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.  Tim 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.  Tim 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.





Weekend Report 11/3-11/4

5 11 2018

Originally I planned on going walleye fishing Saturday and Steelhead fishing Sunday.  Recent rains though blew out The Huron so that left me with walleye on The Detroit River.  As it would turn out I would accomplish both.

I started out Saturday morning just after sunrise.  The river was filthy again and the current was a lot faster than I expected.  I checked the gauges later and it was reading 262,000 cfs.  Higher than normal and the NW wind wasn’t helping any.  Eventually I switched to a heavier weight just to help keep contact with the bottom.  Trying to maintain a decent speed was difficult as well.  There where a few times I found myself going downstream instead of up or across.  I fought through it though and managed to catch a couple more for the freezer.

The next morning I was back out after sunrise again, an hour earlier thanks to the daylight savings crap.  Water was a lot cleaner today.  Yesterday there was less than 6 inches of visibility and today it was about two feet.  Light winds out of the SE and a current that had dropped by over 20,000 cfs made for almost ideal conditions.  Didn’t catch anything in the first half hour but the next half hour proved to be a different story.  I caught one walleye and quickly followed it up with another one when I trolled over the same spot where I caught the first one.  I stayed in the area for a bit and then I had another hit.  It felt like a decent fish at first but it just gave up.  Figured it was a small walleye until it got to the side of the boat and I quickly realized it wasn’t.  I saw that white belly and green back and got very serious.  I started to go for the net but changed my mind and just flipped her in.  I said I was going to go steelehead fishing and I did.  Just not in the river I planned too.

Normally I would have let her go but she was bleeding out so I just put her in the cooler.  After that fishing was pretty uneventful.  I managed to catch a couple more and actually lost #5 right at the side of the boat.  I could have stuck it out a little longer but the winds were picking up and I was supposed to meet some friends for breakfast and to go see Bohemian Rhapsody later.  I was running out of time so I just packed it in.

While I was fishing I did get to watch a Bald Eagle swoop in and grab a fish of the surface.  I watched him fly off and land on a nearby telephone pole and eat his breakfast.  I saw a pair yesterday flying around.  I assume he was one of the pair.  Don’t know if their nest is on Humbug or Grosse Isle but I’m sure I’ll spot it eventually.  Unless they are just migrating through or waiting for the gizzard shad to show up.

Headed north next weekend to get my Mom’s house ready for winter.  While I’m there I plan on hitting the AuSable for some Steelhead and Atlantic action.  Hopefully the Steelhead I caught Sunday was a sign that I should switch gears and concentrate on them instead of the walleye.

Hope so.

 





Easter Weekend Steel

2 04 2018

You really have to appreciate it when the VP of the company I work for tells you they are closing the office at noon on Good Friday.  Especially when your car is packed and ready to  head north.  I didn’t have to be told twice and a few minutes later I was on the highway and headed to my Mom’s place in Oscoda.  Since I was arriving so early I was hoping to get her to-do list done toady and go steelhead fishing the next morning.  For once everything worked out like I wanted and I was all clear to fish the following day.

I awoke the next morning bright and early, around 8:30 am.  I got all my gear together and made the short drive over to the AuSable river.  Along the way I spotted a female woodcock doing the “timberdoodle two-step” across King’s Corner road so I stopped to watch her for a bit.  Turns out a lot of critters were out and about this morning.  I saw plenty of deer and sandhill cranes in the fields getting a late morning meal, And one turkey that had something else on his mind.

I arrived at the parking lot around 9:00 am and got set up.  I was expecting a lot of vehicles with it being the weekend and I was surprised to see only one truck.  I wasn’t going to complain but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a sign that there weren’t any fish around.  Once I got to the river I spotted the truck owner, a Father and Son spending the morning together.  I talked to the Father for a few minutes, they caught one small steelhead further upstream and a sucker a couple of minutes ago.  I asked which way they were headed and then I went in the opposite direction.  Once I got about 100 yards away from them I waded in and started swinging a black/purple Senyo A.I.  I was also using my Sage “Pulse” 8wt rod today.  I have a feeling this is going to be the rod I use the most in Alaska so I wanted to spend as much casting time with it that I can.  I started going through my usual routine.  Cast, mend, take two steps downstream.  I kept trying to land the fly at an angle along the seam on the opposite side of the river.  I was standing in an area where the current shifts from the north side to the south.  I was hoping a fish would be lying on the opposite side and be pissed off enough that he would crush my fly.  No such luck.  Eventually the two fishermen I saw earlier had left so I continued to work my way downstream.

A River all to myself.

After about an hour I waded out and decided to switch flies (Pink Predator Scandi) and put on a heavier MOW tip.  I was running a T-11 2.5 float/7.5 sink and I changed over to a T-14.  I really have no idea how deep the water is on the other side but since I wasn’t hitting bottom I knew I wasn’t getting deep enough.  Even though the water is very clear I don’t expect the fish to chase a fly to much in this cold water.  I gave that set up a swing for about half an hour to no avail as well.  I had some more time before the wind advisory was supposed to go into affect (possible 45 mph winds) so I decide to go on a walk-a-bout and see what I could find downstream.  There is plenty of fishable water, it’s just a matter of getting to it and no one else being there.  Eventually I ended up at a spot called “Joe’s Point”.

It is across the river from a very popular area and once again no one was around.  I went back to casting but once again I didn’t have any luck.  I didn’t see any fish on the gravel either.  Still, it was a near perfect day.  Overcast skies, no wind (yet) and nature was definitely active.  Mallards and Woodducks were making all kinds of noise along with the occasional Kingfisher.  As I was walking out I bumped another Woodcock.  He’s probably thinking he should have stayed south a little bit longer this year.  I was thinking I should have stayed in bed longer as well.  Oh well, there will be another time.  Don’t know if I will be able to get back up here again though.  I may have time for a trip to the Alley for a day but I don’t know about a run north.  Guess it depends how ambitious I get.  On my way home Sunday I did stop at Omer to see how the sucker run was going.  I had stopped on the way up and their were a few fishermen catching suckers.  The trip home was a different story.  The cold front was keeping people indoors and I wasn’t seeing any fish being caught.  I’m sure Monday will be a different story, no wind and warmer temps.  Until the next front comes through.

 

 





The Alley, Part II

11 12 2017

Definitely an anti-social type…..

Oddball, Kelly’s Heroes, 1970

Fishing in a Winter Wonderland

 

This past Saturday (12/9) I was headed east, back to The Alley.  Originally this was supposed to be a weekend trip for about seven other fellow steelheaders.  Unfortunately people backed out because of various reasons.  One other person was supposed to meet me in the morning but some last minutes issues with the lights for his boat trailer prevented that.  Therefore it was just me, driving down the 80/90 interstate at 6:00am.  No big deal, I’m definitely an anti-social type anyways.

A lack of rain the last few weeks was going to limit the number of rivers that I could swing a fly on.  As it would turn out, icy slush was going to prove to be a bigger problem throughout the day.  Just about every place I stopped it was the same story, lots of slushy ice flowing downstream.  I started upstream at one access point and worked my way downstream all day long.  Most of the time I never saw another angler, the places I did it was the same scenario.  Thirty casts for every one that was a decent drift.  Not exactly the most productive way to catch a fish.  Still I trudged on and made the best of it.  I did manage to mark a lot of access points on my phone for future reference.  That is one of the great things about the rivers along The Alley, ease of access.  The rivers run through a lot of metro parks so all one has to do is find them, park and start fishing.  Some are right on the river, others require a bit of a hike.  Those are the ones I was looking for since I am a bit of an anti-social type when it comes to fishing.  Even then there is no guarantee that I will be alone.  I’m not the only die-hard out there.

Though I didn’t catch any fish I did find some some really scenic areas.  One spot in particular was really surprising.  I was standing at a viewing area overlooking a large marsh.  I was just thinking to myself how it would be a great area to sit and snipe a deer or coyote, providing it was legal.  I’m sure the home owners across the street would frown on that.  As I stood there takingin the view I happened to catch some movement in the cat tails and out walked this large coyote.  He wasn’t more than 200 yards from a major road and homes but there he was, trotting along like he didn’t care.

After that stop I checked out one more area which I had already planned on making my last stop of the day.  I just figured it would be around 5 pm, not 2.  I got out to check it out but it was more of the same, low water and slush.  I talked to one other steelheader (bagger) and he said he got one but he had been at it all morning and trying to get a decent drift in between all the ice flows was damn near impossible.  After I finished checking out the area I stripped off my waders, put on some jeans and headed back home.  I’ll try another day.

Next up, The AuSable.

 

 





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.

 

 

 





2015, the Year in Review.

10 01 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times……

I have never read Charles Dicken’s classic “A Tale of Two Cities” but that opening line pretty much summed up 2015 for me. I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.  In April, I had one of the greatest fishing experiences of my life in the Florida Keys.  In August, I came to the realization that I would never be able to fish with my father again.  Like I said, it was the best of times and the worst of times.

One of the high points of 2015 was my foray into swinging flies for steelhead. I had actually started a few months earlier on my 50th birthday.  I learned a lot over that weekend on the Grand River in Ohio but I never did connect with a fish.  I did manage to catch one in February on the Muskegon River and that “Tug” was enough to get me hooked.  Several trips on the Huron and another on the Muskegon and I ended up with 7 steelhead for the year – a lot more than I had ever imagined I would catch, especially the ones I caught on the Huron.  This river doesn’t get much of a run but it does get enough fish to warrant a few hours whenever I get a chance.  Living only 10 minutes away doesn’t hurt either.  I learned quite a bit during these quick trips.  I never realized how important water levels and clarity can play when it comes to steelhead.  Valuable lessons that I should have already known, especially after this past walleye fishing season.

I got a late start to my walleye season this year. My boat sat up north at my parents waiting to be repaired.  I would head up on the weekends to help my Dad out but his health kept getting worse instead of better.  Eventually we got it fixed but by then it was the height of the Silver Bass run.  Around mid-June I finally made it out and started to put some fish in the freezer.  I wasn’t exactly hammering them but I wasn’t getting skunked either.  That was more than I could say for a lot of other people.  There was a lot of chatter on the message boards this past summer about how difficult the fishing was.  No one was catching any fish with any consistency.  Of course the theories started up about how the fish weren’t there.  My favorite being because there were so many anglers this Spring, they caught all the fish.  I’m not kidding, some people actually thought that.  Not surprising though, whenever fish aren’t being caught the first thought is a lack of fish.   Rarely do people ever look at the one variable that 9 times out of 10 dictates success.  Weather.

Last winter was one of the coldest Michigan had ever seen.   With the cooler temps, lack of rain and no NE winds the water remained ridiculously clear in the Detroit River, all summer long.  Walleye are an ambush predator and with the water being as clear as it was I firmly believe they just stayed put or hid in the weeds or channel edges until it got dark.  The fish were always there, they were just in a neutral feeding pattern throughout the day.  Fish were caught but not like they would be if the water was stained.  So instead of adjusting tactics people just threw out silly theories.  Me?  I changed tactics and didn’t even start fishing until after dark.  I must have been one of the few people that thought this way because I rarely saw anyone else out fishing after dark.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get out as much as I wanted because of work.  I had to stick to weekends or overcast evenings.  I could have gone out during the week but getting up in the morning for work would be rough.  I was having a hard time at work all year as it is, being half asleep wouldn’t have helped any.  Even though it was a short season I did all right.  Lost more fish than normal but that was because of the fish being so neutral from the clear water.  They would just suck in the lure if it was on their nose.  I lost all of these fish right at the boat.  Once it got dark they went into attack mode and hammered lures.  In the daylight though?  Forget it.  It was rather frustrating but eventually I put it all together and put fish in the freezer.  I also managed to save a few bucks because I wasn’t even launching until after the ramp attendants had gone home for the day.  I only had one casualty for the year as well.

busted lip

Before I ever got the chance to even catch a walleye I got the opportunity to go fishing for something I always wanted, Tarpon.  How it came about was pretty much by chance and a surprise.  Susan and I were sitting around watching TV when she told me she wanted to go back to the Florida Keys.  A few emails later and I had a couple of trips booked to go fish the flats.  The first day didn’t go so well for Tarpon.  Overcast skies and wind made spotting them difficult and even when we did they couldn’t see the fly with the dirty water.  The following evening was a different story.  Very little wind, clean water and hungry Tarpon made for probably the most memorable 3 hours of fishing I had ever had.  The one part that stuck out the most and I talk about more than anything was what my guide told me.  As he was telling me where to cast my fly he said I needed to listen for the sound of a bowling ball hitting the water.  As if on cue I heard the splash and he said “That”.  That splash is the sound of a tarpon popping a shrimp on the surface.  For the next 3 hours I listened for that and whenever I heard it I would flip my fly in that direction with the hope of another strike.  13 times it happened that night and 3 came to the boat.  I cannot even describe the rush when a 40 pound Tarpon hits the fly.  It has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Tarpon 3

The one person who would have appreciated my fishing tales this year more than anyone else was my Dad. Unfortunately, my family lost him to cancer in early August.  He was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer in February and I was still hoping he and I could have gone out one last time.  It never did happen and towards the end even my stories weren’t registering with him anymore.  After his death my desire to go fishing went right out the door.  It just didn’t feel right going out knowing I couldn’t call him afterwards or send him any pictures.  I just couldn’t see the point of going.  If I couldn’t share the experience with him why bother?  When I told him about my first steelhead on a fly I tied he was so excited.  All he talked about was how when he got his strength back we would both go fishing for them on the AuSable.  That never did happen and every time I go fishing now I can’t help but think about those lost opportunities.  It still bothers me to this day and it’s the main reason why I go fishing by myself.  I really don’t want to share the experience with anyone else.  My father shared so much with me my whole life and now that I am getting to try things I have only dreamed of, I can’t share it with him.  Hopefully it will get better in 2016.

So to sum up 2015 it was the best of times and the worst of times. I caught fish, I lost fish and I lost my lifetime fishing partner.  I did manage to learn a few things along the way.  Understanding what to do depending on water clarity is huge.  Daiichi hooks are ridiculously sharp.  Wool gloves and spey casting do not go well together and most importantly……if you have a chance to go fishing with your father, do it.

Dad (32)