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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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.

 

 

 





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.