Fringe Benefits.

11 07 2019

You never know when a fishing opportunity may present it self.  Because of this I pretty much have a fly rod in my car 24/7/365.  My Temple Fork Outfitters 6 wt BVK for the little fish, My Scott Flex 8 wt for the big fish and a switch rod for whatever season it is.  They spend more time in their cases then I would like but at least they are there when I need them.  Such was the case last night (7/10/19) as I was helping out at a local river clean-up.  Schultz Outfitters and the Huron River Watershed Council recently teamed up to sponsor river clean-ups every Wednesday evening along different sections of the Huron river.  It’s a good way for me to help out, get some exercise and find new fishing spots all at once.

Six people showed up for the evening so we split up into two groups to tackle both sides of the river.  Of course I was looking for fish whenever I wasn’t finding any garbage.  I saw a number of bass and a fair number of blue gills but no carp.  That was until I found a Mulberry tree.  I heard some splashing and saw the swirls of a few feeding carp near the waters edge.  I looked up and saw the tree and I started to grin.  There were about a dozen carp feeding in the area.  I seriously thought about going back to my car and getting my stuff but I figured they weren’t going anywhere.  The cover was thick in the area and the few fishermen around were casting for bass in more open waters.  I figured they were safe, for now.

Once we finished up I headed back to may car, assembled my Scott 8wt, tied on a Mulberry fly and headed back to the tree.  When I got there the fish were still feeding.  Now all I had to do was figure out a way to get to them.  There was a lot of overhanging branches so trying to feed a 9 foot long fly rod through them so I could drop a non weighted fly into the water was going to be difficult.  Also, because there was so much cover there was no way I was going to be able to land a fish without getting wet.  Fighting him was going to be a challenge as well.  If I was able to land one it was going to be a miracle.

While I was trying to figure this out a muskrat swam up to the bank and starting eating the berries as well.  Great, now what am I going to do?  As soon as I try to move down there the muskrat will spook and scare all the carp away.  I sat there for a few minutes and waited for him to leave.  While I did a berry dropped into the water right next to him and a carp came up to eat it.  That spooked the muskrat and the fish as well, or so I thought.  There was some splashing but the carp stuck around.  I waited a few more minutes to let them calm down and I slowly started to move into position.  5 seconds in and my rod already got stuck on a branch.  I managed to free it but did it again shortly afterwards.  Eventually I made it to the edge and tried to Bow and Arrow my fly into the water.  On my first attempt my fly caught a leaf.  Second attempt hit a branch.  Third attempt made it into the water and as soon as it hit a carp came up to suck it in.   I set the hook and missed the fish.  More splashing ensued and I figured I missed my chance.  I made another cast and out of nowhere a carp came up and took the fly.  This time I was able to drive the hook home and we were off to the races.  I stayed on shore at first and kept my rod parallel to the river.  Fortunately he took off for open water instead of the weeds and logs.  While he was running I started to clear branches away so I could have some room and hopefully stand up some.  Not that I need a lot but it would be nice to be able to life my rod up high when it came time to grab him.  This was not going to be easy.  I got him close but the cramped quarters made getting a hold of him problematic.  After a couple of attempts to get him close I just laid my fly rod down and pulled him in by the leader.  I got my hand around his tail, the fly out of his mouth and in position for a quick picture.

The fly that did the trick.

My first one for the year and my first one ever on a Mulberry fly.  I can see why Fly Carp Anglers love the Mulberry season so much.  These fish threw caution to the wind and still grabbed my fly even though I did just about everything wrong.  After this fight though the fish did scatter.  I sat around for a few more minutes just in case but nothing was happening.  The berries kept dropping and nothing was taking them.  That was my cue to head for home which I did.  I’ll come back another time.  There is another clean-up scheduled for next Wednesday.  Who knows, maybe I’ll find another one.  If so I can guarantee the fly rod will be ready.

 

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HEX TIME……………………………Eventually.

1 07 2019

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

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

Nothing…….

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

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

Can you guess which side of my waders leak?

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

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

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

Not very big but I’ll take it.

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

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

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

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

 

 





Squeak

10 06 2019

Back when I was a wee little fly tier I used to tie deer hair mice for one gentleman.  Every year he would go on a trip to the AuSable, with some of his friends, to go fishing for Brown Trout at night.  I would tie him up 2 dozen mice and 2 dozen Houghton Lake Specials.  One year, he invited my Father and I to tag along but unfortunately we were unable to make it.  I was always intrigued about this type of fishing but never got the opportunity until this past weekend.  My guide in Alaska, Tim Schut, told me he was going to back in Michigan for a few months before he went back to Alaska.  After working through our conflicting schedules we were able to arrange an evening that worked for both of us.  I met him at our take out point on the Upper Manistee around 6:30 pm.  I wondered why we were meeting so early since ‘mousing” was done during the dark of the night.  He told me we would park the boat downstream and wait to see if we would get any type of an insect hatch.  That and eat dinner.  Dinner was great (grilled steak and asparagus) but a hatch never really materialized.  Tim said most of the Spring had like this.  Light hatches and when they do happen the insects fly into the trees instead of spinning out and landing on the water.  We only saw a few trout rise and most of them were small.  No big deal, that wasn’t why I was here anyways.

Around 10:00 pm we started downstream and started fishing.  Tim would tell me which side of the river to cast too and slowly retrieve the mouse pattern across the water to create a wake.  He told me to let the current swing the fly downstream and across and make long, steady retrieves to keep it moving.  Seems simple enough except that I couldn’t see the shoreline and I had no idea if I was making a wake or not.  The only time I could see was when there would be a reflection on the water from the light of an occasional cabin.  Tim had also told me that no matter how close I think the trees are to add 3 more feet.  The closer I could get the mouse to the shoreline the better.  He also said don’t worry about hooking the trees, it’s gonna happen.  If I’m not catching the trees it’s obvious I’m not landing the mouse close enough to the bank.  With all that in mind we went about our business, for 3 hours.

Cast, plop, drift, retrieve, cast again, catch tree, retrieve fly, cast again, swat mosquito, catch tree behind me, retrieve fly, stare at the stars, question my sanity, cast, plop, drift, retrieve, repeat.

This was the bulk of the evening.  I got to hand it to Tim though, he was doing his best to keep me positive.  If I was doing something wrong with my cast he would help me correct it and made sure I was casting in the right direction.  After a few hours I was starting to get frustrated because I was convinced I was doing something wrong.  Tim assured me I wasn’t.  He said it is going to happen, we just need to find a hungry fish.  He compared it to Spey fishing for Steelhead.  He said there are a lot of fish in the water, we are trying to find the one with the attitude.  Around 1:00 am the sliver of the moon set below the horizon and then it got really dark.  Tim switched out the fly to a jointed rabbit fur mouse of his own design.  It makes a very distinctive sound when it hits the water.  Also, he tied a pair of dumbbell eyes to the back of the hook to get the tail end to sink a little.  That did the trick because about 15 minutes later it happened.  I heard the splash, felt the weight and did nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  The one thing I have read over and over is that when a Brown hits a mouse, never set the hook until the weight of the fish is felt.  Tim stressed this as well.  When I hear a splash and I think a fish hit, DO NOTHING!!   A Brown trout will swim up and strike a mouse to kill it and then swing back around to finish it off, much like a shark will with live prey.  He told me that many people lose the fish because when they feel the hit they do the straight up Orvis hook set and send the fly into the trees.  If a fish hits and misses he will come back around.  Tim had told me of instances where he had a Brown hit the same mouse multiple times before he was finally hooked up.  Relax and wait, easier said than done but I did it and once I felt the fish turn and the weight on the rod I pulled back on the rod, across my body and parallel to the river.  FISH ON!

I almost lost this one.  I was so startled that the line slipped through my fingers as I was trying to strip him in.  I was able to keep a bend in the rod and the pressure on and about a minute later he was in the net.  My first Brown on a fly, my first Brown on a Mouse and my first Brown over 20 inches.  To say I was happy would be an understatement.  After a few pics we sent him on his away and got back to business.  I was feeling a lot better now and Tim made sure I didn’t get ahead of myself.  He reminded me not to get twitchy and remember to DO NOTHING!  I firmly believe this is where Spey fishing and Handlining so much benefits me.  When jigging or casting a lure, the second I feel anything I set the hook.  With handlining, once I feel a fish I wait for him to get those initial headshakes out of the way.  With Spey fishing I wait until the fish takes the fly and turns away.  I’ve been able to condition myself to not get so crazy with the hook set.  I still get a little twitchy from time to time but for the most part I can take it easy.  So much so that on the next fish I never even knew he took a swipe at the fly.  There was splash in front of me and Tim asked if I had a hit.  I told him I didn’t feel anything but he was convinced a fish had taken a swipe at my fly and missed.  I told him I didn’t even hear it and it was right then that he hit it again.  This time though he didn’t miss and he immediately went airborne.  Time got the light on him so we could watch his aerobatic display. He was smaller then the first fish but he was definitely a lot more active.

It still amazes me how the same species of fish can have suck drastic differences in their spots.

After that not much happened.  The temperature was starting to drop and by 2:30 am there was fog on the water.  Time told me trying to catch fish when the fog is out is damn near impossible.  I made a few more casts but nothing happened so around 3 we pushed on to the pull out point.  That last mile Tim kept his headlamp on so he could maneuver the river (how he was able to in the dark was beyond me) and show me the fish we would spook.  I probably saw about a dozen Browns in the 20 inch range cruising around in the shallow water.  I was told that this section held some big fish but I always doubted it.  Not anymore.

All in all it was a good night.  Mosquitoes weren’t a problem.  Caught my first and biggest brown trout to date.  I didn’t bury a hook in the back of my head but at one point I did bounce the fly off my hat.  Only bad part now was the drive home on no sleep.  Next time I’m bringing my camper and taking a nap before I head home.  Driving home on deer infested roads with no sleep is a dangerous combination.  Speaking of deer, they make a lot of noise running through the water at 2:00 am.  So do bears, we think we spooked one when we came around one bend.  We could just make out the silhouette of a lone tree shaking back and forth.  As we got closer we heard of lot of crashing as whatever it was ran off.  So it was either a bear or Bigfoot.  Didn’t hear any tree knocks so I’m sticking with a bear.

I’m going to be up this away again the last weekend of June.  I won’t be wading this area at night, it is way to dangerous to do since I don’t know the river.  I might wade in at a few of the access points and try a few casts but nothing to extreme.  I’m kind of hoping the Hex hatch is going on.  Never fished during one but I have heard it is insane.

We shall see.

 





Memorial Weekend Fishing, 2019

28 05 2019

My 3 day weekend started a bit early when my boss told me I could leave early.  I was planning on fishing tonight anyways but now I had a few extra hours to relax and get things ready.  Normally I’m all set and ready to go whenever I want but tonight was going to be a little different.  Since I had extra time I thought I would go out early and fly fish of those other fish until it got dark.  I planned on using my Redington Hydrogen 4wt switch rod.  I haven’t caught a fish on it yet and I haven’t really cast it much since Schultz Outfitter Demo Days last year.  I figured this would be a good opportunity since the chance of me catching something was pretty much guaranteed.

I arrived at the launch around 8:00 pm and was surprised to see the water had risen even more.  The Wayne County Sheriff had built another dock so they could reach their boats and all the ramps were partially under water.  This is starting to get serious.  I read a report earlier that Lake Erie is expected to rise another 6-10 inches in June.  If that happens the boardwalk at Elizabeth Park will be under water.  I was still able to launch my boat but I need to remember to bring my knee boots next time.  I set up downstream of the Edison discharge and started fishing.  It didn’t take long and I had my first one on.  When these other fish are in a person could literally catch on on every cast.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce a kid to fishing, it’s also a terrible time for a handliner.  Most of the fish I was catching were big females in the 15 to 16 inch range.  My biggest one being 16 1/2 inches, which qualifies for a Michigan DNR Master Angler entry.  Normally I never send these in but they have a cool patch this year and I want one.

After about an hour of messing around with these fish I packed everything up and headed over to my usual walleye starting point.  Since the other fish were in thick I started off with Pencil plugs.  The action wasn’t fast and furious but I was able to pick up 4 walleye before I called it quits around 11:00 pm.  I could have stayed out longer to get my last fish but I was tired and I had things to do tomorrow before I had to attend a wedding in the afternoon.

After the wedding I headed up to my Mom’s to take care of her chore list and hopefully get some time on the river for Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon.  With Spring being a few weeks late the fish were still in the river.  Once the chores were done and I ate dinner I was headed to the AuSable.  I took two rods with me, my “meat” rod Redington Chromer 7 wt and my new Echo Full Spey 7wt.  I have yet to cast this one so I was eager to try it out.  I had two different Skagit heads to try out, one new and one old leftover from my Ross Reach which I broke.  I started with the old one first.  Casting was a bit of a struggle, I’m not used to casting these bigger rods, especially after casting a light weight switch rod.  It took some time but I was able to make some decent casts.  Next time out I’ll try the other line.  Demo Days is coming up next weekend and I can always visit the Scientific Angler tent to try out their Skagit heads on it.  There were a lot of people out fishing as well and not a lot of catching.  As a matter of fact there wasn’t any catching.  I could see a few fish but not any great numbers.  I was fishing downstream, away form the crowds at the tail end of a large pool.  I was watching some of the other anglers when it happened.  That tell tale hit and shake of a fish.  I set the hook and the fish was on, for about 2 seconds.  Just like that the fish was off.  As I was looking downstream I could see the fish rolling and jumping.  I figured he had my hook still in his mouth and was trying to shake it.  I brought in my line and to my surprise the fly was still there.  Guess he just felt like putting on a show or he was thumbing his nose at me.  Either way at least I know I am starting to get this river figured out.  My last two trips I have hooked a fish on each one.  Hopefully the third times a charm.  Unfortunately it will have to wait until the Fall.

On my out out I did pick up a few empties and carried them out for recycling.  Not to bad for a Memorial Day Weekend.  Figured they would be a lot more garbage.  It would be even better if I never found any.





One Month Later

4 09 2018

At this time, one month ago, I was somewhere over the Rocky mountains on my way to Alaska.  Now I sit here at my desk and I still can’t believe it all happened.  Even though there are constant reminders all around me.

The bill from the fish processor in Anchorage posted on my credit card today so obviously it did happen.  Either that or I’m being scammed.

All that is left now is for me to take stock of everything and think about how I will do this next time.  Now that I have a better understanding of how this all works I am definitely going to make some changes.  First off will be when I go.  This trip was during a transition period of the different runs.  Based on the final numbers it’s obvious to see that some fish were starting up and others were winding down.

Rainbows – 2

Grayling – 3

Artic Char  – 4

 

King Salmon – 3

Silver Salmon – 4

Sockeye Salmon – 11

Chum Salmon – 18

Pink Salmon – 50

 

That came to 95 total fish for the week.  If it had been an odd year the Pinks would not have been there and my totals would have been a lot different.  The Chum, Kings and Sockeye were winding down and the Silvers had just started.  I asked Tim what we would have done if it weren’t for the Pinks and he said we would have chased after the Rainbows more.  Not the worse thing but I would have preferred to actually fly fish for them instead of drift beads.  In the future my choice will either be go first thing and swing sculpin and mice patterns for Rainbows or go towards the end and swing flies for Rainbow, Char and Silver Salmon.  I’m leaning towards later in the season but the beginning of the season is a lot cheaper because most people want to catch the salmon.  I have time so I don’t need to make a decision yet.

This decision will also determine what flies to use.  When I first signed up for this the outfitter sent me a list of the different types of flies they use.  What he failed to tell me was that some of the patterns are only used during certain times though out the season.  So basically all the flesh flies I tied would not even be needed unless I was fishing now, in September.  Mice, sculpins and egg sucking leeches were useless as well.  So out of the 100+ flies I tied I only used 12.  One fly I used for 3 straight days.  I soon discovered that depth was more important than pattern, as long as it was pink.  If I could drift that fly down to where the masses were, chances are something was going to grab it.  With that being said, does anyone want to buy a bunch of Alaskan Salmon Flies?

Shoes and a raincoat that doesn’t leak are worth their weight in gold.  I found out after being in King Salmon for 5 minutes that my shoes had cracks in the soles.  The only time my feet were dry was when I was wearing my waders or in bed asleep.  I found out that my Gander Mountain raincoat leaks on the last day.  Fortunately it was the last day and when I got back to camp it was thrown into the burning pile with the other garbage.  I’ll spend the money next time.

I started this trip with 6 rods.  Broke two and eventually used all of them.  Most of my fish were caught with my 8wt Scott Flex.  Next time I will be taking along an 8wt Switch rod as well.  I think that pair would handle everything I want to fish for.  I’ll take my 7wt & 6wt Switch rods also, for the Rainbows and Char, but any Salmon will be with the heavier rods.

I originally didn’t expect to bring any fish home with me.  Since I did I of course had to figure out what the cost per pound was.  It worked out to 184.21 per pound.  That’s some expensive fish.

I was really glad I kept a daily log of everything that happened.  It was damn near impossible to keep track of day to day stuff without writing it down.  I had a hard enough time keeping track of what I caught at the end of the day.  There was no way I would have kept track for the whole week.  This blog would have been real short with a lot if pics.

“I caught a lot of fish.  Here are the pics. The End.”

I should have used the video function on the camera more as well.  Especially for the bears.

Still, it was an awesome week.  Now that I have a better understanding of what to expect the next time will be just as pleasurable, if not more.  I just need to keep my expectations into perspective.  There are a lot of other places I want to visit before another Alaska trip.  Have to remember that.

 

 

 





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.

 

 

 





Have Faith

22 09 2017

To say that this past walleye season was a good one would be an understatement.  I made around 40 trips and on only a handful of occasions I did not come home with a 5 fish limit.  I could beat my chest and brag about just how awesome I am or take the humble road and say there was an overabundance of fish.  It could also be a combination of both but one thing is for certain, success breeds more success and that only comes from experience.  The only way a person can get that experience is by determination and having faith.

We have all heard the expression “Faith Can Move Mountains”, that may be true but the proper equipment, and a lot of explosives, sure make the job easier.  When it comes to fishing having all the equipment is necessary along with the knowledge on how to use it.  No one is born with that knowledge, some catch on quicker than others but the person who uses it properly will, eventually, catch more fish.  In order to get to this point a person has to have faith and believe that he or she will get there.  I cannot stress this “never give up” attitude enough and how important it is for catching fish.  Faith in one’s abilities breeds success.  If a person believes they are going to catch fish that person tries harder and pays attention to the little things.  Once a person takes on a defeatist attitude he or she won’t catch much of anything.  He or she begins to get lazy, forgets the little things, makes stupid mistakes and just gives up.  In other words, he or she loses faith.

We all have our dry spells.  As of this date I haven’t caught a Steelhead in 564 days.  That’s right….564 DAYS.  I haven’t given up though.  I have faith that this season will be different.  I will catch one.  Period.  While I write this I am already planning my trips for the year.  Steelhead Alley Thanksgiving weekend.  The Manistee and PM the first weekend in December.  Weather permitting The Alley again around Christmas.  Numerous trips to the Lower Huron, once we get some rain and colder temps.  I am going full bore, search & destroy, take no prisoners, death before dishonor, never surrender.  Granted this is more of a gung-ho attitude then anything else but if I didn’t have faith that I will succeed I wouldn’t be doing this.  I originally decided to start swinging flies for steelhead because of the challenge.  Challenge accepted.

I will lay a major smack down on them.

I will make it so.

I have Faith.