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.  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 downstream.  I worked a couple of other runs but no luck.

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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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.

 

 

 





The Huron

19 11 2017

Friday (11/17) started out early but for all the wrong reasons.  I was up early to attend the funeral for Susan’s father.  It was down in Ohio near Cedar Point so I would have lots of time to think while driving down there and back.  Time at the funeral home was ok but time at the cemetery was rough.  I wanted to be left alone while I placed flowers on Susan’s headstone.  I really didn’t want people hanging on me and crying.

After everything was over and I was headed home I felt the need for a little time on the water.  I would only have about an hour but I hoped it would be enough.  I suited up and headed upstream only to find a boat in the first area I wanted to fish.  I walked a little further upstream and waded in.  About 4 casts later someone else walked in and set up just downstream of me.  After making a lot of noise walking out of the water I headed downstream to my last spot to try.  I waded in again and started casting a Green Goblin A.I. streamer.  After about half an hour and no takes I gave up.  As I was walking out I saw what I thought was a dead steelhead lying on the bank.  One of those “carefully released” fished that didn’t make it.  Turns out I was wrong, it was the ever elusive Huron King.  Sure would be nice to hook into one of those when I’m out here.

So that was it for my fishing this weekend.  I planned on fishing a couple of times but rain Friday night and most of Saturday blew out the river.  At least this rain should bring in some fresh fish by next weekend.  As for me I’ll be on to the next river of my quest, which got a huge bump in the flows just in time for me to fish them next Friday and Saturday.

 

Next up, Steelhead Alley.

 





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.

 

 

 





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





Huron Small Jaws

25 04 2017

About the time those other fish start to show up I begin to look to other fishing opportunities until they leave.  Instead of heading north to go chase Steelhead I decided to make a local trip for some Huron River smallmouth.  A few years ago this wouldn’t have been an option but the DNR recently changed the rules to where bass are now open year round for catch and release.  This presented an opportunity for the gang at Schultz’s Outfitter’s to start guiding trips in April instead of May.  A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.

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

My Chariot for the Day

 

Once we got into the boat we started our drift downstream.  This was my kind of fishing, I stand up front and cast while someone else rows.  I have to hand it to Justin, he kept me in the zone all day and set the boat up so I could make easy casts.  While I was casting he would give me tips on placement and how to get the fly to twitch just right.  Since he knew I was a big fan of the two hand spey game he described the presentation in ways I could easily relate to.  Since the river was flowing high, from all the recent rains, we concentrated our efforts on the “couch” areas.  Places on the river downstream of logs and obstructions that formed slack water areas or pools.  Since it was a bright sunny day  we tried to focus on shady areas as best we could.  This got to be harder and harder to do as the sun rose.  By noon I was praying for any type of a cloud.  It wasn’t gonna happen today.  As the morning progressed I was able to move a few fish and I did catch one smaller bass on a white Game Changer.  Not exactly what I was hoping for but it is to be expected on a bright day like this and early in the season.  The bigger fish are on full alert and after being in the river for over 10+ years they are well educated.

We kept at it though and eventually  we found an area that had a few willing fish.  In about a 100 yard stretch I was able to catch two and had two long distance releases.  I moved a couple as well.  It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer.  This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size.  I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will.  Today just wasn’t going to be that day.  It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge.  If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.

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

 

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





It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

8 04 2017

Everybody Sing…..

Today was the start of my yearly smack down on the local walleye population.  The water temps were slowly creeping up to the magic number (45 degrees) and it was time to have at them.  Only problem was a torrential downpour earlier this week rose the water levels and dirtied up the water.  The MWC was in town and after the first day weigh in first place was 11 pounds and that was only one fish.  On top of that my friend and old mentor Sparky called me to say that the water was to dirty and I shouldn’t bother.  Normally I listen to everything he says, this time I was glad I didn’t.

I waited until later in the day to give the river a chance to warm up some and clear up.  Dirty water warms up faster and with the all day sun I figured it would help.  Don’t really know if it cleared up any from the morning but I didn’t care.  I arrived at a half empty lot (odd for this time of the year) and launched around 5:30 pm.  I saw my friends, Dave and Larry, so I drove over to see how they were doing.  They didn’t have anything yet so after a quick game of banana keep away I set lines.  Since the water was so dirty I decided to run Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues.  These are a plastic body bait with bb’s in them, thus making them rattle.  When conditions are like this I need every advantage I can get.

It didn’t take long and after about 15 minutes the first one of the year was in the cooler.  It was shortly followed up by number two.  Things were looking good, I got myself straightened around and about 15 minutes later number 3 was on and in the boat.  As I was setting my lines back down number 4 hit.  It was starting to look like I was going to be done in about 45 minutes but the fish had other plans.  During this time I made a quick call to Larry to let them know the where’s and what on.  They had a couple and Dave had just lost one.  About half an hour later number 5 hit and I was done.  Can’t complain about that, especially since the south wind was kicking my ass.  I swung by Dave and Larry again to check in, they were up to 4.  I asked if they wanted to give me the banana back but they declined.

So that’s it for this trip.  5 for 5, no lost lures, no hang ups, no injuries, boat ran great and I am well on my way to filling up the new SD card on my GPS with waypoints.  Now all I need is for the level to drop on The Huron and maybe I can finally catch a steelhead.