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.

 

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Come On Fall

7 09 2017

Yesterday was one of those days at work you would like to just soon forget.  It’s not that it was a really bad day but one part of it was rather annoying.  I really hate when I am trying to complete an assignment and I have people behind me telling what to do, where to put the numbers, how to write the email, what to put in the subject line, how to format the spreadsheet.  I have no patience for back seat drivers or know it all co-workers who won’t shut up and let me do my job.  Because of all that I decided to go walleye fishing.  I figured it would be a good night weather wise and I was right.  The water was clear, very few weeds and even fewer boats.  Only problem was a lack of walleye.  I ended up with 5 for the night but I could only keep 3 of them.  I’ve said before that August and September can be transition months but this has me worried.

The first thing is a lack of baitfish.  Normally I see lots of Emerald Shiners in the Marina as I am launching.  Not this year.  I haven’t see a one.  I haven’t seen any Gizzard Shad jumping in the Edison discharge either.  It’s still a little early for them but I usually see a few by now.  I haven’t caught any young of the year smallmouth either.  As a matter of fact I haven’t caught any.  The only other fish I caught last night was another big channel cat.

The other thing is the Algal Bloom in Lake Erie.  It was bad this year and I have noticed that when the bloom is bad in Erie the Fall walleye fishing suffers in the river.  I don’t know if it is just a coincidence or if it acts as some kind of a barrier to keep the fish from moving in.  I guess I’ll find out later in October once the water temps get  back down to the 50 degree range.  Right now the surface temp is at 65 degrees so we have a ways to go yet.  I’m not about to push the panic button, there is still time.

All the fish came on a #7 Hot Steel Rapala.  I tried other sizes and colors but that was the only one producing.  I also broke the lip on my last #9 Original.  I’ll have to go raid Walmart or something soon.  I’m beginning to wish I never had all those originals I bought at garage sales painted.

No pics this time.  Who really wants to see what a 15 inch walleye looks like?

 





What a Mess!!!

6 08 2017

After the disaster that was my trout fishing trip last weekend I felt I needed a trip back to normalcy.  Normally a wire pulling trip on the lower river is a slam dunk but not this night.  With overcast clouds and a mostly full moon already up I headed for the ramp around 8:30 pm Saturday night (8/5).  Little did I know that there was a jazz festival going on at Elizabeth Park and traffic was backed up everywhere.  What was normally a 10 minute ride turned to over half an hour.  Once I made it to the launch I sent a quick text to Dave to let him now to come in from a different direction.  He had contacted me earlier in the day and told me he was headed out tonight with his son Braden.  Our mutual friend Larry was up north so of course we decided to blow his phone up with texts and pictures.  Shortly after 9 I started the onslaught.

The first phone blow up pic

For the next 30 minutes fishing was going well and I expected it to be a quick night.  Everything went to hell in a hurry after number 4 hit the cooler.  Dave had forgotten his extra spools and was short a few leaders.  A quick message later and I was on my way to the rescue.  I gave him my last extra spool of leaders and of course Murphy’s Law kicked in.  As I was bringing in a dink a cat hit my other line and tangled up my 40 and 20 foot leads.  After I made up some new leaders I got back to dink fishing.  For almost an hour that was all I caught.  Dink after dink after dink after dink after dink after dink…..It was getting ridiculous.  All I needed was one more legal fish and everything was coming up short by about 1 inch.  Like I said earlier this year, next summer should be phenomenal but it wasn’t doing me a whole lot of good now.  During this time my 40 and 20 foot leads got tangled up a second time on another cat.  I made up two more and went back to dink fishing.

Around 10:30 pm I was bringing in my 10th or 12th dink of the night when another cat hit my 40 foot lead.  He managed to tangle up everything and somehow I lost one of my lures as well.  After that I said screw it and went in.  I didn’t fell like making up any more leaders.  Besides, I was going fly fishing in the morning and I needed some sleep.

 

Sunday Morning (8/6) found me back at my Carp/Bass/Bluegill/Perch/Bowfin spot.  My heart sank when I arrived amd I saw two boat trailers in the lot.  I thought for sure they were carp shooters but it turns out they were duck hunters scouting for the 9/1 early teal/goose season.  I got set up and walked out to my usual spot and to my dismay the water was very dirty.  Trying to spot anything was difficult and as expected I spooked my fair share of fish.  I did manage to catch a few gills but no carp or bass.  It was still overcast and cool so at least I didn’t sweat to death.  Hopefully I can get back out before duck season starts.





A Fishy Weekend.

9 07 2017

Sometimes I feel like these posts are getting a little redundant.  Go out, catch five, come in.  Trying to jazz it  up a little has become more of a challenge than the actual fishing.  Anywho, I went out several times this weekend, had to, there was a full moon and I’m not about to pass that  up.

I started off the weekend heading down to the Trenton Channel after the storms passed through.  I arrived at the ramp around 9:30 pm and started to get set up.  The Wayne County Deputies must have thought I was crazy based on the looks they were giving me.  I don’t know what they were worried about.  The storm cell had split and was heading north and south of our location.  A few minutes alter I was back in my usual spot, lines down and starting my run.  Around 10:00pm I caught my first one of the night as I was taking in the light show.  I had lightning to the north and south of me and fireworks to the west. The only light I wanted to see was from the full moon in the east but the cloud cover was preventing that.  For the next hour I trolled around and caught absolutely nothing.  During times like this I tend to start questioning everything.  I was questioning whether or not the well ran dry, if the fish had moved, was the front causing lockjaw, did I have the wrong lure?  The gerbils were in overdrive in my head as I tried to sort out what I needed to change to start catching fish.  Around 11:00 pm I found out that I wouldn’t  have to change anything.  All at once the front blew through, the wind changed direction from South to North and the clouds broke and out came the full moon.

GAME ON!!

For the next 20 minutes it was organized chaos.  Landed 4, lost 3, threw back 4, back-to-back doubles, tangled leaders, weeds and a few sheepshead and rock bass thrown in for good measure.  I was bringing in what would have been number 5 when I hit a weed patch and my motor bogged down.  Once that happened the line went slack and the fish was gone.  After I got that all straightened out I was back at it.  After 5 minutes I hadn’t caught  anything so I pulled my lines and sure enough, my kicker and 20 foot lead were tangled.  Once I got them straightened out and back to fishing it didn’t take long and number 5 was in the cooler.

Tonight was a prime example of why there are other things to consider, when the fish aren’t biting, besides color.  Several different variables changed all at once and any one of them could have been the reason why the fish turned on.  The wind had shifted 180 degrees.  The front that caused the thunderstorms had blown through.  The clouds cleared out and the full moon was able to shine clearly.  The only two variables that did not change was my location and the lures I was using.  Something to remember the next time the fish aren’t cooperating.

 

Saturday night had me back in the same area, again.  This time I was a little earlier.  I wanted to run some spoons and it would turn out to be a waste of time.  The only fish they produced were blankity blanks, a 3 inch smallie and a few rockies.  Once the sun set and the moon came out I got rid of the spoons and replaced them with Rapalas.  Fishing was slow at first but I managed to pick up a couple in between clearing my lines from weeds.  Around 11 pm I decided to switch things up a bit.  I thought with that with the clear sky and full moon the fish would need something bigger and dark to contrast against the light.  I put on a F11 Perch and that made all the difference.  By 11:30 I caught my fifth and was ready to go home.  My friends Dave and Larry were out so I stopped by to see how they were doing.  They had 8 and they had also lost a couple of bigger fish.  We talked for a few more minutes and then I was headed home (once I did I got a text from them that they caught 10).  I was glad to hear Larry caught his limit.  After we went out he checked all his leaders a few days later.  Turns out that all of them were a 1 to 3 feet short.  Something to think about when the fish aren’t biting.

 

Sunday morning found me trying something different, fly fishing for carp.  I had tried to find places this year where I could try this but I was having a hard time finding any.  Today was a little different.  I had taken a walk through this area before but never saw anything.  This morning the winds were calm, the water was clear and the carp were everywhere.  The first place I stopped at was a culvert feeding a lagoon from Lake Erie.  The carp were in their just waiting for something to flow in to eat.  The water was very dirty from all the activity, especially after I spooked them.  Lesson number one, don’t spook the fish.  I waited to let them calm down and I was able to catch one, and that was a fluke.  I couldn’t see him take the fly, I just happened to lift up on the rod as he swam by and felt the pressure because he picked up the fly.  He really stirred things up so once I got him in, took a pic and then released him I moved on to other areas.

About a quarter mile down the road I spotted a few carp swimming about.  I worked my way into casting range and managed to spook the fish once again.  I now understand what everyone was telling me about when it pays to be stealthy.  I sat down once again and just waited for a bit.  Eventually some more fish swam into range and I was able to hook another one, foul hooked that is.  Don’t know how I did it but I managed to hook him right across that dorsal fin.  That made no sense since these flies are designed to ride hook up.  I could understand hooking a pectoral fin but not the dorsal.  Of course fighting this fish spooked everything in the area so I moved down the road again.   I found some more fish but this time I waited until they swam out of the area before I worked my way down to the bank.  I set up and waited and after a few minutes I saw two carp swimming my way and feeding.  I cast the fly a few feet out in front of them and waited.  Once the lead fish got within a few inches I gave the fly a twitch and that was all it took.  The carp turned and sucked up the fly like it was going to be his last meal.  A quick hook set and off he went.  Now I see why this type of fishing has become so addictive.  Seeing the take and the bulldog fight they put up is a lot of fun.  I can only imagine what hooking into a 15 or 20 pounder in open water would be like.

After that one I packed up and headed home.  I had one last thing to do for the weekend, smoke the walleye I caught back on July 3rd.  Turned out pretty good.  A little to salty this time but I’ll adjust that for next time.

 

So that was my weekend.  More walleye, my first carp on the fly and some smoked fish for the week.  Pretty good weekend.

Oh, and I went and saw Spider Man – Homecoming.

Life is Good.

 

 





Class Is In Session

22 04 2017

Last Friday, when I came in from fishing I met a DWF club member, Steve Sheldon, as I was pulling in my boat.  Apparently he had been trying to track me down to ask me about handlining.  He had been going out but was only catching one or two fish here and there.  He figured he was doing something wrong and he was hoping I could help him out.  He asked if I could take him out some night and Friday (4/21) was going to be that night.

I had contacted Steve earlier in the week and told him to be at my house around 8.  I also told him to bring his stuff so I could check to make sure his shank/leader set up was correct.  I have found that when someone isn’t catching fish it is either that or his boat handling skills.  At least I would be able to eliminate one variable.  After a quick check of his stuff we were packed up and headed out.  The weather tonight was damn near perfect.  Once again a slight NW breeze, overcast skies and not to cold.  The water was still clear and my only concern wasn’t those other fish,  it was undersized fish.  I had been hearing reports that the river was now full of 13 inch walleye.

The reports were right.

We started around 8:30 pm and in the first 10 minutes I landed 5 fish and all of them undersized.  I eventually caught a couple of keepers but during this time Steve hadn’t caught anything.  I was just about ready to switch seats with  him so he could fish my set up when he got snagged, BAD.  After making a few donuts around the weight the shank busted and he lost the whole set up.  I rigged him back up with one of my shanks and a 40 foot and 6 foot leader.  After that it didn’t take long and Steve was flipping fish in the boat.  For the next 45 minutes it was game on.  We still caught a few undersized ones, and of course those other fish, but we were catching plenty of legal ones as well.  By 10:00 pm we were all done and putting gear away.  Steve was amazed how one small change, albeit an important one, could make all the difference in the world.  He went from spending hours and maybe catching two fish to catching a limit in just under 45 minutes.  Needless to say he was happy.  We put everything away and headed towards the dock.  Other than the snag, which turned out to be a good thing, it was a near perfect night.  When we got back to the house we chatted some more about strategies for different conditions and what to watch for concerning boat control.  I gave Steve one of my shanks and a weight for him to copy.  He probably spent part of today making new shanks and leaders.  Hopefully he will be able to get out again soon.

As I had mentioned earlier the water was still clear and no debris.  Most of our fish came on #11 blue and silver Rapala and a #11 Downriver Tackle Custom Rainbow Trout, which has a blue back, pink sides and a white belly.  We tossed back just as many as we kept and we only caught a handful of those other fish.  Most of them being big females.  Very few boats out for a Friday night which was surprising.  It’s go time and I really couldn’t understand why so few people were out.  Their loss.

The smaller fish is a great sign.  Successful hatches the last few years is starting to show and it looks like we will have plenty of walleye for years to come.  Based on what I have been catching it should be a good mix of fish from 15 to 24 inches for some time.  We’re going to need it because I’m afraid the hatch this year is going to be a bust.  Any eggs laid before those two big storm events we had probably covered all the eggs with silt which means they will have suffocated.  I certainly hope I’m wrong.





7/28/16 TC Walleye

31 07 2016

This one is going to be short, sweet and to the point. About the only difference from this report and the previous two is that the weeds were a pain and we were losing fish on a regular basis.  I figured the conditions wouldn’t have changed much from the previous weekend to this past Thursday (7/28) so I told John to meet me at my house around 8:00 pm and we would give it a shot.  Water was still clear but this time the wind was out of the south, though it wasn’t much of a wind.  It didn’t take long and I had our first fish in the boat which I quickly followed up with another.  Things were looking good, especially since John had just boated one as well.  From then on though it was a different story.  After that third fish the rest of the evening was short fish and fish lost at the side of the boat.  Both John and I continually lost fish right at the side of the boat.  At one point I had a double and I couldn’t land either fish.  I don’t think I have ever done that before.  To make matters worse the weeds showed up in grand fashion shortly after 10 pm.  The Sam Laud was off loading coal at the Edison Plant and left around 9.  As he headed up stream he must have cut a lot of weeds upstream.  No big mats but tons of single strands were coming down.  After 11 we finally gave up and headed in.  We ended up with 6, lost 6 and threw back just as many.  Definitely not how I expected the night to go.  The weeds I could understand but losing so many fish annoyed the snot out of me.  At least there are still a lot of fish in the system just waiting for better conditions.  Hopefully I will be able to get out soon to find out.

Like I said the water is still very clear and it started off weed free. I have no idea what the water temp was since I never did turn on my Depth Finder.  Natural colors were catching the fish tonight.  Original and Bleeding Olive Rapala’s in size 7 and 9.

An interesting little tidbit occurred while we were back at the ramp putting stuff away. A coyote started howling and yapping from the park.  He couldn’t have been more than 100 yards away.  Wish I could have recorded that or got a picture of him.

 

7-28-16 walleye





7/22/16 Muggy Evening Walleye

23 07 2016

90 degrees, 100% humidity, no breeze, seemed like a perfect evening for walleye fishing to me.

It had been well over a month since I was out walleye fishing and I was determined to go.  Work had been kicking my ass for the last month and I was in dire need of a break.  I really didn’t care how humid it would be, I needed some fresh fish.  After a quick inspection of the boat, Susan and I were on our way and by 9:15 pm I was lines down.  From there the next two hours went pretty much like this.

Cat, short, short, short, short, short, wipe sweat, swat gnats, move, snag, snag break leader, move, legal, legal, smallmouth, HOLY CRAP, silver bass, barely legal, wipe sweat, short, swat more gnats, smallmouth, short, BOOYAH……time to go home.

By 11:00 pm I had 5 in the box and we were headed back to the dock.  All of the fish, except for HOLY CRAP (she came on a #11 Bleeding Copper Flash Rapala), came on a #9 Bleeding Olive Rapala.  At first I was catching them all on my kicker but after the 7th fish I put another one on my 20 foot lead and caught the last ones on it.  They were really focusing on a lure with a natural finish.  Not surprising seeing as how the water is so clear.  It made for some interesting visuals.  Susan would shine a spotlight in the water as I was bringing in fish.  It was really cool to see them come out of the darkness and into the light.  Seeing a 27 incher with mouth open, coming into the light, has a tendency to make one say HOLY CRAP!

Weeds were a non issue tonight, with 2 days of west winds they better not have been.  Other than the humidity it was a pretty nice evening.  The NW breeze that was originally forecasted would have helped but at least it wasn’t a south wind.  No other fishermen out tonight either.  I fear the summer handliners are becoming very rare.

Still haven’t paid to launch yet this year.

 

Cooler Walleye 7-22-16 Walleye