HEX TIME……………………………Eventually.

1 07 2019

About a month ago my friend Dave and I were talking about heading north to do some fly fishing.  Due to a lot of prior engagements and bad schedules our first open weekend wasn’t until the end of June.  A lot later than I would have normally wanted to go but there was a chance we might be in time for the Hex Hatch.  It usually starts up about this time of year but our very wet Spring has kind of delayed things.  We were hoping that the recent heat wave might trigger some activity anyways.  Fishermen……always optimistic.

We arrived near the Manistee river around 9:30 pm on Friday night and immediately went to one of the several access points to check for activity.  There were a few anglers camped out at the first point doing the same thing so we moved upstream about a mile.  We walked down to the water and watched and waited.  Then we watched and waited some more and, just to be sure, we watched and waited again.

Nothing…….

No hatches, no spinners, no surface activity.  We saw a few mayflies buzzing around but that was it.  This was depressing.  Add to that the high water levels and I was becoming a lot less optimistic.  We hung around until sometime after 10 before we headed back to the cabin.  Once there we got all out gear sorted out and ready.  Dave’s son Dave showed up about the same time so we made plans for the morning and went to bed.

Morning came and it was going to be a repeat of yesterday, clear blue skies and a sunny 80 degrees.  Not exactly ideal fly fishing weather.  Still, we were hoping the heat would warm up the mud and get the hatches going tonight.  Until then we were going to spend the day drifting nymph, wet fly and streamer patterns until sunset.  We got to the first access point around around 9:30 am and got set up.  Dave and his son were going to head upstream and nymph fish while I headed down and swung streamers.  I was going to finally get a chance to use my Redington Hydrogen 4116 Switch rod for what it was designed for.  I tied on an olive woolly bugger and waded in.  3 seconds later I was wading back out to try and find a different area to cross the river.  All the rain had the river flowing high and fast.  No need to get wet just yet.  After a little maneuvering I was able to get across and I started to swing my fly through the deep shaded bend on the opposite shore.  I would let the fly sweep all the way across the river to the opposite bank and let it dangle and then give it a pulse every so often to try and trigger a strike.  I repeated this process for the next few hours until I reached a point in the river that was too deep for me to wade.  A problem I would have all day.  Once I go out I walked back up to the car and dried out.

Can you guess which side of my waders leak?

Since it was near noon time I dug out the cooler and got things ready for lunch.  Dave and Dave would be back soon and hungry since we all skipped breakfast.  They arrived about 30 minutes later and fortunately Dave sr. had better luck then I had.

The Brown was about 17 inches long and grabbed a small wet fly.  It turned out to be the best fish Dave had ever caught on this section of the river and it would be the biggest fish of the day.  As a matter of fact it would be the only fish worth talking about today.  His son, like me, didn’t catch anything.  After lunch we headed upstream and kept at it.  I was determined to catch something and I wasn’t about to give up.  At the next spot upstream we suited up and once again I had to find another way across.  Sometimes being 5′ – 3″ really sucks.  Eventually I was able to get across and I started over again.  I had lost my original fly, along with a few others. at the first spot so now I was trying a Lady Caroline.  It was a scaled down version that I tied just for this type of fishing.  I only hoped it would work.  The only activity I had at first was a few kayakers that showed up just as I was starting to work a bend in the river that had a large blow down in it.  I figured there had to be a few fish hiding under there.  I waded out to the middle of the river as much as I could and the kayakers quietly paddled behind me instead of through the hole.  I thanked them for their courtesy and started my approach.  I made my first cast and watched the fly drift down into the depths of the hole.  I waited patiently and then it happened, or should I say it didn’t.  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  I though for sure something had to be lurking under that tree.  Guess I was wrong.

From there I waded further downstream to another spot that looked promising.  I spotted another cedar tree that had most of it’s branches over the river, providing shade and cover along with an undercut bank.  I started my swing on the opposite side of the river and let the fly drift down under the tree.  As it drifted across the center I felt the tell tale tap of a smaller fish.  I expected this happen all day but this was the first time.  The Brook Trout in these rivers tend to hang out in the middle, on top of the gravel, and wait for something to come by.  Why it took until almost 3 pm to experience the first tap was beyond me but at least I knew something was interested.  Nothing happened after that so I stripped the line in and made another cast.  Just as the fly reached the tips of the overhanging branches I had a hit.  Nothing monstrous but he was on.  I skipped the little brown in, took a quick pic and sent him on his way.

Not very big but I’ll take it.

After that not much else happened.  I continued to fish downstream and once again I reached another point where I couldn’t wade any further.  I walked back to the car (jumped a fawn along the way) and started over.  By now the sun had set a little further and created more shade on the different bends of the river.  I repeated the process and only managed a few more bumps and one smaller brown.  Once I reached my earlier walk out point I walked back to the car again.  By now Dave and his son were back along with a few other anglers.  They had already camped out on a few spots on the river in anticipation of the upcoming hatch.  It was now around 9 pm and we decided to do the same thing, once we had something to eat.  Dave sr. headed downstream while Dave jr. just waited in the car.  I think he had had enough of today.  He did manage to catch one fish though.

His father and were were still holding out hope though.  I have never fished a hex hatch before and I really wanted it to happen tonight.  Dave and I both walked downstream, picked out spots and waited, and watched, and waited, and watched, and waited, and watched, and waited………..

Again, nothing happened.  I saw a few mayflies hatch (one flew about 3 feet before it was pocked off by a bird) and Dave so what appeared to be a bit of a spinner fall.  Only sporadic rising trout though and by 11:00 pm we had both had enough and walked back to the car.  We had been out for almost 13 hours and most of that time was in the water.  The other anglers, who had camped out earlier, reported the same thing.  Very few insects and only a handful of rising fish.  Back at the car I peeled off my wet clothes and we headed back to the cabin.  during our drive back we discussed many theories as to why there was so little activity.  Cold water, late Spring, Lunar shifts, Chinese tariffs, Lions poor draft choices, you name it, we tried to place the blame on it.  The one theory that did make the most sense though was the amount of debris in the water.  There was so much stuff coming down that we felt the trout were just plain full from eating every worm or insect that washed down the river from the rain.  Seemed plausible to me so I was sticking to it.

The next day we were just plain beat.  Dave jr. had to get back to Grand Rapids and his father and I needed to get home as well.  Before we did that though we did some scouting for new areas.  One of which looked very promising.  So promising that I am planning a late September fishing/hunting/camping weekend in the area.  Until then I have a lot of research to do to try and figure out this trout spey fishing thing.  I know there were fish in the river but I couldn’t get any of them to cooperate.  I’ll tie up some wet flies in the mean time along with a few more streamers.  My casting is getting much better, as long as I am fishing river left.  I probably have to tweak my presentation some.  I think I may not have been getting deep enough with the high flows.  If the trout were being lazy my fly might not have been getting close enough to them.  I should have swapped out to a heavier MOW tip at one point but I got lazy.  Next time will be different.

 

 

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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.

 





NW Michigan Steel

6 12 2017

Friday, Dec. 1st.  The start of a 3 day smack down on the local Steelhead population.  At least I was hoping it would be.  I honestly had no idea how this trip was going to turn out.  I had some people telling me that the rivers were full of fish, big fish.  Other were telling me the exact opposite.  I didn’t know who to believe.  All I knew was that I was out of work early and headed north west to Wellston, MI and D-Loop Outfitters. I singed up for this trip back in June with Schultz’s Outfiiters who would be the host for the event.  Normally I take my time during these drives but dinner was at 7:30 pm and Google Maps had me arriving at 7:38 pm.  Just as I pulled into the driveway Schultzy was calling my cell to ask where i was at.  I told him I was in  my car staring at him talking to me.  After introductions we sat down for a dinner of lamb chops.

I expected to lose weight after 3 days of fishing but based on this first meal I had a feeling I was going to gain weight (turns out it would only be a pound).  After dinner we were paired up and assigned a guide for the next morning.  So after talking with a few people and drinking a very bitter craft beer I was off to my cabin and bed.

Day 1, The Pere Marquette.

After Breakfast Robert (my fishing partner for today) and I were headed south to the PM to meet up with our guide, Brad Turner, from the Tommy Lynch Fish Whisperer Guide Service.  After a brief discussion of what the plan was going to be for the day we piled into Brad’s truck and headed to the launch site.  Brad launched his drift boat and after about a 15 minute row downstream we were stopped at our first run for the day.  We were using indicator rigs with a couple of beads pegged a couple of inches above each hook.  The rationale here is that the steelhead will grab the bead thinking it is a salmon egg.  Once I set the hook it should catch him in the corner of the mouth.  This was going to be the plan of attack for the whole day.  Fish a run, get back in the boat, row to the next run, repeat.  At our first stop Brad got me all set up and I went to work.  It didn’t take long and I had the first fish of the day on.  It made a few big jumps in the beginning and I could tell it was a decent sized and nicely colored male.  After his third jump he hauled ass upstream and I just let him run.  I was free and clear of any log jams that way and it would be the perfect area to land him.  He must have realized that himself because he turned around and ran back to where I hooked him.  Once he was in there he got tangled up in some old fishing line that was wrapped around a log.  What started off as a very promising beginning ended with disappointment.  After a few minutes I was rigged back up and at again.  Just as Brad was telling us it was time to move on I hooked into another fish.  The fight didn’t last long.

My smallest steelhead to date. I need to reverse this trend.

These two fish would turn out to be the only ones we would hook all day.  Most of the day was spent trying to dodge other boats and stay ahead of them so we could fish clean holes that hadn’t been disturbed.  I expected it to be busy on a Saturday but this was nuts.  It wasn’t until about 2 o’clock that we were finally able to get ahead of the pack.  Not that it made any difference but at least it kept our hopes up.  It’s hard to remain positive about fishing a run or hole if you know someone else has already been through it.  Fishing was tough enough already, playing second or third fiddle to everyone else just made it worse.  We kept at it until just before sundown which was about the time we arrived at our take out.  It was a long day but still a good one.  I would have liked to have landed that first fish but I wasn’t going to keep it anyways so it wasn’t too heartbreaking.  If you believe that I got a bridge over some swamp land to sell you.

Hopefully Day 2 will be better.

Day 2, The Big Manistee

Day 2 started off at a bone chilling 23 degrees.  This wasn’t going to last long but for the first few hours I was going to appreciate the heated cabin on the boat we would be using.  Our guide picked Robert and I up at our cabin and by 8:00 am we were at the launch and ready to go.

A Beautiful but cold morning on the Big Man

The name of the game today was floating beads under a float using a center pin rig.  I had never done this before but I was curious to find out how it worked.  Center pins are becoming more and more popular with the Steelheaders and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  After some quick instructions from our guide we were drifting our beads to the fish.  Basically what we would do is anchor the boat upstream of the run or hole and just let the float drift downstream.  This is where the reel comes in.  There is no drag or “clicker” on the reel, it just free spools as the float drifts down.  These reels are so smooth that it just spins without causing any drag on the float, thus allowing for as natural a drift as possible.  No mending lines.  No repeated casts.  Just let it drift.  The draw back is that when you have to set the hook you have to remember to clamp down on the reel with your hand, otherwise you will create a bird’s nest that no self-respecting Robin would want to deal with.  Fortunately for me I never did that, can’t say the same for Robert.  After about half an hour I was getting the hang of it and getting into a groove, interrupted only by short breaks to clear the ice out of the guides every 15 minutes or so.  Not much happened at the first hole, it was more of a practice stop anyways.  The next stop was different.  By now the sun was up above the tree line and the temps got above freezing.  No more clearing guides.  Once we started drifting our floats they were getting bumped and played with by the fish.  The float would drop, we would set the hook and nothing would happen.  This went on for about 15 minutes but the guide told us to keep at it.  Sometimes the fish feel like playing or it is a skipper screwing around.  Turns out he was right on both counts.  On one of the numerous bumps Robert set the hook and this time the fish was on.  I reeled in and got out of the way to give them plenty of room.  This would turn out to be a very cooperative fish.  Instead of running towards the wood he stayed out in the middle of the river.  After about 10 minutes of this he was in the net.  A quick pic and he was on his way.

Rob’s 75th Birthday Fish

Now it was my turn.  While Robert was getting set back up again I went back to fishing.  On my next drift my float dropped and I buried the hook into what appeared to be a good fish.  I’ll never know for sure, 10 seconds later he was off.

FRAK!!!

I reeled in, reset everything and got back at it.  A couple drifts later my float dropped and once again I clamped down on the reel and set the hook.  I hooked the fish but the weight wasn’t there like the previous one.  Once again the Skipper curse reared its minuscule head.  A minute later he was in the net and quickly released to fight another day.  I’m going to start telling everyone that I am dealing in Steelhead Futures, catch them small and let them grow later.

My Big Manistee Brute

Once we were done drifting floats through this hole our Guide broke out the Spey rods so we could swing flies through this big run.  This is what I wanted to do all weekend so I was tickled pink to finally get the chance.  He set me up on the back of the boat and just let me cast away.  Meanwhile, he set Robert up at the front of the boat and gave him a refresher course on casting.  I had never been on a boat where you had two spey casters fishing at the same time.  I will never do it again.  I had the whole back of the boat all to myself so I  really didn’t have to worry about anything.  The guy up front had to time his casts to make sure he didn’t hit my line or me.  While Robert never did hit my line (I was timing my casts to help prevent that) he did manage to hit just about everything else, including me.  After the third time he bounced his fly off of my hat the guide finally said that’s enough and we went back to the center pins.  I was lucky that I never got a hooked buried in me and I preferred to keep it that way, even if it meant fishing a method I really didn’t want to.

We continued on for the rest of the day with the only excitement being Rob hooking into another fish for a few brief seconds.  The clear blue skies created a lot of glare and trying to watch a float through that was proving to be difficult and giving me a headache.  Around 3:30 pm we pulled lines and headed back to the dock.  We didn’t want to be late for dinner, steak and lobster tonight.

Day 3, The Little Manistee

This was the forecast for day 3.  I was supposed to spend it on the Big Manistee again with Robert but the guide couldn’t make it so another guide was assigned to us.  Personally I think the guide didn’t want to get rained on all day.  Because of this there was some reshuffling of where we would fish.  One of the other guests wanted to hike and wade the Little Manistee and his partner wanted to fish the PM.  That meant that Robert and I would be splitting up to fish one of the alternatives.  He chose to fish the PM and I was happily relegated to  the Little Manistee.  It was already raining so I gathered all my rain gear and piled into the guide’s 4-Runner.  After about a 30 minute drive we arrived at our first stop of the day.  We would be fishing Indicator rigs again but John (Our Guide) did bring along a switch rod for swinging flies, just in case.

The Little Manistee and all its log jam, fish losing potential.

We set up on the first run and started drifting egg flies through the run.  This part of the river wasn’t very wide and we were literally casting just 10 feet in front of us.  John, the other fisherman, was downstream of me by about 20 yards.  Our guide was standing next to me answering my questions when I happened to see John set the hook on a fish.  He never said a word so I pointed downstream and said “fish”.  About that time the Fish made one of 3 straight up in the air jumps, headed downstream, turned and swam back upstream to the hole and then reversed course and hauled ass downstream.  John and John gave chase while I just continued to fish my spot.  I kept an eye on them in case they needed help but there really wasn’t much I could do.  They had their hands full in the skinny water and they really didn’t need me to get in the way.  About 15 minutes later they were both walking upstream, John 2 was all smiles so I assumed they landed the fish.  John 1 later informed me that they did not.  He told me that it was about a 10 pound male and it got hung up on a tree stump and broke the line just as he was about to net it.  It was the first big Steelhead that John 2 had ever hooked into and he was all wound up now.  Thus the reason for him being all smiles.  We fished the spot for a few more minutes but nothing happened so we moved on to the next run.

At spot number two John 2 and I were a little more separated so our guide had to split his time a little more carefully.  He got John 2 set up first and then we walked a little further upstream.  He told me where to fish and I made a few casts.  Once he was comfortable with my presentation he headed back down to check on John 2.  Just as he rounded the bend I hooked a fish.  He started to run back but I told him to take it easy.  This one wasn’t going anywhere.  Skippers usually don’t.

It was still a fish and as it would turn out I would be the only one from the group that would catch a Steelhead each day.  I also got to claim the prize for the smallest fish each day.  It takes real skill to be able to do that.  We fished this area of the river for the next hour or so but to no avail.  I even got to swing a streamer through a run that held both Coho and Steelhead but they didn’t want to play.  The fish were there, we could see them in the runs (some well over 10 pounds) but they didn’t want to cooperate so we headed back to the car and lunch.  By now the rain had stopped which made for a pleasant dining experience of a turkey sandwich and vegetable soup.  Once that was done we packed up and headed out.

Our next stop was a section of the river about 3 miles from where we first started.  This stretch was full of spawning Cohos.  There was a great run of these fish this year and many were still holding over.  John 1 mentioned to me that some of them will be here until January and fresh ones will probably move in with the latest rain.  I was surprised to see so many and I was hoping there would be plenty of Steelhead feeding on the eggs.  John 2 was set up on the first hole and he immediately hooked in to a Coho.  It didn’t last long and he got hung up.  John 1 decided to just turn me loose.  He gave me a box of egg patterns and some leader material.  He asked if I was ok with that and I assured him I was fine and headed upstream.  He told me he would check on me in about 30 minutes or so.  I started methodically working the runs, hoping to find one cooperative Steelhead while all the Cohos swam around me.  As I was making my last drift on one run I saw a nasty looking Coho swimming my way and into the run.  Of course she grabbed the egg.  I didn’t set the hook, hoping she would spit it but she didn’t.  She turned and buried the hook in her jaw.  I managed to work her out of the hole and into the skinny water downstream.  Once I did that I yelled out to John 1 and he came up to assist.  He saw the fish and the look of disgust on my face so he just grabbed the line and gave it a good yank to pull it free.  We joked about it for a second and said we should move up to the next run.  John 2 had hooked into about 4 or 5 Coho by now so I asked John 1 if he really thought he would be able to get him to leave.  He gave me that “yeah your right” look so I just went off on my own again.

At the next run I managed to hook a few more Coho but I really didn’t try to land them.  They were looking quite nasty and I didn’t want to grab them.  Eventually I moved on to another hole and started fishing again.  About this time John 1 had made his way back up to check on me and it was then that I hooked another Steelhead.  Only problem was that it was another smolt no more than 8 or 9 inches long.  I got her close and removed the hook without ever taking her out of the water.  A few minutes later I followed that up with a couple of small Brown Trout.  John 1 told me there was a good wild population here but that the ones he catches are usually in the 15 to 20 inch range.  Leave it to me to break the trend.

Small but very colorful

John 1 told me we only had about another 20 minutes so I started to work my way back down.  I made a few more casts but once I broke my line on a sunken log I just packed everything up for the day.  John 2 was still playing with the Cohos so I just sat back and watched.  If these had been fresh fish I would have joined in but I wasn’t feeling the need to catch zombies.  It had been a long 3 days and I was starting to feel it.  A hot shower and sleeping in my own bed was sounding really good right about now.  I just had to get through the 3 1/2 hour drive first.  Still, I caught fish, there wasn’t any size to them but it was better than nothing.  I had the chance to land some bigger ones but it really didn’t happen.  I ate well and didn’t get hurt so I really can’t complain.  I’m sure I’ll do it again next year.  I just may fit in a few trips beforehand on my own.

 

Next up, back to The Alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





I Believe I Can Fly……..

2 10 2017

Anyone reading this might wonder why I led off with this.  I’ll get to that and trust me, it is appropriate.

Earlier this week my friend and fellow handliner Dave, asked me if I want to head up to the Manistee River for one last crack at the trout before the season closed.  Like I need to be asked?  Friday night found us headed up 127 to his own version of the Holy Waters.  We would be fishing an area that is flies only and the legal minimum length for a Brown Trout was 18 inches.  Not that this mattered since neither of us were planning on keeping anything but an 18 inch Brown is an impressive fish.  There were smaller size restrictions for Rainbows and Brookies but in all the years that Dave has fished here he has never caught either.  In other words it was Browns or nothing.  This was fine with me since I have yet to catch a Brown on a fly.  Caught plenty of the lake run version but never a true river Brown.

After breakfast Saturday morning we drove up to our first spot of the day.  We were the only fishermen there, not surprising since Opening Day of the Archery Deer Season was the next day.  There was lots of Quad traffic on the roads as hunters checked on blinds but for us there wasn’t a sign of anyone on the river.  Once we got our gear in order we made our way down to the river’s edge.  Dave was casting small soft hackles and headed upstream.  As for me I was going big.  I broke out my 6wt, 11-6 Redington Prospector and a 3 inch Olive Sculpin pattern I tied up for this purpose.  I could have scaled down and given myself a better chance of catching any trout but I wanted something to brag about.  The stretch I was fishing had a lot of bends to it so I had to move from one side to the next so that I could swing my fly through the deeper runs and holes. Fortunately for my vertically challenged self, the water levels were down a bit and I could you wade from side to side without much issue.  Trout Unlimited had created a lot of holding habitat in the past and I was concentrating my efforts towards those sunken logs, especially the ones in the shade.  It was chilly morning so the sun felt good but I would have welcomed a little cloud cover.  Nevertheless I went through my usual routine.  Cast, swing, drift, dangle, take two steps, repeat.  Of course while I was doing this I was studying the next run, checking out the scenery, listening to the birds and generally just relaxing.  I’ve had to much unnecessary drama in my life the last week and I really needed to unwind.  It never ceases to amaze me how time on the water can make all my problems just disappear.

How can any self respecting Brown refuse that?

After about an hour of this and no action I was beginning to question my strategy of Go Big or Go Home.  I hadn’t heard from Dave so I had no idea if he was doing any better.  I know there were some decent fish in the area.  When we first started we spooked a 20+ inch fish from under a log near our entry point.  I kept at it though, thinking eventually something would take a swipe at my fly.  During this interlude of me questioning my tactics I noticed two birds hauling ass my way.  I couldn’t tell what they were at first until the trailing bird finally caught the lead bird.  A goshawk had just exploded  a Robin directly in front of me and landed in the tag alders on my right.  I stood there in amazement of what I had just seen and watched the feathers all around me float down to the river.  That was when it happened, my cast was now in the “dangle” mode and an over zealous brown grabbed my sculpin.  Now normally, when I’m swinging streamers, I try to wait until I feel the weight of the fish to set the hook.  That way I know he has turned and once I apply pressure I can usually hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.  This hit was not when I was expecting it so of course I set the hook and let the 11′ – 6″ rod do it’s thing and by that I mean it proceeded to yank that little 7 inch Brown completely out of the water and send him flying upstream and back into the water right next to me.  By then he came unhooked and swam away trying to figure out what the hell just happened to him.  One second he thought he was going to get himself an easy meal and the next he is flying through the air like a bird.   I just stood there for a moment taking it all in and feeling a little ashamed at what I had just done.  I know better than that.

After that the rest of the morning was pretty uneventful.  Dave managed to land a few smaller fish and I managed nothing.  We spent the rest of the day continuing to work our way upstream.  We found one spot that was rather interesting.  When we first got there we could see some fish holding in a pool behind a blow down.  We were trying to figure out how to get to them when we began to question if they were even trout.  Eventually we saw the forked tails and realized they were suckers.  When we turned around to leave I spotted a pair of Adirondack chairs at the edge of the river.  Someone must have brought them down so we took advantage of that person’s hard work and generosity and sat there for a bit to take in the scenery.  After a bit we hit the river or at least Dave did.  I headed downstream but most of the area was too deep for me to wade or to mucky. After about half an hour of trying to find a spot to fish I just gave up and went back to the car.  I grabbed my book and sat in one of the stream side chairs and read while Dave fished.  He managed to hook into a better fish but it got tangled up in some logs (the beavers were really active on this stretch) and lost it.

Dave’s First Manistee Brookie

The suckers

Dave’s Brown

The rest of the day provided very little action.  We made one more stop just before dark.  There were several hatches going on of Ephrons, Blue Wing Olives and something so small I had no idea what it was.  We did see a few fish rise to this but nothing to get to excited about.  I did manage to catch a wood turtle here, I almost stepped on him as I was walking upstream.  He was covered in tan colored leeches, which of course I had nothing resembling that in my fly box.  We fished until dark and then called it a day.  A warm meal and bed sounded pretty good right now.  We planned on trying again in the morning anyways.

He doesn’t look impressed.

Sunday morning found us even farther upstream but on the same river.  The section I was going to work had a long bend in the river, almost 300 yards of sunken logs on the left downstream side and all in the shade.  I figured I had to get something here.  In order to increase my chances I cheated a little.  I tied a 12 inch dropper line onto my sculpin and attached a #12 soft hackle.  If I can’t go big I figured I could at least catch something small.  This time though I vowed to not send anything small flying through the air.  I waded in and started my routine once again.  Unfortunately the only action I had was a small 5 inch brown that grabbed my dropper fly.  As promised I didn’t send him flying, I just merely skipped him along the surface as I lifted my rod.  As I reached down to pick him up he came off and quickly swam for the nearest cover.  I did see a few bigger fish as I worked my way around an island but they wanted nothing to do with what I had to offer, the snobs.  Dave didn’t have much luck either so after we got out of our waders we packed up and headed home.  Not the most successful trip in terms of fish caught but I learned a lot about this section of river, found some new access points and tucked them away in  my memory for future dates.  One of these times I’ll time it right and actually catch a fish worth bragging about.

Not a lot of color for this time of year.

 





October Bug Hunt with the HRWC

20 10 2014

Ever wonder what it looks like when crayfish get freaky?

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This is what I saw last Saturday while I was helping out the HRWC with their Fall River Round Up.  I was a collector that day on Letz creek in downtown Chelsea Michigan.  It was a rainy miserable day but I stuck it out and went about my duties.  The creek itself is pretty shallow and narrow.  I could pretty much see anything and everything that was going on.  While I was running my sampling net along the rocks and logs hoping to scoop up a few Aquatic Benthic Macroinvertebrates I stumbled across two crayfish getting busy much like the two in this picture.  At first I thought the bigger one had the smaller one pinned down and was eating eat.  I then realized what was going on so being the wonderful individual I am I scooped them up with the net and tossed them into the sampling tray so that the young pickers could marvel at them.  I’m sure the crayfish didn’t appreciate it but If I have to be out of my natural element for the greater good so should they.  Eventually they were released but I don’t know if they managed to hook up again.  Probably not.  I’m sure that was more than the female bargained for.

We did end up catching quite a few mayfly nymphs at our two sampling sites.  That tells me the river is rather clean but this feeder of Mill Creek is to shallow and warm to support any fish that I would want to catch.  At least it is producing the insects that the stocked brown trout and smallmouth like to eat not to far away.

This marked the last of my volunteer work with the Huron River Water Shed Council for this year.  I helped out at both the Spring and Fall River Round Up’s and assisted with water quality monitoring along Ecorse Creek.  Bug ID day is this coming weekend but I already have other plans.  All the results will be posted sometime next month and once I receive it I will pass it on.