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 off May.  A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.

My guide today was going to be the newest member to the Schultz team, Justin Pribnac.  This is his inaugural season as a guide for the shop.  He has been guiding for the last 10 years but the Huron was a new area to him.  Seemed fitting as this was my first time targeting Smallmouth Bass with a fly rod.  I have caught them before but it was always by accident.  Now, I was going to be casting big streamers to likely holding spots from a drift boat.  I’m sensing a lot of streamers in trees.

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 which.  It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer.  This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size.  I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will.  Today just wasn’t going to be that day.  It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge.  If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.

So that was my initial foray into the world of fly fishing for Small Jaws.  I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for someone who knows how to row a drift boat.  Hat’s off to Justin who worked his butt off to keep the boat where it belonged and my casts in the zone.  I will definitely be doing this again, I just hope it is on a cloudier day.  Maybe I’ll try a PM float.  After dark.  When I am in my element.  Muhahahahaha…….

 

Oh, one other thing.  I didn’t lose a single fly today.





Frustrating

29 03 2017

 

As I was watching the Spey Daze DVD this past weekend, this question was posed to the guest fishermen.

Using one word, describe Steelhead.

Frustrating was the word I came up with.  I don’t think it is for the fish itself but what I have to go through to catch one.  Steelhead are migratory so if they don’t run the river there isn’t much I can do.  This season, for one reason or another, they never really showed up on my home waters.  I suppose I needed to be served a piece of humble pie.  The first season of swinging flies I landed 6 on the Huron, my personal best fish, for the Huron, coming on Jan. 2nd.  Since then it’s been nothing.  Because of the lack of fish and a desire to try new places I have ventured out.  Earlier this week I had some estate business to handle for Susan in Toledo and Fremont so I decided to keep heading east and try the Vermillion river.

A little back story on the Vermillion.  This past summer Susan was helping out with a system changeover at a local hospital.  I came with her the first weekend to keep her company and to scout out fishing access.  While I was at one of the parks Susan texted me to see what I was up to.  I sent her a picture of the sign and she replied saying she knows that park and she used to eat her lunch their when she was a Schwann driver.

????

This was my response:

Excuse me? You know this area? You used to stop here? An area that gets a Steelhead run and you never thought to mention that to me? This is information that should have been made available to me day one, at the restaurant, after introductions.  You know….Hello, my name is Susan, I know of a place to catch Steelhead on the Vermillion River.

She answered me with her usual Susan fanfare and I know she was smiling and laughing the whole time.  Her coworkers probably thought I was an ass though but she knew better.  It reminds me of just how close we were to each other before we ever even met.

This day though was my first attempt fishing here and I was not alone.  There were about a dozen other people fishing the same low dirty water.  I tried for about an hour and didn’t catch anything.  From what I could see no one else was either.  What amazed me was how I thought 12 other people was crowded.  My first introduction to river steelhead fishing was elbow to elbow people on the Manistee River at Tippy Dam.  That was insane but then it was the norm.  I fished the runs I could but not the deeper, longer one farther upstream I wanted to.  That one was staked out by about 6 or 7 other fishermen and they weren’t budging.  Oh well, there will be other opportunities.  Now that we have some warmer weather and more rain maybe the Steelhead will finally show up on the Huron.  If not, I will be making a weekend trip up north.

Where I wanted to fish.

Call the Bigfoot Groups. I found a Squatch Hut.

Wonder how much more product placement I can get in a picture?

 

 





Rebirth

26 03 2017

There was a time when I loved dirty water.  It meant that all the jiggers on the Detroit River were screwed and I could be a show off and catch fish all day long.  I still enjoy those days but not when I’m steelhead fishing.  The odds are already against me swinging a fly and when that sight window is decreased down to a few inches my chances of success are practically nill.

I didn’t think it would be to bad but the run off from the golf course upstream was like chocolate milk.

Huron on the left, golf course creek on the right.

Since my chances for success were pretty bad I decided to stay home for the rest of the weekend to tie flies and watch a new DVD I picked up, Spey Daze.  Just like the tile states it’s a DVD about spey fishing, more specifically spey fishing the Great Lakes for Steelhead.  I didn’t have much choice since I also busted my switch rod taking it out of the car.

This wasn’t a how to video, it was more about the history of the steelhead and salmon fishing in the Great Lakes.  Granted all the fishermen were spey casting but a lot of the interviews with biologists were about the great salmon experiment and how invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever.  Some would find the history pretty boring but not me.  I was fortunate enough to be raised during the Salmon boom.  My Father and Grandfather would take me on their trips to the Manistee river, in the late 60’s, when I was 3 or 4 years old.  This set me on a path of hardcore salmon fishing that lasted until the crash on Lake Huron in 2004.  While I watched I started to day dream about all the Chinooks, Cohos, Steelhead, Lakers and the occasional Brown my Dad and I caught. Spring and Fall from Sanilac to Harrisville, we hit it hard.  Weekend trips to Harrisville spent sleeping in the back of the station wagon eating Spam and canned soup heated up on a single burner Coleman stove. Day trips to Harbor Beach in the same Crestliner aluminum boat that I use for pulling wire on the Detroit River today.  I was a lucky kid, though it was pretty much a done deal that I was going to be a fisherman.  When my mother was in labor with me on Halloween of 1964 my Father and Grandfather were in Owen Sound Canada fishing for Steelhead on Georgian Bay.  The postmaster came out in his boat to track them down and tell them I was on my way.  Fortunately, they made it back in time. I can only imagine what my Grandpa was saying on the drive back.  Knowing him he probably said I was going to be a girl because only a woman could ruin a perfectly good fishing trip.

Years later, after my Dad retired, we kind of lost our edge.  We still enjoyed fishing but the excitement of a new trip dissipated.  We had more fun taking out people who never caught a salmon before and seeing their reaction the first time they hook into a 20 pound screamer.  Even that didn’t last long since the Huron population crash happened a few years later.  After that we concentrated on pulling wire for walleye.  I, on the other hand, started looking for something else.

The more I watched the DVD the more I realized that experiences and memories are more valuable than anything else.  I can barely remember the number of fish caught on a trip but the uniqueness of that trip sticks out.  The Bald Eagle the flew overhead, the beaver that swam right past me, the mink I was watching run that bank when a steelhead swam up and crushed my fly.  Creating those memories has become more important since the passing of my Father and Susan.  Going through all their stuff and assigning a price tag to it made me realize just how unimportant “toys” really are.  Memories are a different story.  I can still remember sitting in my Grandpa’s lap as he taught me how tie a clinch knot.  My father talking me through landing my first salmon on a Ping-A-Tee at Harrisville.  The look on Susan’s face when I came back to our hotel room to tell her about the tarpon I caught on a fly.  Those memories will never be taken away from me.  They won’t be donated to the Salvation Army or sold on E Bay.

This is why I chose to fly fish for steelhead.  Many don’t get it but I don’t care.  The ones that do, understand.  It’s not about the numbers but the experience.  I don’t catch many but I can remember every fish.  I can remember the weather, what led up to that fish, what fly I caught it on and the feeling of satisfaction I felt when I brought it to hand.  This is my rebirth, to create those memories that can never be taken away.  To fish places I have never fished before.  To try and create that one fly that will make the difference.  To be able to help someone along the way and to able to share the experience.  That has been the hardest part about dealing with their death.  My Dad and Susan were my two biggest fans.  Both were always so excited to hear how I did, to be able to tag along when they could and to be a part of the planning for the next trip.  I’ll never get that back but they will always be with me in spirit when that next fish hits.





A New Season

21 02 2017

These past few days of record breaking warm temperatures has most fishermen in my area in a frenzy.  Many are gearing up for the upcoming walleye season but it got me thinking, does the season ever really end?  I get that the annual walleye run only happens once a year (twice actually) but for the more diversified angler there is never an off season.

This morning I found myself back on the Huron River still searching for that unicorn.  These last few months have been difficult trying to land one steelhead.  A lack of fish and high water have made my efforts basically futile.  I keep trying though.  It beats sitting at home and counting the days till the walleye start up.  I’m sure there are a few out there now, there always are but I’m in no hurry.  The time will come when I will be able to catch them on a regular basis and I won’t have to fight the crowds to do it.  This should be the start of some great fishing for the next few years.  Successful hatches for the last three years have increased the western basin population so I’m optimistic.  In the mean time I’ll continue to chase unicorns and possibly some smallies or a carp or two for now.  I have time, all year as a matter of fact.  That’s the advantage of being a diversified angler and not a one trick pony.  I can fish open water pretty much all year.  That point really hit home when I bought my new Simms waders.  James, at Schultz’s outfitters, told me that after a few months of use they would send them back to Simms to pressure check them for leaks.  He told me when I have some down time and I wasn’t fishing to bring them back.  I gave him “the look” and he laughed and said “you’re right, what was I thinking”.

So good luck everyone, a new season is upon us, or for the more fortunate it is just a continuation.  Either way get out and enjoy it.

feeling-blue

I was tossing one of these today. Had a hit on one on the St. Mary’s so I thought I would give one a try on The Huron. No luck this time around.

 





Back at the keyboard

29 01 2017

Hey everyone.

It’s been about 3 months since my last post and it has been a very trying 3 months.  As some of you already know Susan, my friend, companion, fiancé and partner in crime, passed away on Oct. 26th from complications from surgery for an aneurism.  Since then I have been adjusting to life with out her.  On top of that I am the executor of her will and I have been dealing with that.  As you can imagine wanting to do anything, let alone fishing, has been difficult.  Granted, time on the water can be the best therapy but not being able to share that with my two biggest supporters (My dad and Susan) takes the fun out of it.  It’s getting better and I hope to make 2017 a great year.  Only time will tell.  In the mean time I’ll catch up with what has been going on the last 3 months.

November turned out to be a warmer than normal month.  I had hoped to spend it fishing for steelhead but they were even later than last year.  I went up to the Pere Marquette river for a few days and all I saw was half dead Coho’s, low clear water and no steelhead.  The water on the Huron was pretty much the same, low, clear and way to warm.  Because of that I went back to my old reliable, Detroit River walleye.  I had traded all the fish in the freezer to a relative that raises cattle for beef.  I need a few fish for the winter so I went out a couple of times.  The water was clear and no weeds but I managed to get a couple of limits.  My last trip was towards the end of the month.  I only got a couple of small ones and since a cold front was coming in I just winterized the boat.  Love that E-Tech.

img_6379 fullsizerender2 fullsizerender

During Thanksgiving I decided to take a break and head north to Sault Ste. Marie to fish the St. Mary’s river to try for steelhead up there.  I figured the temps would be cold enough there, little did I know it wasn’t.  I was going to be there for two days and I was going to make the best of it.  The first day I was not able to concentrate on what I was doing and managed to miss two fish.  One grabbed the fly and I never set the hook.  The second one swam up and took a swipe at it and I just sat there and watched.  I was beginning to think I should have stayed home but tomorrow would be another day.

The next morning I was back at it in the same area.  Fishing was a lot better this time around.  I ended up going 3 for 5 but not on what I was expecting.  Instead of Steelhead I went 3 for 5 on Atlantics.  I have no idea why but for some strange reason there were still a few hanging around in the rapids.  The 3 I caught were on the small side.  One of the fish I lost was a brute in the 8 to 10 pound range.  He hit like a freight train and went airborne immediately.  Once he landed he made a dash downstream and on the next jump my fly and about 90 feet of Skagit head and running line came right back at me.  I finished fishing that run but I didn’t hook into anything else.  As I finished the run I could see someone leaving the next run I wanted to fish.  He was drifting beads under a float and as it turned out had caught nothing there in the last hour.  I can’t tell you how pissed he was when he saw me hook and land a fish on my second cast in the same run he had just spent the last hour fishing.  I love it when that happens.

My last fish of the day came completely by accident and it was quite a learning experience.  As I was walking down the concrete berm I noticed two fish lying near a rock.  I got up ahead of them and proceeded to drift my fly past them, repeatedly.  If the fly was up high they would swim up and take a look at it.  If it drifted right at them they would ignore it.  After about 20 minutes of refusals I changed flies to a small egg sucking leech.  I made a few more drifts and it was the same result.  I made another cast and it was a really bad one.  The fly was high and way to the right and over the fish’s head when it hit the water.  It was already past her when the fish swung around and charged the fly.  Five minutes alter she was unhooked and released to fight another day.

img_6502 img_6503

December was pretty uneventful.  Fishing on the Huron sucked.  High water one day, low the next and absolutely no fish.  I went out about a dozen times and never even had a hook up.  January, on the other hand, was a different story.  Towards the middle of the month we experienced a unseasonable warm up.  It lasted about 10 days so I made another run up to the St. Mary’s river and once again all I caught was another Atlantic Salmon.  My guide, Rod Trudel, started calling me the Atlantic Whisperer.

fullsizerender3

The fish surprised both of us.  An Atlantic at the end of January was the last thing we expected.  Especially a nice clean fish like this one.  I won’t complain to much, it was better than being skunked.

So there has been what I have been up to for the last 3 months related to fishing.  I can’t say how much walleye fishing I will be doing this year.  With the two biggest consumers of walleye gone from my life I really don’t have a lot of desire to go.  I’m sure I’ll be out there at the end of April but I can’t guarantee I’ll be hitting the river on a regular basis. Who knows though.  I have been asked  to give handlining seminars at the Columbus Fishing Expo in February.  Maybe it will give me the incentive to go out more.

Only time will tell.

 





Elitist Snob to Knuckle Dragger in 48 hours

28 04 2016

Last weekend I headed up to my Mom’s, in Oscoda, for a visit.  My trips north used to be hunting and fishing from sun up to sun down.  Now it’s Mom’s to do list from sun up to dinner and maybe a few hours of fishing afterwards.  While I was driving up Friday afternoon I listened to another one of April Vokey’s podcasts.  The guest talked about the divide in the steelhead world where fly fishers view gear fishermen as knuckle draggers and gear guys view the fly guys as elitist snobs.  This kind of thing has been going on for years but it got me thinking.  Where do I fit in?  My two favorite forms of fishing are swinging flies for steelhead and pulling wire for walleye.  Two types of fishing that are polar opposites and couldn’t be any further apart on the fishing spectrum.  One is steeped with visions of pristine rivers and a certain amount of poetry and grace.  The other is meat fishing in it’s truest form.  Both are relaxing, both catch fish and both are very enjoyable to me.  I can see how the outsider would view both practices but like the only saying goes….you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Just because I carry a fly rod doesn’t mean I’m a snob and just because I handline doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the serenity of fly fishing.

After a  home cooked walleye dinner on Friday night I grabbed my switch rod and headed for the AuSable.  This would only be my second attempt this Spring to catch a steelhead.  Snow, rain, high water and work have made finding time to get out very difficult.  I waded down to a run that I hoped would be holing a fish or two.  I did manage to see one swimming around but I couldn’t get him to eat.  I tried another spot further downstream but it was to no avail.  After a couple of hours I packed it in and headed for home.  My left leg was soaked (still haven’t fixed the leak in my waders) and it was getting dark.  I didn’t like the thought of not catching anything during the Spring run but there wasn’t much I could do about it.  There was a chance I could try again tomorrow, depending on the size of my mom’s to do list.  Turns out it was a long list so I never got that second chance.

You would think there would be at least one hungry steelhead in there.

You would think there would be at least one hungry steelhead in there.

Sunday morning found me headed south and home.  While I was driving I called my friend Dean to see if he wanted to go fishing later that night.  I owed him a few trips and he had been bugging me about going so I thought tonight would be a good opportunity.  I told him to meet me at the house at 7 and of course he was early.  I told him there was no rush but he was anxious to go.  I dragged my feet as much as I could but he was getting impatient.  When we arrived at the ramp my friend Richard was there so I took the opportunity to talk to him and waste more time.  This plan didn’t work out too well either because Dean got the boat ready and was holding the rope with a “Let’s go” look on his face.  I wished Richard good luck and soon we were on our way.  After a brief refresher course for Dean on leader management and lure selection we were fishing by 7:45 pm.  I told Dean that with the clear water we weren’t going to catch anything until 9 o’clock.  He didn’t believe me.  For the next hour we just washed our Rapala’s and wasted time.  Eventually I had a hit and our first walleye was in the boat.  Once I got it in I showed Dean the time on my watch.

9:01 pm

I won’t repeat his reply but for the next hour it was game on.  We ended up landing 6 fish and losing 4.  They were hitting light tonight, barely grabbing the tail hook.  I did have another walleye make a banzai charge on my prop and I lost that one, of course.  Dean ended up catching two and he didn’t lose any.  I caught 4, lost one to the prop, one as I was flipping him in, one on the surface and the last one at the stern.  I had just told Dean too that I was going to lose this one and when he said why, out came the lure.  It was a light hit and he was barely hooked, it was only a matter of time.  Around 10 we got our lines all tangled up so I called it a night.  I didn’t feel like digging out extra leaders and we both had to work in the morning.  I was really tired as well.  I never sleep well when I am at my mom’s.  That air mattress sucks.  So the night ended with 6 fish, 4 premature releases, 1 lost lure and 2 broken ones, 5 tangled leaders and two lost shanks.  Richard had called me while I was out and lost his shank.  He asked if I had any spares and I gave him two.  Also, we didn’t catch any of those other fish.  This surprised me because I had been hearing reports of them being caught all over the river.  I’m to the point now that I don’t believe anything I hear on the message boards.  I should know better, all season long I have been hearing negative reports of no fish.  Me and the other handliners have a different view of the walleye fishing this season.

#9 Original Black/Silver took the bulk of the fish. The big one came on a Riley Special Spike Spoon.

#9 Original Black/Silver took the bulk of the fish. The big one came on a Riley Special Spike Spoon.

 

 

 





Part 2 from the North Shore Tying Co.

27 04 2016

https://northshoresstyingtyingco.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/15-habits-every-angler-should-develop-part-two/#comments