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.

 

 

 

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October Review

1 11 2017

Sorry I haven’t posted much but I’ve had a lot going on this month and I really haven’t felt like posting anything.  All the warm weather hasn’t helped any, as far as fishing goes, so I haven’t been out that much.  Haven’t done a whole lot of hunting either.  I just haven’t felt like it.  So, without further adieu, I give you the October Review.

WALLEYE

With all the warm weather I have had zero desire to go walleye fishing.  Water temps were still in the upper 60’s and that meant the Fall run was behind schedule.  I did go out one evening (Oct. 20th) and that turned out to be an exercise in futility.  The weeds were horrendous.  We had received a bunch of rain earlier and that got all the weeds sitting in the marina’s flowing down stream.  Throw in the weeds that were dying off and it just made for a terrible evening.  I fished for about an hour and after I landed my second walleye I just gave up.  Now that the weather has turned and cooler temps are the norm the Fall run should be in full swing now.  I just need to find time to go out.  At least my walleye streak is still intact.  I didn’t get skunked a single trip this year.  As a matter of fact there were only a handful trips where I didn’t catch a limit.  I never did keep count this year but between legal and sub-legal fish I had to have caught well over 250 walleye this year.

2018 should be Phenomenal.

STEELHEAD

Let’s just say that my streak of not landing a Steelhead since Jan. 2nd, 2016 is still intact.  Hopefully that will change starting this weekend.  I am headed up to the Muskegon River to start my full on, take no prisoner, full frontal assault on Steel for every weekend until January.  The next two months I have trips planned to the Muskegon, St. Mary’s, Manistee, PM, AuSable, Huron and Steelhead Alley.  I should bring this streak to an end.

WATERFOWL

I managed to get out for Opening Day of Waterfowl season, in Zone 2, earlier this month.  I was the only one on this public lake and it turned out to be a productive morning.  The only down side was that I shot a mallard and a woodduck that I did not find.  I really miss Sherman at times like this.  He would have found them.  I also shot my first widgeon in Michigan.  I saw him circling out in front of me and I couldn’t make out what it was.  Eventually he came into range where I could identify him and make a clean shot.  The other surprise was a Canada Goose.  Around 9:00 am several flocks left a lake west of me and headed east to the field they were feeding in.  On group flew over me low enough to give me a shot and I took advantage of it.

Nice to know all that steel shot I loaded 20 years ago is still lethal.

HRWC

On October 14th I participated in another River Round up for The Huron River Watershed Council.  I look forward to doing these because it gives me a chance to find out what is going on with the river and I usually meet some interesting people.  This time around my crew was less than enthusiastic.  A group of 4 college kids were assigned to my squad and three of them were pretty much useless.  One did absolutely nothing.  The other two were more concerned about taking selfies than anything else.  One good thing came out of today.  The last collection site was just below the coffer at Huroc Park.  This area has historically been a poor producer for aquatic insect collection.  I had an idea why and I was right.  Much of the bottom is covered in broken concrete.  Using a net was worthless because there was just no place you could use it effectively.  I put the net aside and started picking up chunks of concrete and giving them to the “pickers” to look for samples.  The found plenty of caddis larvae and both mayfly and stonefly nymph’s.  Something I will have to keep in mind if I ever fish that area for steelhead.  I relayed this information back to the planners at the HRWC so they can plan accordingly for future round-ups.

FAMILY

My sister Linda re-married on Saturday, Oct. 21st and in true Linda fashion the reception was costume optional.  I had a lot more fun at this than I thought I would.  Linda made extra molasses cookies for me and gave me a Darth Vader helmet to fill with all the candy I could carry.

Me and my little sister, Lydia Deitz.

SUSAN

October 26th would mark the one year anniversary of Susan’s death.  October turned out to be a very emotional month for me.  The day itself wasn’t that bad but the anticipation leading up to that day was awful.  Lot’s of sleepless nights, happy memories that were now painful (thank you Facebook) and tons of messages from people I hadn’t heard from all year asking how I was doing.  A group of her friends and family got together for a Susan remembrance day at Cedar Point on Sunday, Oct. 22nd.  I picked the day to do this and a week later I realized it would be the one year anniversary that her and I went there for the last time.  The weather was near perfect and we had a great time.  The plan is to make this a yearly event.

The Gang

 

Well that’s it for October.  Not the usual Hunt and Fish every possible day it usually is but an event filled month none the less.  Hopefully November will see the end of my Steelhead streak.

Later…..

 

 





I Believe I Can Fly……..

2 10 2017

Anyone reading this might wonder why I led off with this.  I’ll get to that and trust me, it is appropriate.

Earlier this week my friend and fellow handliner Dave, asked me if I want to head up to the Manistee River for one last crack at the trout before the season closed.  Like I need to be asked?  Friday night found us headed up 127 to his own version of the Holy Waters.  We would be fishing an area that is flies only and the legal minimum length for a Brown Trout was 18 inches.  Not that this mattered since neither of us were planning on keeping anything but an 18 inch Brown is an impressive fish.  There were smaller size restrictions for Rainbows and Brookies but in all the years that Dave has fished here he has never caught either.  In other words it was Browns or nothing.  This was fine with me since I have yet to catch a Brown on a fly.  Caught plenty of the lake run version but never a true river Brown.

After breakfast Saturday morning we drove up to our first spot of the day.  We were the only fishermen there, not surprising since Opening Day of the Archery Deer Season was the next day.  There was lots of Quad traffic on the roads as hunters checked on blinds but for us there wasn’t a sign of anyone on the river.  Once we got our gear in order we made our way down to the river’s edge.  Dave was casting small soft hackles and headed upstream.  As for me I was going big.  I broke out my 6wt, 11-6 Redington Prospector and a 3 inch Olive Sculpin pattern I tied up for this purpose.  I could have scaled down and given myself a better chance of catching any trout but I wanted something to brag about.  The stretch I was fishing had a lot of bends to it so I had to move from one side to the next so that I could swing my fly through the deeper runs and holes. Fortunately for my vertically challenged self, the water levels were down a bit and I could you wade from side to side without much issue.  Trout Unlimited had created a lot of holding habitat in the past and I was concentrating my efforts towards those sunken logs, especially the ones in the shade.  It was chilly morning so the sun felt good but I would have welcomed a little cloud cover.  Nevertheless I went through my usual routine.  Cast, swing, drift, dangle, take two steps, repeat.  Of course while I was doing this I was studying the next run, checking out the scenery, listening to the birds and generally just relaxing.  I’ve had to much unnecessary drama in my life the last week and I really needed to unwind.  It never ceases to amaze me how time on the water can make all my problems just disappear.

How can any self respecting Brown refuse that?

After about an hour of this and no action I was beginning to question my strategy of Go Big or Go Home.  I hadn’t heard from Dave so I had no idea if he was doing any better.  I know there were some decent fish in the area.  When we first started we spooked a 20+ inch fish from under a log near our entry point.  I kept at it though, thinking eventually something would take a swipe at my fly.  During this interlude of me questioning my tactics I noticed two birds hauling ass my way.  I couldn’t tell what they were at first until the trailing bird finally caught the lead bird.  A goshawk had just exploded  a Robin directly in front of me and landed in the tag alders on my right.  I stood there in amazement of what I had just seen and watched the feathers all around me float down to the river.  That was when it happened, my cast was now in the “dangle” mode and an over zealous brown grabbed my sculpin.  Now normally, when I’m swinging streamers, I try to wait until I feel the weight of the fish to set the hook.  That way I know he has turned and once I apply pressure I can usually hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.  This hit was not when I was expecting it so of course I set the hook and let the 11′ – 6″ rod do it’s thing and by that I mean it proceeded to yank that little 7 inch Brown completely out of the water and send him flying upstream and back into the water right next to me.  By then he came unhooked and swam away trying to figure out what the hell just happened to him.  One second he thought he was going to get himself an easy meal and the next he is flying through the air like a bird.   I just stood there for a moment taking it all in and feeling a little ashamed at what I had just done.  I know better than that.

After that the rest of the morning was pretty uneventful.  Dave managed to land a few smaller fish and I managed nothing.  We spent the rest of the day continuing to work our way upstream.  We found one spot that was rather interesting.  When we first got there we could see some fish holding in a pool behind a blow down.  We were trying to figure out how to get to them when we began to question if they were even trout.  Eventually we saw the forked tails and realized they were suckers.  When we turned around to leave I spotted a pair of Adirondack chairs at the edge of the river.  Someone must have brought them down so we took advantage of that person’s hard work and generosity and sat there for a bit to take in the scenery.  After a bit we hit the river or at least Dave did.  I headed downstream but most of the area was too deep for me to wade or to mucky. After about half an hour of trying to find a spot to fish I just gave up and went back to the car.  I grabbed my book and sat in one of the stream side chairs and read while Dave fished.  He managed to hook into a better fish but it got tangled up in some logs (the beavers were really active on this stretch) and lost it.

Dave’s First Manistee Brookie

The suckers

Dave’s Brown

The rest of the day provided very little action.  We made one more stop just before dark.  There were several hatches going on of Ephrons, Blue Wing Olives and something so small I had no idea what it was.  We did see a few fish rise to this but nothing to get to excited about.  I did manage to catch a wood turtle here, I almost stepped on him as I was walking upstream.  He was covered in tan colored leeches, which of course I had nothing resembling that in my fly box.  We fished until dark and then called it a day.  A warm meal and bed sounded pretty good right now.  We planned on trying again in the morning anyways.

He doesn’t look impressed.

Sunday morning found us even farther upstream but on the same river.  The section I was going to work had a long bend in the river, almost 300 yards of sunken logs on the left downstream side and all in the shade.  I figured I had to get something here.  In order to increase my chances I cheated a little.  I tied a 12 inch dropper line onto my sculpin and attached a #12 soft hackle.  If I can’t go big I figured I could at least catch something small.  This time though I vowed to not send anything small flying through the air.  I waded in and started my routine once again.  Unfortunately the only action I had was a small 5 inch brown that grabbed my dropper fly.  As promised I didn’t send him flying, I just merely skipped him along the surface as I lifted my rod.  As I reached down to pick him up he came off and quickly swam for the nearest cover.  I did see a few bigger fish as I worked my way around an island but they wanted nothing to do with what I had to offer, the snobs.  Dave didn’t have much luck either so after we got out of our waders we packed up and headed home.  Not the most successful trip in terms of fish caught but I learned a lot about this section of river, found some new access points and tucked them away in  my memory for future dates.  One of these times I’ll time it right and actually catch a fish worth bragging about.

Not a lot of color for this time of year.

 





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.

 

 

 





Grandpa’s Tackle Box

7 06 2012

The other day I was putting away all my camping stuff away after another trip. While I was making room on the shelves I spotted my grandfather’s old tackle box. I picked it up to move it to another place in the garage but for some reason I decided to poke through it again. I brushed away the cobwebs and dirt and took it inside the house. The old green metal box is mostly rust now and I wondered if the locks would even open. As the lids creaked open I stared inside and thought to myself, what in the world was he thinking?

The box, a little rusty but a lot of personality.

My grandfather was a jack of all trades kind of guy. He worked for Hudson motors, Chris Craft, built landing craft during the war, owned a cab company, a mink farm and eventually a marina in Wyandotte on the Detroit River. It is even rumored that he ran whiskey across the Detroit River during prohibition. The one constant that remained the same throughout his life is that he loved to fish. One of my last memories of him was sitting on his lap as he taught me how to tie a clinch knot. He also told me that when I got older he was going to teach me the right way to catch walleye. I had no idea what he was talking about but I finally figured it out 35 years later. When he finally retired he would fish just about every day of the year. He went so much that my Grandma insisted that one Sunday he wasn’t going fishing and that he should take her for a drive instead. So the next Sunday they got into the car and went for a drive……to go check out a new fishing spot.
His retirement also coincided with the start of the salmon plantings in Lake Michigan. This was new territory for both he and my father. They had fished for Steelhead in Owen Sound and Lake trout in Lake Michigan but catching 25 pound salmon in the Manistee River and lake was new territory for both of them. It was nothing like pulling pencil plugs for walleye. All the salmon lures we have today had yet to materialize so he had to improvise. That meant taking his existing lures and modifying them for salmon. It most cases it wasn’t anything too drastic but it still made me wonder. He really liked using Helin Flatfish lures but the hooks were too small. Simple fix, bigger hooks but I sometimes think he got a little carried away. Then again I’m used to the advanced lines and hooks we have today. Back in 1970 equipment was a little different.

Big fish need bigger hooks, or so he thought.
Paint schemes were new territory for him as well. Most of the lures he had were dull natural paint schemes. He probably had more frog pattern flatfish than anything else. Someone most have told him that pink was the “hot” color at the time because he painted over a few lures. It was crude by today’s standards but it must have worked.

A little pink never hurts
Paint schemes and modifications are one thing but some lures I just had no clue as to why he had them. They just didn’t fit for what he was trying to catch. All the spoons, flashers, cowbells, and dodgers made sense but a couple of them really made me scratch my head. My Grandfather would fish for anything but Bass were never high on his list. Bass are the only fish I could think of that these lures would be used for but why would they be in a tackle box full of salmon and walleye stuff? Then again I am probably just over analyzing and comparing his way of doing things to mine. I probably have 10 times the lures he did and I have them all organized in separate boxes by size and use. Knowing my grandfather he just threw everything into one box and took it everywhere. I still have to wonder why he ever bought these two though.

I still can't figure out what he used these for.
I really enjoyed looking through the old tackle box that day. Why I did it with more scrutiny this time still escapes me but I’m glad I did. It still amazes me how far the technology has come and how much lures have changed in just the last 40 years. I can only hope that my Grandkids will get the same enjoyment going over all my fishing stuff 40 years from now.