Crow hunting the easy way.

29 03 2015

Crow hunting has to be the easiest, most relaxing type of hunting I know.  I get to sit in my parents living room and watch fishing shows until I hear the sound of a crow in the distance.  Once I do I put on my coat, grab my shotgun and caller and walk across the street which, is state land.  After about a 200 yard walk I load the shotgun, turn on the caller, hide in some bushes and start shooting about 10 seconds later.  It’s just that easy.

IMG_1807

To be fair though I do have an ideal set up.  My parents live on a dead end street in northern Oscoda near Van Etten lake.  The north end of the lake is surrounded by huge pines that the crows roost in overnight and generally hang out at all day long.  Across the street is state land that was lumbered out a few years back.  It was never re-planted so there are a lot of small oak and pine trees popping up all around it.  This has resulted in lots of small clumps of trees and bushes that make excellent cover.  A two track runs right through the middle which makes for easy walking.  All I have to do is hide in a clump of short trees, turn on the crow distress cd (yeah a CD, not a pre-programmed caller) and wait.  Usually it doesn’t take long, they don’t have far to fly.  The only draw back is that it is usually a very quick hunt, like less than a minute.  Sometimes I get lucky and a straggler will come in a few minutes later but for the most part it is done pretty quick.  Once I’m done shooting I pick up my birds and stuff and walk back to the house and go back to watching fishing shows.

Life is rough……

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An Observation

22 03 2015

Tug is the Drug

I spent the better part of this past weekend helping my friends out at their gun show.  Dean and Barry have been putting on this show a couple times a year for quite some time now.  I usually sit at the front and collect the fees and check the firearms coming in that people are trying to sell.  It can be fun but it can also be a drain.  Sitting there for 7 hours and answering the same question over and over can really wear on you.  Once the show ended at 5 I thought I would go down to the lower Huron river and practice my swing casting some more.  I am heading up to Oscoda next weekend to work on my boat and get a little steelhead time in.  I wasn’t expecting to catch anything, I just needed to practice and de-compress a bit.

I walked around for a bit before I got set up and checked the water levels and to see if anyone was catching anything.  I wanted to try a specific spot so I walked there first.  On my way I saw another fly fisherman in the stream spey casting as well.  I watched for a bit, checking to see how he was handling the faster current.  After a few minutes I continued on and saw the spot I wanted to fish was open so I went back to get rigged up.

I put on my Orvis waders and Simms boots.  Next I rigged up my Ross Reach Rod and Ross Reel.  Now this may look like a shameless plug but I need to mention this so I can make my point.  I pulled one fly out of my box and made my way back downstream.  As I was walking by I was getting peculiar looks from the people fishing.  The same people that paid no attention to me before were now staring at me.

What changed?

I thought for a second and then realized what it was.  I had transformed into the embodiment of something I swore I would never become.  A walking billboard for Orvis and everything that I thought was wrong with fly fishing.  Fishermen that are more concerned with appearance than actually fishing.  I hadn’t changed but now I was on the other end of the stares.  I remember my first time ever steelhead fishing on the lower Huron 30 years ago.  I was the kid with the spinning rod not knowing what he was doing, being judged by the “pro’s” that knew what they were doing.  I remember looking at those guys with contempt as they fished with all their “fancy” gear while all I had was my Ugly Stick.  Now 30 years later it is the other way around.  I’m the “fancy snob” and they were the every day Joe fisherman.  Again, what changed?  I’m still the same person but because I wasn’t fishing the same way everyone else was I was now that walking billboard I swore I would never become.  I blew it off and went about my business.  I waded in and started my casting.  The current was faster than what I have been on so far but I was able to figure it out and actually get some distance with my roll casts.  I also learned a few things about reading the water and getting the drift right.  After about half an hour I was headed back to my car.  Again I got the stares and they were probably thinking, “Oh look, Mister Big Shot with his fancy rod didn’t get anything either”.  Whatever.

Before I left I walked upstream towards the dam to check things out.  There was one guy floating spawn so I asked him if he caught anything.  I got a resounding “NO”.  What the hell?  Do I have a big sign on me that says I’m a jerk, don’t talk to me?  When did it get like this?  When did fishing become so divided.  It’s fishing, a common bond amongst sportsmen and women.  I just don’t get it.  Granted you are going to have undesirable people in every type of outdoor activity but why here?  Fishing was supposed to be a common ground for all people.  We are all after the same thing, to feel that tug and watch that fish run.  It shouldn’t matter how we catch one whether it be by floating spawn, drifting a jig, back trolling a plug or swinging a fly.  It’s fishing, PERIOD.  I don’t know why it is like this and unfortunately I don’t know how to change it.  I know posting the cartoon doesn’t help the situation but I thought it was funny.  It helped to prove my point though.  People out there actually think this way.  People can fish any way they want as long as it is legal.  End of Story.

Off my soapbox now.

Back to the vise, sculpin patterns today.





The Tug is the Drug.

1 03 2015

6 Degrees

Brrrrrrr

Brrrrrrr

Sometimes I really have to question my sanity.  One of the reasons why I don’t like to ice fish is because of the cold and a fear of falling through the ice and getting wet.  So what do I decide to do?  Stand in a boat on an open river where the water temp was 32 degrees and my chance of falling in was even greater.  To top it off I was even paying for it.  To be fair though the guide did give me the option to reschedule.  I thought long and hard about it considering the area hadn’t seen a day above freezing all month.  I was surprised so much of the Muskegon river was even open.  The temp was supposed to get above 20 and I figured that since it had been so cold that the fish hadn’t seen a lot of pressure.  I was right about that but it also meant they were very lethargic and I would have to bounce that fly right off their nose.  Pretty tall task for someone who has yet to even hook into a Steelhead with a fly.

I met my guide Drew Rosema of Feenstra Guide Service at the Pine Street launch west of Croton Dam on the Muskegon River.  He already had the boat in the water and was letting the engine warm up.  I got my gear together and we were on our way downstream.  While we motored down he told me that he and Kevin Feenstra were out the day before and that they had some good opportunities.  Didn’t exactly know what that meant but after talking with him throughout the day I got the feeling they didn’t catch anything.  That wasn’t giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling and today I needed a few warm feelings.

Drew rigged up my rod for me and changed my leader around to allow for a better presentation.  He said the fish were kind of skittish and a lighter 8 pound leader would be better.  I wasn’t about to question him, what did I know?  After the leader was done he tied on a small olive colored darter pattern.  He told me that during the cold winter months a small natural fly works best.  So much for all those big gaudy flashy things I tied up.

Drew took my rod and gave me a quick instruction on the presentation.  Wouldn’t you know it, as he was letting the line feed out he had a hit.  The fish was only on for a second but it was definitely there.  He handed me the rod and told me what to do.  I only hoped the fish was still willing to hit again.  As luck would have it he wasn’t.  As a matter of fact 5 more hours would pass until I even saw a fish.  By now I was getting discouraged and cold.  Drew was trying every spot he knew, he was determined to get me into a fish.  As we were passing under a Bald Eagle Drew saw two steelhead on the bottom.  He told me we would swing back and take a shot at them after one last hole.  We anchored above the hole and I went through my routine once again.  Cast the fly perpendicular to the boat and let it drift back until it was directly behind the boat.  Drew would then lift the anchor and let the boat drift back a few feet and drop anchor so I could make another cast.  This was the same routing we did for 5 hours all afternoon.  It was 5:00 pm and I was thinking more about dinner and then it happened.

WHAM!!!!

That fish hit like a freight train and it caught me completely by surprise.  Instincts took over and I set that hook and let the fish run.  Drew was just as surprised as I was but soon we got our wits about us and the fight was on.  I had never dealt with a fish this large before on a fly rod and reel and I felt like a total rookie.  I’m used to spinning reels and disc drags, this was a little different.  The bend in the rod was going to control how much line was going to be let out when the fish decided to run and he did just that, run.  I stood there and just watched the fly line and then the backing peel off that reel.  Even worse was that we were at the head of a pool that turned into shallow rapids, an area we didn’t want him to go into.  I lifted back on the rod some more and that slowed him down.  As I was reeling I moved forward into the boat so that Drew could net him from the stern.  After a few more short runs near the boat I finally got him into position and into the net.

Mission Accomplished.  We kept him in the net and in the water while Drew got his camera ready.  A few pics later and he was carefully released to fight another day.

1st Steelhead

Drew asked if I wanted to end the day on a happy note and I agreed.  I wanted to land a fish on the swing and I did.  I was very appreciative of the fact that he was willing to stay out longer if I wanted to.  We were supposed to end at 4 and I was already running over.  Great to have a guide who is more concerned about the client catching a fish instead of the time.  We then pulled anchor and got ready for a very cold boat ride upstream.  We had drifted down several miles and it never really did warm up.  I don’t think it ever got above 20 and for most of the day and we were in the shade where it was even colder.  No matter though, I had my fish and I am hooked.  I asked why this method of fishing is so popular when there are more effective ways to catch a steelhead.  Drew told me the Tug is the Drug and now I know why.  Just like handlining that tug is addicting and I am just that……addicted.

If anyone is interested in fishing for Steelhead on the Swing contact the people at Schultz’s Outfitters for the rod and reel.

If you want to hire a guide to fish the Muskegon River I highly recommend the people at Feenstra Guide Service.  Drew was the best and I am already looking at my calendar for a return trip, sometime before walleye fishing starts back up again.  I’ll never give up my roots.