Inaugural Bass/Bluegill/Carp trip for 2018

5 06 2018

This past Sunday (6/3) was my first fly fishing trip to my super secret, catch just about anything, spot.  I expected the carp to be spawning but I was hoping I would find a few asexual carp that didn’t care about that thing or a few that were already done.  My main fear was being over run my carp shooters.  There was a big bowfishing tournament going on this weekend and I was hoping none of them would be in my area.  Turns out none of them were in my area.

I got to the parking lot around 7, rigged up my TFO Clouser 5 wt and my Orvis Helios II 7 wt and started the long trek.  Overcast skies and a slight NE breeze made for an enjoyable walk up to my first stop, which wasn’t because of a fish.  It was this girl doing her thing.

I haven’t found a snapping turtle laying eggs since my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary weekend in St. Ignace.  I feel sorry for these little guys though.  They won’t have an easy hike across a beach to water.  She laid her eggs on top of a dirt road that sits on top of a bunch of boulders.  I’ll have to look up the incubation time for snapper eggs and see if I can time when they hatch.  It would be cool to see.

After that I continued my walk until I spotted some carp doing the spawn thing.  They were jumping around and splashing about, having themselves a grand old time.  Along the shoreline I did spot about a 10 pounder cruising along.  He was mouthing some floating reeds as I made my first cast out in front of him.  I let the fly sink as he slowly started to swim my way.  When he was about 3 feet out I slowly began to strip the fly in.  I lost sight of the fly as it dropped between some rocks.  The carp saw it though so I just stopped and let him swim in.  He started to nose down and tail up right over the fly.  I saw his mouth open and it looked like he sucked in the fly.  I raised up to set the hook and missed him completely.  He didn’t stick around to figure out what was going on and I started cursing myself for getting so twitchy.  I know better than that.  Oh well, on to the next one.

The rest of the carp fishing was pretty uneventful.  I saw a fair number of carp but they were all doing the same thing.  Mouthing pulled reeds floating on the surface and not paying much attention to anything else.  The water was very dark so it was hard to see.  Not sure why, it wasn’t dirty, just dark.  I couldn’t even see any gills.  The only one I did catch was by accident while I was casting to a carp.

After a few hours it started to sprinkle some so I headed back to the car.  Along the way I spotted a Bowfin feeding like a carp, head down and tail up.  I flipped my fly out near him and let it sink right down alongside of him.  I saw him react to it and this time I drove the hook home.  I played around with him for about a minute or so and eventually lost him as I was trying to land him.  I wasn’t going to keep him anyways so it was no big deal.  At least I didn’t get completely skunked and I’ll be back many times this summer.

Last item of note was a White Pelican sighting as I was heading back.  It was the first one I had seen in a few years.  There was a bird watcher riding out as I was heading in so I told him about it and where he landed.  Hope he got some decent pictures.  Kind of late in the year for one to be migrating north.  This season has everything screwed up.  We went from winter to summer for a week and then back to Spring.  I’m going steelhead fishing next weekend on the St. Mary’s rapids.  Never expected to be fishing for them in June.  The water coming out of Lake Superior is still in the 40 degree range.  Not that I’m complaining.  I had so many things going on last month I thought I was going to miss my chance.  Hope I get one this time.  This will be my fourth trip up there and all I have caught are Atlantic’s.

Until then.

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Lake Huron Flats Smallmouth.

21 05 2018

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow, Tomorrow……

That was the song, and the video of Deadpool singing it, stuck in my head all morning long this past Saturday.  I had decided to go up to Port Austin to fish for Pre-Spawn Smallmouth’s on the flats several weeks ago and of course the weather turned to crap.  The rain pretty much covered the whole state so I wasn’t alone.  I made the most of it though.  I had a friend along (Non Fishing Muggle Type) so we stopped at the Farmer’s Market in Port Austin.  Bummed around Caseville a bit and stopped at a local beach near Grindstone City where i skipped stones to help pass the time.

At one point we stopped at a public access area and found about 2 dozen fishermen wading the bay and doing a whole bunch of casting and not a lot of catching.  I was beginning to think that my weekend was going to be a bust but as the day progressed the rain let up and the wind slowly began to lie down.  We went back to the same public access spot in the evening and this time all the fishermen were gone, except for two that looked they were done for the day.  I started to talk to them and they said they were waiting for their friend who was still out there.  Sure enough, about a quarter mile out there was one lone fishermen casting away.  They said he was catching fish and a minute later I saw his net hit the water.  That was all the convincing I needed.  On went the waders,  broke out the Orvis Helios 7wt, tied on a weighted sculpin and started the long trek out.  Eventually I reached the end of my wading depth limits (Damn my “S” gene) and started casting.  It took a few minutes to knock the rust off but eventually I was making a decent enough cast.  I just hoped they were far enough to get to the fish.  A couple of minutes later I got my answer.

After that it was pretty much game on for the next hour.  I was far enough from the other guy to keep from interfering but close enough so we could talk.  We were both catching a lot of fish but the majority were in the 12 inch range.  About 30 minutes later his friends started yelling and he took that as his cue to get going, not that he wanted to but they were his ride.  He wished me good luck and headed back to shore.  After he left fishing slowed up for a bit but not enough to keep me from leaving.  I was hoping for a bigger fish and after about 10 minutes I had one.  He wasn’t going to break any records but he was still one of my bigger Smallmouth on a fly.

After a quick pic I sent him on his way and got back to business.  Every time I caught another bass I would tell myself this would be the last one and I would head in.  After 13 fish I finally did, it helped that I ended it on a good note.

 

All told I ended up catching 13 and losing 2.  Not bad for a little over an hour’s worth of fishing in a place I never had been to before.  Earlier in the day I was sure the whole weekend was going to be a bust but instead it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable times I have had fly fishing.  I’ll definitely be coming back up here again to do this.  Doubt it will be this year but the more I think about it, staying home next year and taking long weekends to local spots is sounding pretty good.  Next time I’ll bring my kayak along.  A group from the Michigan Fly Fishing Club were up for the weekend and most of them were fishing the local rivers to avoid the wind.  I found out later that some of them did pretty good.  As for me my friend and I we went to dinner, sat around the bonfire for a bit and then passed out in my camper.  The next morning the wind had picked up overnight and there were now whitecaps in the area I was fishing 12 hours earlier.  I took that as a sign to just pack up the Mobile Steelhead Command Center and head for home.  Via the long way so I could check all the ports along the Thumb to see if anyone was catching anything.

The Sculpin Pattern that caught them all.

 

 





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.

 

 





The Alley

27 11 2017

As I stated on my last post I  was going to fish some of the rivers known collectively as Steelhead Alley over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I wasn’t leaving until Friday afternoon so I had a little free time before I left.  I was originally planning on doing some fishing on The Huron but my mother changed that plan for me.  She said she wanted some fresh walleye so I begrudgingly hooked up my boat Thursday morning (11/23) and went walleye fishing instead.  The sacrifices I make for her.

I got to the ramp around 8:00 am and got everything ready.  The temperature was a balmy 29 degrees but it was supposed to reach a high of around 38 later in the day.  I wasn’t planning on being out that long.  I was hoping to be off the water after only a couple of hours.  A SW wind and below freezing temps makes for a cold boat ride downstream.  I had received a tip that they were catching a lot of fish farther downstream than I normally fish so I set up there at first.  Turns out that would be a waste of about 45 minutes.  I didn’t catch anything there so around 9 I headed up to my normal stomping grounds.  Grandpa always told me, never leave fish to find fish.  One of these days I might listen.  It didn’t take long and I had the first one in the cooler.  That fish was followed up by 3 more.  I was debating heading in because my hands were getting cold and sore.  I told myself I would quit at 10:00 am and a few minutes later I had number 5 in the cooler.  By 10:00 and 18 seconds later I was headed for the dock.

Water was dirty today or as I like to call it a nice handlining shade of grey.  Very few weeds and a temp of around 41 degrees.  Temps are supposed to stay in the upper 40’s all this week.  If I was going to be around next weekend I would go out again for sure.  The 4 smaller walleye were full of emerald shiners and the big one on top was full of gizzard shad.  The walleye were definitely in “let’s eat” mode today.  On to the Alley.

I had booked a trip with Steelhead Alley Outfitters about a month ago.  Five years ago I didn’t even know there were Steelhead runs on any of the Lake Erie Tributaries of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Since then I have fished them sporadically without any luck.  I was hoping that would change with this trip.  I just had to wait to find out which of the dozen or so rivers I would be fishing.  My guide, Nate Miller,  called me Thanksgiving evening to tell me what river and what time we would meet up.  He told me he would pick me up at my hotel at 5:30 am (The Sadist) on Saturday morning.  The reason why he was picking me up so early was that he wanted to fish a specific stretch so we had to get there before anyone else.  That part of the plan worked but it didn’t prevent anyone from showing up afterwards and camping out on both sides of me.  I had the river all to myself for about 45 minutes.  Around 8 two eggers showed up and surrounded me.  One upstream and the other downstream at the end of the run I was fishing.  As expected the person downstream started catching fish so his partner moved down to where he was.  He hooked into a fish on his first cast but it was short lived, his rod broke during the fight.  Some may think how terrible that is but not in this case, I call it Karma, river etiquette rule #1 is don’t low hole someone.  He went back to his car to get another rod which opened up a little more water for me.  It didn’t help any though, I swung several different streamers for about an hour with no takes.  I could hear Nate talking on his phone with another guide and he was mentioning breaking out the indicator rod if I got desperate.  I told him I was getting to that point.  Normally I will stick to swinging but watching these other guys hook fish pretty much at will was getting to me.  I switched rods and started casting.  My first cast was crap, I’m not used to casting a float with an egg fly on the end.  My second cast wasn’t much better and it wasn’t more that 15 feet in front of me.  Didn’t matter though, 3 seconds into the drift and it was Bobber Down.

I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want my face in the picture. lol

I played around with the indicator rig for about another half hour until the other guy showed back up and moved right back in downstream.  Nate asked me if I wanted to move on to a new spot and I agreed.  He knew of another place further upstream that would be a bit of a hike.  He said there would be other people there as well but we would have about a mile of good water to fish.

At the next spot Nate asked me if I wanted to take both rods.  I said nope, from here on in it’s swing or die.  I know guides want their clients to catch fish but if I was worried about numbers I would have bought a center pin setup instead of a spey/switch rod.  For the next 5 hours I worked several runs and holes with still no  luck.  We talked to a couple of other guys who were swinging flies and they weren’t having any luck either.  They said that the day before they hooked into 12 but nothing today.  Sounds like the story of my life, always a day late.  Never the less I continued on and kept at it.  We set up on one last run and I was bound and determined to make the most of it.  We switched my streamer over to a bright orange one, hoping it was obscene enough to piss off at least one fish.  About ten minutes in I was starting to strip in my line to make another cast when I had a hit.  I set the hook and the fight was on, for about 20 seconds.  After the initial run the fish started shaking his head and that was when the fly pulled free.  I didn’t know it at the time but Nate was filming all of this with his phone.  It wasn’t until I got home that night when I saw the footage of my overly dramatic response to losing the fish.  This happens but considering I haven’t caught a steelhead on a fly since Jan. 2nd, 2016 this hurt.  My window of opportunity was quickly shrinking and the odds of me landing a fish was growing slimmer by the minute.  After I composed myself I waded back in and got back to business.  After about 20 minutes Nate told me to move back upstream and start over.  Now any normal person would have reeled in his line and fly before wading back up.  Not me, I left the line and the fly in the water, put the rod over my right shoulder like a rifle and proceeded to walk upstream.  Two steps later…..WHAM!  I spun around, set the hook and yelled to Nate to get the net because we weren’t going to screw around with this one.  A couple of minutes later she was in the net.

Redemption

After we released her we headed in.  After almost 8 hours of wading 42 degree streams in and on/off all day rain I was whipped.  I had 3 1/2 hour drive ahead of me as well.  I was happy, I ended my no steelhead streak, unfortunately my never losing a steelhead streak ended as well.  I had my first multiple fish day.  I learned a lot about the rivers in the area, specifically how flow rates dictate which one to fish.  This is a vital piece of information I needed to help increase my chance of success.  Since that day I’ve uploaded all the Steelhead Alley rivers I could to my Fish Head app.

As for Sunday, I just slept in.

Next up, The Manistee and the Pere Marquette.

 

 

 





A Memorial…..

10 09 2017

The Temple Forks Outfitter’s BVK 6 Weight

We are gathered here today to pay tribute to a valiant warrior, cut down in the prime of his career.  He was more than just a fly rod.  He was an extension of one man’s passion that could never be fulfilled.  The time he spent with his owner was brief and his true potential and devotion will never be known.  Even after his back was broken he hanged tough and still managed to assist in the landing of this beast.  This breaker of rods and spirits.  This white whale of the river.  We will never know what future battles would be fought with the many denizens of the deep, but it is safe to say he would have welcomed them all.  He was overmatched and asked to perform a task he was not designed for but he never complained.  Even as the drag of the Sage reel screamed the rod held his ground and applied all the pressure his graphite body could muster.  He fought a valiant fight, and epic fight, a fight that will not be forgotten.

We will miss him.

The Breaker of Rods and Spirits





What a Mess!!!

6 08 2017

After the disaster that was my trout fishing trip last weekend I felt I needed a trip back to normalcy.  Normally a wire pulling trip on the lower river is a slam dunk but not this night.  With overcast clouds and a mostly full moon already up I headed for the ramp around 8:30 pm Saturday night (8/5).  Little did I know that there was a jazz festival going on at Elizabeth Park and traffic was backed up everywhere.  What was normally a 10 minute ride turned to over half an hour.  Once I made it to the launch I sent a quick text to Dave to let him now to come in from a different direction.  He had contacted me earlier in the day and told me he was headed out tonight with his son Braden.  Our mutual friend Larry was up north so of course we decided to blow his phone up with texts and pictures.  Shortly after 9 I started the onslaught.

The first phone blow up pic

For the next 30 minutes fishing was going well and I expected it to be a quick night.  Everything went to hell in a hurry after number 4 hit the cooler.  Dave had forgotten his extra spools and was short a few leaders.  A quick message later and I was on my way to the rescue.  I gave him my last extra spool of leaders and of course Murphy’s Law kicked in.  As I was bringing in a dink a cat hit my other line and tangled up my 40 and 20 foot leads.  After I made up some new leaders I got back to dink fishing.  For almost an hour that was all I caught.  Dink after dink after dink after dink after dink after dink…..It was getting ridiculous.  All I needed was one more legal fish and everything was coming up short by about 1 inch.  Like I said earlier this year, next summer should be phenomenal but it wasn’t doing me a whole lot of good now.  During this time my 40 and 20 foot leads got tangled up a second time on another cat.  I made up two more and went back to dink fishing.

Around 10:30 pm I was bringing in my 10th or 12th dink of the night when another cat hit my 40 foot lead.  He managed to tangle up everything and somehow I lost one of my lures as well.  After that I said screw it and went in.  I didn’t fell like making up any more leaders.  Besides, I was going fly fishing in the morning and I needed some sleep.

 

Sunday Morning (8/6) found me back at my Carp/Bass/Bluegill/Perch/Bowfin spot.  My heart sank when I arrived amd I saw two boat trailers in the lot.  I thought for sure they were carp shooters but it turns out they were duck hunters scouting for the 9/1 early teal/goose season.  I got set up and walked out to my usual spot and to my dismay the water was very dirty.  Trying to spot anything was difficult and as expected I spooked my fair share of fish.  I did manage to catch a few gills but no carp or bass.  It was still overcast and cool so at least I didn’t sweat to death.  Hopefully I can get back out before duck season starts.





Another Fishy Weekend

17 07 2017

Friday Evening, 7/14/17

 Friday night found me doing my usual thing at my usual spot catching my usual fish.  I started a little earlier than I have been, hoping to try and get a few on spoons before nightfall.  Didn’t turn out like I had hoped.  From 8:30 to 9:30 pm I only caught one keeper and had one throwback on the spoons.  Shortly after 9:30 it was “Hold My Beer”.  In the next 30 minutes I finished up my limit, threw back about 6 and lost 2 at the boat.  A couple of the throwbacks were just barely legal fish but I was feeling cocky so I threw them back.  It was one of those nights where everything was going right and I was sure I would catch bigger fish.  I even managed to land a 19 inch smallmouth without tangling up and of my other leaders.  By 10:00 pm number 5 was in the cooler and I was headed home.  I thought about staying out later and doing the “Catch & Release” thing but I have never been a fan of that, not when it comes to handlining.  I had my 5 so it was time to head in.  The way this summer was going I would have plenty of opportunities to catch more.

Saturday Morning, 7/15/17

My original plans for Saturday morning was to take care of some errands before I met my son for lunch around noon.  Those plans quickly fell apart when I arrived at my barber shop only to find it was closed because my barber broke his wrist.  The other items on my errand list didn’t pan out so I said screw it and went fishing.  I was going to take another crack at the carp in the same spot I went to last week.  Things didn’t go to well with the carp (I managed to hook into one that ran me to my backing before the leader broke) but the gills and Ditch Pickles kept me busy. The first gill was a surprise.  I was casting to a carp when a gill came up and grabbed my carp fly.  While I was bringing him in a Bowfin came up and tried to grab the gill.  He made several attempts but was never able to clamp down.  Once I released the gill I cast my fly towards him but he didn’t want anything to do with my offering.  Later that morning I had a Largemouth Bass do the same thing on another gill I was bringing in.  He was able to get a hold of the gill but it was to big for him to swallow.  I wasn’t able to coax him into grabbing my fly but I did manage to get about a half-dozen of his brethren.  Around noon I headed home.  Not the result I was hoping for but I wasn’t going to complain.  Anytime I can catch some nice gills and a few Ditch Pickles on a fly rod is a good day.  I made a mental note of where I saw all the beds (yes, bluegills on beds in July) and figured I would bring my 4 wt tomorrow and some gill appropriate flies.

Sunday Morning, 7/16/17

Sunday morning I was headed back to “The Carp Hole” with a new plan of attack.  I got there earlier with the hope of finding the fish a little more relaxed and in feed mode.  I brought along my      4 wt and my Bluegill/Trout box so I could play with the gills, if the carp didn’t want to cooperate.  Little did I realize that it was a good thing I did because when it came to the carp, I couldn’t do anything right.  Actually I could do one thing right, “Spook Carp”.

See carp feeding about 40 feet out.  Make cast and hook reed.  Spook Carp.

See more carp feeding, sneak down to shore to make  a cast, don’t see the carp along the shore line.  Spook Carp.

Cast to carp swimming towards me, catch bluegill instead.  Spook Carp.

Sneak up on a feeding carp, slip on rock and fall on ass.  Spook Carp.

See carp feeding along shoreline followed by two bass, over shoot cast and catch bass.  Spook Carp.

See another carp just resting, make bad cast in wind and land fly on Carp’s head.  Spook Carp.

See big Ditch Pickle cruising along, sneak into casting range and don’t see carp feeding along rocks.  Spook Carp.

Get to close to Canada Geese and they leave shore and walk into water.  Spook Carp.

Start casting to feeding carp, snag bush on back cast.  Spook Carp.

Get disgusted after 4 hours of this nonsense and leave.  Spook Carp.

It was pretty much useless at this point anyways.  The west wind had picked up making trying to see anything difficult at best.  I eventually worked my way back to the parking lot figuring I would stop at one more spot along the way that was out of the wind.  As I got close I went into stealth mode and worked my way to the water.  I carefully scanned the area and I cold see a couple of fish mucking around about 30 feet away.  I was getting ready to make my cast when out of nowhere a carp shooter shows up, bow in hand, and walks right up to the other edge of the hole.

He Spooks Carp.

I didn’t say anything.  I just stood up and continued my walk back to the car.  I’ll just try again on another day.

Sunday Evening, 7/16/17

After the disaster of this morning I needed a little redemption so around 8:30 pm I hooked up the boat and headed to my favorite walleye spot.  Winds were out of the north around 10 mph this evening.  Not the best wind direction and speed but I figured I would make the best of it.  Once I got set up I could tell boat control was going to be a pain.  With the wind coming straight down the river the current was faster than normal.  After about 10 minutes I switched over to a heavier weight just to keep better contact with the bottom and to help keep that 45 degree angle.  It seemed to do the trick because a few minutes later I was bringing in my first fish of the night.  Unfortunately, he was barely hooked and came off as I was flipping him in.  After that any fish I hooked I would immediately turn my boat into the fish to help take the extra strain off of the fish.  Old timers blame lost fish in the summer to “Soft Mouth Syndrome” or “Red Lips”.  I attribute the losses to light hits and going up-stream and pulling a lightly hooked fish against the current.  Last time I checked, bone doesn’t suddenly get soft in the summer time.   I kept utilizing this tactic for the next hour and around 10:30 pm number 5 was in the cooler.

Redemption.

One little note.  The fish at the top was a 22 inch female.  For all you guys that say you have never kept a female please enlighten me on how you would have let this one go if you had caught it?  It doesn’t matter if she is full of eggs or not, once she is removed from the fishery that’s it, so spare me your hypocrisy.

So that put a pleasant wrap on my weekend.  No carp but I still caught plenty of walleye, bluegills and ditch pickles.  The next few days are calling for unfavorable winds and thunderstorms so I’ll take advantage of the down time  to do some maintenance.  I need to replace some hooks, change the wire on a reel, make up some shanks and most of all some new leaders.  My 40 foot leader must have a dozen knots in it.  I’ve been fishing hard the last month and my equipment could use a little TLC.  Come to think of it, I could use some TLC as well.  My hands are trashed and I managed to bruise my forearm and shin when I fell off that rock.