Thanksgiving Weekend Steelhead

26 11 2018

If there was one thing that was consistent about this weekend it would be the rain.  It started sometime early Saturday morning and continued on into Sunday.  As a matter of fact, it changed over to snow when I convinced myself I should just go home.

I knew the weather was going to be miserable but even though it was going to rain I knew that the area wouldn’t be blown out.  With the gates controlling the flow it wasn’t going to matter how much rain we got.  Unfortunately, the October rains gave an estimated 2 trillion extra gallons to Lake Superior.  All that water has to go somewhere so the gates were wide open.  The concrete berm I normally stand on to fish certain runs was completely under water.  Not that it mattered, trying to wade to it was completely out of the question.  I got spun around more than once by the increased flow and not so sure footing.

Knowing all this I still went out.  I have yet to catch a Steelhead here and I definitely won’t catch one sitting in my hotel room watching the Wolverines get their ass handed to them.  I figure one of these days my timing will be perfect and I’ll catch one.  As it turns out it would not be this weekend.  I could see fish rolling around and I saw a few swim by me both they were all salmon.  I figured they were either Atlantics or small Chinook.  Around noon I managed to hook one as I was stripping line in for my next cast.  Based on the color I thought it was a small Atlantic.  I was wrong.

Wasn’t expecting a coho but there she was.  Nothing like the ones I caught in Alaska but it was still better than nothing.  After I released I waded back to shore to let my legs thaw out for a bit.  While I was there I talked to a local angler who was also taking a break and smoking a “Recreational Cigarette”.  He told me that the Steelhead have been slow but there were a lot of salmon in the area.  He had also caught a couple of Coho and an Atlantic.  He also told me that the gates will be turned down.  He told me that he expects the fishing to be good for a few days after that, even if gets any colder.  I doubt I’ll drive back up though.  I may stick to the Alley or some west side rivers.  I like fishing this area but those 6 hours drives get old after awhile.  After a 20 minute break I waded back in and resumed fishing.  I was joined by another fishermen who set up downstream from me.  He was chucking a pink spoon and I watched him catch one Steelhead and about half a dozen salmon.  The fish are in but they were in a pool that I couldn’t reach.  If the levels were down a couple of feet I could.  Then again the fish might not be in that spot as well.  After about 6 hours of 40 degree water and rain I packed it in.  A warm meal sounded better than subjecting myself to any more abuse.  Besides, I still had tomorrow morning to try again.

Well I tried again Sunday morning.  I should have known something was up when I arrived and I was the only vehicle in the parking lot.  I tired for a couple of hours but when it started snowing I decided to give up.  I was going to have a long drive home and I wanted to get ahead of the storm that was expected to arrive later that night.

I did manage to catch one fish, lost a couple of flies and I was able to stay dry for most of the weekend.  One of these years I’ll catch it just right.  I’m not going to hold my breath until then though.

 

 

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One Last Crack

11 06 2018

A few days before Memorial Day weekend a friend of mine contacted me to tell me the Steelhead had just started moving into the St. Mary’s Rapid’s.  Of course he wanted me to come up then but family obligations prevented that.  He told me they should still be around well into June so I had time.  That would work because I was invited to a wedding at Carp Lake, MI on June 8th so I figured I could make the hour drive the next day while everyone else was sleeping off hangovers and doing the tourist thing at Mackinac City.

The next morning I was headed north at 4:30 am.  As expected the roads were empty, there wasn’t even any traffic on either of the bridges and I think I woke up the customs guard in Canada.  A little after 6:00 am I was suiting up and heading to the river.  As I drove over the bridge I could see that the water level was down and there was only one other person fishing.  So far so good.  I waded across and noticed the shadows of a few fish taking off in front of me.  I was feeling very optimistic at first but I soon realized that all of the shadows I was seeing were suckers, hundred’s of them.  My heart sank but I gave it my best shot anyways.  I swung flies for the next few hours without even so much as a bump.  At one point I though I had a take but when I brought the fly in I could see a small scale on the hook and figured I just scraped a sucker.  Around 10:00 am I put away the streamers and broke out one of my burnt orange carp flies.  By now there were about a dozen nymphers and pinners out drifting beads and egg flies.  I did see one nympher catch a bright skipper on an egg fly so I figured what the hell.  About 20 minutes later I saw a bow start in my line and I figured I was snagged.  I pulled in the line and lifted the rod and felt a strange shake.  Sure enough, I had a sucker on.  It didn’t take long for me to get him in, he didn’t have much of a chance against a 13 1/2 foot 8wt Spey rod.  I took a quick pic and then let him go.

Whistletrout

Shortly after that I headed in and just as I was about to climb out I spotted about 1/2 a dozen very dark Steelhead sitting on the end of a run.  I immediately started casting but they showed zero interest in what I was offering.

Story of my life.

After about 30 minutes I gave up.  I saw another fish caught by a pinner as I was walking out.  A dark male that hardly fought.  I took that as a sign that the fish didn’t care either.  I just chalked it up as another learning experience.  Four trips here and still no steelhead.  One of these days I will time it right and actually catch one.  Until then there is always Alaska.  As a matter of fact, 2 months from today will be the last day of my week long trip.  Better days are ahead.





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 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.