They Do Exist.

17 12 2018

January 2nd, 2016.  That was the last time I caught a Steelhead in The Huron River.  For awhile I was beginning to think that I would never catch one there again.  Even the other die-hards that I know have been struggling these last few years.  Unstable weather, poor returns, early freeze-ups, all have combined to keep my success at an all time low.  I was doing so badly I resorted to driving to Ohio to improve my odds.  That was my original plan this past Sunday, drive to either Conneaut or The Grand but late night rains in Ohio changed my mind.  Instead I figured I would hit The Huron in multiple locations.  Hopefully I would find one cooperative fish.

I started off at Dodge Park but I wasn’t able to fish the spot I wanted.  When I rounded the corner there was already someone there.  I went a little further upstream and started working another hole.  I left there and headed downstream and fished another run.  While I was there a boat trolled over the hole, stopped to bring in their lines and then punched it and took off upstream.  Talk about a “Dick” move.  I got out and headed back to my car.

Next up was Labo Park.  Once again someone else was there and he was set up at the second bridge drifting spawn.  I started upstream and worked a hole just ahead of him for a bit.  I didn’t stay long though, as I was walking along I slipped in the mud and landed on my right arm.  I cleaned myself off as best I could and headed for the car.  While I was putting stuff away a fellow fisherman stopped to see how I had done.  his success had been pretty much like mine all season.  He told me another friend of his had only caught 10 fish so far and he claimed he catches over a hundred a year.  Every year I run into someone who makes that claim but I seriously doubt it.  Based on what I see and hear I have to wonder how someone can catch that many over a few months.

Anywho, after he left I drove back upstream to try one more spot.  As I approached the boat launch area there was a trio getting their boat ready to head out.  I grabbed my rod and waded downstream.  I had high hopes for this area today.  The water had been to high for me to reach the log jam on the opposite side but since it had dropped about a foot I knew I could today.  I waded out to the middle of the river and started casting right on the edge of the foam.  I was keeping an eye on the other boat and hoping they would go downstream behind me BAM….FISH ON.  Just that quick I ended an almost 3 year slump.  It was a smaller fish and it really didn’t have a chance against a 7116 Redington Chromer.  I landed her quickly, took a pic and sent her on her way.

While I was getting myself organized another boat had shown up and parked right on top of the run I was fishing.  “Dick” move #2.  After that I headed for home.  I had muddy gloves and a jacket to clean and I needed to organize the back of my car.  I had flies, leaders, clothes and garbage all over the back and I needed to clean things up.  I have a couple of 4 day weekends coming up and I plan on taking full advantage of them.

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The Alley 12/01/18

3 12 2018

Earlier this year I told myself that I was going to put more effort into Steelhead fishing.  Ever since my last successful Huron trip (1/2/2016) I have been half-assing it and not really trying.  I was putting more emphasis on what fly I was using instead of working on my mechanics or presentation.  With that in mind, I made the effort to get my Switch rod and line combos tuned in and practiced whenever I could.  The week in Alaska helped a lot but I should have devoted more time to using my two hand rods.  I’m to the point now where I just need some fine tuning on my casting and presentation.  As with walleye fishing, it doesn’t matter what fly I’m using if I’m not putting it in the strike zone.  Now that walleye fishing is pretty much over for me it’s time to concentrate on Steel.

A few weeks back I contacted Patrick Robinson of Steelhead Alley Outfitters (SAO) to set me up for a full day guided trip.  Pat put my trip together for Alaska and I have already fished with the owner, Greg Senyo, and one of their guides.  I thought about getting a trip booked with my previous guide, Nate Miller, but I wanted to learn more and I figure time spent with other guides would be beneficial.  So I just let Pat decide and he signed me up for a day with Josh Trammell for Saturday, 12/1/18.

Josh kept tabs on the flow rates throughout the week and told me the day before we would be fishing Elk Creek in the morning.  SAO fishes the Erie tributaries from The Vermillion in Ohio to Elk Creek in Pennsylvania.  Flow rates determine which rivers are fishable so the guides pay attention to them daily.  I was doing the same thing and I figured we would be fishing the creeks in the NE corner of Ohio.  Josh told me where to meet him Saturday morning at 6:45 am and from there we headed towards Elk Creek.  SAO has access to some private land on the creek which is nice.  This river can get very crowded but with it being deer season more people were hunting instead of fishing.  Once we got my 7 wt Chromer rigged up Josh pointed out where to start fishing and I did just that.  The first run didn’t produce anything so we moved down to the next run.  At the end of the drift on my 5th or 6th cast I started to go through the motion of giving the fly a couple of “pulses” to try and entice a follower.  I do this by just pulsing the rod back and forth while the fly is straight downstream from me just dangling in the current.  As I was about to strip line in I had a hit.   It caught me completely off guard and instead of keeping my rod parallel to the river with my hook set I did the Orvis straight up and out of his mouth hook set.  Just that quick the fish was gone.  I regrouped and about 5 minutes later I had another hit.  This time I did everything right and I drove that hook home.  A few minutes later my first fish of the day was in the net.

After a few pics and a successful release I made my back up to the start of the run and started over.  On my next cast I had another hit as I was mending my line.  Needless to say I didn’t get a good hook set with the slack line and my rod being pointed upstream.  I fished the rest of the run anyways with no further luck.  While all this was going on Josh was on the phone with another SAO guide who was out with a Father and his 9 year old son.  They weren’t getting into any fish and he was checking to see how we were doing.  Josh asked me if I wanted to fish another river and I agreed.  Josh told them they could have the hole and we moved. on.  I found out later that the boy (Augie) ended up catching his first steelhead from that hole.

While we fished the next run Josh asked me if it was okay for him to point out a few things on my cast.  I said “please do” and he told me to slow down some and quit forcing the cast.  Let the rod do the work and keep that line at a 45 degree angle to the river.  He went on to tell me that when I cast straight across I get a big bow in  my line and the current will point the fly head on to the fish instead of to the side.  A side view of the fly will produce more strikes then a head on shot.  This is what I wanted, to “tweak” my presentation.  That run didn’t produce anything so we decided to try Conneaut Creek next.  That was fine with me since it was west and closer to home.  We stopped along the way and picked up my car before we drove to our next stop.  There were more fishermen here than at Elk so we headed upstream and away form the crowds.  The first two stops didn’t produce any fish and we were running out of time.  We tried one more hole and I started casting.  I was about 20 minutes in when Josh told me that after a few more casts we would be BAM. AIRBORNE, FISH ON!

 

Talk about a last second fish.  After a couple of pics we sent her on her way and headed in before the rain really started to fall.  After getting rained on all last weekend I wasn’t looking forward to it happening again.  I went 2/4 today, all on the swing so I wasn’t going to complain.  After today’s lessons (leaders, line management, presentation, reading water) I feel confident that I can be a little more consistent with my success.  Of course a lot of that will depend on the fish.  Steelhead are nothing like walleye.





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 her 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 on Dec. 10th.  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.

 

 





Weekend Report 11/3-11/4

5 11 2018

Originally I planned on going walleye fishing Saturday and Steelhead fishing Sunday.  Recent rains though blew out The Huron so that left me with walleye on The Detroit River.  As it would turn out I would accomplish both.

I started out Saturday morning just after sunrise.  The river was filthy again and the current was a lot faster than I expected.  I checked the gauges later and it was reading 262,000 cfs.  Higher than normal and the NW wind wasn’t helping any.  Eventually I switched to a heavier weight just to help keep contact with the bottom.  Trying to maintain a decent speed was difficult as well.  There where a few times I found myself going downstream instead of up or across.  I fought through it though and managed to catch a couple more for the freezer.

The next morning I was back out after sunrise again, an hour earlier thanks to the daylight savings crap.  Water was a lot cleaner today.  Yesterday there was less than 6 inches of visibility and today it was about two feet.  Light winds out of the SE and a current that had dropped by over 20,000 cfs made for almost ideal conditions.  Didn’t catch anything in the first half hour but the next half hour proved to be a different story.  I caught one walleye and quickly followed it up with another one when I trolled over the same spot where I caught the first one.  I stayed in the area for a bit and then I had another hit.  It felt like a decent fish at first but it just gave up.  Figured it was a small walleye until it got to the side of the boat and I quickly realized it wasn’t.  I saw that white belly and green back and got very serious.  I started to go for the net but changed my mind and just flipped her in.  I said I was going to go steelehead fishing and I did.  Just not in the river I planned too.

Normally I would have let her go but she was bleeding out so I just put her in the cooler.  After that fishing was pretty uneventful.  I managed to catch a couple more and actually lost #5 right at the side of the boat.  I could have stuck it out a little longer but the winds were picking up and I was supposed to meet some friends for breakfast and to go see Bohemian Rhapsody later.  I was running out of time so I just packed it in.

While I was fishing I did get to watch a Bald Eagle swoop in and grab a fish of the surface.  I watched him fly off and land on a nearby telephone pole and eat his breakfast.  I saw a pair yesterday flying around.  I assume he was one of the pair.  Don’t know if their nest is on Humbug or Grosse Isle but I’m sure I’ll spot it eventually.  Unless they are just migrating through or waiting for the gizzard shad to show up.

Headed north next weekend to get my Mom’s house ready for winter.  While I’m there I plan on hitting the AuSable for some Steelhead and Atlantic action.  Hopefully the Steelhead I caught Sunday was a sign that I should switch gears and concentrate on them instead of the walleye.

Hope so.

 





10/13/18 Walleye

15 10 2018

It had been well over a month since the last time I went walleye fishing so I was due.  Wind was out of the SW but it was in single digits so I figured it wouldn’t be much of an issue.  I was more concerned about water clarity with all the rain we received in  the last week.  Turns out it wasn’t that bad, around 2 to 3 feet of visibility.  Surface temps were around 59 degrees, still to high but at least it was heading down instead of up.  Weeds weren’t much of an issue, just the single strands that I am accustomed to this time of year.

I dropped lines sometime around 5:30 pm and by 6 I had my first fish, a nice 22 inch male, biggest walleye I’ve landed in months.  Over the next hour I was able to land a couple more along with a few smallmouth bass.  It was a pretty slow and uneventful night.  There was one other boat out trolling and I saw them catch a couple of fish.  I kept my sonar going for awhile and most of the fish I marked were 2 to 4 feet off the bottom.  I know a few of them were walleye but I’m betting some of the other marks were smallies and a few trash fish.  Around 8 it was getting colder so I headed in.  The Fall bite is just starting and I have a few months left to fill the freezer for winter.  Weather permitting.  If the weather goes to hell I’ll just start chasing Steelhead earlier than I was expecting.





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.





Inaugural Bass/Bluegill/Carp trip for 2018

5 06 2018

This past Sunday (6/3) was my first fly fishing trip to my super secret, catch just about anything, spot.  I expected the carp to be spawning but I was hoping I would find a few asexual carp that didn’t care about that thing or a few that were already done.  My main fear was being over run my carp shooters.  There was a big bowfishing tournament going on this weekend and I was hoping none of them would be in my area.  Turns out none of them were in my area.

I got to the parking lot around 7, rigged up my TFO Clouser 5 wt and my Orvis Helios II 7 wt and started the long trek.  Overcast skies and a slight NE breeze made for an enjoyable walk up to my first stop, which wasn’t because of a fish.  It was this girl doing her thing.

I haven’t found a snapping turtle laying eggs since my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary weekend in St. Ignace.  I feel sorry for these little guys though.  They won’t have an easy hike across a beach to water.  She laid her eggs on top of a dirt road that sits on top of a bunch of boulders.  I’ll have to look up the incubation time for snapper eggs and see if I can time when they hatch.  It would be cool to see.

After that I continued my walk until I spotted some carp doing the spawn thing.  They were jumping around and splashing about, having themselves a grand old time.  Along the shoreline I did spot about a 10 pounder cruising along.  He was mouthing some floating reeds as I made my first cast out in front of him.  I let the fly sink as he slowly started to swim my way.  When he was about 3 feet out I slowly began to strip the fly in.  I lost sight of the fly as it dropped between some rocks.  The carp saw it though so I just stopped and let him swim in.  He started to nose down and tail up right over the fly.  I saw his mouth open and it looked like he sucked in the fly.  I raised up to set the hook and missed him completely.  He didn’t stick around to figure out what was going on and I started cursing myself for getting so twitchy.  I know better than that.  Oh well, on to the next one.

The rest of the carp fishing was pretty uneventful.  I saw a fair number of carp but they were all doing the same thing.  Mouthing pulled reeds floating on the surface and not paying much attention to anything else.  The water was very dark so it was hard to see.  Not sure why, it wasn’t dirty, just dark.  I couldn’t even see any gills.  The only one I did catch was by accident while I was casting to a carp.

After a few hours it started to sprinkle some so I headed back to the car.  Along the way I spotted a Bowfin feeding like a carp, head down and tail up.  I flipped my fly out near him and let it sink right down alongside of him.  I saw him react to it and this time I drove the hook home.  I played around with him for about a minute or so and eventually lost him as I was trying to land him.  I wasn’t going to keep him anyways so it was no big deal.  At least I didn’t get completely skunked and I’ll be back many times this summer.

Last item of note was a White Pelican sighting as I was heading back.  It was the first one I had seen in a few years.  There was a bird watcher riding out as I was heading in so I told him about it and where he landed.  Hope he got some decent pictures.  Kind of late in the year for one to be migrating north.  This season has everything screwed up.  We went from winter to summer for a week and then back to Spring.  I’m going steelhead fishing next weekend on the St. Mary’s rapids.  Never expected to be fishing for them in June.  The water coming out of Lake Superior is still in the 40 degree range.  Not that I’m complaining.  I had so many things going on last month I thought I was going to miss my chance.  Hope I get one this time.  This will be my fourth trip up there and all I have caught are Atlantic’s.

Until then.