Easter Weekend Steel

2 04 2018

You really have to appreciate it when the VP of the company I work for tells you they are closing the office at noon on Good Friday.  Especially when your car is packed and ready to  head north.  I didn’t have to be told twice and a few minutes later I was on the highway and headed to my Mom’s place in Oscoda.  Since I was arriving so early I was hoping to get her to-do list done toady and go steelhead fishing the next morning.  For once everything worked out like I wanted and I was all clear to fish the following day.

I awoke the next morning bright and early, around 8:30 am.  I got all my gear together and made the short drive over to the AuSable river.  Along the way I spotted a female woodcock doing the “timberdoodle two-step” across King’s Corner road so I stopped to watch her for a bit.  Turns out a lot of critters were out and about this morning.  I saw plenty of deer and sandhill cranes in the fields getting a late morning meal, And one turkey that had something else on his mind.

I arrived at the parking lot around 9:00 am and got set up.  I was expecting a lot of vehicles with it being the weekend and I was surprised to see only one truck.  I wasn’t going to complain but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a sign that there weren’t any fish around.  Once I got to the river I spotted the truck owner, a Father and Son spending the morning together.  I talked to the Father for a few minutes, they caught one small steelhead further upstream and a sucker a couple of minutes ago.  I asked which way they were headed and then I went in the opposite direction.  Once I got about 100 yards away from them I waded in and started swinging a black/purple Senyo A.I.  I was also using my Sage “Pulse” 8wt rod today.  I have a feeling this is going to be the rod I use the most in Alaska so I wanted to spend as much casting time with it that I can.  I started going through my usual routine.  Cast, mend, take two steps downstream.  I kept trying to land the fly at an angle along the seam on the opposite side of the river.  I was standing in an area where the current shifts from the north side to the south.  I was hoping a fish would be lying on the opposite side and be pissed off enough that he would crush my fly.  No such luck.  Eventually the two fishermen I saw earlier had left so I continued to work my way downstream.

A River all to myself.

After about an hour I waded out and decided to switch flies (Pink Predator Scandi) and put on a heavier MOW tip.  I was running a T-11 2.5 float/7.5 sink and I changed over to a T-14.  I really have no idea how deep the water is on the other side but since I wasn’t hitting bottom I knew I wasn’t getting deep enough.  Even though the water is very clear I don’t expect the fish to chase a fly to much in this cold water.  I gave that set up a swing for about half an hour to no avail as well.  I had some more time before the wind advisory was supposed to go into affect (possible 45 mph winds) so I decide to go on a walk-a-bout and see what I could find downstream.  There is plenty of fishable water, it’s just a matter of getting to it and no one else being there.  Eventually I ended up at a spot called “Joe’s Point”.

It is across the river from a very popular area and once again no one was around.  I went back to casting but once again I didn’t have any luck.  I didn’t see any fish on the gravel either.  Still, it was a near perfect day.  Overcast skies, no wind (yet) and nature was definitely active.  Mallards and Woodducks were making all kinds of noise along with the occasional Kingfisher.  As I was walking out I bumped another Woodcock.  He’s probably thinking he should have stayed south a little bit longer this year.  I was thinking I should have stayed in bed longer as well.  Oh well, there will be another time.  Don’t know if I will be able to get back up here again though.  I may have time for a trip to the Alley for a day but I don’t know about a run north.  Guess it depends how ambitious I get.  On my way home Sunday I did stop at Omer to see how the sucker run was going.  I had stopped on the way up and their were a few fishermen catching suckers.  The trip home was a different story.  The cold front was keeping people indoors and I wasn’t seeing any fish being caught.  I’m sure Monday will be a different story, no wind and warmer temps.  Until the next front comes through.

 

 

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St. Mary’s River

14 11 2017

Weekend number 2 of my quest found me back up at the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada.  Last week I got a message from Rod Trudel, owner of the On The Fly Fishing Company,  telling me that the Steelhead were in.  I made plans to arrive Saturday morning (11/11) and of course the weather took a turn on me.  Temps in the teens and snow were what was waiting for me on my arrival.  As I pulled into the parking lot Saturday morning I was surprised to see that no one else was there.  Again I wondered if there was something going on that I did not know about.  I suited  up and about 20 minutes later I was headed to the water.  Once I got there I soon found out why I was the only one there.  The wind was straight out of the south and in my face.  It never even occurred to check the wind direction.  I never really checked to see which way the river ran either.  I just figured that with it coming out of Lake Superior and into Lake Huron that the river ran from north to south.  Actually, the bridge does but the river itself runs from west to east.  That meant the 15 mph from the South was coming off the water and in my face.  Needless to say casting into this wind was pointless.  My forward cast would end up in a big ball 10 feet out in front of me.  Even though I was casting a 600 grain Skagit head with a 13-6 Sage rod I just couldn’t muscle it through.  The gates were still open as well so wading across was pretty much out of the question for me.  Around 11 am I just gave up and headed for the hotel room.  The wind was supposed to die down to nothing over night so I would try again in the morning.  The highlight of my morning was another otter that swam by me and stood up on a rock and stared at me for a bit.  Of course I didn’t have enough sense to take a picture until after he dove back in.

The following morning I awoke to no wind a a fresh dusting of snow.  This time when I arrived at the parking lot I was not alone and when I got to the river 4 pinners were already camped out on the berm and fishing the area I was hoping I could fish.  No such luck.  They pretty much covered that whole side of the rapids.  I sometimes wonder if they have GPS trackers in their floats for the amount of distance they let them travel.  I stayed on the other side and worked a few seams and holes but it was to no avail.  I watched them hook up about half a dozen times and land a few fish.  All I managed to do was wash a few flies.  At least my casting is getting a lot better.

After a few hours I packed it in and headed for home.  I had a 5 hour drive ahead of me and my nephew’s birthday was at 4:00 pm.  Not that he would really notice if I was there but the rest of the family would.  I hate family obligation pressure.

Next up, back to The Huron River, or maybe the Detroit River since my Mom told me she is out of walleye again.

My Fly Drying rack and not my Fly that caught a fish rack.

The otter swimming away instead of the otter standing on the rock picture.

 





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.

 

 





A Memorial…..

10 09 2017

The Temple Forks Outfitter’s BVK 6 Weight

We are gathered here today to pay tribute to a valiant warrior, cut down in the prime of his career.  He was more than just a fly rod.  He was an extension of one man’s passion that could never be fulfilled.  The time he spent with his owner was brief and his true potential and devotion will never be known.  Even after his back was broken he hanged tough and still managed to assist in the landing of this beast.  This breaker of rods and spirits.  This white whale of the river.  We will never know what future battles would be fought with the many denizens of the deep, but it is safe to say he would have welcomed them all.  He was overmatched and asked to perform a task he was not designed for but he never complained.  Even as the drag of the Sage reel screamed the rod held his ground and applied all the pressure his graphite body could muster.  He fought a valiant fight, and epic fight, a fight that will not be forgotten.

We will miss him.

The Breaker of Rods and Spirits





The Streak Continues

16 05 2017

I’m going back to walleye fishing full time.  They are so much easier.

 

This past weekend I headed north, back up to Sault Ste. Marie to try the St. Mary’s Rapids one more time for Steelhead.  I figured this would be my last chance at them until the Fall.  I’m busy for the next month and I don’t expect them to stick around until the end of June.  Having said that I’ll probably catch one when I am back up at the end of the summer, chasing salmon.

I met Rod at the usual spot around 7:30 am.  There was already a crowd of anglers (about a dozen) fishing a 75 yard stretch so we headed farther up, closer to the gates.  It still cracks me up to think that a dozen is crowded.  I can remember the elbow to elbow combat fishing at Tippy Dam some 30 years ago.  As we walked over we stopped to check out a Beaver sitting on his lodge and that was when I realized I didn’t have my phone.  Back to the car I went.  It would be just my luck that I would catch my personal best Steelhead and I would have no way of getting a picture.  Once I got that all straightened around I waded in and started casting, and casting, and casting, and just for good measure, more casting.  Nothing.  I could see the fish swirling around on the surface.  Rod could even see a few follow my fly and then at the last second just turn and swim away.  No takes, no bumps, no hits, just refusals.  The nymphers and pinners were getting a few but not me, the lone swinger in the area.  At least I looked cool not catching anything.  I brought my new Sage Pulse Spey rod so I got plenty of practice in casting a true Spey Rod.  I can already tell that when I finally cut loose with this rod I’ll be able to cast it all the way to the backing.  I didn’t have a need to make any super long casts but whenever I made that perfect cast the line would about jerk the reel when it came to the end.  I’ll use it again this summer when the water is deeper and faster and I will need the distance.  By 11:30 we were packing it in.  The Sun was high and bright and not a cloud in sight.  Not exactly ideal conditions for Steelhead fishing, especially when the water is this clear and shallow.  I did come back alter after dinner for a few more hours but it was still the same result.

That makes 497 days since the last Steelhead I have caught. At least I can say I have yet to lose a Steelhead on a fly.  I’m sure a few people would have given up by now but I know it won’t last forever.  I’ve had a lot going on the last year and a half and my timing has been terrible.  To warm, to cold, to high, to low, to clear, to dirty……you name it, I’ve picked the worst days to go.  Someday I’ll get my timing right and I will feel that tug once again.  Until then I’ll swing flies for trout and smallies.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and time the Atlantic run just right and have some fun with them.

On a side note I did get to see a father pull the “dick” move of the year.  A father and his 12 year old son were both fishing the run I mentioned earlier.  Dad had already landed one fish and was trying for number 2.  His son hooked into one and judging by all the yelling he was pretty excited.  His Dad took the rod from him and fought and landed the fish himself.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  When I was younger I lost a fair number of salmon and Lake Trout but my Dad never took the rod from me.  NEVER!  About half an hour later Dad hooked into another one and about 5 seconds in the fish jumped and he lost it.  He gave out a yell of frustration and I yelled “Serves You Right”.  I don’t think he go it but one other angler looked my way and laughed.

So after that I went back to camp, made dinner, got some sleep and in the morning I packed up the Mobile Steelhead Command Center and headed for home.  There will be another day.