end of my line. Jade quickly came running with the net, and within a few minutes my first steelhead was in my hands! I couldn’t believe it! It was one of the more memorable fish I can remember.
To make things even better, shortly after I released my first steelhead back into the rust colored river, Abigail hooked into one as well! She fought it well and I was able to help her land her first steelhead; on her birthday weekend to boot! I was equally as happy to see her catch her first steelhead as I was for my own.
Over the course of the next few hours, and after making sure we had chances to catch ours, both Carl and Jade caught steelhead of their own, to round out the perfect 4 for 4! What started as a dreary weather day, had turned into one of the more memorable days of fishing I have had. Spending time in beautiful landscapes with great people is always time well spent, but when you have success on top of that, those are the days that really stand out.
The 4 of us celebrated our day with some BBQ at a local Duluth restaurant while we recapped our day and swapped stories. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and look forward spending more time on the water with Carl and Jade in the future chasing these great fish.