Frustrating

29 03 2017

 

As I was watching the Spey Daze DVD this past weekend, this question was posed to the guest fishermen.

Using one word, describe Steelhead.

Frustrating was the word I came up with.  I don’t think it is for the fish itself but what I have to go through to catch one.  Steelhead are migratory so if they don’t run the river there isn’t much I can do.  This season, for one reason or another, they never really showed up on my home waters.  I suppose I needed to be served a piece of humble pie.  The first season of swinging flies I landed 6 on the Huron, my personal best fish, for the Huron, coming on Jan. 2nd.  Since then it’s been nothing.  Because of the lack of fish and a desire to try new places I have ventured out.  Earlier this week I had some estate business to handle for Susan in Toledo and Fremont so I decided to keep heading east and try the Vermillion river.

A little back story on the Vermillion.  This past summer Susan was helping out with a system changeover at a local hospital.  I came with her the first weekend to keep her company and to scout out fishing access.  While I was at one of the parks Susan texted me to see what I was up to.  I sent her a picture of the sign and she replied saying she knows that park and she used to eat her lunch their when she was a Schwann driver.

????

This was my response:

Excuse me? You know this area? You used to stop here? An area that gets a Steelhead run and you never thought to mention that to me? This is information that should have been made available to me day one, at the restaurant, after introductions.  You know….Hello, my name is Susan, I know of a place to catch Steelhead on the Vermillion River.

She answered me with her usual Susan fanfare and I know she was smiling and laughing the whole time.  Her coworkers probably thought I was an ass though but she knew better.  It reminds me of just how close we were to each other before we ever even met.

This day though was my first attempt fishing here and I was not alone.  There were about a dozen other people fishing the same low dirty water.  I tried for about an hour and didn’t catch anything.  From what I could see no one else was either.  What amazed me was how I thought 12 other people was crowded.  My first introduction to river steelhead fishing was elbow to elbow people on the Manistee River at Tippy Dam.  That was insane but then it was the norm.  I fished the runs I could but not the deeper, longer one farther upstream I wanted to.  That one was staked out by about 6 or 7 other fishermen and they weren’t budging.  Oh well, there will be other opportunities.  Now that we have some warmer weather and more rain maybe the Steelhead will finally show up on the Huron.  If not, I will be making a weekend trip up north.

Where I wanted to fish.

Call the Bigfoot Groups. I found a Squatch Hut.

Wonder how much more product placement I can get in a picture?

 

 





Rebirth

26 03 2017

There was a time when I loved dirty water.  It meant that all the jiggers on the Detroit River were screwed and I could be a show off and catch fish all day long.  I still enjoy those days but not when I’m steelhead fishing.  The odds are already against me swinging a fly and when that sight window is decreased down to a few inches my chances of success are practically nill.

I didn’t think it would be to bad but the run off from the golf course upstream was like chocolate milk.

Huron on the left, golf course creek on the right.

Since my chances for success were pretty bad I decided to stay home for the rest of the weekend to tie flies and watch a new DVD I picked up, Spey Daze.  Just like the tile states it’s a DVD about spey fishing, more specifically spey fishing the Great Lakes for Steelhead.  I didn’t have much choice since I also busted my switch rod taking it out of the car.

This wasn’t a how to video, it was more about the history of the steelhead and salmon fishing in the Great Lakes.  Granted all the fishermen were spey casting but a lot of the interviews with biologists were about the great salmon experiment and how invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever.  Some would find the history pretty boring but not me.  I was fortunate enough to be raised during the Salmon boom.  My Father and Grandfather would take me on their trips to the Manistee river, in the late 60’s, when I was 3 or 4 years old.  This set me on a path of hardcore salmon fishing that lasted until the crash on Lake Huron in 2004.  While I watched I started to day dream about all the Chinooks, Cohos, Steelhead, Lakers and the occasional Brown my Dad and I caught. Spring and Fall from Sanilac to Harrisville, we hit it hard.  Weekend trips to Harrisville spent sleeping in the back of the station wagon eating Spam and canned soup heated up on a single burner Coleman stove. Day trips to Harbor Beach in the same Crestliner aluminum boat that I use for pulling wire on the Detroit River today.  I was a lucky kid, though it was pretty much a done deal that I was going to be a fisherman.  When my mother was in labor with me on Halloween of 1964 my Father and Grandfather were in Owen Sound Canada fishing for Steelhead on Georgian Bay.  The postmaster came out in his boat to track them down and tell them I was on my way.  Fortunately, they made it back in time. I can only imagine what my Grandpa was saying on the drive back.  Knowing him he probably said I was going to be a girl because only a woman could ruin a perfectly good fishing trip.

Years later, after my Dad retired, we kind of lost our edge.  We still enjoyed fishing but the excitement of a new trip dissipated.  We had more fun taking out people who never caught a salmon before and seeing their reaction the first time they hook into a 20 pound screamer.  Even that didn’t last long since the Huron population crash happened a few years later.  After that we concentrated on pulling wire for walleye.  I, on the other hand, started looking for something else.

The more I watched the DVD the more I realized that experiences and memories are more valuable than anything else.  I can barely remember the number of fish caught on a trip but the uniqueness of that trip sticks out.  The Bald Eagle the flew overhead, the beaver that swam right past me, the mink I was watching run that bank when a steelhead swam up and crushed my fly.  Creating those memories has become more important since the passing of my Father and Susan.  Going through all their stuff and assigning a price tag to it made me realize just how unimportant “toys” really are.  Memories are a different story.  I can still remember sitting in my Grandpa’s lap as he taught me how tie a clinch knot.  My father talking me through landing my first salmon on a Ping-A-Tee at Harrisville.  The look on Susan’s face when I came back to our hotel room to tell her about the tarpon I caught on a fly.  Those memories will never be taken away from me.  They won’t be donated to the Salvation Army or sold on E Bay.

This is why I chose to fly fish for steelhead.  Many don’t get it but I don’t care.  The ones that do, understand.  It’s not about the numbers but the experience.  I don’t catch many but I can remember every fish.  I can remember the weather, what led up to that fish, what fly I caught it on and the feeling of satisfaction I felt when I brought it to hand.  This is my rebirth, to create those memories that can never be taken away.  To fish places I have never fished before.  To try and create that one fly that will make the difference.  To be able to help someone along the way and to able to share the experience.  That has been the hardest part about dealing with their death.  My Dad and Susan were my two biggest fans.  Both were always so excited to hear how I did, to be able to tag along when they could and to be a part of the planning for the next trip.  I’ll never get that back but they will always be with me in spirit when that next fish hits.





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.

 

img_6207 img_6055 img_6201 img_6252 img_6261 img_6263 img_6311 img_6314 img_6315 img_6316

More to follow

 





Back at the keyboard

29 01 2017

Hey everyone.

It’s been about 3 months since my last post and it has been a very trying 3 months.  As some of you already know Susan, my friend, companion, fiancé and partner in crime, passed away on Oct. 26th from complications from surgery for an aneurism.  Since then I have been adjusting to life with out her.  On top of that I am the executor of her will and I have been dealing with that.  As you can imagine wanting to do anything, let alone fishing, has been difficult.  Granted, time on the water can be the best therapy but not being able to share that with my two biggest supporters (My dad and Susan) takes the fun out of it.  It’s getting better and I hope to make 2017 a great year.  Only time will tell.  In the mean time I’ll catch up with what has been going on the last 3 months.

November turned out to be a warmer than normal month.  I had hoped to spend it fishing for steelhead but they were even later than last year.  I went up to the Pere Marquette river for a few days and all I saw was half dead Coho’s, low clear water and no steelhead.  The water on the Huron was pretty much the same, low, clear and way to warm.  Because of that I went back to my old reliable, Detroit River walleye.  I had traded all the fish in the freezer to a relative that raises cattle for beef.  I need a few fish for the winter so I went out a couple of times.  The water was clear and no weeds but I managed to get a couple of limits.  My last trip was towards the end of the month.  I only got a couple of small ones and since a cold front was coming in I just winterized the boat.  Love that E-Tech.

img_6379 fullsizerender2 fullsizerender

During Thanksgiving I decided to take a break and head north to Sault Ste. Marie to fish the St. Mary’s river to try for steelhead up there.  I figured the temps would be cold enough there, little did I know it wasn’t.  I was going to be there for two days and I was going to make the best of it.  The first day I was not able to concentrate on what I was doing and managed to miss two fish.  One grabbed the fly and I never set the hook.  The second one swam up and took a swipe at it and I just sat there and watched.  I was beginning to think I should have stayed home but tomorrow would be another day.

The next morning I was back at it in the same area.  Fishing was a lot better this time around.  I ended up going 3 for 5 but not on what I was expecting.  Instead of Steelhead I went 3 for 5 on Atlantics.  I have no idea why but for some strange reason there were still a few hanging around in the rapids.  The 3 I caught were on the small side.  One of the fish I lost was a brute in the 8 to 10 pound range.  He hit like a freight train and went airborne immediately.  Once he landed he made a dash downstream and on the next jump my fly and about 90 feet of Skagit head and running line came right back at me.  I finished fishing that run but I didn’t hook into anything else.  As I finished the run I could see someone leaving the next run I wanted to fish.  He was drifting beads under a float and as it turned out had caught nothing there in the last hour.  I can’t tell you how pissed he was when he saw me hook and land a fish on my second cast in the same run he had just spent the last hour fishing.  I love it when that happens.

My last fish of the day came completely by accident and it was quite a learning experience.  As I was walking down the concrete berm I noticed two fish lying near a rock.  I got up ahead of them and proceeded to drift my fly past them, repeatedly.  If the fly was up high they would swim up and take a look at it.  If it drifted right at them they would ignore it.  After about 20 minutes of refusals I changed flies to a small egg sucking leech.  I made a few more drifts and it was the same result.  I made another cast and it was a really bad one.  The fly was high and way to the right and over the fish’s head when it hit the water.  It was already past her when the fish swung around and charged the fly.  Five minutes alter she was unhooked and released to fight another day.

img_6502 img_6503

December was pretty uneventful.  Fishing on the Huron sucked.  High water one day, low the next and absolutely no fish.  I went out about a dozen times and never even had a hook up.  January, on the other hand, was a different story.  Towards the middle of the month we experienced a unseasonable warm up.  It lasted about 10 days so I made another run up to the St. Mary’s river and once again all I caught was another Atlantic Salmon.  My guide, Rod Trudel, started calling me the Atlantic Whisperer.

fullsizerender3

The fish surprised both of us.  An Atlantic at the end of January was the last thing we expected.  Especially a nice clean fish like this one.  I won’t complain to much, it was better than being skunked.

So there has been what I have been up to for the last 3 months related to fishing.  I can’t say how much walleye fishing I will be doing this year.  With the two biggest consumers of walleye gone from my life I really don’t have a lot of desire to go.  I’m sure I’ll be out there at the end of April but I can’t guarantee I’ll be hitting the river on a regular basis. Who knows though.  I have been asked  to give handlining seminars at the Columbus Fishing Expo in February.  Maybe it will give me the incentive to go out more.

Only time will tell.

 





Late October Walleye

30 10 2016

After what turned out to be the worst week of my life I decided I needed a little normalcy.  Since the Huron hasn’t been cooperating for Steel I decided to go back to my old reliable, Detroit River walleye.  I arrived at the ramp around 6:00 pm and to my dismay I saw that the river was a lovely shade of grey.  Normally dirty water doesn’t scare me but with overcast skies and a sunset coming soon my window of opportunity would be short.  I set up in my normal area and worked over my familiar haunts.  Visibility was about a foot and there were hardly any weeds.  Surface temp was about 52 degrees which is just a lot better then the 65 degrees it was last time out.  It didn’t take long and I had my first eater in the box.  He hit a #7 Perch Rapala (The discontinued style with the gold plate belly) on my kicker.  As it would turn out, every fish I caught would come on that lure, even the one I lost.  I only managed three for the night and they all came in the first 45 minutes.  Once it got dark out everything shut down.  I fished until 8 but it was to no avail.  Not surprising, experience has shown me that dirty water and nightfall do not necessarily equal success.  If anything it means I should have got out earlier.  At least I was able to get out for a few hours and escape my phone for a bit.  I didn’t winterize the engine, not just yet.  Temps are going to stay in the 50’s for awhile so I may take advantage of it for a bit.  It’s not over yet.

So I ended up with 3 eaters, all light, grey fish.  Not the typical yellow/black colors more common for the resident river fish.  All of them had emerald shiners in their stomachs.  I also noticed a lot of splashing in the Edison discharge so that means the gizzard shad are in.  Hopefully some more walleye are right behind them.

No pictures tonight.  I figure everyone has seen enough pictures of 17 inch fish.

On another more personal note, I am going to shut this down for a bit.  As I had said earlier this past week was the worst of my life and it really drained me emotionally.  I have a lot of things to sort out now and take care of and I really don’t have the energy, time or desire to make anymore entries.  Maybe after a break of a few moths I will start up again.  There is still plenty of time left to get some walleye so get out there, good luck, be safe and cherish the ones around you.





Custom Night Walleye 9/2/16

3 09 2016

NE winds and clear blue skies.  Seems like a perfect night to go fishing.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

It had been a couple of weeks since my last trip and I was feeling the need to go fishing.  I at least waited until dark.  I arrived at the ramp at 8:30 pm and was lines down at 8:45 pm.  I was happy to see that there weren’t and big mats of weeds.  I feared it might be bad considering there were NE winds all day.  I started off with a pair of Downriver Tackle Custom Lures, a #11 Rapala in Pink Lemonade and a #9 Rapala in the Spring Valley Special II pattern.  I also had a #9 Original Rapala along for the ride since that was it all it did.  Just swim, not a single hit on it, not even a bass.

About 9:00 pm I had my first fish and by 10:45 I had my fifth keeper.  I also caught a few 8 to 10 inch walleye and all 3 hit the number #11 Rapala.  Clear proof that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.  Only caught a couple of bass as well.  It was a pretty peaceful and uneventful night except for about 5 minutes.  Around 10:00 pm I got hung up, or so I thought.  I felt one of my lures get tangled up in what I thought was a bunch of fishing line.  I could feel it give just a little but I knew it was going to take some time.  I started to circle downstream and gain wire back into the reel.  Eventually I got close and was able to get my hand on the shank.  My 40 foot lead was the one that was snagged so I got the two shorter ones in first.  I started to pull on the longer leader and I could feel a tremendous amount of weight on it.  I slowly began to pull it in when all of a sudden it started to shake.  Turns out I wasn’t snagged on some old line, I was snagged onto a fish.  There wasn’t a lot of headshakes, just a lot of dead weight.  I thought for sure I snagged a sturgeon but it turns out I hooked a big channel cat in the head.  He was coming in upside down, thus all the weight and lack of movement.  I finally got him to the boat and removed the lure so I could send him on his way.  He was well over 30 inches and probably quite relieved to be sent on his way, minus the lure in his head.

After that not much happened.  I caught number 5 at 10:45 and packed it in shortly after that.  5 more for the freezer and no damage or lost lures.  Hope this continues for the rest of the year.  Just need the temperature to start dropping.  Then it will be walleye during the week and steelhead on the weekend.  One thing that I did notice to night was that the fish were up off the bottom and moving around.  The first two fish I caught was while I was brining in my leaders to check for weeds.  The last two came on my kicker after I shortened up the lead from 7 to 4 feet.  Just goes to show that they aren’t always hugging the rocks.

9-2-16 walleye