The Quest Begins

9 11 2017

Last Saturday (11/4) began my yearly 7 month quest to chase down my unicorn, my white whale, the cause of many sleepless nights and untold fortunes spent on equipment.  Steelhead.

Too Dramatic??

I was fishing The Muskegon River this weekend, east of Newaygo and west of The Croton Dam.  It’s best to fish this river by boat but I didn’t bother hiring a guide this time and I didn’t bring mine since it really isn’t set up to fish this river.  I was hoping I could find one cooperative fish so I headed to an area where I had seen people fishing from shore in the past.  When I arrived at the parking area I was the only one there.  At first I thought it was great that I was the only one but then I wondered why.  Was the river blown out?  Was it too dirty?  Was it to warm?  Only one way to find out so I suited up and started walking.  Once I got to the river I surveyed the area, spotted a few seams and waded in upstream of them to begin  my cast.  I wasn’t 5 minutes into my run when a guide boat showed up and started fishing just ahead of me.  I expect this since it is a popular river and it was encouraging that a guide, someone who is supposed to know the holding areas, was fishing the same run I was.  Unfortunately, after an hour neither of us hooked into anything.

I repeated this process for the next 4 hours.  Fish the run, get out, warm up the legs, switch flies, walk back upstream, wade in, continue.  Each time I took another crack at it another guide boat would show up and fish near me.  It was encouraging knowing that I must be fishing an area that holds fish.  It was discouraging to see that no one was catching any fish.  The only thing that broke up the monotony was during one of my breaks the local Conservation Officer pulled up.  I was sitting on shore debating what to do next when I saw another boat coming downstream.  I recognized it as a DNR boat so I got up and walked towards the water.  A he pulled up I got out my license, he checked it out while I asked him a few questions about the area.  He told me fishing had been good up until today.  It was slow all up and down the river.  After about 10 minutes he was on his way and I was headed back upstream for one last try.  I wish I could say I hooked one on the last cast during my last drift but it didn’t happen.  Oh well.  I will say that I am really impressed with my Sage Pulse 13-6 Spey rod.  Now that I could cast it on a bigger river I could really push it’s potential.  I won’t be entering any casting competitions but I could easily make 100+ foot casts.

When I got back to the campground I took a walk down to the ramp and fish cleaning station.  I saw plenty of filleted 30+ inch steelhead in the dumpster.  It was an encouraging sign of the run for this year.  I only hope that I can hook into one.  I’m still waiting for that 10+ pound chrome male to smoke my ass.

Next up, The St. Mary’s River.

 

 

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Halloween Steel

3 11 2015

Several months back I booked a steelhead trip with Drew Rosema and Feenstra Guide Service.  At the time, I figured Fall temps would have set in and the run would be in full swing.  As it turns out, I would be early, a few weeks early.  A lack of rain and warm weather had everything starting late by a few weeks.  I couldn’t cancel the trip and I didn’t want to anyways.  This weekend was my 51st birthday and I wanted to go fishing.  I was hoping there would be a few around and fortunately for me we did get some rain the week before.  I would find out later that it was just enough to get the flows back to normal but it was better than nothing.

I met Drew around 7:00 am at a roadside park and from there we drove to the ramp.  We launched his boat and soon we were headed upstream.  He told me that they have had a few fish in but not the numbers they are used to this time of year.  The water temp was in the range he liked but the lack of rain hasn’t brought in very many fish.  The few that are in are staying put in specific holes, mostly behind gravel beds feeding on any drifting salmon eggs deposited by what few zombies were left in the river.  We would fish holes like this throughout the day casting egg sucking leech patterns.  When we would fish a run or hole that wasn’t near a gravel bed I would use a small sculpin pattern.

We set up at one of the aforementioned gravel beds and started fishing.  Today I was using a Scott 13-6 Spey rod with an intermediate line.  I had never cast a rod this long or with this type of line before but after a few pointers from Drew I was laying the fly where it needed to be.  It was still dark where we first started so this stop was more about practice instead of fishing.  Once the sun started to rise and we could see better, we moved on to the next spot.  Drew anchored the boat downstream from a gravel bed that still had a few rather nasty looking salmon on it doing their thing.  I started drifting a small egg sucking leech along a seam that fed into the hole behind the gravel bed.  Just as we were about to finish up and move on, I hooked into a little 10 inch steelhead.  Not exactly what I was looking for but it was a steelhead.  I brought him in quickly and released him none the worse for wear.  We repeated this process a few more times before we stopped at a hole I know all too well.  The same hole I caught my first swung steelhead back in February.  Drew switched out the leech for a small sculpin that he tied on a cotter pin.  I got into position and let it work.  Drew and I were talking about the work the Army Corps of Engineers had done on the shore to prevent erosion while I cast the fly.  As I was making my 5th or 6th drift my fly got bumped and I got dead quiet and serious.  Drew asked if I had just had a hit when the fish came back and smacked it a second time.

Hit, Set, Airborne…….

I didn’t have to answer him.  After the first 3 or 4 jumps the fish took off upstream towards me instead of downstream.  Not that it mattered, with a rod this long I could keep pressure on him while I reeled in line.  He made a few more jumps and a couple of short runs but after about 5 minutes or so he was in the net.  A few quick pictures and he was carefully released to fight another day.  We fished that hole for another 20 minutes but I didn’t get any other takers.  As we were moving on to the next hole it started to rain, and rain, and rain, and rain some more and then, just for good measure, it continued to rain.  All day long as a matter of fact.  This rain was kind of bitter sweet.  I don’t like fishing in a downpour but an all day rain would help bring in more fish.  Not that it was going to do me any good today but I was planning on coming up and fishing again on 11/14 before I go deer hunting.

We tried a few more spots but it was to no avail.  We covered a lot of water but the earlier spots were the only ones that produced any fish.  Around 12:30 we called it a day and headed for the ramp.  I wasn’t going to complain, that’s two trips now and I have caught fish on each of them.  Swinging flies isn’t about numbers.  If that was the case, I would be plugging or drifting spawn.  This method is the most challenging but the strikes are the most exciting.  I’ll keep at it and one of these times I will catch more than one on a trip.  I just wish my Dad could have joined me for one of these trips.

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