Josh and I take an annual fishing trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan that is sort of our Christmas. For various reasons, that trip is not happening this year. To supplement the hole left by the absence of that trip, we’ve decided to meet up in our home town of Wausau, WI (a nice mid-ish point between our current residences) at least a couple times during this spring and summer. The first of these trips happened over the weekend.
Part 1: Rib River float-a-thon
As I’ve already complained about, the spring in Wisconsin has been pretty brutal this year. Between a ton of rain and lingering cold, fishing has not been kind to me, and I’m guessing it’s been tough for many others as well. Going into the weekend, the forecast for Saturday was gusty winds (20 mph with gusts of 30+) and cold for this time of year (highs around 50 degrees). Unfortunately the forecasters were right for once.
But, Josh and I were unwavered in our resolve to fish, so we donned our winter caps and neoprene gloves, and headed out to the Rib River. Neither of us had fished the lower stretches of the Rib before, and had only fished the upper stretches once (unsuccessfully) for trout. This time we targeted smallmouth bass and pike. We took our float boats out (the metal-framed, inflatable, one-person pontoon deals) with the intention of floating from spot to spot where we could wade and fish.
On the up side…
Wind was mostly a non-factor
Despite the crummy weather, being down in the river and being (mostly) surrounded by wooded area helped shelter us a bit from the wind. So, it was only rarely actually a factor which was nice.
It was a successful scouting trip
The river was beautiful and showed a lot of promise. The stretch of river we floated is predominantly gravel-bottomed and had periodic easy-to wade gravel or sand bars with adequate back-casting space. The river was a bit high (I’d wager somewhere in the 8-12 inch higher-than-normal range), but wasn’t raging by any means. We were both surprised how fast the river went from bank/shoreline to a rapid drop off of a number of feet. There are plenty of holes for fish to hide in and it showed a lot of promise. Also, except for the very rare deadfall in the water, the river was very navigable with the float boats and made for a really nice float. I think that both of us are excited to get back there again.
I brought my neoprene gloves
Early this spring, I caught a screaming deal at Sierra Trading Post and used it as an opportunity to get some gear that I had sort of procrastinated on. One such item was a pair of neoprene fishing gloves. I will have to do a review of the ones I bought (don’t even remember the brand) because they were fabulous. And I needed them on Saturday.
On the down side
Where ‘da fish at?
It was wicked cold for May. Couple that with the long stretch of cold days (and very few warm days in the mix) and I think the fish are probably still holding deep. The Rib River hooks up with Lake Wausau eventually as well, so if any of the fish are migratory, they may still be holding in the lake. All of this is just me building towards excuses for why Josh and I managed to get skunked. No fish. I’m not sure we even had a strike.
The worst smell in the history of worst smells
As I came around a bend in the river, I was suddenly hit by an invisible force field of stank. My initial reaction was literally to think that I had just paddled into an area where there was a sewage outlet. I seriously began scanning the surface of the water to see if there were any turds floating around. Seriously.
After I had a chance to assess the situation (and start breathing through my mouth) I realized that we had either paddled just downwind of a pig farm or some other farm spreading liquid manure. It was heinous.
So this was our first time fishing this river, and we only had our own research and some info from Josh’s bro-in-law to go on. As we neared some landmarks, we began looking for our take-out point. I even hauled out my phone to check how close we were on the GPS. The only clue for our take out was some mossy concrete steps near the top of a steep muddy bank.
We parked our boats and Josh went up the maybe 30-40 foot hill (I’m bad at gauging distances). Sure enough, this was our take-out. In another classic Josh/Jason adventure, we tag-teamed hauling our float boats up the rather steep hill. Miraculously, we avoided injury, though my lack of physical conditioning showed as I was pretty winded at the top of the hill.
Part 2: Wisconsin River explore-a-thon
As this post is getting a bit lengthy, I’ll do a follow-up post for those of you who like to break up your reading.