NW Michigan Steel

6 12 2017

Friday, Dec. 1st.  The start of a 3 day smack down on the local Steelhead population.  At least I was hoping it would be.  I honestly had no idea how this trip was going to turn out.  I had some people telling me that the rivers were full of fish, big fish.  Other were telling me the exact opposite.  I didn’t know who to believe.  All I knew was that I was out of work early and headed north west to Wellston, MI and D-Loop Outfitters. I singed up for this trip back in June with Schultz’s Outfiiters who would be the host for the event.  Normally I take my time during these drives but dinner was at 7:30 pm and Google Maps had me arriving at 7:38 pm.  Just as I pulled into the driveway Schultzy was calling my cell to ask where i was at.  I told him I was in  my car staring at him talking to me.  After introductions we sat down for a dinner of lamb chops.

I expected to lose weight after 3 days of fishing but based on this first meal I had a feeling I was going to gain weight (turns out it would only be a pound).  After dinner we were paired up and assigned a guide for the next morning.  So after talking with a few people and drinking a very bitter craft beer I was off to my cabin and bed.

Day 1, The Pere Marquette.

After Breakfast Robert (my fishing partner for today) and I were headed south to the PM to meet up with our guide, Brad Turner, from the Tommy Lynch Fish Whisperer Guide Service.  After a brief discussion of what the plan was going to be for the day we piled into Brad’s truck and headed to the launch site.  Brad launched his drift boat and after about a 15 minute row downstream we were stopped at our first run for the day.  We were using indicator rigs with a couple of beads pegged a couple of inches above each hook.  The rationale here is that the steelhead will grab the bead thinking it is a salmon egg.  Once I set the hook it should catch him in the corner of the mouth.  This was going to be the plan of attack for the whole day.  Fish a run, get back in the boat, row to the next run, repeat.  At our first stop Brad got me all set up and I went to work.  It didn’t take long and I had the first fish of the day on.  It made a few big jumps in the beginning and I could tell it was a decent sized and nicely colored male.  After his third jump he hauled ass upstream and I just let him run.  I was free and clear of any log jams that way and it would be the perfect area to land him.  He must have realized that himself because he turned around and ran back to where I hooked him.  Once he was in there he got tangled up in some old fishing line that was wrapped around a log.  What started off as a very promising beginning ended with disappointment.  After a few minutes I was rigged back up and at again.  Just as Brad was telling us it was time to move on I hooked into another fish.  The fight didn’t last long.

My smallest steelhead to date. I need to reverse this trend.

These two fish would turn out to be the only ones we would hook all day.  Most of the day was spent trying to dodge other boats and stay ahead of them so we could fish clean holes that hadn’t been disturbed.  I expected it to be busy on a Saturday but this was nuts.  It wasn’t until about 2 o’clock that we were finally able to get ahead of the pack.  Not that it made any difference but at least it kept our hopes up.  It’s hard to remain positive about fishing a run or hole if you know someone else has already been through it.  Fishing was tough enough already, playing second or third fiddle to everyone else just made it worse.  We kept at it until just before sundown which was about the time we arrived at our take out.  It was a long day but still a good one.  I would have liked to have landed that first fish but I wasn’t going to keep it anyways so it wasn’t too heartbreaking.  If you believe that I got a bridge over some swamp land to sell you.

Hopefully Day 2 will be better.

Day 2, The Big Manistee

Day 2 started off at a bone chilling 23 degrees.  This wasn’t going to last long but for the first few hours I was going to appreciate the heated cabin on the boat we would be using.  Our guide picked Robert and I up at our cabin and by 8:00 am we were at the launch and ready to go.

A Beautiful but cold morning on the Big Man

The name of the game today was floating beads under a float using a center pin rig.  I had never done this before but I was curious to find out how it worked.  Center pins are becoming more and more popular with the Steelheaders and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  After some quick instructions from our guide we were drifting our beads to the fish.  Basically what we would do is anchor the boat upstream of the run or hole and just let the float drift downstream.  This is where the reel comes in.  There is no drag or “clicker” on the reel, it just free spools as the float drifts down.  These reels are so smooth that it just spins without causing any drag on the float, thus allowing for as natural a drift as possible.  No mending lines.  No repeated casts.  Just let it drift.  The draw back is that when you have to set the hook you have to remember to clamp down on the reel with your hand, otherwise you will create a bird’s nest that no self-respecting Robin would want to deal with.  Fortunately for me I never did that, can’t say the same for Robert.  After about half an hour I was getting the hang of it and getting into a groove, interrupted only by short breaks to clear the ice out of the guides every 15 minutes or so.  Not much happened at the first hole, it was more of a practice stop anyways.  The next stop was different.  By now the sun was up above the tree line and the temps got above freezing.  No more clearing guides.  Once we started drifting our floats they were getting bumped and played with by the fish.  The float would drop, we would set the hook and nothing would happen.  This went on for about 15 minutes but the guide told us to keep at it.  Sometimes the fish feel like playing or it is a skipper screwing around.  Turns out he was right on both counts.  On one of the numerous bumps Robert set the hook and this time the fish was on.  I reeled in and got out of the way to give them plenty of room.  This would turn out to be a very cooperative fish.  Instead of running towards the wood he stayed out in the middle of the river.  After about 10 minutes of this he was in the net.  A quick pic and he was on his way.

Rob’s 75th Birthday Fish

Now it was my turn.  While Robert was getting set back up again I went back to fishing.  On my next drift my float dropped and I buried the hook into what appeared to be a good fish.  I’ll never know for sure, 10 seconds later he was off.

FRAK!!!

I reeled in, reset everything and got back at it.  A couple drifts later my float dropped and once again I clamped down on the reel and set the hook.  I hooked the fish but the weight wasn’t there like the previous one.  Once again the Skipper curse reared its minuscule head.  A minute later he was in the net and quickly released to fight another day.  I’m going to start telling everyone that I am dealing in Steelhead Futures, catch them small and let them grow later.

My Big Manistee Brute

Once we were done drifting floats through this hole our Guide broke out the Spey rods so we could swing flies through this big run.  This is what I wanted to do all weekend so I was tickled pink to finally get the chance.  He set me up on the back of the boat and just let me cast away.  Meanwhile, he set Robert up at the front of the boat and gave him a refresher course on casting.  I had never been on a boat where you had two spey casters fishing at the same time.  I will never do it again.  I had the whole back of the boat all to myself so I  really didn’t have to worry about anything.  The guy up front had to time his casts to make sure he didn’t hit my line or me.  While Robert never did hit my line (I was timing my casts to help prevent that) he did manage to hit just about everything else, including me.  After the third time he bounced his fly off of my hat the guide finally said that’s enough and we went back to the center pins.  I was lucky that I never got a hooked buried in me and I preferred to keep it that way, even if it meant fishing a method I really didn’t want to.

We continued on for the rest of the day with the only excitement being Rob hooking into another fish for a few brief seconds.  The clear blue skies created a lot of glare and trying to watch a float through that was proving to be difficult and giving me a headache.  Around 3:30 pm we pulled lines and headed back to the dock.  We didn’t want to be late for dinner, steak and lobster tonight.

Day 3, The Little Manistee

This was the forecast for day 3.  I was supposed to spend it on the Big Manistee again with Robert but the guide couldn’t make it so another guide was assigned to us.  Personally I think the guide didn’t want to get rained on all day.  Because of this there was some reshuffling of where we would fish.  One of the other guests wanted to hike and wade the Little Manistee and his partner wanted to fish the PM.  That meant that Robert and I would be splitting up to fish one of the alternatives.  He chose to fish the PM and I was happily relegated to  the Little Manistee.  It was already raining so I gathered all my rain gear and piled into the guide’s 4-Runner.  After about a 30 minute drive we arrived at our first stop of the day.  We would be fishing Indicator rigs again but John (Our Guide) did bring along a switch rod for swinging flies, just in case.

The Little Manistee and all its log jam, fish losing potential.

We set up on the first run and started drifting egg flies through the run.  This part of the river wasn’t very wide and we were literally casting just 10 feet in front of us.  John, the other fisherman, was downstream of me by about 20 yards.  Our guide was standing next to me answering my questions when I happened to see John set the hook on a fish.  He never said a word so I pointed downstream and said “fish”.  About that time the Fish made one of 3 straight up in the air jumps, headed downstream, turned and swam back upstream to the hole and then reversed course and hauled ass downstream.  John and John gave chase while I just continued to fish my spot.  I kept an eye on them in case they needed help but there really wasn’t much I could do.  They had their hands full in the skinny water and they really didn’t need me to get in the way.  About 15 minutes later they were both walking upstream, John 2 was all smiles so I assumed they landed the fish.  John 1 later informed me that they did not.  He told me that it was about a 10 pound male and it got hung up on a tree stump and broke the line just as he was about to net it.  It was the first big Steelhead that John 2 had ever hooked into and he was all wound up now.  Thus the reason for him being all smiles.  We fished the spot for a few more minutes but nothing happened so we moved on to the next run.

At spot number two John 2 and I were a little more separated so our guide had to split his time a little more carefully.  He got John 2 set up first and then we walked a little further upstream.  He told me where to fish and I made a few casts.  Once he was comfortable with my presentation he headed back down to check on John 2.  Just as he rounded the bend I hooked a fish.  He started to run back but I told him to take it easy.  This one wasn’t going anywhere.  Skippers usually don’t.

It was still a fish and as it would turn out I would be the only one from the group that would catch a Steelhead each day.  I also got to claim the prize for the smallest fish each day.  It takes real skill to be able to do that.  We fished this area of the river for the next hour or so but to no avail.  I even got to swing a streamer through a run that held both Coho and Steelhead but they didn’t want to play.  The fish were there, we could see them in the runs (some well over 10 pounds) but they didn’t want to cooperate so we headed back to the car and lunch.  By now the rain had stopped which made for a pleasant dining experience of a turkey sandwich and vegetable soup.  Once that was done we packed up and headed out.

Our next stop was a section of the river about 3 miles from where we first started.  This stretch was full of spawning Cohos.  There was a great run of these fish this year and many were still holding over.  John 1 mentioned to me that some of them will be here until January and fresh ones will probably move in with the latest rain.  I was surprised to see so many and I was hoping there would be plenty of Steelhead feeding on the eggs.  John 2 was set up on the first hole and he immediately hooked in to a Coho.  It didn’t last long and he got hung up.  John 1 decided to just turn me loose.  He gave me a box of egg patterns and some leader material.  He asked if I was ok with that and I assured him I was fine and headed upstream.  He told me he would check on me in about 30 minutes or so.  I started methodically working the runs, hoping to find one cooperative Steelhead while all the Cohos swam around me.  As I was making my last drift on one run I saw a nasty looking Coho swimming my way and into the run.  Of course she grabbed the egg.  I didn’t set the hook, hoping she would spit it but she didn’t.  She turned and buried the hook in her jaw.  I managed to work her out of the hole and into the skinny water downstream.  Once I did that I yelled out to John 1 and he came up to assist.  He saw the fish and the look of disgust on my face so he just grabbed the line and gave it a good yank to pull it free.  We joked about it for a second and said we should move up to the next run.  John 2 had hooked into about 4 or 5 Coho by now so I asked John 1 if he really thought he would be able to get him to leave.  He gave me that “yeah your right” look so I just went off on my own again.

At the next run I managed to hook a few more Coho but I really didn’t try to land them.  They were looking quite nasty and I didn’t want to grab them.  Eventually I moved on to another hole and started fishing again.  About this time John 1 had made his way back up to check on me and it was then that I hooked another Steelhead.  Only problem was that it was another smolt no more than 8 or 9 inches long.  I got her close and removed the hook without ever taking her out of the water.  A few minutes later I followed that up with a couple of small Brown Trout.  John 1 told me there was a good wild population here but that the ones he catches are usually in the 15 to 20 inch range.  Leave it to me to break the trend.

Small but very colorful

John 1 told me we only had about another 20 minutes so I started to work my way back down.  I made a few more casts but once I broke my line on a sunken log I just packed everything up for the day.  John 2 was still playing with the Cohos so I just sat back and watched.  If these had been fresh fish I would have joined in but I wasn’t feeling the need to catch zombies.  It had been a long 3 days and I was starting to feel it.  A hot shower and sleeping in my own bed was sounding really good right about now.  I just had to get through the 3 1/2 hour drive first.  Still, I caught fish, there wasn’t any size to them but it was better than nothing.  I had the chance to land some bigger ones but it really didn’t happen.  I ate well and didn’t get hurt so I really can’t complain.  I’m sure I’ll do it again next year.  I just may fit in a few trips beforehand on my own.

 

Next up, back to The Alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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…..

 

 





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.