They Do Exist.

17 12 2018

January 2nd, 2016.  That was the last time I caught a Steelhead in The Huron River.  For awhile I was beginning to think that I would never catch one there again.  Even the other die-hards that I know have been struggling these last few years.  Unstable weather, poor returns, early freeze-ups, all have combined to keep my success at an all time low.  I was doing so badly I resorted to driving to Ohio to improve my odds.  That was my original plan this past Sunday, drive to either Conneaut or The Grand but late night rains in Ohio changed my mind.  Instead I figured I would hit The Huron in multiple locations.  Hopefully I would find one cooperative fish.

I started off at Dodge Park but I wasn’t able to fish the spot I wanted.  When I rounded the corner there was already someone there.  I went a little further upstream and started working another hole.  I left there and headed downstream and fished another run.  While I was there a boat trolled over the hole, stopped to bring in their lines and then punched it and took off upstream.  Talk about a “Dick” move.  I got out and headed back to my car.

Next up was Labo Park.  Once again someone else was there and he was set up at the second bridge drifting spawn.  I started upstream and worked a hole just ahead of him for a bit.  I didn’t stay long though, as I was walking along I slipped in the mud and landed on my right arm.  I cleaned myself off as best I could and headed for the car.  While I was putting stuff away a fellow fisherman stopped to see how I had done.  his success had been pretty much like mine all season.  He told me another friend of his had only caught 10 fish so far and he claimed he catches over a hundred a year.  Every year I run into someone who makes that claim but I seriously doubt it.  Based on what I see and hear I have to wonder how someone can catch that many over a few months.

Anywho, after he left I drove back upstream to try one more spot.  As I approached the boat launch area there was a trio getting their boat ready to head out.  I grabbed my rod and waded downstream.  I had high hopes for this area today.  The water had been to high for me to reach the log jam on the opposite side but since it had dropped about a foot I knew I could today.  I waded out to the middle of the river and started casting right on the edge of the foam.  I was keeping an eye on the other boat and hoping they would go downstream behind me BAM….FISH ON.  Just that quick I ended an almost 3 year slump.  It was a smaller fish and it really didn’t have a chance against a 7116 Redington Chromer.  I landed her quickly, took a pic and sent her on her way.

While I was getting myself organized another boat had shown up and parked right on top of the run I was fishing.  “Dick” move #2.  After that I headed for home.  I had muddy gloves and a jacket to clean and I needed to organize the back of my car.  I had flies, leaders, clothes and garbage all over the back and I needed to clean things up.  I have a couple of 4 day weekends coming up and I plan on taking full advantage of them.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Steelhead

26 11 2018

If there was one thing that was consistent about this weekend it would be the rain.  It started sometime early Saturday morning and continued on into Sunday.  As a matter of fact, it changed over to snow when I convinced myself I should just go home.

I knew the weather was going to be miserable but even though it was going to rain I knew that the area wouldn’t be blown out.  With the gates controlling the flow it wasn’t going to matter how much rain we got.  Unfortunately, the October rains gave an estimated 2 trillion extra gallons to Lake Superior.  All that water has to go somewhere so the gates were wide open.  The concrete berm I normally stand on to fish certain runs was completely under water.  Not that it mattered, trying to wade to it was completely out of the question.  I got spun around more than once by the increased flow and not so sure footing.

Knowing all this I still went out.  I have yet to catch a Steelhead here and I definitely won’t catch one sitting in my hotel room watching the Wolverines get their ass handed to them.  I figure one of these days my timing will be perfect and I’ll catch one.  As it turns out it would not be this weekend.  I could see fish rolling around and I saw a few swim by me both they were all salmon.  I figured they were either Atlantics or small Chinook.  Around noon I managed to hook one as I was stripping line in for my next cast.  Based on the color I thought it was a small Atlantic.  I was wrong.

Wasn’t expecting a coho but there she was.  Nothing like the ones I caught in Alaska but it was still better than nothing.  After I released I waded back to shore to let my legs thaw out for a bit.  While I was there I talked to a local angler who was also taking a break and smoking a “Recreational Cigarette”.  He told me that the Steelhead have been slow but there were a lot of salmon in the area.  He had also caught a couple of Coho and an Atlantic.  He also told me that the gates will be turned down.  He told me that he expects the fishing to be good for a few days after that, even if gets any colder.  I doubt I’ll drive back up though.  I may stick to the Alley or some west side rivers.  I like fishing this area but those 6 hours drives get old after awhile.  After a 20 minute break I waded back in and resumed fishing.  I was joined by another fishermen who set up downstream from me.  He was chucking a pink spoon and I watched him catch one Steelhead and about half a dozen salmon.  The fish are in but they were in a pool that I couldn’t reach.  If the levels were down a couple of feet I could.  Then again the fish might not be in that spot as well.  After about 6 hours of 40 degree water and rain I packed it in.  A warm meal sounded better than subjecting myself to any more abuse.  Besides, I still had tomorrow morning to try again.

Well I tried again Sunday morning.  I should have known something was up when I arrived and I was the only vehicle in the parking lot.  I tired for a couple of hours but when it started snowing I decided to give up.  I was going to have a long drive home and I wanted to get ahead of the storm that was expected to arrive later that night.

I did manage to catch one fish, lost a couple of flies and I was able to stay dry for most of the weekend.  One of these years I’ll catch it just right.  I’m not going to hold my breath until then though.

 

 





Day 8 – Fishing Free For All

27 08 2018

Months ago this day seemed so far away and now it was here.  My last day of fishing and it would turn out to be our best yet.  Nothing fancy, no chasing a specific species, just a day where it was all about numbers.

First stop – The Pit Stop Hole.

This is the half way point between the lodge and the tidal area.  Usually the boats will make a quick stop to top off the gas tanks and let the guests have a bathroom break.  John, Phil and I lined up and started casting.  First cast and all 3 of us hooked into a fish.  The Pinks were in thick and they were going to be our bread and butter fish all day.  For the next 2 hours we kept at it.  John and Phil were pretty much catching fish on every other cast.  I on the other hand, wasn’t doing so well.  What I lacked in numbers I made up for in variety.  They were catching nothing but Pinks, I was catching everything else.

I ended up with 2 “Jack” Kings from this spot along with a pair of male Chum and a pair of Pinks.  Tim was keeping track and I think we landed 33 in total before we moved, 100 yards to another sand bar.  We lined up once again but this time I set up on the downstream point where the current formed an eddy and pool.  4 straight casts, 4 Pinks hooked and landed.  After the 4th fish I moved out and let John move down where he proceeded to do the same thing.  Phil was casting out into the main river but was unable to reach the fish.  He moved down to where John was and I went back to the boat to break out my Spey rod.  I figured it was my last day so from here on in it was “Swing Flies or Die”.  I could easily swing a fly through the seam where the fish were holding and on my first cast I hooked into another Silver Salmon.

Once we landed him Tim told me all I needed was  a Sockeye to complete a Grand Slam on a fly.  Problem was the nearest Sockeye were 40 miles upstream.  That wasn’t gonna happen and I really didn’t mind.  I was having fun right where I was at.  I landed a few more Pinks and John relinquished the point to Phil so he could get in on the action.  We didn’t stay here long since it was a small area and hard to fish 3 people.  No matter.  There were plenty of other places for us to fish.  Our main concern was staying dry.  The remnants of a typhoon was making it’s way through Bristol Bay and the leading edge of an all day rain was just reaching us.  It wasn’t a downpour, just an all day rain.  The kind that soaks through the piece of crap raincoat I was wearing.  I dealt with it as we bounced around form hole to hole.  At our last stop I could see it was mostly Pinks so I put away my Spey rod and broke out the one rod I hadn’t used all week, my 6wt Redington Prospector Switch Rod.  As a matter of fact I had yet to catch a fish on this rod.  I never liked the line I had on it so I didn’t use it much.  The new SA Spey Lite line breathed new life into this rod and it casts like a dream.   I ended up landing 7 pinks on it and Tim asked if he could try it out before we were done for the day.  After I landed my 30th fish for the day I traded him my rod for the net, and told him to have at it.  Even though we still had about an hour left I told him I was done, cast away and I’ll land any fish.  He was very appreciative and really liked the way the rod and line performed.  So much so that he said when he got the chance he was going to be ordering a bunch of the SA Spey lite lines in different weights.  Even John and Phil got in on it and were planning on ordering lines for their switch rods.  Once the emphasis was more on the lines instead of the fish we started to pack it in.  It had been raining for the last 4 hours and we had a 20 mile boat ride back to camp.  Dry clothes and a warm meal were sounding better than catching anymore fish.  Besides, between the three of us we landed well over 100 today.  This was the kind of day I was hoping for and fortunately I got it.  Just wish I could have experienced it with my Dad and Susan.





Day 7 – The Locals

24 08 2018

Today was going to be about catching some of the locals.  The Rainbow Trout, Artic Char and Artic Grayling are not migratory and are present year round.  I had never caught an Artic Grayling before or a Giant Alaskan Rainbow so they were on top of the to do list.  I’ve caught Rainbow trout before in Michigan but nothing worth bragging about.  I was hoping I could swing flies for them but the order of business today was going to be beads and indicators.  I also had a different guide today.  Tim was taking another group down to the tidal area so today my guide would be David.  I get the feeling that when guests are trying to catch the resident fish they are handed off to Dave.  It seems to be his specialty and the only way he wants to fish.  After lunch Phil and I changed that.  We got tired of catching lots of little fish and wanted something a little bigger.  That would come later, for now it was lighter rods and beads.

The first stop was on yet another island upstream from the lodge.  I broke out my 6wt TFO BVK rod and let Dave rig it up with a bead and indicator.  He told me to just cast out and drift it through the run about 10 feet from shore.  The bead bite was just starting to kick in since the Chum’s were all spawning.  For the next half hour I proceeded to catch lot’s of rainbows.  Problem was they were anywhere from a couple inches to maybe 12 inches long.  Nothing to get excited about.

Eyes were definitely bigger than his stomach.

I moved further downstream and I finally hooked into and landed a better fish.

That was the only decent fish in the hole so we picked up and moved on to another spot.  This place we would just fish from the boat, kind of like speed jigging.  Drift down quickly, let the indicator drift with the boat for about 200 yards and then motor up and start all over.  Each drift lasted maybe a minute with the fast current.  We hooked fish on every drift but landed very few.  I was able to get my Grayling (3 in total) though.

And another decent Rainbow.

And another Char

Eventually we set up on another island and waded.  No locals but I did pick up a couple of male Chum.  Fortunately they were pretty beat up and didn’t fight much.  I had already broke 2 rods and I didn’t want to make it a third.  A 6wt rod isn’t exactly ideal for a 10+ pound Chum Salmon.

Once we finished up there we told Dave that we wanted to go back to stripping flies for something bigger.  We headed downstream and started fishing for Pinks again.  We hit three places in total.  We would stop, catch a few fish and then nothing after the initial flurry.  The third stop was near the lodge and actually in the same place we saw the bears feeding the night before.  I mentioned it to Phil and then we both got a little nervous.  Dave said not to worry, he had our back.  I looked over at him and his Remington 870 was slung across his shoulder.  After almost a week it still took some getting used to having my guide carrying a shotgun while I fished.

We didn’t stay at the last spot very long.  We could see rain coming down the mountain and neither one of us wanted to get wet so we quit early.  I didn’t mind.  My initial goal was to catch one of every species available and I was able to do just that.  Nothing worth getting a replica mount made for but that was ok.  I had lots of pictures, memories and one more day to go.

 





Day 6 – Shameless Plug Day.

23 08 2018

I really had no idea what the plan was for today, maybe catch some salmon?  One thing I knew for sure was that I was going to wear my Mad Viking Tackle Co. hat to get some picks for my friend’s company.  The other thing was wear a t-shirt I was given in the hopes of winning a free one.  The Stick It Vinyls runs a monthly contest for the person who can post a pic on Facebook showing the farthest distance from their office in Michigan.  Hopefully it wouldn’t rain today and I would be able to accomplish that.  We went downstream again but this time we were a lot closer to the lodge than yesterday.

I planned on using my Spey rod today and swing flies.  Didn’t have much of a choice since I broke two other rods.  The Scott Flex would still be coming along but my plan was Swing or Die today.  We set up at our first spot for the day and pretty much stayed their.  We had no reason to leave, it was full of Pinks and Chum and they were very grabby.  Even managed to land a couple of Silvers as well.  Actually the fish were so thick in this spot I was pretty much catching them at will.  Even when I wasn’t trying I was hooking fish.  Bring in my line to make another cast, hook fish.  Set anchor for my next Spey cast, hook fish.  Drag fly through water with lunch in my hand, hook fish.  Release fish from net after removing hook, hook fish.  At one point I got bored spey casting so I grabbed my Scott Flex and took a position on shore, after I made a lot of noise, overlooking the pool.  I spent then next hour casting to Pinks and watched them do all kinds of Pink things.  I watched them chase my fly, bump it, grab it and let go, follow it for 20 feet only to refuse it at the end, ignore it and even attack it like their life depended on it.

It was a lot of fun but it had to end.  Eventually the fish figured out that anything pink would cause them a lot of stress.  We moved on to another spot for more of the same until it was time to head back to the lodge.  During our run to the next spot I got to hear one of Tim’s now famous quotes after we saw a Bald Eagle and an Osprey on the same sand bar.

“Bald Eagles and Ospreys are the same bird, one just has a better publicist”.

We beached the boat at this spot and when I jumped out I began to have second thoughts about fishing here.

As a point of reference that reel is about 6 inches in diameter.  It still amazes me that I am sharing all of this with so many bears.

Not to much longer after that we headed back to the lodge.  I think the guide wanted to get back early since we were late the previous night.  Jessie was happy to see us back on time as well.

 





Back to Walleye Fishing 8/22/18

23 08 2018

After 6 straight days of fly fishing for salmon it felt weird to be pulling wire for walleye.  It took me a bit to get the feel again but I managed to pick up 3 and a throwback in a little over an hour.  It was dead calm when I started around 8:30 pm but sometime after 9:30 pm it started to sprinkle and I felt a little wisp of a wind out of the NW.  Something didn’t feel right so I pulled lines and hauled ass to the dock.  By the time I go there the wind had picked up to a spin my boat and flip it over wind.

Go Figure.

I made a modification to a Rapala in the hopes of better hook ups with hose light hitting, short striking, lazy walleye.  Seems to work so far.  Lure still has good action and I managed to catch 2 walleye, a channel cat and a sheepshead with it.  The real test will be to see if I lose any fish at the side of the boat.





Day 4 – Sockeyedelic

21 08 2018

Normally the Sockeye run is over at this time of the year.  Fortunately for me a fresh push of fish came in the weekend we arrived.  This would give me a short window of opportunity to put some fish in the freezer.  With that in mind we piled into the boat and headed to The Black Hole (love the names they give these fishing spots).

I figured fishing for Sockeye salmon would be just like fishing for anything else.  Drift a fly into a hole, strip it in and hang on.  Not quite.  Sockeye are continuously moving upstream at about 2 mph until they hit their spawning grounds.  During this time they don’t feed on anything.  Our guide Tim then explained to me how we were going to fish for them……flossing.  I’ve known about this method and have never done it.  Basically you are trying to bring the line through the mouth of the fish and then hook him in the corner of the mouth.  Totally legal but back here in Michigan it is a method that is hotly debated.  Once we got set up I took a position at the head of the hole and started casting.  It took a few minutes but soon I was hooked up with my first Sockeye Salmon.

After that the fish came pretty quickly.  Unfortunately on my second fish I broke my Orvis Helios 2 rod in the first section while fighting a fish.  I brought a spare (Scott Flex 8wt) but I was still pissed that it broke.  As it would turn out I would really put the Scott Flex to the test.  It ended up being my mainstay for the rest of the trip.  I also discovered just how important these fish are to the food chain.  My third fish had a scar on it from a seal.  Tim told me that about 1 out of every 10 fish will have a scar from a seal attack on it.  I ended up catching 5 with scars.

These fish we had to let go because the bacteria in the scar ruins the meat.  Because of this it took me a awhile to get my 5 fish limit.  Once I did though I told Tim that John could have my spot.  He was fishing downstream and wasn’t hooking into much of anything.  He wanted to take some fish home as well and I was glad to help him out.

My elbow and wrists were already getting sore so I needed to take a short break.  Once John got his 5 we packed it in.  Between the 3 of us we ended up keeping 13 fish.  Plenty for John and I, Phil didn’t want to take any fish home.  All that was left for this spot was to take a couple of more pics.  This is the picnic table that they use whenever a client wants to have a shore lunch.  Nothing big about a table except that earlier Tim was standing where I took this picture.  He looked up and there was a bear standing on the other side with one paw on the table.  He yelled and the bear ambled off.  Of course I had to go take a picture of the tracks.

From there we headed further upstream to a spot called The Confluence.  This is where the Nonvianuk and Kukaklek rivers merge to form the Alagnak River.  John and Phil would be fishing an eddy where the two rivers merged.  Tim told me to take my Redington Chromer 7 wt switch rod and head upstream a bit and fish the Novianuk.  I made lots of noise as I walked through the grass and waded out to my starting point.  The current was wicked fast and keeping my footing was problematic.  I started casting though and worked my way downstream.  Tim told me to take two steps down after every cast which I did.  At this rate I figured I would be done with this run in about 10 minutes.  This was the first time I had cast this rod and line combo since June so I was trying to test it’s true potential.  So far so good, even Tim commented on how well it seemed to cast.  As I worked my way down I was getting closer to Phil.  I figured that after a few more casts my fly would be ending up right near him and I was starting to debate my WHAM!!!!!!

Just that quick it happened.  Here I was planning my next move when a train swam up and slammed my fly and took off downstream.  I didn’t know what type of fish it was, all I knew was that he wasn’t going to stick around to let me find out.  I yelled out and just about that time he jumped and we all could see it was a King Salmon.  Things got very serious after that.  Catching a King on the swing is like the crown jewel of fly fishing in Alaska.  Phil got out of the water.  John got out his GoPro and started filming.  Tim started giving me instructions and all I did was pray I wouldn’t fall over in the current.  I was finally able to work my way to some slack water where I could plant my feet and dig in.  Now began the see saw battle between me and the fish.  I would reel my line in to where I could see the leader and then he would take off again.  Back and forth we did this for what seemed like an eternity.  On several occasions Tim would go to net him and he would just take off.  Tim told me the longer we take the more likely the hook would work free.  That wasn’t helping my anxiety at all.  I kept the pressure on though and after 25 minutes we were finally able to get him into the net.  We kept him in the water while we got cameras ready.  The numbers of these fish are extremely low and we were doing everything we could to return him unharmed.  The return this year was estimated to be between 45,000 and 65,000.  To put it in perspective the Sockeye run was numbered in the millions.  Once I was ready we did a quick “grip n grin” and sent him on his way.  After that I was done.  I was hoping to catch all 5 Pacific salmon species and I just got the hard one out of the way.  All that was left now was a Silver Salmon and my chance at one of those would come tomorrow.