Weekend Report Part II

26 06 2017

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Where are all the handliners?

I understand that fewer people fish now and even fewer pull wire but no one else on a perfect weather Friday night?  That’s just ridiculous.  That was the case though this past Friday.  I was the only one fishing the Trenton channel.  Just me, no one else, nadda, zip, no ah ah.  I can’t understand it either.  It was a near perfect night.  A slight breeze, partly cloudy skies, no weeds and temps in the low 70’s.  There weren’t any pleasure boaters out either.  Just me and the fish.  I started at 9:30 pm and was done less than an hour later.  5 more for the freezer, 1 throwback and only 2 blankity blanks.  Like I said, a near perfect night.  Maybe everyone is believing all the social media hype this past Spring of no fish.  How the commercial fishermen caught them all.  How the DNR are mismanaging the walleye population.  How tribal fishermen are secretly catching all the fish to sell to Estonia, oh wait, that’s the Lake Trout.  My mistake.

One very small item of note is this little guy.  I pulled him out of the top walleye as I was cleaning him.  I posted the pic on Facebook and told everyone that it is the smallest fish I ever caught while pulling wire.  No one has figured out how I managed to do that yet.

 

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Since Friday night went so well I decided try for a repeat.  This time I invited my friend Larry along to get in on the easy fishing.  Conditions were about the same except for the wind coming out of the SW but it was nothing to be concerned about.  We did see two other handliners out though but one of them was an upstreamer so I really don’t count that boat.

We started at 9:15 pm and it wasn’t long before I had one in the cooler.  Larry didn’t even have his lines in the water so of course I started giving him grief about it.  It continued as I landed numbers two and three, tossed back a couple of undersized ones and lost one at the boat.  I suggested he start adding to the cooler otherwise it was going to be a long night for him.  After that initial flurry things slowed down.  We managed to pick up 5 more over the next 2 hours but it was one here and there.  Just about the time I was thinking about moving to a different location one of us would catch or lose one and I would change my mind.  On our last run we lost 3 in about 5 minutes.  Larry was having a tough time with snap swivels.  Three of them broke and he lost a couple of lures because of it.  I know that feeling, I lost 3 lures and 3 fish one night because of that.  All of my snaps were replaced the next day.  Around midnight we packed it in.  The weeds were getting worse and even though it was a no moon period the blankity blanks kept feeding after dark.  No sheepshead though but I did catch my first channel cat for the year.  We both thought it was big walleye until he was in the boat.  It was still a pretty good night.  We ended up with 8, threw back 4 and lost just about as many.  The fish were anywhere from 15 to 20 inches.  Most came on #9 Rapalas in original or bleeding olive.  No pictures tonight, Larry took his home and I just cleaned mine without taking a pic first.  Just refer to the Friday catch picture and block out one fish.

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Sunday was supposed to be a day of fly fishing but 20 mph SW winds took care of that.  I walked around the lagoons at Sterling State Park to scout out the area for fishing opportunities.  I was hoping I could wade around instead of taking my kayak.  Still undecided about that.  I might go back this upcoming weekend.  The weather is looking pretty good for the rest of this week.  I’ll go walleye fishing at least once, possibly more.  Still trying to find an area with some active carp that I can cast a fly to.  It would be great if I could find a Mulberry Tree along some water.

 

 

 





The Streak Continues

16 05 2017

I’m going back to walleye fishing full time.  They are so much easier.

 

This past weekend I headed north, back up to Sault Ste. Marie to try the St. Mary’s Rapids one more time for Steelhead.  I figured this would be my last chance at them until the Fall.  I’m busy for the next month and I don’t expect them to stick around until the end of June.  Having said that I’ll probably catch one when I am back up at the end of the summer, chasing salmon.

I met Rod at the usual spot around 7:30 am.  There was already a crowd of anglers (about a dozen) fishing a 75 yard stretch so we headed farther up, closer to the gates.  It still cracks me up to think that a dozen is crowded.  I can remember the elbow to elbow combat fishing at Tippy Dam some 30 years ago.  As we walked over we stopped to check out a Beaver sitting on his lodge and that was when I realized I didn’t have my phone.  Back to the car I went.  It would be just my luck that I would catch my personal best Steelhead and I would have no way of getting a picture.  Once I got that all straightened around I waded in and started casting, and casting, and casting, and just for good measure, more casting.  Nothing.  I could see the fish swirling around on the surface.  Rod could even see a few follow my fly and then at the last second just turn and swim away.  No takes, no bumps, no hits, just refusals.  The nymphers and pinners were getting a few but not me, the lone swinger in the area.  At least I looked cool not catching anything.  I brought my new Sage Pulse Spey rod so I got plenty of practice in casting a true Spey Rod.  I can already tell that when I finally cut loose with this rod I’ll be able to cast it all the way to the backing.  I didn’t have a need to make any super long casts but whenever I made that perfect cast the line would about jerk the reel when it came to the end.  I’ll use it again this summer when the water is deeper and faster and I will need the distance.  By 11:30 we were packing it in.  The Sun was high and bright and not a cloud in sight.  Not exactly ideal conditions for Steelhead fishing, especially when the water is this clear and shallow.  I did come back alter after dinner for a few more hours but it was still the same result.

That makes 497 days since the last Steelhead I have caught. At least I can say I have yet to lose a Steelhead on a fly.  I’m sure a few people would have given up by now but I know it won’t last forever.  I’ve had a lot going on the last year and a half and my timing has been terrible.  To warm, to cold, to high, to low, to clear, to dirty……you name it, I’ve picked the worst days to go.  Someday I’ll get my timing right and I will feel that tug once again.  Until then I’ll swing flies for trout and smallies.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and time the Atlantic run just right and have some fun with them.

On a side note I did get to see a father pull the “dick” move of the year.  A father and his 12 year old son were both fishing the run I mentioned earlier.  Dad had already landed one fish and was trying for number 2.  His son hooked into one and judging by all the yelling he was pretty excited.  His Dad took the rod from him and fought and landed the fish himself.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  When I was younger I lost a fair number of salmon and Lake Trout but my Dad never took the rod from me.  NEVER!  About half an hour later Dad hooked into another one and about 5 seconds in the fish jumped and he lost it.  He gave out a yell of frustration and I yelled “Serves You Right”.  I don’t think he go it but one other angler looked my way and laughed.

So after that I went back to camp, made dinner, got some sleep and in the morning I packed up the Mobile Steelhead Command Center and headed for home.  There will be another day.





Really Quick Report

25 04 2017

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.





Huron Small Jaws

25 04 2017

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 of 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.

My Chariot for the Day

 

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.  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.





Class Is In Session

22 04 2017

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.





Weird Weather Wednesday Walleye

20 04 2017

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.





Windsday Walleye

12 04 2017

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!!!!