Tying Bender

7 02 2017

During the last few months I tied a lot of flies to keep myself occupied.  I know some tie flies out of necessity but I do it more for relaxation.  It keeps me at peace and gives me something else to concentrate on.  These are all steelhead flies.  I have probably close to 400 steelhead flies now.  More than I will ever need.  I’m going to start selling some to help curb the cost of material replacement.

 

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More to follow

 





Back at the keyboard

29 01 2017

Hey everyone.

It’s been about 3 months since my last post and it has been a very trying 3 months.  As some of you already know Susan, my friend, companion, fiancé and partner in crime, passed away on Oct. 26th from complications from surgery for an aneurism.  Since then I have been adjusting to life with out her.  On top of that I am the executor of her will and I have been dealing with that.  As you can imagine wanting to do anything, let alone fishing, has been difficult.  Granted, time on the water can be the best therapy but not being able to share that with my two biggest supporters (My dad and Susan) takes the fun out of it.  It’s getting better and I hope to make 2017 a great year.  Only time will tell.  In the mean time I’ll catch up with what has been going on the last 3 months.

November turned out to be a warmer than normal month.  I had hoped to spend it fishing for steelhead but they were even later than last year.  I went up to the Pere Marquette river for a few days and all I saw was half dead Coho’s, low clear water and no steelhead.  The water on the Huron was pretty much the same, low, clear and way to warm.  Because of that I went back to my old reliable, Detroit River walleye.  I had traded all the fish in the freezer to a relative that raises cattle for beef.  I need a few fish for the winter so I went out a couple of times.  The water was clear and no weeds but I managed to get a couple of limits.  My last trip was towards the end of the month.  I only got a couple of small ones and since a cold front was coming in I just winterized the boat.  Love that E-Tech.

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During Thanksgiving I decided to take a break and head north to Sault Ste. Marie to fish the St. Mary’s river to try for steelhead up there.  I figured the temps would be cold enough there, little did I know it wasn’t.  I was going to be there for two days and I was going to make the best of it.  The first day I was not able to concentrate on what I was doing and managed to miss two fish.  One grabbed the fly and I never set the hook.  The second one swam up and took a swipe at it and I just sat there and watched.  I was beginning to think I should have stayed home but tomorrow would be another day.

The next morning I was back at it in the same area.  Fishing was a lot better this time around.  I ended up going 3 for 5 but not on what I was expecting.  Instead of Steelhead I went 3 for 5 on Atlantics.  I have no idea why but for some strange reason there were still a few hanging around in the rapids.  The 3 I caught were on the small side.  One of the fish I lost was a brute in the 8 to 10 pound range.  He hit like a freight train and went airborne immediately.  Once he landed he made a dash downstream and on the next jump my fly and about 90 feet of Skagit head and running line came right back at me.  I finished fishing that run but I didn’t hook into anything else.  As I finished the run I could see someone leaving the next run I wanted to fish.  He was drifting beads under a float and as it turned out had caught nothing there in the last hour.  I can’t tell you how pissed he was when he saw me hook and land a fish on my second cast in the same run he had just spent the last hour fishing.  I love it when that happens.

My last fish of the day came completely by accident and it was quite a learning experience.  As I was walking down the concrete berm I noticed two fish lying near a rock.  I got up ahead of them and proceeded to drift my fly past them, repeatedly.  If the fly was up high they would swim up and take a look at it.  If it drifted right at them they would ignore it.  After about 20 minutes of refusals I changed flies to a small egg sucking leech.  I made a few more drifts and it was the same result.  I made another cast and it was a really bad one.  The fly was high and way to the right and over the fish’s head when it hit the water.  It was already past her when the fish swung around and charged the fly.  Five minutes alter she was unhooked and released to fight another day.

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December was pretty uneventful.  Fishing on the Huron sucked.  High water one day, low the next and absolutely no fish.  I went out about a dozen times and never even had a hook up.  January, on the other hand, was a different story.  Towards the middle of the month we experienced a unseasonable warm up.  It lasted about 10 days so I made another run up to the St. Mary’s river and once again all I caught was another Atlantic Salmon.  My guide, Rod Trudel, started calling me the Atlantic Whisperer.

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The fish surprised both of us.  An Atlantic at the end of January was the last thing we expected.  Especially a nice clean fish like this one.  I won’t complain to much, it was better than being skunked.

So there has been what I have been up to for the last 3 months related to fishing.  I can’t say how much walleye fishing I will be doing this year.  With the two biggest consumers of walleye gone from my life I really don’t have a lot of desire to go.  I’m sure I’ll be out there at the end of April but I can’t guarantee I’ll be hitting the river on a regular basis. Who knows though.  I have been asked  to give handlining seminars at the Columbus Fishing Expo in February.  Maybe it will give me the incentive to go out more.

Only time will tell.

 





Elitist Snob to Knuckle Dragger in 48 hours

28 04 2016

Last weekend I headed up to my Mom’s, in Oscoda, for a visit.  My trips north used to be hunting and fishing from sun up to sun down.  Now it’s Mom’s to do list from sun up to dinner and maybe a few hours of fishing afterwards.  While I was driving up Friday afternoon I listened to another one of April Vokey’s podcasts.  The guest talked about the divide in the steelhead world where fly fishers view gear fishermen as knuckle draggers and gear guys view the fly guys as elitist snobs.  This kind of thing has been going on for years but it got me thinking.  Where do I fit in?  My two favorite forms of fishing are swinging flies for steelhead and pulling wire for walleye.  Two types of fishing that are polar opposites and couldn’t be any further apart on the fishing spectrum.  One is steeped with visions of pristine rivers and a certain amount of poetry and grace.  The other is meat fishing in it’s truest form.  Both are relaxing, both catch fish and both are very enjoyable to me.  I can see how the outsider would view both practices but like the only saying goes….you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Just because I carry a fly rod doesn’t mean I’m a snob and just because I handline doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the serenity of fly fishing.

After a  home cooked walleye dinner on Friday night I grabbed my switch rod and headed for the AuSable.  This would only be my second attempt this Spring to catch a steelhead.  Snow, rain, high water and work have made finding time to get out very difficult.  I waded down to a run that I hoped would be holing a fish or two.  I did manage to see one swimming around but I couldn’t get him to eat.  I tried another spot further downstream but it was to no avail.  After a couple of hours I packed it in and headed for home.  My left leg was soaked (still haven’t fixed the leak in my waders) and it was getting dark.  I didn’t like the thought of not catching anything during the Spring run but there wasn’t much I could do about it.  There was a chance I could try again tomorrow, depending on the size of my mom’s to do list.  Turns out it was a long list so I never got that second chance.

You would think there would be at least one hungry steelhead in there.

You would think there would be at least one hungry steelhead in there.

Sunday morning found me headed south and home.  While I was driving I called my friend Dean to see if he wanted to go fishing later that night.  I owed him a few trips and he had been bugging me about going so I thought tonight would be a good opportunity.  I told him to meet me at the house at 7 and of course he was early.  I told him there was no rush but he was anxious to go.  I dragged my feet as much as I could but he was getting impatient.  When we arrived at the ramp my friend Richard was there so I took the opportunity to talk to him and waste more time.  This plan didn’t work out too well either because Dean got the boat ready and was holding the rope with a “Let’s go” look on his face.  I wished Richard good luck and soon we were on our way.  After a brief refresher course for Dean on leader management and lure selection we were fishing by 7:45 pm.  I told Dean that with the clear water we weren’t going to catch anything until 9 o’clock.  He didn’t believe me.  For the next hour we just washed our Rapala’s and wasted time.  Eventually I had a hit and our first walleye was in the boat.  Once I got it in I showed Dean the time on my watch.

9:01 pm

I won’t repeat his reply but for the next hour it was game on.  We ended up landing 6 fish and losing 4.  They were hitting light tonight, barely grabbing the tail hook.  I did have another walleye make a banzai charge on my prop and I lost that one, of course.  Dean ended up catching two and he didn’t lose any.  I caught 4, lost one to the prop, one as I was flipping him in, one on the surface and the last one at the stern.  I had just told Dean too that I was going to lose this one and when he said why, out came the lure.  It was a light hit and he was barely hooked, it was only a matter of time.  Around 10 we got our lines all tangled up so I called it a night.  I didn’t feel like digging out extra leaders and we both had to work in the morning.  I was really tired as well.  I never sleep well when I am at my mom’s.  That air mattress sucks.  So the night ended with 6 fish, 4 premature releases, 1 lost lure and 2 broken ones, 5 tangled leaders and two lost shanks.  Richard had called me while I was out and lost his shank.  He asked if I had any spares and I gave him two.  Also, we didn’t catch any of those other fish.  This surprised me because I had been hearing reports of them being caught all over the river.  I’m to the point now that I don’t believe anything I hear on the message boards.  I should know better, all season long I have been hearing negative reports of no fish.  Me and the other handliners have a different view of the walleye fishing this season.

#9 Original Black/Silver took the bulk of the fish. The big one came on a Riley Special Spike Spoon.

#9 Original Black/Silver took the bulk of the fish. The big one came on a Riley Special Spike Spoon.

 

 

 





Part 2 from the North Shore Tying Co.

27 04 2016

https://northshoresstyingtyingco.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/15-habits-every-angler-should-develop-part-two/#comments





Words of Wisdom from the North Shore Tying Co. Blog.

18 04 2016

Just read part 1 of 3 and even know this is from a fly fishing blog the rules still apply for handlining.  I can’t stress enough the importance of number 2.  I think too many people are in such a hurry to get to the next spot that they go to fast and don’t really work an area.  Take it easy, be methodical, work the area and for God’s sake don’t change lures every 10 minutes.

https://northshoresstyingtyingco.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/15-habits-every-angler-should-develop-part-one/

I will re-post the next two when they become available or you can just follow the blog as well.

 





Tying Binge

3 04 2016

Around the beginning of the year I made a stop into Schultz’s Outfitters to pick up some more tying materials.  I had a few specific things I thought I needed and, as usual, I picked up some things I thought would be neat to tie with.  Of course, when I got home, I put the items in their proper bins only to find out I already had them.  It was at that point I decided to go on a tying binge and use up all the materials I could before I bought anymore.  I figured this wouldn’t be too daunting of a task.  If I ran out of black rabbit strips, I would just switch over to olive.  Pink dubbing gone, use chartreuse.  So, after I burned through 6 cards of Flashabou, 13 packs of dubbing, 7 packs of zonker strips, several bags of dyed guinea hen feathers, all my dyed mallard flanks, salmon/steelhead hooks, 25mm shanks and a couple of spools of thread, I now have enough steelhead flies to last me until 2020.  Of course, that won’t stop me.  So without further adieu, I give you the results of my tying binge.

Egg Sucking Leeches

Feenstra Grapefruit Leech.

Feenstra Grapefruit Leech.

A butt load of egg sucking leeches.  My bread and butter flies.

A butt load of egg sucking leeches. My bread and butter flies.

Hoh Bo Spey, or a close facsimile there of.

Hoh Bo Spey, or a close facsimile there of.

Spey's, Intruder Style Flies and a few Senyo A.I.'s

Spey’s, Intruder Style Flies and a few Senyo A.I.’s

Senyo AI

Sculpins

Sculpins

My sculpin, Goby, Darter, Fry box.

My sculpin, Goby, Darter, Fry box.

My river box

My river box

 

 





Evolution

5 03 2016

About a week ago I was listening to a podcast by April Vokey. She has been interviewing people who are instrumental in the fly fishing world. One interview in particular really got me thinking. The person stated that he cuts the point off of the hook when he fishes for steelhead. The thrill for him now is proving to himself that the fish was there. He has no desire to hook, fight and then land the fish, especially if it is a wild Pacific Northwest Steelhead. This really struck a chord with me and got me to question my own motives. I started to ask myself, when did I evolve from racking up a body count to just enjoying the experience?
Before I get too philosophical, I suppose I should try to explain where I am going with this. I’m not going to bash anyone who decides to keep a legal limit whenever they go out. I’m also not suggesting that anyone who keeps fish is not out there for the experience either. I’ll be honest; there aren’t many walleye that I release, unless of course it was a pre-mature release 20 feet from the boat. I guess what I am trying to figure out is when did I start to care more about being out fishing and not so worried about catching?

When I was a wee little tyke, catching bluegills with my Zebco 202 at my Grandparents cottage, all I cared about was catching as many as possible and the bigger the better. It was all about bragging rights and showing my father and grandfather that I could catch fish just like them. As I got older it wasn’t so much about trying to impress them as it was trying to show up the neighborhood kids. They may have been better at baseball but by God I could catch Largemouth Bass all day long on a Panther Martin spinner. That continued on into my foray as a boy scout. Campouts were all about fishing and who could catch the most. Summer Camp at D Bar A held a point contest every year for wildlife. We could get points for any fish entered. I racked up such a body count that they instituted a new rule the following year. Troops were only allowed to count 3 fish toward their total. In retrospect now the amount of damage I did, and other scouts, to the population was probably pretty bad. I doubt very many of those fish ever survived the catch and release process.

Back then though it was all about the numbers, Catchin’ and Killin’ as my one friend put it. We had to be in that top 10% that catches 90% of the fish and we were relentless. We spent many a night on the beaches of Harrisville tight lining salmon. Was it legal? Yes. Was it ethical? Nope. Yes, these fish were going to die anyways and none of them were ever going to get the opportunity to spawn. Technically they were a controlled experiment to keep alewife numbers low. They were past that point in their usefulness so hauling them out of the water like we were was no big deal, at least that is how we viewed it. Back then I could only go salmon fishing a few weekends a year. The anticipation was more of a drug than the actual catching. As with all addictions the high eventually wears off and in this case it was cold turkey, the salmon disappeared. I had to replace it with something else so I went full bore on walleye. Again, it was back to the take no prisoner’s attitude and catch as many as legally possible. Eventually, I honed my presentation to the point of where days of not catching a fish were pretty rare. In a word I got bored. I was catching walleye pretty much whenever I wanted. I wasn’t forced to do all my fishing during the Spring run when everyone out there is an “expert”. As long as the ramps are open I could come and go as I please. I was spoiled. Many view the annual run as a once a year event, to me it became a nuisance. Too many boats and too many fishermen. I would go on select evenings but never the weekend or during the day. I began to long for more peaceful times when it would just be me and the fish. I wanted that serenity that other writers could so poetically put into words. It didn’t happen overnight, it just built up to one year when I decided I had had enough of the craziness.

This desire to get back to a more simple way of fishing led me to my next adventure, Steelhead.

I don’t know what it was about these fish but for some reason I just decided that I was going to catch them spey casting and I was going to release everything I caught. I have no idea what brought on this revelation but I made up my mind that this was going to be the way to do it. I bought a 11-9 switch rod, learned how to cast it, tied up some flies and once again I was relentless. The big difference this time around was that it was no longer about the numbers. Now all that mattered to me was landing 1 fish and releasing said fish to fight another day.  Racking up a body count was no longer the end goal.  Relaxing and enjoying everything going on around me was now that goal.  Granted, that hit or “Tug” has become my new drug but standing in a river and peacefully swinging a fly downstream became more important than filling a cooler.  Hassle free fishing was what I was after.  So much so that I don’t even take my boat, I just put on my waders and start walking.  I know there are better holes that are accessible only by boat but that is more of a hassle when I’m only going out for an hour or so.  Success for me is no longer measured by numbers of fish caught.  I guess as I got older I began to realize more and more that our fisheries are a fragile resource and they can’t be taken for granted.  I know that my releasing a few dozen fish a year is not going to make or break a fishery but it gives me peace of mind.  Come to think of it, that is what I desire most now.  That peace of mind that can only come through fishing.





Back to Basics Trip, 1/30/16

2 02 2016

Did I ever say how difficult Spey casting can be?

Every fly fisherman and woman makes a bad cast now and then. In my case I expect to do it more times than not. Lately though I have developed some bad habits with my technique and I needed help. Golfers sometimes get a case of the “shanks”. I got a case of the, well I don’t know what to call it but it isn’t good. Most of my forward casts were ending up in a pile of line about 20 feet in front of me. To make matters worse I was flinching because my fly was zinging over my head with the subtly of a B-52 coming in for a landing. I needed to figure out what was wrong and quick. I didn’t want another incident of insert hook in cheek and not catching fish sucks. Only problem was that I had to figure this out for myself and with my vast experience this would prove to be difficult.

With all that in mind I headed down to the Huron River this last Saturday morning. I didn’t expect there to be a lot of people on the water so I could concentrate on my casting, without embarrassing myself at the same time. I spent the previous night going over my notes on casting to see if I could spot the flaw in my form. I really didn’t expect to come across some divine revelation but I was hoping that I might spot something that I was forgetting to do. Nothing really stood out so I did the next best thing, return to the basics. No more trying to get fancy or over think my cast. Just go through the motions, remember the basic form and see what happens. With that in mind I waded out into the river. I pulled my fly line off the reel and laid it out downstream. I took a deep breath and went through the motion, anchor set, rod tip low, D loop, arms in, pull with left hand, rod tip high and angled to the side and swish……

Perfect.

I just stood there with a “how the hell did I do that” look on my face. As the fly drifted downstream I thought about everything I did as I got ready to repeat the process.

Anchor set, rod tip low, D Loop, arms in, pull with left hand, rod tip high and angled to the side and swish……

Perfect.

I repeated this process over and over again for the next hour. I would flub one up about every 10th cast but it was a lot better than the every other cast mess I was producing my last trip. I was feeling pretty good about my cast, so good that I wasn’t even thinking about catching a fish. I really didn’t expect to catch one today. The water was 35 degrees and very clear. The fish are concentrated in the deeper holes and slow water I wasn’t at either. My intent today was more form over function. I did have a fly on, just in case, but I wasn’t expecting much. After about an hour I decided to head for home. A boat had come through earlier and broke up a lot of shelf ice. Trying to correct a cast is hard enough without having to dodge ice flows as well. Besides, I had cured my case of the “shanks”.

I hope.

I wonder if I could ride this down to the parking lot?

I wonder if I could ride this down to the parking lot?

Walking back I spotted some fresh beaver cuttings.  I then found his trail to and from the water.  Missed him by just a couple of minutes.

Walking back I spotted some fresh beaver cuttings. I then found his trail to and from the water. Missed him by just a couple of minutes.





Winter Steel

19 01 2016

I belong to the Downriver Walleye Federation and last week the editor asked me if I would write an article about steelhead fishing for the monthly newsletter.  I thought they must be really hard up for content since out of almost 400 members I know I’m the only one who fly fishes for steelhead.  I told him I would since I know how difficult it is trying to get an article from anyone when I was the editor.  So without further ado here it is.

Winter Steel

 

 





New Year Steel

2 01 2016

Happy New Year to me, well sort of.

My original plan was to go steelhead fishing New Year’s Day.  I got up around 7 and walked into my tying room to get my stuff.  I grabbed my sling pack and then reached for my switch rod.  That’s when it dawned on me that I left it in the back of my Escape.  No big deal except for the fact that it was at the dealership getting repaired.  Back to bed I went.

The next morning found me at the dealership at 8:00 am to retrieve my rod.  I feel better now.  From there I went back home to put on my waders and get the rest of my stuff.  I would have liked to have started earlier but with it being overcast it wouldn’t make much difference.  Actually I was more concerned about getting out before everyone else.

I arrived at my usual spot around 10:00 am to find only a few cars in the lot.  I rigged up my switch rod and headed upstream.  Water levels  were about the same as the last time I was out.  Clarity was a lot better too, which was a good thing since I tripped over a log and went for a swim the last trip.  This time I should be able to see anything before I fall over it.  I carefully waded in and started to swing my leech pattern through the run I have been fishing all season.  I was hoping to pick up a fish today since the last one I caught was back around Thanksgiving.  I fished the run for about an hour and caught nothing.  I walked out and headed towards the trail back to the parking lot.  As I was standing there I was debating which way to turn.  Left back to the warm car and dry clothes (my waders leak) or right to another spot.  I chose right, literally.

I approached the next hole about 300 yards farther upstream.  I surveyed the area to decide where I wanted to start.  I saw a log mostly submerged on the other side and thought that would be a good place to start.  It was, on my 3rd cast he hit…….and stopped.  I didn’t know what was going on.  I felt the hit, the rod was bent but nothing was happening. No jumping, no drag burning run, no head shakes, nothing.  I was just standing there staring at the line wondering what the hell was going on when he finally realized he was hooked and decided to take off.  We did the back and forth thing for the next 5 minutes or so.  I would gain some line on him and he would take off downstream.  Eventually I got him close and attempted to grab him by the tail.  If you have never tried to land a steelhead by hand let me tell you something, it’s just as hard as it sounds.  It took a couple of tries but eventually I was able to grab him by the tail and get him under control.  Normally I try to get the hook out of the fish and back in the water as soon as possible but I had to do some surgery first.  This fish had a lamprey on him.  I saw it as I was bringing him in and I was determined to get that blood sucker off of him.  I carefully pulled the lamprey off and chucked it up on shore.  A quick inspection didn’t show very much damage so I got the hook out of him and sent him on his way.  After that my hands were numb with cold so this time I turned left and headed back to the car.  I wasn’t going to complain.  I got 2016 off to a great start.  I had just landed my personal best steelhead for the Huron River.  He was released unharmed and I managed to keep from going swimming this time.

If you look a few inches past the pectoral fin you can see where the lamprey was latched on.

If you look a few inches past the pectoral fin you can see where the lamprey was latched on.

The fly, or what’s left of it.

The Fly