NEWAYGO — Funny, isn’t it, how temperatures in the low 20s can feel like a heat wave?
That’s how it felt when I spent Valentine’s Day on the Muskegon River with Jon Kolehouse. It was the first time this winter that I went fishing without an ice auger and though it was cold — the line guides on our rods froze up after every couple of drifts — it felt downright balmy. Kolehouse, a seasoned veteran of the winter steelhead wars, said the fishing has actually been quite good this winter, though he’s had to cancel more days than usual as a lot of guys have balked at fishing in the deep freeze.
“I had a half day yesterday and we went seven for eight,” Kolehouse said. “I had a full day Saturday and we went 23 for 30.”
It seems pretty obvious that the steelhead haven’t been beaten about the head and shoulders this winter. On my fourth cast, I was into a fish, a good one. It took me downstream immediately and whenever I leaned into it to gain a little line, the drag just slipped some more.
“Are we going to have to chase it?” asked Kolehouse.
“Well, I’m not gaining any ground,”’ I said, but before Kolehouse could even reach for the anchor, the fish pulled off. Oh, well.
A couple of casts later, Kolehouse’s bobber went down. He connected and immediately reeled an 18-inch brown trout to the boat. (It was one of three nice resident browns we’d catch as well as five resident rainbows.) We were fishing with spawn bags on baitcasting gear. Kolehouse has gone almost exclusively to baitcasting reels in recent years, though he sometimes brings a couple of spinning rods along, too, because of some his clients “are afraid of them,” he said.