The Alley

27 11 2017

As I stated on my last post I  was going to fish some of the rivers known collectively as Steelhead Alley over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I wasn’t leaving until Friday afternoon so I had a little free time before I left.  I was originally planning on doing some fishing on The Huron but my mother changed that plan for me.  She said she wanted some fresh walleye so I begrudgingly hooked up my boat Thursday morning (11/23) and went walleye fishing instead.  The sacrifices I make for her.

I got to the ramp around 8:00 am and got everything ready.  The temperature was a balmy 29 degrees but it was supposed to reach a high of around 38 later in the day.  I wasn’t planning on being out that long.  I was hoping to be off the water after only a couple of hours.  A SW wind and below freezing temps makes for a cold boat ride downstream.  I had received a tip that they were catching a lot of fish farther downstream than I normally fish so I set up there at first.  Turns out that would be a waste of about 45 minutes.  I didn’t catch anything there so around 9 I headed up to my normal stomping grounds.  Grandpa always told me, never leave fish to find fish.  One of these days I might listen.  It didn’t take long and I had the first one in the cooler.  That fish was followed up by 3 more.  I was debating heading in because my hands were getting cold and sore.  I told myself I would quit at 10:00 am and a few minutes later I had number 5 in the cooler.  By 10:00 and 18 seconds later I was headed for the dock.

Water was dirty today or as I like to call it a nice handlining shade of grey.  Very few weeds and a temp of around 41 degrees.  Temps are supposed to stay in the upper 40’s all this week.  If I was going to be around next weekend I would go out again for sure.  The 4 smaller walleye were full of emerald shiners and the big one on top was full of gizzard shad.  The walleye were definitely in “let’s eat” mode today.  On to the Alley.

I had booked a trip with Steelhead Alley Outfitters about a month ago.  Five years ago I didn’t even know there were Steelhead runs on any of the Lake Erie Tributaries of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Since then I have fished them sporadically without any luck.  I was hoping that would change with this trip.  I just had to wait to find out which of the dozen or so rivers I would be fishing.  My guide, Nate Miller,  called me Thanksgiving evening to tell me what river and what time we would meet up.  He told me he would pick me up at my hotel at 5:30 am (The Sadist) on Saturday morning.  The reason why he was picking me up so early was that he wanted to fish a specific stretch so we had to get there before anyone else.  That part of the plan worked but it didn’t prevent anyone from showing up afterwards and camping out on both sides of me.  I had the river all to myself for about 45 minutes.  Around 8 two eggers showed up and surrounded me.  One upstream and the other downstream at the end of the run I was fishing.  As expected the person downstream started catching fish so his partner moved down to where he was.  He hooked into a fish on his first cast but it was short lived, his rod broke during the fight.  Some may think how terrible that is but not in this case, I call it Karma, river etiquette rule #1 is don’t low hole someone.  He went back to his car to get another rod which opened up a little more water for me.  It didn’t help any though, I swung several different streamers for about an hour with no takes.  I could hear Nate talking on his phone with another guide and he was mentioning breaking out the indicator rod if I got desperate.  I told him I was getting to that point.  Normally I will stick to swinging but watching these other guys hook fish pretty much at will was getting to me.  I switched rods and started casting.  My first cast was crap, I’m not used to casting a float with an egg fly on the end.  My second cast wasn’t much better and it wasn’t more that 15 feet in front of me.  Didn’t matter though, 3 seconds into the drift and it was Bobber Down.

I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want my face in the picture. lol

I played around with the indicator rig for about another half hour until the other guy showed back up and moved right back in downstream.  Nate asked me if I wanted to move on to a new spot and I agreed.  He knew of another place further upstream that would be a bit of a hike.  He said there would be other people there as well but we would have about a mile of good water to fish.

At the next spot Nate asked me if I wanted to take both rods.  I said nope, from here on in it’s swing or die.  I know guides want their clients to catch fish but if I was worried about numbers I would have bought a center pin setup instead of a spey/switch rod.  For the next 5 hours I worked several runs and holes with still no  luck.  We talked to a couple of other guys who were swinging flies and they weren’t having any luck either.  They said that the day before they hooked into 12 but nothing today.  Sounds like the story of my life, always a day late.  Never the less I continued on and kept at it.  We set up on one last run and I was bound and determined to make the most of it.  We switched my streamer over to a bright orange one, hoping it was obscene enough to piss off at least one fish.  About ten minutes in I was starting to strip in my line to make another cast when I had a hit.  I set the hook and the fight was on, for about 20 seconds.  After the initial run the fish started shaking his head and that was when the fly pulled free.  I didn’t know it at the time but Nate was filming all of this with his phone.  It wasn’t until I got home that night when I saw the footage of my overly dramatic response to losing the fish.  This happens but considering I haven’t caught a steelhead on a fly since Jan. 2nd, 2016 this hurt.  My window of opportunity was quickly shrinking and the odds of me landing a fish was growing slimmer by the minute.  After I composed myself I waded back in and got back to business.  After about 20 minutes Nate told me to move back upstream and start over.  Now any normal person would have reeled in his line and fly before wading back up.  Not me, I left the line and the fly in the water, put the rod over my right shoulder like a rifle and proceeded to walk upstream.  Two steps later…..WHAM!  I spun around, set the hook and yelled to Nate to get the net because we weren’t going to screw around with this one.  A couple of minutes later she was in the net.

Redemption

After we released her we headed in.  After almost 8 hours of wading 42 degree streams in and on/off all day rain I was whipped.  I had 3 1/2 hour drive ahead of me as well.  I was happy, I ended my no steelhead streak, unfortunately my never losing a steelhead streak ended as well.  I had my first multiple fish day.  I learned a lot about the rivers in the area, specifically how flow rates dictate which one to fish.  This is a vital piece of information I needed to help increase my chance of success.  Since that day I’ve uploaded all the Steelhead Alley rivers I could to my Fish Head app.

As for Sunday, I just slept in.

Next up, The Manistee and the Pere Marquette.

 

 

 

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The Huron

19 11 2017

Friday (11/17) started out early but for all the wrong reasons.  I was up early to attend the funeral for Susan’s father.  It was down in Ohio near Cedar Point so I would have lots of time to think while driving down there and back.  Time at the funeral home was ok but time at the cemetery was rough.  I wanted to be left alone while I placed flowers on Susan’s headstone.  I really didn’t want people hanging on me and crying.

After everything was over and I was headed home I felt the need for a little time on the water.  I would only have about an hour but I hoped it would be enough.  I suited up and headed upstream only to find a boat in the first area I wanted to fish.  I walked a little further upstream and waded in.  About 4 casts later someone else walked in and set up just downstream of me.  After making a lot of noise walking out of the water I headed downstream to my last spot to try.  I waded in again and started casting a Green Goblin A.I. streamer.  After about half an hour and no takes I gave up.  As I was walking out I saw what I thought was a dead steelhead lying on the bank.  One of those “carefully released” fished that didn’t make it.  Turns out I was wrong, it was the ever elusive Huron King.  Sure would be nice to hook into one of those when I’m out here.

So that was it for my fishing this weekend.  I planned on fishing a couple of times but rain Friday night and most of Saturday blew out the river.  At least this rain should bring in some fresh fish by next weekend.  As for me I’ll be on to the next river of my quest, which got a huge bump in the flows just in time for me to fish them next Friday and Saturday.

 

Next up, Steelhead Alley.

 





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.

 





A New Season

21 02 2017

These past few days of record breaking warm temperatures has most fishermen in my area in a frenzy.  Many are gearing up for the upcoming walleye season but it got me thinking, does the season ever really end?  I get that the annual walleye run only happens once a year (twice actually) but for the more diversified angler there is never an off season.

This morning I found myself back on the Huron River still searching for that unicorn.  These last few months have been difficult trying to land one steelhead.  A lack of fish and high water have made my efforts basically futile.  I keep trying though.  It beats sitting at home and counting the days till the walleye start up.  I’m sure there are a few out there now, there always are but I’m in no hurry.  The time will come when I will be able to catch them on a regular basis and I won’t have to fight the crowds to do it.  This should be the start of some great fishing for the next few years.  Successful hatches for the last three years have increased the western basin population so I’m optimistic.  In the mean time I’ll continue to chase unicorns and possibly some smallies or a carp or two for now.  I have time, all year as a matter of fact.  That’s the advantage of being a diversified angler and not a one trick pony.  I can fish open water pretty much all year.  That point really hit home when I bought my new Simms waders.  James, at Schultz’s outfitters, told me that after a few months of use they would send them back to Simms to pressure check them for leaks.  He told me when I have some down time and I wasn’t fishing to bring them back.  I gave him “the look” and he laughed and said “you’re right, what was I thinking”.

So good luck everyone, a new season is upon us, or for the more fortunate it is just a continuation.  Either way get out and enjoy it.

feeling-blue

I was tossing one of these today. Had a hit on one on the St. Mary’s so I thought I would give one a try on The Huron. No luck this time around.

 





Tying Bender

7 02 2017

During the last few months I tied a lot of flies to keep myself occupied.  I know some tie flies out of necessity but I do it more for relaxation.  It keeps me at peace and gives me something else to concentrate on.  These are all steelhead flies.  I have probably close to 400 steelhead flies now.  More than I will ever need.  I’m going to start selling some to help curb the cost of material replacement.

 

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