One important aspect of fly fishing in Wisconsin which is often overlooked by anglers is focusing on the river mouths in spring. It is this junction between the lake and the river where steelhead start their spring spawning runs every year. What actually drives these special fish to run the rivers is not entirely known but in the simplest of terms, steelhead are fulfilling their most essential act of life, spawning.
As steelhead enter the river to start this long journey they tend to be more aggressive. The longer these fish are in the river it seems either angling pressure or lack of appetite make them docile towards most fishing presentations.
Targeting these fish at this starting point can pay off big if you hit the timing just right. There is a small window when conditions are favorable for these fish to move and when these events line up the fish will push the river hundreds at a time. Before this run actually takes place the fish tend to stage or mill around the mouth of the river. It is this period that anglers need to target. These fish will be aggressive and pooled so you chances of hooking up are high. Targeting these congregated fish at first light is your best bet. As the sun gets higher in the sky fish will back away from the river mouth to deeper water looking for protection.
Techniques for catching river mouth steelhead on the fly rod vary greatly from stripping large streamers to dead drifting egg flies. If you find a pod of really aggressive fish ripping flashy streamers like sparkle buggers or clousers will definitely generate a few bites. If fish are more passive then slow subtle techniques like drifting yarn egg flies or stonefly nymphs can produce good numbers of fish. One import point to remember when targeting these fish is that the depth of your presentation plays a big factor whether or not you will get a bite. A good idea is to start you presentations on the bottom and work your way up the water column. Change fly patterns, retrieve speeds and depth until finding a combination that works then stick with it.
Targeting steelhead when they are just about to enter the river is a great opportunity for fly anglers. Not only are fish more aggressive and willing to take flies but the pressure from anglers is miniscule compared to famous fishing holes. Hooking into a large steelhead is just the start but if you are lucky enough to get a fish on the reel then fighting at this junction is where you want to be. River mouths in most cases are obstacle free for fish and fly anglers. When it comes to enjoying the spring fishing season, fishing the river mouth is one of those special opportunities you just have to try.