Squeak

10 06 2019

Back when I was a wee little fly tier I used to tie deer hair mice for one gentleman.  Every year he would go on a trip to the AuSable, with some of his friends, to go fishing for Brown Trout at night.  I would tie him up 2 dozen mice and 2 dozen Houghton Lake Specials.  One year, he invited my Father and I to tag along but unfortunately we were unable to make it.  I was always intrigued about this type of fishing but never got the opportunity until this past weekend.  My guide in Alaska, Tim Schut, told me he was going to back in Michigan for a few months before he went back to Alaska.  After working through our conflicting schedules we were able to arrange an evening that worked for both of us.  I met him at our take out point on the Upper Manistee around 6:30 pm.  I wondered why we were meeting so early since ‘mousing” was done during the dark of the night.  He told me we would park the boat downstream and wait to see if we would get any type of an insect hatch.  That and eat dinner.  Dinner was great (grilled steak and asparagus) but a hatch never really materialized.  Tim said most of the Spring had like this.  Light hatches and when they do happen the insects fly into the trees instead of spinning out and landing on the water.  We only saw a few trout rise and most of them were small.  No big deal, that wasn’t why I was here anyways.

Around 10:00 pm we started downstream and started fishing.  Tim would tell me which side of the river to cast too and slowly retrieve the mouse pattern across the water to create a wake.  He told me to let the current swing the fly downstream and across and make long, steady retrieves to keep it moving.  Seems simple enough except that I couldn’t see the shoreline and I had no idea if I was making a wake or not.  The only time I could see was when there would be a reflection on the water from the light of an occasional cabin.  Tim had also told me that no matter how close I think the trees are to add 3 more feet.  The closer I could get the mouse to the shoreline the better.  He also said don’t worry about hooking the trees, it’s gonna happen.  If I’m not catching the trees it’s obvious I’m not landing the mouse close enough to the bank.  With all that in mind we went about our business, for 3 hours.

Cast, plop, drift, retrieve, cast again, catch tree, retrieve fly, cast again, swat mosquito, catch tree behind me, retrieve fly, stare at the stars, question my sanity, cast, plop, drift, retrieve, repeat.

This was the bulk of the evening.  I got to hand it to Tim though, he was doing his best to keep me positive.  If I was doing something wrong with my cast he would help me correct it and made sure I was casting in the right direction.  After a few hours I was starting to get frustrated because I was convinced I was doing something wrong.  Tim assured me I wasn’t.  He said it is going to happen, we just need to find a hungry fish.  He compared it to Spey fishing for Steelhead.  He said there are a lot of fish in the water, we are trying to find the one with the attitude.  Around 1:00 am the sliver of the moon set below the horizon and then it got really dark.  Tim switched out the fly to a jointed rabbit fur mouse of his own design.  It makes a very distinctive sound when it hits the water.  Also, he tied a pair of dumbbell eyes to the back of the hook to get the tail end to sink a little.  That did the trick because about 15 minutes later it happened.  I heard the splash, felt the weight and did nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  The one thing I have read over and over is that when a Brown hits a mouse, never set the hook until the weight of the fish is felt.  Tim stressed this as well.  When I hear a splash and I think a fish hit, DO NOTHING!!   A Brown trout will swim up and strike a mouse to kill it and then swing back around to finish it off, much like a shark will with live prey.  He told me that many people lose the fish because when they feel the hit they do the straight up Orvis hook set and send the fly into the trees.  If a fish hits and misses he will come back around.  Tim had told me of instances where he had a Brown hit the same mouse multiple times before he was finally hooked up.  Relax and wait, easier said than done but I did it and once I felt the fish turn and the weight on the rod I pulled back on the rod, across my body and parallel to the river.  FISH ON!

I almost lost this one.  I was so startled that the line slipped through my fingers as I was trying to strip him in.  I was able to keep a bend in the rod and the pressure on and about a minute later he was in the net.  My first Brown on a fly, my first Brown on a Mouse and my first Brown over 20 inches.  To say I was happy would be an understatement.  After a few pics we sent him on his away and got back to business.  I was feeling a lot better now and Tim made sure I didn’t get ahead of myself.  He reminded me not to get twitchy and remember to DO NOTHING!  I firmly believe this is where Spey fishing and Handlining so much benefits me.  When jigging or casting a lure, the second I feel anything I set the hook.  With handlining, once I feel a fish I wait for him to get those initial headshakes out of the way.  With Spey fishing I wait until the fish takes the fly and turns away.  I’ve been able to condition myself to not get so crazy with the hook set.  I still get a little twitchy from time to time but for the most part I can take it easy.  So much so that on the next fish I never even knew he took a swipe at the fly.  There was splash in front of me and Tim asked if I had a hit.  I told him I didn’t feel anything but he was convinced a fish had taken a swipe at my fly and missed.  I told him I didn’t even hear it and it was right then that he hit it again.  This time though he didn’t miss and he immediately went airborne.  Time got the light on him so we could watch his aerobatic display. He was smaller then the first fish but he was definitely a lot more active.

It still amazes me how the same species of fish can have suck drastic differences in their spots.

After that not much happened.  The temperature was starting to drop and by 2:30 am there was fog on the water.  Time told me trying to catch fish when the fog is out is damn near impossible.  I made a few more casts but nothing happened so around 3 we pushed on to the pull out point.  That last mile Tim kept his headlamp on so he could maneuver the river (how he was able to in the dark was beyond me) and show me the fish we would spook.  I probably saw about a dozen Browns in the 20 inch range cruising around in the shallow water.  I was told that this section held some big fish but I always doubted it.  Not anymore.

All in all it was a good night.  Mosquitoes weren’t a problem.  Caught my first and biggest brown trout to date.  I didn’t bury a hook in the back of my head but at one point I did bounce the fly off my hat.  Only bad part now was the drive home on no sleep.  Next time I’m bringing my camper and taking a nap before I head home.  Driving home on deer infested roads with no sleep is a dangerous combination.  Speaking of deer, they make a lot of noise running through the water at 2:00 am.  So do bears, we think we spooked one when we came around one bend.  We could just make out the silhouette of a lone tree shaking back and forth.  As we got closer we heard of lot of crashing as whatever it was ran off.  So it was either a bear or Bigfoot.  Didn’t hear any tree knocks so I’m sticking with a bear.

I’m going to be up this away again the last weekend of June.  I won’t be wading this area at night, it is way to dangerous to do since I don’t know the river.  I might wade in at a few of the access points and try a few casts but nothing to extreme.  I’m kind of hoping the Hex hatch is going on.  Never fished during one but I have heard it is insane.

We shall see.

 

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Memorial Weekend Fishing, 2019

28 05 2019

My 3 day weekend started a bit early when my boss told me I could leave early.  I was planning on fishing tonight anyways but now I had a few extra hours to relax and get things ready.  Normally I’m all set and ready to go whenever I want but tonight was going to be a little different.  Since I had extra time I thought I would go out early and fly fish of those other fish until it got dark.  I planned on using my Redington Hydrogen 4wt switch rod.  I haven’t caught a fish on it yet and I haven’t really cast it much since Schultz Outfitter Demo Days last year.  I figured this would be a good opportunity since the chance of me catching something was pretty much guaranteed.

I arrived at the launch around 8:00 pm and was surprised to see the water had risen even more.  The Wayne County Sheriff had built another dock so they could reach their boats and all the ramps were partially under water.  This is starting to get serious.  I read a report earlier that Lake Erie is expected to rise another 6-10 inches in June.  If that happens the boardwalk at Elizabeth Park will be under water.  I was still able to launch my boat but I need to remember to bring my knee boots next time.  I set up downstream of the Edison discharge and started fishing.  It didn’t take long and I had my first one on.  When these other fish are in a person could literally catch on on every cast.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce a kid to fishing, it’s also a terrible time for a handliner.  Most of the fish I was catching were big females in the 15 to 16 inch range.  My biggest one being 16 1/2 inches, which qualifies for a Michigan DNR Master Angler entry.  Normally I never send these in but they have a cool patch this year and I want one.

After about an hour of messing around with these fish I packed everything up and headed over to my usual walleye starting point.  Since the other fish were in thick I started off with Pencil plugs.  The action wasn’t fast and furious but I was able to pick up 4 walleye before I called it quits around 11:00 pm.  I could have stayed out longer to get my last fish but I was tired and I had things to do tomorrow before I had to attend a wedding in the afternoon.

After the wedding I headed up to my Mom’s to take care of her chore list and hopefully get some time on the river for Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon.  With Spring being a few weeks late the fish were still in the river.  Once the chores were done and I ate dinner I was headed to the AuSable.  I took two rods with me, my “meat” rod Redington Chromer 7 wt and my new Echo Full Spey 7wt.  I have yet to cast this one so I was eager to try it out.  I had two different Skagit heads to try out, one new and one old leftover from my Ross Reach which I broke.  I started with the old one first.  Casting was a bit of a struggle, I’m not used to casting these bigger rods, especially after casting a light weight switch rod.  It took some time but I was able to make some decent casts.  Next time out I’ll try the other line.  Demo Days is coming up next weekend and I can always visit the Scientific Angler tent to try out their Skagit heads on it.  There were a lot of people out fishing as well and not a lot of catching.  As a matter of fact there wasn’t any catching.  I could see a few fish but not any great numbers.  I was fishing downstream, away form the crowds at the tail end of a large pool.  I was watching some of the other anglers when it happened.  That tell tale hit and shake of a fish.  I set the hook and the fish was on, for about 2 seconds.  Just like that the fish was off.  As I was looking downstream I could see the fish rolling and jumping.  I figured he had my hook still in his mouth and was trying to shake it.  I brought in my line and to my surprise the fly was still there.  Guess he just felt like putting on a show or he was thumbing his nose at me.  Either way at least I know I am starting to get this river figured out.  My last two trips I have hooked a fish on each one.  Hopefully the third times a charm.  Unfortunately it will have to wait until the Fall.

On my out out I did pick up a few empties and carried them out for recycling.  Not to bad for a Memorial Day Weekend.  Figured they would be a lot more garbage.  It would be even better if I never found any.





Port Austin 2019

20 05 2019

This past Thursday (May 16th) began my now annual Smallmouth Trip to Port Austin.  I started making this yearly trek last year and my plan is to do it every year.  The only thing that could stop me now would be gale force east winds or my health.  I wasn’t going to have to deal with either this weekend (or so I thought) so away I went.  I arrived at Port Crescent State Park mid afternoon and set up camp.  Once that was all done I headed to the lake to start fishing.  When I arrived there were a few other fishermen out but they were all in kayaks.  I brought mine but I really don’t like fishing from a kayak.  I prefer to wade so I put my waders on and started out.  The water levels on Lake Huron are up considerably from last year and I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it as far out as I did last year.  As it turns out I wouldn’t have to.  Once I reached the old rock road I started casting.  3 casts later and the first one was in hand.

Not a monster by any stretch but it was a good start.  At least the fish were in close which is what I was hoping for.  With the west winds blowing the warmer water out I was hoping it would bring the fish in.  One thing I have learned about smallmouth fishing is that a few degree increase in temps can make a huge difference.  Over the next half hour I continued to catch fish.  Most of them were in the 12 inch range with one that was closer to 14.

The size was trending up but no where near the toads I caught last month.  These fish were still in pre-spawn mode and I believe the big ones hadn’t moved in yet.  I kept at it though when suddenly it happened.  It was just a occasional drip at first but soon the skies opened up and I got dumped on.  I could see clear skies in front of me but apparently I picked the only spot on Lake Huron to fish that was getting rained on.  It didn’t last long but it was enough to get me thoroughly soaked.  I debated heading in but I was a quarter mile from my car and I was already wet.  I waded out a little farther and made a few more casts.  My perseverance paid off.

This was my biggest lake Huron fish to date.  I estimated the length to be around 16 inches.  A quick pic and he was on his way.  After that one I headed in, the wind was starting to pick up and I was getting a chill.  I wasn’t expecting rain so I left my rain gear in the car.  A warm fire at camp was sounding pretty good right about now anyways.

I had all weekend so there was no sense in me getting crazy that first night.  If I had known what was going to happen the next 3 days I might have stayed out longer.  I awoke the next morning to the sound of rain hitting the roof of my camper.  It wasn’t a long rain but it was enough to discourage me from getting out of bed.  Once I did I looked out of over Lake Huron and could see it was dead calm.  That part I liked, except for the fact that I wasn’t going to be fishing this side of the point.  The other side faced east and the wind had changed to the direction during the night.  For the next two days it was straight in my face east winds and morning rain showers.  I tried to fish in it but it was pretty futile.  Dodging waves while casting into a 15 mph head wind is pretty much pointless.  So for the next few days I just hung around camp, tied some flies, played with the fire, fed the chipmunks and pretty much relaxed.  It’s still early yet so I may make the trip back up in a few weeks.

 

Until next time.





Mental Health Walleye Trip 5/14/19

15 05 2019

5/14/19 and the Barbarian Horde still hasn’t taken over the river.

Thank God!

Earlier I had a routine doctor appointment that got a little out of hand.  It was supposed to be a follow up but it turned into a bit of a health scare and an all day event.  Everything is ok now but the one test sent me into a panic so I figured my best course of action to relax was to go fishing.  I would have liked to have gone out earlier but since it was such a beautiful day I opted to start after sunset.  The annual “Other Fish” invasion was on the verge of exploding and I didn’t need that to add to my stress.  With that in mind I launched right around 9:00 pm.  As expected the water was clear and still running high.  As a matter of fact, based on the water levels on shore, it looked a little higher than last time out.  Remnants of the Tri-Hull navy were coming in as I was getting ready.  I was hoping they were still early.  In a few minutes I would find out that my prayer’s were answered.  My first two fish were a couple of those little buggers but that was it.  After that it was all walleye for the next 30 minutes.

No specific color or lead out produced the other tonight.  I caught fish on all of them.  As a matter of fact, I have stuck to the same 3 or 4 patterns all season.  All have consistently produced, except for that one night with my cousin when the new pattern produced half the fish caught.  Still a fair amount of debris in the water and the current was really humping.  Had to kick up the rpm’s on my motor a bit to keep some forward momentum.  If I didn’t I soon found myself going downstream instead of up.  Lot of head shakes and probably a few scrapes tonight.  When I got home I found a few scales on one of my Rapalas.  I think I bonked a couple on the head with my weight as well.  There has got to be a lot of fish in the river right now.  I would like to think they are all walleye but I know better.  About a dozen other handliners out tonight, most I’ve seen all season.  A little late to the party but that’s their business.

I felt a lot better after I got the fish cleaned and the boat put away.  Going back up to Port Austin this weekend to chase Smallmouth Bass.  I’ll try for the walleye again after I get home.

 

 





Family Affair

8 05 2019

My cousin John contacted me a few weeks back wanting to know if I could take him out walleye fishing again.  He loves to fish but he doesn’t have the means or equipment to go as much as he would like.  After he told me his work schedule we made arrangements for he and his roommate to meet me at my house on Tuesday, May 7th.

After a quick stop at the local tackle store to purchases fishing licenses we were on our way.  By 7:30 pm we were on the water and jigging.  That’s right, jigging.  I figured I would let them try this at first until sunset.  After some quick instructions we made our first drift.  Almost immediately Jessie was into a fish and we soon landed his first walleye.  This would turn out to be our only walleye caught jigging along with a few of the other fish.  While Jessie was reeling in one of those other fish it was followed by about a dozen more.  Once he lifted it out of the water the others went after Jack’s jig and he caught one.  After about 45 minutes of this nonsense we pulled lines and headed downstream.  Jack was up first and after a quick refresher course he was back to handlining.  After I got him set up I got myself squared away and all lines were down.  Not much happened until sunset and right on cue (8:30 pm) I hooked the first on, a 25 inch male.  I put a few more in the cooler but unfortunately Jack wasn’t having any luck.

After about half an hour I told him it was time to switch things up and let Jessie try.  I gave him the same instructions and after a couple of minutes I was coaching him along as he brought in his first walleye by wire.  After that I told him he was on his own.  He managed to pick up a couple of more along with one of those other fish.  Around 9:30 I told him to let Jack try again as we were running short on time.  I had to work in the morning as did Jessie and we probably wouldn’t get done with cleaning fish until after 11 as it is.  I joked with Jack about getting it in gear and it must have worked.  He boated 3 in the next 10 minutes.  I had been playing catch and release for awhile so that he would add some to the cooler.  When he hooked his third I had hooked one as well.  His was bigger so we kept it for 15 and I released mine.  After that I out everything away and we headed for home.  Good thing too, I had a lot of fish to clean.

I got a new pattern from Jim Downrivertackle. com to try tonight and it caught the majority of the fish.  Glad I had him paint up a few of those.   My modified #9 rap’s with the single trailer hook landed a few as well and none lost.  Gonna have to rig up some more of them like that.

This will be the last walleye post for awhile.  My hands are trash and the other fish invasion is about to take off.  I have plans to go to the Kalamazoo River this weekend and Port Austin the following weekend to catch Smallmouth Bass.  Hope my luck continues.





Weekend Walleye Report

6 05 2019

Friday (5/3):

Random guy who has had a few Ginger Ale’s: How you doing? (rather loudly)

Me: Ok

RGWHHAFGA: We got 8.

Me: That’s Good.

RGWHHAFGA: We’ve been out since 6 (2 1/2 hrs) We are killing them.

Me: Cool

RGWHHAFGA: How many you got?

Me: 4

RGWHHAFGA: Been out a long time?

Me: No, 20 minutes.

RGWHHAFAG:…………………………………………………..

His fishing Partner in the boat: Can you shut up now and get back to fishing instead of being so cocky?

 

That was the highlight of my Friday Night.  I got on the water about 7:45 and by 8:15 I had my 5 and was headed in.  The only drama was the aforementioned individual who everyone on the river could probably hear.  I figured they were doing well from all his yelling.  I didn’t hear him anymore after he talked to me.

The water was dirty from all the rain we got earlier in the week.  I ran some Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue’s and for kicks and giggles a spoon.  All of them produced fish.  1st one of the night was a 26 inch male.  Biggest one of the year so far.  Still haven’t caught any of those other fish but I did see a few caught.  They have to be close to taking off.

 

Sunday (5/5):

7:30 to 8:30 – One walleye and 3 of those other fish.

8:30 to 8:40 – Hold My Pepsi…..

Originally I was supposed to be going out with my friend Richard but he cancelled earlier.  He was all packed and ready but he is still feeling the affects of a hunk of chain falling from his garage rafters and hitting him in the head.  I told him not to worry about the fish.  They weren’t going anywhere and I would get him out another night.  I didn’t know what the water was going to be like so I left my house a little after 7.  I was hoping it would still be dirty and it would be a quick night.  After I got to the ramp I could see that the water had cleared up a lot.  Still a bit of a stain to it but there was a couple of feet of visibility.  Add in the clear skies and I had a feeling I was going to waste an hour until sunset.  I set up in the same spot as Friday night and started my run.   It  Wasn’t long and I had my first fish on for the night.  Unfortunately it was one of those other fish, a big female.  I didn’t get to upset.  I had been out 10 minutes and it was the only one so far.  They weren’t in that thick, yet.  I ended up with 3 for the evening.  I won’t complain about that.  I did manage to pick up one walleye in the first hour.  Once the sun set it was game on and I finished up limit in about 10 minutes.

Once I was done I motored over to a fellow DWF club member to see how he was doing.  I see him out just about every night I am.  He had caught a few of those other fish.  I told him the where’s and what on’s and said my goodbye’s.  I had more fish to clean and I was hoping to be in bed by 10:00 pm.  It had been a long weekend and I needed some rest.  I won’t be going out tonight (5/6), rain all afternoon and into tonight.  Supposed to take out my cousin tomorrow.  Depending on the other fish it could be my last trip for awhile.

Friday Night

Sunday Night

 





Double Up

25 04 2019

Went back out Wednesday night (4/24) with handlining Padawan Steve.  I took him out a couple of years ago to teach him how to pull wire.  He contacted me about a week ago asking if he could tag along on another trip.  He bought a new boat and it isn’t set up yet for this.  We made arrangements to meet at my house around 7:30 pm and from there we headed to Elizabeth Park.

The water had cleared up some more and rose from yesterday.  Clouds were overcast but I still figured nothing was really going to happen until after sunset.  We set up in the same area I caught my fish last night and got started.  I was running the same lures from the previous night and I set Steve up with a 30/15 shank.  He picked out a #11 Bleeding Shad and a #9 Blue/Silver Rapala.  The last time we went out I started off catching all the fish and then Steve caught up.  This time it was the other way around.  Around 8:00 pm Steve caught the first fish and by 8:45 he would add three more.  He had just asked me if I was sand bagging so he could catch the fish and then I caught the next five.  As I was pulling in my lines Steve hooked and landed his fifth fish of the night.  By 9:15 pm we were all done and headed in.  Can’t complain about an easy night like that.

As I said earlier the water was clearing up.  I would guess visibility was over two feet or more.  Skies were overcast with winds out of the south.  They bounced us around pretty well when we started but they slowly started to subside.  Don’t know what the water temp was, I still haven’t replaced my sonar unit.  Two of the fish I caught were somewhat strange.  I caught both of them on my 40 foot lead while it was draped over my shoulder and running on the surface.  The first time happened when I was checking lines.  The second hit while I was landing one on my kicker.  Just as I got the fish in the boat another walleye hit my long lead.  I’ve had that happen before, on rare occasions, but never twice in one night.

Until next time, which will probably be next week.  Hope the other fish hold off for another week.