Went out Monday evening (4/24/17). Started at 9:00 pm and finished at 9:46 and 37 seconds. Same area. Same routine. Caught about a dozen of those other fish as well.
That is all.
Went out Monday evening (4/24/17). Started at 9:00 pm and finished at 9:46 and 37 seconds. Same area. Same routine. Caught about a dozen of those other fish as well.
That is all.
About the time those other fish start to show up I begin to look to other fishing opportunities until they leave. Instead of heading north to go chase Steelhead I decided to make a local trip for some Huron River smallmouth. A few years ago this wouldn’t have been an option but the DNR recently changed the rules to where bass are now open year round for catch and release. This presented an opportunity for the gang at Schultz’s Outfitter’s to start guiding trips in April instead off May. A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.
My guide today was going to be the newest member to the Schultz team, Justin Pribnac. This is his inaugural season as a guide for the shop. He has been guiding for the last 10 years but the Huron was a new area to him. Seemed fitting as this was my first time targeting Smallmouth Bass with a fly rod. I have caught them before but it was always by accident. Now, I was going to be casting big streamers to likely holding spots from a drift boat. I’m sensing a lot of streamers in trees.
Once we got into the boat we started our drift downstream. This was my kind of fishing, I stand up front and cast while someone else rows. I have to hand it to Justin, he kept me in the zone all day and set the boat up so I could make easy casts. While I was casting he would give me tips on placement and how to get the fly to twitch just right. Since he knew I was a big fan of the two hand spey game he described the presentation in ways I could easily relate to. Since the river was flowing high, from all the recent rains, we concentrated our efforts on the “couch” areas. Places on the river downstream of logs and obstructions that formed slack water areas or pools. Since it was a bright sunny day we tried to focus on shady areas as best we could. This got to be harder and harder to do as the sun rose. By noon I was praying for any type of a cloud. It wasn’t gonna happen today. As the morning progressed I was able to move a few fish and I did catch one smaller bass on a white Game Changer. Not exactly what I was hoping for but it is to be expected on a bright day like this and early in the season. The bigger fish are on full alert and after being in the river for over 10+ years they are well educated.
We kept at it though and eventually we found an area that had a few willing fish. In about a 100 yard stretch I was able to catch two and had two long distance releases. I moved a couple as well which. It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer. This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size. I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will. Today just wasn’t going to be that day. It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge. If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.
So that was my initial foray into the world of fly fishing for Small Jaws. I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for someone who knows how to row a drift boat. Hat’s off to Justin who worked his butt off to keep the boat where it belonged and my casts in the zone. I will definitely be doing this again, I just hope it is on a cloudier day. Maybe I’ll try a PM float. After dark. When I am in my element. Muhahahahaha…….
Oh, one other thing. I didn’t lose a single fly today.
Last Friday, when I came in from fishing I met a DWF club member, Steve Sheldon, as I was pulling in my boat. Apparently he had been trying to track me down to ask me about handlining. He had been going out but was only catching one or two fish here and there. He figured he was doing something wrong and he was hoping I could help him out. He asked if I could take him out some night and Friday (4/21) was going to be that night.
I had contacted Steve earlier in the week and told him to be at my house around 8. I also told him to bring his stuff so I could check to make sure his shank/leader set up was correct. I have found that when someone isn’t catching fish it is either that or his boat handling skills. At least I would be able to eliminate one variable. After a quick check of his stuff we were packed up and headed out. The weather tonight was damn near perfect. Once again a slight NW breeze, overcast skies and not to cold. The water was still clear and my only concern wasn’t those other fish, it was undersized fish. I had been hearing reports that the river was now full of 13 inch walleye.
The reports were right.
We started around 8:30 pm and in the first 10 minutes I landed 5 fish and all of them undersized. I eventually caught a couple of keepers but during this time Steve hadn’t caught anything. I was just about ready to switch seats with him so he could fish my set up when he got snagged, BAD. After making a few donuts around the weight the shank busted and he lost the whole set up. I rigged him back up with one of my shanks and a 40 foot and 6 foot leader. After that it didn’t take long and Steve was flipping fish in the boat. For the next 45 minutes it was game on. We still caught a few undersized ones, and of course those other fish, but we were catching plenty of legal ones as well. By 10:00 pm we were all done and putting gear away. Steve was amazed how one small change, albeit an important one, could make all the difference in the world. He went from spending hours and maybe catching two fish to catching a limit in just under 45 minutes. Needless to say he was happy. We put everything away and headed towards the dock. Other than the snag, which turned out to be a good thing, it was a near perfect night. When we got back to the house we chatted some more about strategies for different conditions and what to watch for concerning boat control. I gave Steve one of my shanks and a weight for him to copy. He probably spent part of today making new shanks and leaders. Hopefully he will be able to get out again soon.
As I had mentioned earlier the water was still clear and no debris. Most of our fish came on #11 blue and silver Rapala and a #11 Downriver Tackle Custom Rainbow Trout, which has a blue back, pink sides and a white belly. We tossed back just as many as we kept and we only caught a handful of those other fish. Most of them being big females. Very few boats out for a Friday night which was surprising. It’s go time and I really couldn’t understand why so few people were out. Their loss.
The smaller fish is a great sign. Successful hatches the last few years is starting to show and it looks like we will have plenty of walleye for years to come. Based on what I have been catching it should be a good mix of fish from 15 to 24 inches for some time. We’re going to need it because I’m afraid the hatch this year is going to be a bust. Any eggs laid before those two big storm events we had probably covered all the eggs with silt which means they will have suffocated. I certainly hope I’m wrong.
Mother nature can be very fickle and the evening of Wednesday, 4/19/17 was proof of that.
The original forecast called for rain and wind during the afternoon and evening. As the day progressed it slowly started to change to something a little more pleasurable. Around mid-afternoon the forecast changed to all rain being over by 8 and the wind out of the NW at 4 mph. I received a text from fellow handlining enthusiast Dave saying he was debating going to tonight with a friend from church. I told him I would meet him at the ramp after 8. Around 8:15 I arrived at the ramp and Dave was there getting his boat ready. We chatted about life in general for a bit and then finished getting ready. Their was a fair amount of fog on the river but I didn’t think much of it at first. Once I launched and headed downstream I quickly realized it was a lot thicker than I thought. Visibility was about 50 yards in any direction. I couldn’t see either shoreline, just the lights from the Edison plant. Fortunately, where I wanted to fish was close by so I would be able to keep my bearings straight. By 8:30 pm I was lines down and trolling NE (with my navigation lights on). It was really eerie fishing under these conditions. A flock of geese flew by close enough that I could hear their wing beats but I couldn’t see them. I could hear Dave’s boat off in the distance coming my way but I couldn’t see him. About the time he passed me I hooked and landed fish number 1 for the night. I don’t think he ever saw me as he headed further downstream. About 10 minutes later number 2 was on but I lost this one flipping him in when the line broke on my kicker. Been a long time since I had that happen. I quick check of my leader showed that the last 6 inches were all scrapped and nicked up. I cut off the bad line and re-tied a new snap and lure. Shortly after that I heard another boat coming downstream. I could barely make out the silhouette of the boat but he was coming right at me. As he got closer I stood up to make sure he could see me which he eventually did. He slowed down until he was past me and then floored it. You would think that after coming up on one boat in the fog he would take it easy. Apparently not.
Shortly after he left I boated number 2. Once I got all straightened around is when things started to get weird, and scary. I looked upstream and off in the distance I could see what looked like a mini front moving in from the NE. It was a big white cloud or fog stretching from the NW to the SE and coming right down the river. Underneath it the sky was dark and I thought it might be rain. It made no sense though. All day long the rain and wind was coming out of the west and now here was what looked like an apparent front moving in from the NE. I kept watching it and about the time it cleared the Grosse Isle free bridge everything changed. It was like someone flipped a switch. The wind instantly changed from a few mph out of the west to 15-20 plus out of the NE. The fog vanished in an instant and the temperature dropped. While I was trying to figure out what was going on the wind spun my boat around like a whirling dervish. I quickly recovered and got my boat point back north again. How it could go from dead calm and perfect to Holy Crap was beyond me. I was a little concerned at first but once I got my act together I worked through it and managed to put 3 more in the cooler over the next 30 minutes. By 9:30 I was done and headed for the dock. I tracked down Dave first to see how he was doing. They were recovering from a snag and getting back to it. I told him I was leaving and asked him to text me to make sure he got off the water ok. It was to weird of a night to take any chances. Five minutes later I was safe and sound on dry land. I have never experienced a weather change like that before while fishing and I hope I don’t ever again.
So I ended up with 5 more in just under and hour. Most of the fish came on a #11 Blue/Silver Rapala. The water is still clear and I only caught two of those other things. The weather for the next few days looks sketchy so I’ll be staying home. I should have about another week before the full on, feed all night, drive me insane invasion starts. Hopefully I will get a few more trips in before then.
Providing Mother Nature isn’t fickle.
Oops, my mistake, never mind, I erred. Forgot what day it was.
So I went out Tuesday night to add some more fish to the freezer. I knew it was going to be windy but I thought with it being straight out of the west that it wouldn’t be to bad. I was wrong. The wind never did lie down and I was fighting it all night. If I took my hand of the tiller I would start to spin around like a top in no time. Fortunately, I was only out for an hour and a half. The water was still dirty so I started with the same Smithwick’s I used Saturday. That changed though because 5 minutes in I got hung up. I managed to pull the weight free but my 40 foot lead was caught as well. The wind started to spin me around, over the line, so I just snapped it before it got a chance to get hung up in the prop. It broke right at the knot so I tied on an old snap that was lying on my console. I grabbed a #11 bleeding Chartreuse Rapala that was attached to my magnetic strip and I was back at it. Normally I don’t mix lure like this, because of the different dive rates, but having to fight the wind limited my ability to dig around in the storage area for my lure box. It did get tangled with my 20 foot lead a couple of times but 3 of my fish came on the Rapala and the other 2 on the clown Smithwick. I got my first fish about 6:45 pm and my last one at 8:00 pm. There was about a half hour lull between numbers 4 and 5. With darkness quickly approaching I figured I was going to be stuck at 4 but I told myself I would keep at it until 8 and my persistence paid off.
No size to any of these fish, all between 16 and 18 inches. They are all probably from the same year class. No undersized fish yet and no big ones either. Not that I’m complaining but I would like one 25+ inch fish to smoke.
As I said before the water is still dirty but it is improving. I’ve heard reports that there is clear water upstream so it shouldn’t be much longer. I didn’t take a water temperature reading either but I’m betting it is in the upper 40 range. Soon those other fish will show up and I can hardly wait. NOT!!!!
Today was the start of my yearly smack down on the local walleye population. The water temps were slowly creeping up to the magic number (45 degrees) and it was time to have at them. Only problem was a torrential downpour earlier this week rose the water levels and dirtied up the water. The MWC was in town and after the first day weigh in first place was 11 pounds and that was only one fish. On top of that my friend and old mentor Sparky called me to say that the water was to dirty and I shouldn’t bother. Normally I listen to everything he says, this time I was glad I didn’t.
I waited until later in the day to give the river a chance to warm up some and clear up. Dirty water warms up faster and with the all day sun I figured it would help. Don’t really know if it cleared up any from the morning but I didn’t care. I arrived at a half empty lot (odd for this time of the year) and launched around 5:30 pm. I saw my friends, Dave and Larry, so I drove over to see how they were doing. They didn’t have anything yet so after a quick game of banana keep away I set lines. Since the water was so dirty I decided to run Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues. These are a plastic body bait with bb’s in them, thus making them rattle. When conditions are like this I need every advantage I can get.
It didn’t take long and after about 15 minutes the first one of the year was in the cooler. It was shortly followed up by number two. Things were looking good, I got myself straightened around and about 15 minutes later number 3 was on and in the boat. As I was setting my lines back down number 4 hit. It was starting to look like I was going to be done in about 45 minutes but the fish had other plans. During this time I made a quick call to Larry to let them know the where’s and what on. They had a couple and Dave had just lost one. About half an hour later number 5 hit and I was done. Can’t complain about that, especially since the south wind was kicking my ass. I swung by Dave and Larry again to check in, they were up to 4. I asked if they wanted to give me the banana back but they declined.
So that’s it for this trip. 5 for 5, no lost lures, no hang ups, no injuries, boat ran great and I am well on my way to filling up the new SD card on my GPS with waypoints. Now all I need is for the level to drop on The Huron and maybe I can finally catch a steelhead.
As I was watching the Spey Daze DVD this past weekend, this question was posed to the guest fishermen.
Using one word, describe Steelhead.
Frustrating was the word I came up with. I don’t think it is for the fish itself but what I have to go through to catch one. Steelhead are migratory so if they don’t run the river there isn’t much I can do. This season, for one reason or another, they never really showed up on my home waters. I suppose I needed to be served a piece of humble pie. The first season of swinging flies I landed 6 on the Huron, my personal best fish, for the Huron, coming on Jan. 2nd. Since then it’s been nothing. Because of the lack of fish and a desire to try new places I have ventured out. Earlier this week I had some estate business to handle for Susan in Toledo and Fremont so I decided to keep heading east and try the Vermillion river.
A little back story on the Vermillion. This past summer Susan was helping out with a system changeover at a local hospital. I came with her the first weekend to keep her company and to scout out fishing access. While I was at one of the parks Susan texted me to see what I was up to. I sent her a picture of the sign and she replied saying she knows that park and she used to eat her lunch their when she was a Schwann driver.
This was my response:
Excuse me? You know this area? You used to stop here? An area that gets a Steelhead run and you never thought to mention that to me? This is information that should have been made available to me day one, at the restaurant, after introductions. You know….Hello, my name is Susan, I know of a place to catch Steelhead on the Vermillion River.
She answered me with her usual Susan fanfare and I know she was smiling and laughing the whole time. Her coworkers probably thought I was an ass though but she knew better. It reminds me of just how close we were to each other before we ever even met.
This day though was my first attempt fishing here and I was not alone. There were about a dozen other people fishing the same low dirty water. I tried for about an hour and didn’t catch anything. From what I could see no one else was either. What amazed me was how I thought 12 other people was crowded. My first introduction to river steelhead fishing was elbow to elbow people on the Manistee River at Tippy Dam. That was insane but then it was the norm. I fished the runs I could but not the deeper, longer one farther upstream I wanted to. That one was staked out by about 6 or 7 other fishermen and they weren’t budging. Oh well, there will be other opportunities. Now that we have some warmer weather and more rain maybe the Steelhead will finally show up on the Huron. If not, I will be making a weekend trip up north.