Just one of those nights…..

22 06 2017

Ever have one of those nights when nothing seems to go right?  The kind of night when you have that feeling deep down that it is going to be a disaster and you should just stay home?  Well last night was one of those nights.  I had been debating going fishing all day.  Originally the weather forecast was calling for light west winds but that changed to SSE winds at 10 mph.

Strike One.

It was also June 21st, the longest day of the year.  That meant it wouldn’t get dark until after 10:00 pm, thus giving me a very short window of opportunity since I had to get up for work the next day.

Strike Two.

With all the warm weather I was expecting here to be a lot of boat traffic, which is never fun.

Strike Three.

The Fish Flies were hatching.

I really can’t consider this a strike since I usually do pretty well when they are hatching.  Problem is I have had nights where they covered the boat and car which is really annoying.  So keeping all this in mind I did what any logical fisherman would do, I went out anyways.  I arrived at the ramp around 8:30 pm and as expected there were mayfly casing covering the water and lots of big boats out.  I must have had a look of disgust on my face because the ramp attendant asked me if I was “ok” when he took my launch fee.  I launched anyways and became even more disgusted when I saw the mats of weeds floating downstream.  The water was very clear as well which would probably mean lots of the other fish until dark, providing they were still around.  They usually leave about the time the mayflies start up.  I headed for deeper water first until the sun got a little lower on the horizon.  I started off with a couple of spoons and a #9 CCT Rapala.  It didn’t take long and I had my first fish for the night.  Problem was that it wasn’t a walleye, it was a walleye’s smaller cousin, a yellow perch.  A first for me.  I have never caught a yellow perch pulling wire, nor on a Rapala.

If he had been a few inches longer I would have kept him.

From then on it was clearing weeds, dodging pleasure boats and catching everything else but a walleye.  Yellow perch, White perch, White bass, Smallmouth bass, Rock bass, Sheepshead.  Even after dark i was still catching this crap.  Almost two hours of this line fouling nonsense.  At one point I was surrounded by a bunch of Common Terns and Ring Billed Gulls.  I knew what was coming and before I could pull my lines it happened.  The water boiled from those other fish pushing emerald shiners to the surface and then the birds dove in with me right in the center of it all. As expected all of my lures had fish on them.  Once i got them in I got out of that area and headed north.  Shortly after that I got rid of the spoons and switched over to all Rapala’s.  That cut back on some of the junk fish but they were catching every weed floating by.  I had debated quitting but I didn’t want to go in empty handed.  It has been years since I have been skunked and I wanted that streak to continue.  Around 10:30 I finally caught a walleye.  I seriously thought about just throwing him back and heading in but I wanted some fresh fish so I decided to stick it out for a bit longer. I stayed in the same area where I caught the one and in the next 20 minutes he was joined by four of his pals.  Now I was heading in.

A couple minutes later I was back at the dock and tying off.  I was feeling a little better now but I questioned whether or not it was worth the effort.  I go fishing to relax, not stress myself out.  As I pondered this I made it back to my car where I got the final kick in the teeth.

I know it doesn’t look to bad but I knew that once I opened the hatch to put  gear away they would swarm into my Escape and I would be finding dead flies for the next week.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain, at least my car wasn’t coated like the white Border Patrol car parked next to me.

My silver lining for the night, along with the fish.

 

 





Weekend Update

5 06 2017

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

This past Friday evening started off pretty much the same as the prior one.  I was back walleye fishing in my usual spot at 9:30 pm.  Conditions were pretty good, partly cloudy skies with a slight NW breeze.  Boat traffic was a little higher than normal and in about 30 minutes I was about to find out why.  No matter though, I got set up and started my usual routine for night fishing when the other fish are in.  About 5 minutes in I had my first fish on and it turned out to be a 23 inch male walleye.  That was soon followed up by a second 21 inch male.  I was beginning to think that maybe the other fish had left.  That things would get back to normal.  That I wouldn’t have to constantly be pulling lines in to remove unwanted accidental catches.  I was wrong.

1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,11,12,13,14,15,16…..

Around 10 pm I sensed a flash of light behind me and then a resounding boom.  Grosse Isle was shooting off fireworks, thus the reason for the increased boat traffic.  Shortly after the start of the show I picked up a third walleye and it would turn out to be my last one for the night.  Once the show was over all the boats headed for the docks and after that it was nothing but the other fish for the next few hours.  My last fish of the night turned out to be a white perch that had a brush with a muskie.  When I flipped it in the boat it had teeth marks across both sides.  Lucky little bugger.

 

Hope I never lose that Blue & White PP. It’s the only one I have.

 

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Chores.  I did find another Blue & White Pencil Plug while I was cleaning out the garage.  Day wasn’t a total waste of time after all.

 

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Sunday started off with me attending Demo Days at Schultz’s Outfitter’s.  This is an annual event full of fly fishing, tying classes and demonstrations.  I signed up for the Micro Spey – Trout and Smallmouth class presented by Tom Larimer.  When spey fishing first arrived in Michigan it was all about Steelhead.  Lately though there has been an interest in scaling things down for the resident Brown & Rainbow Trout and Smallmouth bass.  Tom has been heavily involved with this, working with both G. Loomis in developing fly rods specifically for this and lines from Airflo to go with them.  Since I enjoy spey casting so much I wanted to learn how to incorporate what I have learned so far into catching the aforementioned species.  Class started off indoors at first with discussion about presentation, reading water and fly selection.  After that we wadered up and were standing in the water casting.  Tom brought along two prototype rods from G. Loomis and worked with each of us on our spey casting.  I like to think that I am getting better but after watching Tom I quickly realized I have a long way to go.  He did point out a couple of small items that I need to work on.  A couple of the finer points of setting “the anchor” that when done properly make a huge difference.  When I don’t do it things get ugly.  Just like anything else that is new I need to practice more.  I figure I’ll go down to the river a few times a week with my spey and switch rods and do just that.

Later that evening I grabbed my 5wt fly rod and headed to Washago Pond in Willow Metropark to play around with the bluegills.  Susan and I used to go to the park about once a month in the Spring and Summer.  She would read and take pictures while I fished.  Afterwards we would drive around and look at the deer or whatever other critter might be out and about.  Now it’s just me and the fish.  When I arrived around 8:00 pm it was dead calm and no sign of any surface activity.  Usually the swallows are skimming the surface trying to pick off newly hatched bugs, not tonight.  Undeterred from the lack activity I walked over to the edge of the pond, tied on a #14 Elk Hair Caddis dry fly and went at it.  The fly wasn’t on the surface for a second when the first bull gill smacked it.  About a minute later he was in hand.

The first of about 2 dozen.

This continued on for the next hour.  Every other cast resulted in another nice gill.  Eventually my dry fly started to turn into an emerger/sub surface fly and then a slow sinking fly.  I could of changed flies but it was still working so I didn’t bother.  The last few caught were strip sets.  I would see a subtle swirl where I thought my fly was and once I gave a tug I could feel the weight.  I must admit though, I tied that fly right.  It never fell apart, even after being almost swallowed by most of the fish.  Around 9:00 pm fishing started to slow down so after one more fish I packed it up and went home.  My elbows and wrists were getting sore from all the fly casting today anyways.  I can always come back.

In the immortal words of Porky Pig….”That’s All Folks“.

 

Afterwards I drove around the park to watch the deer, just like Susan and I used to do.  There were about a dozen of them out, most with their summer cinnamon tan already.  No fawns yet, they are probably hunkered down somewhere safe from the resident coyotes.

Perfect way to end the weekend.

 

 

 

 





Memorial Fins and Feathers weekend, minus the Feathers.

30 05 2017

As in life, things don’t always go as planned.  Originally, my Memorial Day weekend was supposed to be 3 days of fishing and turkey hunting.  Due to weather, water conditions and other circumstances beyond my control all I got to do was fish for walleye Friday night.  Even that trip didn’t go as planned, actually the results were not what I figured they would be.

I left the house Friday night around 9:00 pm.  With the blankity blank run still going on I wasn’t even going to try until after dark.  I was planning on running pencil plugs as well with the hope of keeping the blankity blank catch rate to a minimum.  With that in mind I started fishing around 9:30 and shortly afterwards it began.

1,2,3,4,5,6, Hey look….a walleye, 7,8,9, Oh cool, another walleye, a third walleye….we’re cookin’ now 10,11,12,Dink,13,14,15, well at least I’m not catching them two at a time, 17,18,20,21, another walleye, I should just quit now, 22,23,24,26, that’s it, I’m done, time to pull lines.  Holy Crap, number 5, the streak continues.

That was the night in a nutshell.  I got my 5 walleye and the blankity blanks were just active enough to annoy me but not so bad that they drove me off the river.  Around 2 dozen of them in 2 ½ hours of fishing isn’t bad but when I am walleye fishing that is all I want to catch, walleye.  What I was really expecting was a lot of undersized walleye.  I had heard reports about fishermen catching 30 and 40 undersized walleye in order to get a limit of 5.  I didn’t want to deal with that along with the blankity blanks.  The longer the lures are out of the water, releasing unintentional catches, the less time they are in the water trying to catch the targeted species.  This was another reason why I was running pencil plugs.  I was hoping the bigger bait and lack of action would keep the blankity blanks and the undersized fish at bay.  It worked to some degree but it also created a headache.  One of the drawbacks with a pencil plug is that when a blankity blank grabs it the extra hooks catch the fish in odd places.  That creates a tendency for them to come in sideways and pinwheel, which leads to tangled leaders.  I got brave at first and ran 3 leaders but once I realized that the blankity blanks were not going to leave it alone I ditched my kicker to cut down on the tangles.

There were about 6 other boats out fishing tonight as well.  Most of them were south of me but one stayed in my area for a good part of the evening.  At one time they got close enough and I could see that they were bring in blankity blanks two at a time.  I was able to see what they were using for lures, #9 Clown Rapalas.  That’s as bad as wearing a Vote Hillary 2016 t-shirt at an NRA convention.  You’re just asking for trouble.  As the night progressed the other boats thinned out and by 11:00 pm I was the only one out.  By 11:30 I had 4 in the box and was debating just heading in.  I had to get up early the next morning and I needed some sleep.  I decided to stick it out to 12 and then go in no matter what.  I pointed my boat towards the Edison warm water discharge, figuring I would make my last run through there.  After I made my pass I started to pull lines.  I put my 40 foot lead over my right shoulder as I pulled my 20 and started to wrap it on my spool.  As I was bringing it in my reel started unwinding and my 40 foot lead started heading back off the stern of my boat.  At first I thought the line got hung up in my prop but that wasn’t possible.  The lure was 40 feet back, on the surface and probably only 10 feet of line in the water.  I dropped my spool and placed my foot on it to keep it from falling over.  I grabbed hold of my 40 foot lead and to my surprise I could feel that slow head shake and weight of a walleye.  I minute later and he was in the cooler and I went back to putting everything away.  10 feet of water and that walleye came up and grabbed the lure off the surface.  Sometimes it pays to be lucky.

So that was the beginning of my 3-day weekend.  One I had originally hoped would be full of fishing and some hunting but it didn’t work out that way.  I was fortunate to catch a limit of good sized fish.  I was expecting a lot of throwbacks and maybe a couple of just barely 15 inchers.  Instead I was able to keep my walleye limit streak intact for 2017.  I’ll probably try again Friday or Saturday this coming weekend.  At night.  With Pencil Plugs.  Unless the blankity blanks have left, which I highly doubt.

 





The Streak Continues

16 05 2017

I’m going back to walleye fishing full time.  They are so much easier.

 

This past weekend I headed north, back up to Sault Ste. Marie to try the St. Mary’s Rapids one more time for Steelhead.  I figured this would be my last chance at them until the Fall.  I’m busy for the next month and I don’t expect them to stick around until the end of June.  Having said that I’ll probably catch one when I am back up at the end of the summer, chasing salmon.

I met Rod at the usual spot around 7:30 am.  There was already a crowd of anglers (about a dozen) fishing a 75 yard stretch so we headed farther up, closer to the gates.  It still cracks me up to think that a dozen is crowded.  I can remember the elbow to elbow combat fishing at Tippy Dam some 30 years ago.  As we walked over we stopped to check out a Beaver sitting on his lodge and that was when I realized I didn’t have my phone.  Back to the car I went.  It would be just my luck that I would catch my personal best Steelhead and I would have no way of getting a picture.  Once I got that all straightened around I waded in and started casting, and casting, and casting, and just for good measure, more casting.  Nothing.  I could see the fish swirling around on the surface.  Rod cold even see a few follow my fly and then at the last second just turn and swim away.  No takes, no bumps, no hits, just refusals.  The nymphers and pinners were getting a few but not me, the lone swinger in the area.  At least I looked cool not catching anything.  I brought my new Sage Pulse Spey rod so I got plenty of practice in casting a true Spey Rod.  I can already tell that when I finally cut loose with this rod I’ll be able to cast it all the way to the backing.  I didn’t have a need to make any super long casts but whenever I made that perfect cast the line would about jerk the reel when it came to the end.  I’ll use it again this summer when the water is deeper and faster and I will need the distance.  By 11:30 we were packing it in.  The Sun was high and bright and not a cloud in sight.  Not exactly ideal conditions for Steelhead fishing, especially when the water is this clear and shallow.  I did come back alter after dinner for a few more hours but it was still the same result.

That make 497 days since the last Steelhead I have caught. At least I can say I have yet to lose a Steelhead on a fly.  I’m sure a few people would have given up by now but I know it won’t last forever.  I’ve had a lot going on the last year and a half and my timing has been terrible.  To warm, to cold, to high, to low, to clear, to dirty……you name it, I’ve picked the worst days to go.  Someday I’ll get my timing right and I will feel that tug once again.  Until then I’ll swing flies for trout and smallies.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and time the Atlantic run just right and have some fun with them.

On a side note I did get to see a father pull the “dick” move of the year.  A father and his 12 year old son were both fishing the run I mentioned earlier.  Dad had already landed one fish and was trying for number 2.  His son hooked into one and judging by all the yelling he was pretty excited.  His Dad took the rod from him and fought and landed the fish himself.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  When I was younger I lost a fair number of salmon and Lake Trout but my Dad never took the rod from me.  NEVER!  About half an hour later Dad hooked into another one and about 5 seconds in the fish jumped and he lost it.  He gave out a yell of frustration and I yelled “Serves You Right”.  I don’t think he go it but one other angler looked my way and laughed.

So after that I went back to camp, made dinner, got some sleep and in the morning I packed up the Mobile Steelhead Command Center and headed for home.  There will be another day.





Really Quick Report

25 04 2017

Went out Monday evening (4/24/17).  Started at 9:00 pm and finished at 9:46 and 37 seconds.  Same area. Same routine.  Caught about a dozen of those other fish as well.

That is all.





Huron Small Jaws

25 04 2017

About the time those other fish start to show up I begin to look to other fishing opportunities until they leave.  Instead of heading north to go chase Steelhead I decided to make a local trip for some Huron River smallmouth.  A few years ago this wouldn’t have been an option but the DNR recently changed the rules to where bass are now open year round for catch and release.  This presented an opportunity for the gang at Schultz’s Outfitter’s to start guiding trips in April instead of May.  A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.

My guide today was going to be the newest member to the Schultz team, Justin Pribnac.  This is his inaugural season as a guide for the shop.  He has been guiding for the last 10 years but the Huron was a new area to him.  Seemed fitting as this was my first time targeting Smallmouth Bass with a fly rod.  I have caught them before but it was always by accident.  Now, I was going to be casting big streamers to likely holding spots from a drift boat.  I’m sensing a lot of streamers in trees.

My Chariot for the Day

 

Once we got into the boat we started our drift downstream.  This was my kind of fishing, I stand up front and cast while someone else rows.  I have to hand it to Justin, he kept me in the zone all day and set the boat up so I could make easy casts.  While I was casting he would give me tips on placement and how to get the fly to twitch just right.  Since he knew I was a big fan of the two hand spey game he described the presentation in ways I could easily relate to.  Since the river was flowing high, from all the recent rains, we concentrated our efforts on the “couch” areas.  Places on the river downstream of logs and obstructions that formed slack water areas or pools.  Since it was a bright sunny day  we tried to focus on shady areas as best we could.  This got to be harder and harder to do as the sun rose.  By noon I was praying for any type of a cloud.  It wasn’t gonna happen today.  As the morning progressed I was able to move a few fish and I did catch one smaller bass on a white Game Changer.  Not exactly what I was hoping for but it is to be expected on a bright day like this and early in the season.  The bigger fish are on full alert and after being in the river for over 10+ years they are well educated.

We kept at it though and eventually  we found an area that had a few willing fish.  In about a 100 yard stretch I was able to catch two and had two long distance releases.  I moved a couple as well.  It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer.  This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size.  I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will.  Today just wasn’t going to be that day.  It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge.  If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.

So that was my initial foray into the world of fly fishing for Small Jaws.  I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for someone who knows how to row a drift boat.  Hat’s off to Justin who worked his butt off to keep the boat where it belonged and my casts in the zone.  I will definitely be doing this again, I just hope it is on a cloudier day.  Maybe I’ll try a PM float.  After dark.  When I am in my element.  Muhahahahaha…….

 

Oh, one other thing.  I didn’t lose a single fly today.





Class Is In Session

22 04 2017

Last Friday, when I came in from fishing I met a DWF club member, Steve Sheldon, as I was pulling in my boat.  Apparently he had been trying to track me down to ask me about handlining.  He had been going out but was only catching one or two fish here and there.  He figured he was doing something wrong and he was hoping I could help him out.  He asked if I could take him out some night and Friday (4/21) was going to be that night.

I had contacted Steve earlier in the week and told him to be at my house around 8.  I also told him to bring his stuff so I could check to make sure his shank/leader set up was correct.  I have found that when someone isn’t catching fish it is either that or his boat handling skills.  At least I would be able to eliminate one variable.  After a quick check of his stuff we were packed up and headed out.  The weather tonight was damn near perfect.  Once again a slight NW breeze, overcast skies and not to cold.  The water was still clear and my only concern wasn’t those other fish,  it was undersized fish.  I had been hearing reports that the river was now full of 13 inch walleye.

The reports were right.

We started around 8:30 pm and in the first 10 minutes I landed 5 fish and all of them undersized.  I eventually caught a couple of keepers but during this time Steve hadn’t caught anything.  I was just about ready to switch seats with  him so he could fish my set up when he got snagged, BAD.  After making a few donuts around the weight the shank busted and he lost the whole set up.  I rigged him back up with one of my shanks and a 40 foot and 6 foot leader.  After that it didn’t take long and Steve was flipping fish in the boat.  For the next 45 minutes it was game on.  We still caught a few undersized ones, and of course those other fish, but we were catching plenty of legal ones as well.  By 10:00 pm we were all done and putting gear away.  Steve was amazed how one small change, albeit an important one, could make all the difference in the world.  He went from spending hours and maybe catching two fish to catching a limit in just under 45 minutes.  Needless to say he was happy.  We put everything away and headed towards the dock.  Other than the snag, which turned out to be a good thing, it was a near perfect night.  When we got back to the house we chatted some more about strategies for different conditions and what to watch for concerning boat control.  I gave Steve one of my shanks and a weight for him to copy.  He probably spent part of today making new shanks and leaders.  Hopefully he will be able to get out again soon.

As I had mentioned earlier the water was still clear and no debris.  Most of our fish came on #11 blue and silver Rapala and a #11 Downriver Tackle Custom Rainbow Trout, which has a blue back, pink sides and a white belly.  We tossed back just as many as we kept and we only caught a handful of those other fish.  Most of them being big females.  Very few boats out for a Friday night which was surprising.  It’s go time and I really couldn’t understand why so few people were out.  Their loss.

The smaller fish is a great sign.  Successful hatches the last few years is starting to show and it looks like we will have plenty of walleye for years to come.  Based on what I have been catching it should be a good mix of fish from 15 to 24 inches for some time.  We’re going to need it because I’m afraid the hatch this year is going to be a bust.  Any eggs laid before those two big storm events we had probably covered all the eggs with silt which means they will have suffocated.  I certainly hope I’m wrong.