Is it Spring yet?

21 01 2020

9:30 am on a Tuesday morning and I’ve pretty much mentally checked out at work.  When I woke up this morning I really wanted to just stay in bed.  It’s not that I hate my job, it’s just that today I wanted to just sleep and do other things.  What exactly I really don’t know.  Last night was Fly Tying night at the Huron River Fishing Association meeting.  I tied the two flies and gave them away to a new member who is just getting started.  I am currently overflowing with flies.  My Carp box is pretty much maxed out.  Even if I fished every day starting in May I couldn’t use them all up.

Same goes for the Steelhead box, or boxes in this case.  My main box I keep in my waterproof sling pack is full.  The three smaller carry boxes I have are full.  The reserve box I have is full.  I could start tying for my Alaska trip but I’ need to wait.  I tied up almost 10 dozen flies for the last trip and I used 12 the whole week.  One of the guides I know told me he is going to start tying in  a couple of weeks and he is going to send me pics of what I should tie.  I probably already have a bunch ready as it is.

Smallmouth box is ready along with the Gill/Trout box.  These boxes are pretty easy to keep topped off since I really don’t fish for these as much.  I could tie up some Mini Game Changers for Smallies but considering how much I fish for them I would probably be better off just buying a few.

I could have sat on the couch and watch TV but I can only take so much of watching guys in New Zealand catching trophy size rainbows in a country I will probably never visit.  Same goes for videos of GT’s crushing flies.

I suppose I’m just getting antsy for the start of a new season.  This winter has been pretty mild with the Great Lakes at only 10 % ice coverage.  If this keeps up it’s gonna be an early walleye run.  This year should be epic with back to back record hatches.  They also increased the creel limit to 6 which was a long time coming.  All the water surrounding the US side of the Detroit River has been at 6 fish for several years.  Didn’t make much sense to keep it at 5.

I most excited for fly fishing this year.  Now that I’ve spent so much time learning about the Huron I’m amped up to go after the carp and smallmouth.  Once I figured out the carp thing and started paying more attention I began to spot a lot more fish then when I would just take casual walks along the shoreline.  Recent rains flooded out one area right up to the parking lot.  I couldn’t help but think about how the carp would have been right up to the edge if this was May and not January.

As I type this there is a squirrel eating the buds off the tree outside my office window.  He is probably thinking the same thing I am, when is Spring going to get here?

I hear ya bud, I hear ya.

 

 

 





2019 Review

30 12 2019

Fishing for 2019 ended the same way it started, fishing for Steelhead with no success.  It’s a pattern I was hoping to reverse this year but unfortunately conditions and poor timing prevented it from happening.  I really can’t complain though.  I ticked off a few times from my fishing “to-do” list and explored a few new areas.  One of them being The Clinton River which I fished for the first time this past Saturday.    I was up that way for a family gathering so I took advantage of that and went fishing first.  No Steelhead but I did recover a couple of these funny looking frisbees.

For some reason I decided to keep track of the number times I went fishing this year.  Why, I really don’t know.  I just started keeping track of when I went and what I was fishing for.  I went fishing 80 times over the course of the year. Some may think that’s a lot but my daughter thinks I need to double that in 2020.  I did notice a definite shift in the type of fishing I do the most.  Used to be it was 90% handling for walleye and 10% fly fishing.  For 2019 it flipped.  I only went handlining for walleye 23 times last year and fly fishing 57 times.  Walleye fishing, for me, has turned into grocery shopping more than anything else.  With my biggest consumers gone I don’t have the desire or need to go out as much.  It has become more of a hassle to get the boat out and go as compared to fly fishing, since I always have a rod in the car and plenty of areas to fish close by.  To really drive home how big the shift has become I went fly fishing for carp more than I went walleye fishing.  Even more surprising is that I did most of my carp fishing in September.  Once I figured out how to catch these things my success rate jumped dramatically.  Now I find myself looking for signs of feeding carp.  Even this past weekend I was looking for those tell tale craters in the muck and making a mental note to try that area come Spring.  I have a feeling that I will be chasing “Hillbilly Bonefish” a lot in 2020.

Back in August I was able to add another fish to my “fish caught on a fly rod” list, Cutthroat Trout.  I had a chance to fish the Coeur D’ Alene river in Idaho last August and caught several cutthroat and a few rainbows.  I am hoping I can go back in June to see if I can’t add Bull Trout to my list.

Also got the opportunity to go ‘mousing’ for Browns on the Manistee River back in June.  I’m no stranger to fishing in the dark but this was a completely different experience.  All night long I was literally casting blind because I couldn’t see a thing.  By some miracle I never lost a fly even though I caught dozens of trees throughout the evening.

Well those were the high points for the year.  For 2020 I’m planning on going back to Alaska to fish the Naknek River north of King Salmon for Giant Rainbows.  I’ll be in the Brooks Falls area so a stop by their may be in order to watch the bears do bear things.  That’s not until September though so I have plenty of time to plan.  Right now I’m thinking about Spring and trying out the new fly rod my kids got me for Christmas.  A G Loomis IMX Pro 9′ 6wt.  This is going to be my Summer Lower Huron Bass/Carp rod and I’m itching to try it out.

Have a great New Year everyone.





Scouting

19 09 2019

Last night I decided to check out a new stretch of the Huron River.  I had been hitting the other stretch pretty hard, as of late, so I figured it was time to find a new area.  After doing some searching on Google Maps I found a few areas that had potential.  Only problem was that I had about an hour and a half of decent light so this was going to be a quick hit and run trip.

The first few areas I checked showed potential but I didn’t see any fish.  As a matter of fact I wouldn’t see any fish until the very last spot.  Even this area was very hit and miss.  At some access points the bank was 10 feet above the water and no way of getting down.  Other spots were so overgrown I wouldn’t be able to sneak in without scaring everything.  The last area was just about perfect.  Slow moving water, gradual decline to the river’s edge, a few logs and most importantly feeding carp.  I saw the silt trail of one feeding carp but I couldn’t get into position without spooking him.  He slowly swam away and as I was watching him I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  There was another carp, with his nose buried under the log, in full on feed mode.  As I got closer he stopped and started to swim away.  I quickly cast my fly out ahead of him and to my surprise he sucked it in.  I set the hook and off he went.  I had left my net back in my car so while I was letting him tire himself out I was trying to figure out how I was going to land him.  The last time I dragged a carp up on the sand with my fly rod, I broke the tip.  I wasn’t going to do that again.  Fortunately, the splashing fish attracted the attention of two other anglers downstream.  They walked up to see what was going on and one of them was kind enough to wade in and land the fish for me along with take a picture.  He was bass fishing but of course wanted to know why someone would actually be targeting carp on a fly rod.  After a brief explanation of how and why I thanked him again and headed back to the car.  I still have a few more miles of this river to check out but it will have to wait for another day.





More Carp

5 09 2019

I had a few hours to myself last  night so I decided to go fly fishing for Carp again.  Recent rains had raised the water levels and dirtied up the water a bit so I was optimistic about my chances for success.  I quickly learned though that my optimism was short sighted since I left out one variable, the setting sun.  I was fishing the west side of the river so the sun was casting a long shadow on the water.  Every time I tried to sneak up on a feeding carp they would sense the shadow and swim off.  I was able to sneak up on one because I used a tree stump to cover my approach.  I got a little to fancy though and I wasn’t able to see the take and I was late on the hook set.  Lesson learned.

With about 30 minutes of sunlight left I moved off to a different area that had more shoreline cover.  As I worked my way to the water I could see one carp feeding in the shallows.  The water was dirty so I couldn’t figure out which way he was facing.  As I got closer the bubbles and splashing stopped so I just waited.  While I was waiting I saw another set of bubbles and a silt cloud off to my right.  I carefully placed the fly in front of the direction the bubbles were going.  I waited until the bubbles were right on top of my leader and I slowly lifted up.  I felt the weight and drove the hook home.  It was a confined area with lots of logs so I never gave him the opportunity to run.  After a couple of minutes of close quarters splashing I was able to get him beached, unhooked and sent on his way.

 

I think I might be starting to get the hang of this.





Labor Day Weekend 2019

3 09 2019

I was able to get out a couple of times this past Labor Day weekend.  Walleye on Friday night and fly fishing for Carp Monday morning.  I probably should have gone walleye fishing each evening but I figured the weeds would be really bad with it being the non official last boating weekend of summer.  From here on in it should be pretty quiet on the water, except for the occasional storm.

I launched my boat around 8:30 pm Friday night and headed to my normal starting area.  The water was clear and their weren’t very many surface weeds.  Boat traffic was at a minimum and after sunset I was the only one fishing.  I though for sure there would have been a few others out, shows how much I know.  Not much happened at first.  I lost a few larger fish and caught a couple of smallmouth.  The fish were barely hitting, I would pull the wire forward and then there would be dead weight.  This went on for the first 90 minutes.  I managed to get tangled up in some old fishing line twice and the weeds were starting to thicken up.  I seriously debated just going in but it had been 3 years since the last time I got skunked and I wanted to keep that streak going.  I’m glad I stuck it out, around 10 the fish got active and I picked up my 5 fish limit in about an hour.  After that I packed up and headed for home.

 

When I went to bed Sunday I had every intention of sleeping in the next day.  I spent the last two days cleaning up and throwing out stuff from my house and I was tired.  I awoke around 6:30 am and eventually just gave up and got out of bed.  I figured I would try for landing a carp again at some new water.  My luck fly fishing for carp this year had been pretty poor so I wasn’t to optimistic.  I rigged my my Scott Flex 8 wt and headed to the Huron River.  At my first stop I soon found out that the water levels were up some and it was a little stained.  I started to feel a little better about my chances.  I saw a few fish out in the middle of the river and I made a few half ass casts towards them.  Past experience has told me that if they aren’t actively feeding my chance of hooking up was slim and nill.  After awhile I gave up on those fish and worked my way upstream.  I saw some bubbles on the surface underneath the shade of an overhanging tree.  I went into stealth mode and as I got closer I could see a pair of carp feeding in the shallows.  I carefully dropped the fly next to them and waited for one to turn my way.  After a few seconds the larger fish did and I gave the fly a twitch.  That did it and he pounced on it.  I set the hook and off he went, towards a log jam.  I jumped in the water after him and tried to steer him away.  Fortunately I was able to keep him clear of the logs and after a few minutes I landed him on the bank.  A quick pic and he was soon swimming away.

Like I said, I jumped in.

After that I took a moment to compose myself.  My Ross reel got dunked and was full of muck so I had to clean that out.  I sat at a nearby picnic table while I figured out my next move.  I pretty much trashed this area and two kayakers just paddled down so that meant they spooked anything upstream.  After about 20 minutes I started hiking upstream to new water.  I followed a drainage ditch to the river and carefully worked my way up to the edge of the water.  Apparently I wasn’t careful enough because I spooked two fish that were in the area.  I slowly backed out and figured I would come back in about 30 minutes or so.  I tried some more areas but I didn’t see anything.  I walked back to the area I spooked the pair of fish earlier and worked my way to the edge again.  I could see a silt cloud in the water so I just waited until I could verify where the fish was.  After a minute or so the tail became visible and I could make out the outline of a decent size carp.  He started to turn away from me and then up went his tail and he went into full on feed mode.  A cloud of muck arose all around him so I took advantage of his blurred vision and moved into position.  I dropped the fly about 6 inches to the left and waited.  He started to turn towards it and when I gave it a twitch he pounced on it like a cat chasing a laser dot.  A quick hook set and off he went.  Once again I was back in the water, doing my best to keep him clear of any obstructions.  He ran underneath one sunken branch which I had to clear out of the way before I could even think about landing him.  Eventually I was able to steer him towards the middle of the river where I could keep him under control.  A few short runs later and I was steering him towards the bank.

I was 2 for 2 and feeling pretty good.  It was getting later in the morning though and the sun was clearing the trees.  The fish were hanging in the shadows on the opposite side now so my chances of landing another one were dwindling.  I drove to another section of the river and saw some more carp but they weren’t very cooperative.  I did see one closer to the bank but there was no way I could sneak up on him.  He was in the middle of a log jam anyways so I doubt I could have even got him out of there if I had hooked him.  Bikers and runners were starting to fill the trails along the river so it was time for me to go home.  I’ll stop by next weekend before I head to Schultz Outfitters Fall Kick Off on Saturday.

 





Fringe Benefits.

11 07 2019

You never know when a fishing opportunity may present it self.  Because of this I pretty much have a fly rod in my car 24/7/365.  My Temple Fork Outfitters 6 wt BVK for the little fish, My Scott Flex 8 wt for the big fish and a switch rod for whatever season it is.  They spend more time in their cases then I would like but at least they are there when I need them.  Such was the case last night (7/10/19) as I was helping out at a local river clean-up.  Schultz Outfitters and the Huron River Watershed Council recently teamed up to sponsor river clean-ups every Wednesday evening along different sections of the Huron river.  It’s a good way for me to help out, get some exercise and find new fishing spots all at once.

Six people showed up for the evening so we split up into two groups to tackle both sides of the river.  Of course I was looking for fish whenever I wasn’t finding any garbage.  I saw a number of bass and a fair number of blue gills but no carp.  That was until I found a Mulberry tree.  I heard some splashing and saw the swirls of a few feeding carp near the waters edge.  I looked up and saw the tree and I started to grin.  There were about a dozen carp feeding in the area.  I seriously thought about going back to my car and getting my stuff but I figured they weren’t going anywhere.  The cover was thick in the area and the few fishermen around were casting for bass in more open waters.  I figured they were safe, for now.

Once we finished up I headed back to may car, assembled my Scott 8wt, tied on a Mulberry fly and headed back to the tree.  When I got there the fish were still feeding.  Now all I had to do was figure out a way to get to them.  There was a lot of overhanging branches so trying to feed a 9 foot long fly rod through them so I could drop a non weighted fly into the water was going to be difficult.  Also, because there was so much cover there was no way I was going to be able to land a fish without getting wet.  Fighting him was going to be a challenge as well.  If I was able to land one it was going to be a miracle.

While I was trying to figure this out a muskrat swam up to the bank and starting eating the berries as well.  Great, now what am I going to do?  As soon as I try to move down there the muskrat will spook and scare all the carp away.  I sat there for a few minutes and waited for him to leave.  While I did a berry dropped into the water right next to him and a carp came up to eat it.  That spooked the muskrat and the fish as well, or so I thought.  There was some splashing but the carp stuck around.  I waited a few more minutes to let them calm down and I slowly started to move into position.  5 seconds in and my rod already got stuck on a branch.  I managed to free it but did it again shortly afterwards.  Eventually I made it to the edge and tried to Bow and Arrow my fly into the water.  On my first attempt my fly caught a leaf.  Second attempt hit a branch.  Third attempt made it into the water and as soon as it hit a carp came up to suck it in.   I set the hook and missed the fish.  More splashing ensued and I figured I missed my chance.  I made another cast and out of nowhere a carp came up and took the fly.  This time I was able to drive the hook home and we were off to the races.  I stayed on shore at first and kept my rod parallel to the river.  Fortunately he took off for open water instead of the weeds and logs.  While he was running I started to clear branches away so I could have some room and hopefully stand up some.  Not that I need a lot but it would be nice to be able to lift my rod up high when it came time to grab him.  This was not going to be easy.  I got him close but the cramped quarters made getting a hold of him problematic.  After a couple of attempts to get him close I just laid my fly rod down and pulled him in by the leader.  I got my hand around his tail, the fly out of his mouth and in position for a quick picture.

The fly that did the trick.

My first one for the year and my first one ever on a Mulberry fly.  I can see why Fly Carp Anglers love the Mulberry season so much.  These fish threw caution to the wind and still grabbed my fly even though I did just about everything wrong.  After this fight though the fish did scatter.  I sat around for a few more minutes just in case but nothing was happening.  The berries kept dropping and nothing was taking them.  That was my cue to head for home, which I did.  I’ll come back another time.  There is another clean-up scheduled for next Wednesday.  Who knows, maybe I’ll find another one.  If so I can guarantee the fly rod will be ready.

 





HEX TIME……………………………Eventually.

1 07 2019

About a month ago my friend Dave and I were talking about heading north to do some fly fishing.  Due to a lot of prior engagements and bad schedules our first open weekend wasn’t until the end of June.  A lot later than I would have normally wanted to go but there was a chance we might be in time for the Hex Hatch.  It usually starts up about this time of year but our very wet Spring has kind of delayed things.  We were hoping that the recent heat wave might trigger some activity anyways.  Fishermen……always optimistic.

We arrived near the Manistee river around 9:30 pm on Friday night and immediately went to one of the several access points to check for activity.  There were a few anglers camped out at the first point doing the same thing so we moved upstream about a mile.  We walked down to the water and watched and waited.  Then we watched and waited some more and, just to be sure, we watched and waited again.

Nothing…….

No hatches, no spinners, no surface activity.  We saw a few mayflies buzzing around but that was it.  This was depressing.  Add to that the high water levels and I was becoming a lot less optimistic.  We hung around until sometime after 10 before we headed back to the cabin.  Once there we got all out gear sorted out and ready.  Dave’s son Dave showed up about the same time so we made plans for the morning and went to bed.

Morning came and it was going to be a repeat of yesterday, clear blue skies and a sunny 80 degrees.  Not exactly ideal fly fishing weather.  Still, we were hoping the heat would warm up the mud and get the hatches going tonight.  Until then we were going to spend the day drifting nymph, wet fly and streamer patterns until sunset.  We got to the first access point around around 9:30 am and got set up.  Dave and his son were going to head upstream and nymph fish while I headed down and swung streamers.  I was going to finally get a chance to use my Redington Hydrogen 4116 Switch rod for what it was designed for.  I tied on an olive woolly bugger and waded in.  3 seconds later I was wading back out to try and find a different area to cross the river.  All the rain had the river flowing high and fast.  No need to get wet just yet.  After a little maneuvering I was able to get across and I started to swing my fly through the deep shaded bend on the opposite shore.  I would let the fly sweep all the way across the river to the opposite bank and let it dangle and then give it a pulse every so often to try and trigger a strike.  I repeated this process for the next few hours until I reached a point in the river that was too deep for me to wade.  A problem I would have all day.  Once I go out I walked back up to the car and dried out.

Can you guess which side of my waders leak?

Since it was near noon time I dug out the cooler and got things ready for lunch.  Dave and Dave would be back soon and hungry since we all skipped breakfast.  They arrived about 30 minutes later and fortunately Dave sr. had better luck then I had.

The Brown was about 17 inches long and grabbed a small wet fly.  It turned out to be the best fish Dave had ever caught on this section of the river and it would be the biggest fish of the day.  As a matter of fact it would be the only fish worth talking about today.  His son, like me, didn’t catch anything.  After lunch we headed upstream and kept at it.  I was determined to catch something and I wasn’t about to give up.  At the next spot upstream we suited up and once again I had to find another way across.  Sometimes being 5′ – 3″ really sucks.  Eventually I was able to get across and I started over again.  I had lost my original fly, along with a few others. at the first spot so now I was trying a Lady Caroline.  It was a scaled down version that I tied just for this type of fishing.  I only hoped it would work.  The only activity I had at first was a few kayakers that showed up just as I was starting to work a bend in the river that had a large blow down in it.  I figured there had to be a few fish hiding under there.  I waded out to the middle of the river as much as I could and the kayakers quietly paddled behind me instead of through the hole.  I thanked them for their courtesy and started my approach.  I made my first cast and watched the fly drift down into the depths of the hole.  I waited patiently and then it happened, or should I say it didn’t.  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  I though for sure something had to be lurking under that tree.  Guess I was wrong.

From there I waded further downstream to another spot that looked promising.  I spotted another cedar tree that had most of it’s branches over the river, providing shade and cover along with an undercut bank.  I started my swing on the opposite side of the river and let the fly drift down under the tree.  As it drifted across the center I felt the tell tale tap of a smaller fish.  I expected this happen all day but this was the first time.  The Brook Trout in these rivers tend to hang out in the middle, on top of the gravel, and wait for something to come by.  Why it took until almost 3 pm to experience the first tap was beyond me but at least I knew something was interested.  Nothing happened after that so I stripped the line in and made another cast.  Just as the fly reached the tips of the overhanging branches I had a hit.  Nothing monstrous but he was on.  I skipped the little brown in, took a quick pic and sent him on his way.

Not very big but I’ll take it.

After that not much else happened.  I continued to fish downstream and once again I reached another point where I couldn’t wade any further.  I walked back to the car (jumped a fawn along the way) and started over.  By now the sun had set a little further and created more shade on the different bends of the river.  I repeated the process and only managed a few more bumps and one smaller brown.  Once I reached my earlier walk out point I walked back to the car again.  By now Dave and his son were back along with a few other anglers.  They had already camped out on a few spots on the river in anticipation of the upcoming hatch.  It was now around 9 pm and we decided to do the same thing, once we had something to eat.  Dave sr. headed downstream while Dave jr. just waited in the car.  I think he had had enough of today.  He did manage to catch one fish though.

His father and were were still holding out hope though.  I have never fished a hex hatch before and I really wanted it to happen tonight.  Dave and I both walked downstream, picked out spots and waited, and watched, and waited, and watched, and waited, and watched, and waited………..

Again, nothing happened.  I saw a few mayflies hatch (one flew about 3 feet before it was pocked off by a bird) and Dave so what appeared to be a bit of a spinner fall.  Only sporadic rising trout though and by 11:00 pm we had both had enough and walked back to the car.  We had been out for almost 13 hours and most of that time was in the water.  The other anglers, who had camped out earlier, reported the same thing.  Very few insects and only a handful of rising fish.  Back at the car I peeled off my wet clothes and we headed back to the cabin.  during our drive back we discussed many theories as to why there was so little activity.  Cold water, late Spring, Lunar shifts, Chinese tariffs, Lions poor draft choices, you name it, we tried to place the blame on it.  The one theory that did make the most sense though was the amount of debris in the water.  There was so much stuff coming down that we felt the trout were just plain full from eating every worm or insect that washed down the river from the rain.  Seemed plausible to me so I was sticking to it.

The next day we were just plain beat.  Dave jr. had to get back to Grand Rapids and his father and I needed to get home as well.  Before we did that though we did some scouting for new areas.  One of which looked very promising.  So promising that I am planning a late September fishing/hunting/camping weekend in the area.  Until then I have a lot of research to do to try and figure out this trout spey fishing thing.  I know there were fish in the river but I couldn’t get any of them to cooperate.  I’ll tie up some wet flies in the mean time along with a few more streamers.  My casting is getting much better, as long as I am fishing river left.  I probably have to tweak my presentation some.  I think I may not have been getting deep enough with the high flows.  If the trout were being lazy my fly might not have been getting close enough to them.  I should have swapped out to a heavier MOW tip at one point but I got lazy.  Next time will be different.