Steel Update.

15 11 2015

I know it has been awhile since I posted anything but work has been a royal pain in the ……  Work hasn’t changed any but I do have a little free time to get caught up.

All year long I had been looking forward to November.  Everything I had read about Steelhead fishing in Michigan said that November was the month.  Cooler temps and the usual cold Fall rains bring the fish into the rivers.  Of course, the year I start steelhead fishing, Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate and the Fall run was late.  I found out later that I was lucky to catch the one fish I got in Muskegon a few weeks back.  No matter though, the run may be getting off to a slow start but I was bound and determined to make the best of it.

The weekend of Nov. 7th I was staying home to take care of some chores.  My to-do list was increasing instead of decreasing and I had to get started on reversing that process.  If I planned things right I figured I would get a chance to get out for a quick evening trip.  As luck would have it I was able to make a run to the Huron Saturday night.  I have to admit, living where I am now really does have its advantages.  I am 15 minutes away from arguably the best walleye fishery in the world and 10 minutes away from a river with a fair number of steelhead in it.  The Huron doesn’t get as many as the west side of Michigan but there are enough to be worth the effort.  So with my switch rod in hand I waded out to my usual spot in hopes of hooking into another fish.  As luck would have it I managed to hook a small male on my last cast.  To be fair it was my last cast only because by the time I landed him it was past sunset and I couldn’t see anymore.  Since it was after dark I couldn’t get a decent picture so you will just have to take my word for it.  It took about 5 minutes to land him but it took me forever to revive him and send him on his way.  I don’t know why he was so tired.  He made a few half ass jumps and one short run, nothing to completely wear him out like this.  Eventually he came around and swam off to fight another day.

The following weekend I was just as busy with chores but I would make sure to set aside some me time.  With about an hour of daylight on Saturday I hit my usual spot on the lower Huron River.  It would turn out to be a rather uneventful evening, fishing wise.  No steel but I did catch a rather small and unintentional fish…..the much sought after Rock Bass.

IMG_2488

This is embarrassing.

I was about to release him when I remembered the mink I saw earlier running along the bank.  I looked around for him but he was nowhere to be found.  If he was I would have tossed him an easy meal.  Lucky for the rocky that he wasn’t so I dropped him back in the water.  After that it was starting to get dark so I just headed back to the car.  Tomorrow was another day and I would try again.

Sunday morning greeted me with bright sunshine and no clouds.  Not exactly steelhead weather but I was expecting it.  Last night I got really cold standing in the water so today I was putting on the thermals and the wool.  Of course by 10:00 am I was over heating but it was better than freezing.  I started off further downstream at a different access point.  The water level was a little higher than yesterday and a little dirtier.  I found a spot to wade in and started casting.  There were a couple of other fishermen downstream so I stayed upstream from them.  The water was deeper here so I couldn’t wade out to far, that and the bottom was very mucky and wading was tricky.  After about 30 minutes I gave up and decided to go back to my usual spot.  As I was walking in I spotted a deer staring at me about 20 yards away.  So stood still long enough to let me take a pic.

I wonder if she realizes it's 11/15?

I wonder if she realizes it’s 11/15?

After she scampered off I walked down to me entry point and waded in.  I proceeded to swing an egg sucking leech pattern over and over and over again.  When I’m not catching anything I get tempted to switch flies but, like walleye fishing, presentation is more important than the lure.  That and fishing where the fish are.  I continued to work my way downstream when I finally had a hit.  I didn’t know what it was at first because it never jumped or ran.  Instead it just let me reel it right in.  Once the fish got within about 10 feet of me it finally woke up and took off.  She didn’t run far but for the next 10 minutes she would make short runs and jump about all within 20 feet of me.  Eventually I was able to get ahold of her, take a few pics and send her on her way.  I made a few more casts in the area but it was to no avail so I just packed it in.  By now the sun was high and bright so I figured I would go home and knock off a few more chores on my to do list, while the weather was so agreeable.  I was content, another fish hooked and landed and I still haven’t lost a fish yet.  Of course now that I said this my next hook up will be with a 10 pounder that will absolutely smoke my ass.

I can’t wait!

I love my leeches.

I love my leeches.

 

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An Observation

22 03 2015

Tug is the Drug

I spent the better part of this past weekend helping my friends out at their gun show.  Dean and Barry have been putting on this show a couple times a year for quite some time now.  I usually sit at the front and collect the fees and check the firearms coming in that people are trying to sell.  It can be fun but it can also be a drain.  Sitting there for 7 hours and answering the same question over and over can really wear on you.  Once the show ended at 5 I thought I would go down to the lower Huron river and practice my swing casting some more.  I am heading up to Oscoda next weekend to work on my boat and get a little steelhead time in.  I wasn’t expecting to catch anything, I just needed to practice and de-compress a bit.

I walked around for a bit before I got set up and checked the water levels and to see if anyone was catching anything.  I wanted to try a specific spot so I walked there first.  On my way I saw another fly fisherman in the stream spey casting as well.  I watched for a bit, checking to see how he was handling the faster current.  After a few minutes I continued on and saw the spot I wanted to fish was open so I went back to get rigged up.

I put on my Orvis waders and Simms boots.  Next I rigged up my Ross Reach Rod and Ross Reel.  Now this may look like a shameless plug but I need to mention this so I can make my point.  I pulled one fly out of my box and made my way back downstream.  As I was walking by I was getting peculiar looks from the people fishing.  The same people that paid no attention to me before were now staring at me.

What changed?

I thought for a second and then realized what it was.  I had transformed into the embodiment of something I swore I would never become.  A walking billboard for Orvis and everything that I thought was wrong with fly fishing.  Fishermen that are more concerned with appearance than actually fishing.  I hadn’t changed but now I was on the other end of the stares.  I remember my first time ever steelhead fishing on the lower Huron 30 years ago.  I was the kid with the spinning rod not knowing what he was doing, being judged by the “pro’s” that knew what they were doing.  I remember looking at those guys with contempt as they fished with all their “fancy” gear while all I had was my Ugly Stick.  Now 30 years later it is the other way around.  I’m the “fancy snob” and they were the every day Joe fisherman.  Again, what changed?  I’m still the same person but because I wasn’t fishing the same way everyone else was I was now that walking billboard I swore I would never become.  I blew it off and went about my business.  I waded in and started my casting.  The current was faster than what I have been on so far but I was able to figure it out and actually get some distance with my roll casts.  I also learned a few things about reading the water and getting the drift right.  After about half an hour I was headed back to my car.  Again I got the stares and they were probably thinking, “Oh look, Mister Big Shot with his fancy rod didn’t get anything either”.  Whatever.

Before I left I walked upstream towards the dam to check things out.  There was one guy floating spawn so I asked him if he caught anything.  I got a resounding “NO”.  What the hell?  Do I have a big sign on me that says I’m a jerk, don’t talk to me?  When did it get like this?  When did fishing become so divided.  It’s fishing, a common bond amongst sportsmen and women.  I just don’t get it.  Granted you are going to have undesirable people in every type of outdoor activity but why here?  Fishing was supposed to be a common ground for all people.  We are all after the same thing, to feel that tug and watch that fish run.  It shouldn’t matter how we catch one whether it be by floating spawn, drifting a jig, back trolling a plug or swinging a fly.  It’s fishing, PERIOD.  I don’t know why it is like this and unfortunately I don’t know how to change it.  I know posting the cartoon doesn’t help the situation but I thought it was funny.  It helped to prove my point though.  People out there actually think this way.  People can fish any way they want as long as it is legal.  End of Story.

Off my soapbox now.

Back to the vise, sculpin patterns today.





The Tug is the Drug.

1 03 2015

6 Degrees

Brrrrrrr

Brrrrrrr

Sometimes I really have to question my sanity.  One of the reasons why I don’t like to ice fish is because of the cold and a fear of falling through the ice and getting wet.  So what do I decide to do?  Stand in a boat on an open river where the water temp was 32 degrees and my chance of falling in was even greater.  To top it off I was even paying for it.  To be fair though the guide did give me the option to reschedule.  I thought long and hard about it considering the area hadn’t seen a day above freezing all month.  I was surprised so much of the Muskegon river was even open.  The temp was supposed to get above 20 and I figured that since it had been so cold that the fish hadn’t seen a lot of pressure.  I was right about that but it also meant they were very lethargic and I would have to bounce that fly right off their nose.  Pretty tall task for someone who has yet to even hook into a Steelhead with a fly.

I met my guide Drew Rosema of Feenstra Guide Service at the Pine Street launch west of Croton Dam on the Muskegon River.  He already had the boat in the water and was letting the engine warm up.  I got my gear together and we were on our way downstream.  While we motored down he told me that he and Kevin Feenstra were out the day before and that they had some good opportunities.  Didn’t exactly know what that meant but after talking with him throughout the day I got the feeling they didn’t catch anything.  That wasn’t giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling and today I needed a few warm feelings.

Drew rigged up my rod for me and changed my leader around to allow for a better presentation.  He said the fish were kind of skittish and a lighter 8 pound leader would be better.  I wasn’t about to question him, what did I know?  After the leader was done he tied on a small olive colored darter pattern.  He told me that during the cold winter months a small natural fly works best.  So much for all those big gaudy flashy things I tied up.

Drew took my rod and gave me a quick instruction on the presentation.  Wouldn’t you know it, as he was letting the line feed out he had a hit.  The fish was only on for a second but it was definitely there.  He handed me the rod and told me what to do.  I only hoped the fish was still willing to hit again.  As luck would have it he wasn’t.  As a matter of fact 5 more hours would pass until I even saw a fish.  By now I was getting discouraged and cold.  Drew was trying every spot he knew, he was determined to get me into a fish.  As we were passing under a Bald Eagle Drew saw two steelhead on the bottom.  He told me we would swing back and take a shot at them after one last hole.  We anchored above the hole and I went through my routine once again.  Cast the fly perpendicular to the boat and let it drift back until it was directly behind the boat.  Drew would then lift the anchor and let the boat drift back a few feet and drop anchor so I could make another cast.  This was the same routing we did for 5 hours all afternoon.  It was 5:00 pm and I was thinking more about dinner and then it happened.

WHAM!!!!

That fish hit like a freight train and it caught me completely by surprise.  Instincts took over and I set that hook and let the fish run.  Drew was just as surprised as I was but soon we got our wits about us and the fight was on.  I had never dealt with a fish this large before on a fly rod and reel and I felt like a total rookie.  I’m used to spinning reels and disc drags, this was a little different.  The bend in the rod was going to control how much line was going to be let out when the fish decided to run and he did just that, run.  I stood there and just watched the fly line and then the backing peel off that reel.  Even worse was that we were at the head of a pool that turned into shallow rapids, an area we didn’t want him to go into.  I lifted back on the rod some more and that slowed him down.  As I was reeling I moved forward into the boat so that Drew could net him from the stern.  After a few more short runs near the boat I finally got him into position and into the net.

Mission Accomplished.  We kept him in the net and in the water while Drew got his camera ready.  A few pics later and he was carefully released to fight another day.

1st Steelhead

Drew asked if I wanted to end the day on a happy note and I agreed.  I wanted to land a fish on the swing and I did.  I was very appreciative of the fact that he was willing to stay out longer if I wanted to.  We were supposed to end at 4 and I was already running over.  Great to have a guide who is more concerned about the client catching a fish instead of the time.  We then pulled anchor and got ready for a very cold boat ride upstream.  We had drifted down several miles and it never really did warm up.  I don’t think it ever got above 20 and for most of the day and we were in the shade where it was even colder.  No matter though, I had my fish and I am hooked.  I asked why this method of fishing is so popular when there are more effective ways to catch a steelhead.  Drew told me the Tug is the Drug and now I know why.  Just like handlining that tug is addicting and I am just that……addicted.

If anyone is interested in fishing for Steelhead on the Swing contact the people at Schultz’s Outfitters for the rod and reel.

If you want to hire a guide to fish the Muskegon River I highly recommend the people at Feenstra Guide Service.  Drew was the best and I am already looking at my calendar for a return trip, sometime before walleye fishing starts back up again.  I’ll never give up my roots.





I am now a Swinger….

9 01 2015

 

 

I Shall Fear No Fish.

I Shall Fear No Fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you have gone past the title and got over your initial thought of what kind of a pervert I have turned into the picture should answer any questions you may have had.  Swingers in the Steelhead world are fly fishermen that swing cast or swing flies downstream.  Seems simple enough but it is rather overwhelming.  Skagit lines, Mow tips, t-7, t-11, t-14, perfection knots and the big flashy flies are a little daunting.  I won’t even get into the 11′ – 7″ rod and Ross reel that holds the 3 colors of backing, Shooting Line, Skagit Head and Mow tip.  It made my head spin when I took the steelhead fishing class back in November.  I learned how to cast on one of the I never knew existed steelhead streams in northern Ohio.  Problem was that was back in November and now several months later I have forgotten everything I learned.  Swinging “D”, Reverse “C”, Roll Cast……all seemed very easy back on November 2nd.  Not so much now.  That is what got me out on the Lower Huron this cold Sunday afternoon.  A need to practice before I hit the AuSable and thoroughly embarrass myself.

I need a lot of practice.