Saturday, January 30, 2010

River Time

Spent some river time on the Saginaw today. Managed to land about 25 fish between us, but only kept one. There are a lot of small fish in the river right now. However, they are a blast and we had pretty much nonstop hits and fish between 3 and 6 o'clock. Jigs tipped with minnows seemed to be the key, those using jigging rapalas weren't having as much luck.

This type of fishing will be one of the first I will introduce my kid to. Consistent action for the whole amount of time we are out there is a big plus, as it will help to get him interested in fishing through catching his quarry...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great Day

Today is a great day for tying flies. A balmy 8 degrees outside, its nice to see the pile of Sulphur Comparaduns growing slowly. This has been a great winter for fishing, but not such a great one for wrapping bugs. Oh well. Time spent in neoprene definitely trumps sitting at the desk anyway. I have started preparing the early summer arsenal with the usual array of flies. Hendricksons, Black Caddis, Sulphurs, Little Mahoganies, the list goes on and on. And thats not even counting the big four hatches of June.

Below, you will see a Sulphur Comparadun. It has a white microfibbet tail, cream dubbing, and a coastal deer hair. This is a great pattern from mid-May to mid-June. I have caught some large trout on Sulphurs, and my fair share have come on this exact pattern.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Feast or Famine

Fishing Sunday and Saturday provided a true dichotomy as to how steelhead fishing can be. Saturday was very tough, with one brief hookup on a might-be steelhead and a few trout. Sunday faired much better, with us hooking up a good number of times and landing one steelhead in the morning, but nothing after 1 o'clock (probably because of the cold snowmelt). As my friend Kyle stated, steelheading can be just that: feast or famine.

Some lessons were also learned this weekend. (1) When you think you should not drive down an icy, snow-packed hill, you probably shouldn't. (2) Riding a bike on an icy road leads to falling on your butt (thanks Kyle for that one). (3) Finally, thank god for locals, sometimes they can help you out of a pretty sticky jam. Overall, the fishing was good, the company was better, and the scenery was impressive.

One fish I hooked and lost sticks in my mind because, well, it was just an epic battle. After watching my bobber drop, I set the hook and the fish immediately ran under the log along which my bobber was just floating. Somehow, I managed to keep him free of the tangle. As he ran strongly upstream, I knew I had a battle on my hands. Then, as soon as it ran upstream, it ran back at me at full throttle. As I struggled to pick up line, the fish shot downstream like a bullet towards the next log jam. As I steered the fish away from the logs I was feeling pretty confident. Steelhead don't usually have more than two strong runs (if that even) in the winter, but this fish was different. After avoiding the log jam I positioned myself and the fish in the flat at the end of the run, right upstream of a heavy riffle. The fish decided it had enough, and headed right into the riffle, bending a 2x strong scud hook to the point where it lost its hold and the fish came off. These fish are why we come back, why we chase these chrome bullets in the freezing rain and sleet. Its all for the battle my friends...

Here is a beautiful hen taken on an egg pattern from this weekend

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The thaw is coming
It must be true
I'm hoping to find
That chrome and blue

The flowing river
The snowy hills
Just need some trout
To cure my ills

A writhing fish
Of cold tough steel
Thats enough
To get my fill

Once my bobber
Gets submerged
My mind and thoughts
Will soon be purged

Of all the thoughts
That fill my head
Then soon there's one:
It's "Steelhead."

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Take

What is it about the take of a big fish? It makes the heart go and keeps us coming back. Whether its the take of a big brown on top, a bobber dropping, or the subtle take of a walleye on hardwater, it is what we are after. There are thousands of methods of fishing out there, but they are but for one goal: the take

I am sure fisherman that read this know what I'm talking about. Each one of you probably remember a time and place where "the take" occurred for you. For me, it was a Redfish in the mangroves of Charlotte Harbor. I remember that particular fish because it was a tough cast, and, on the strip back to the boat, an enormous Redfish (or Red Drum) followed it for probably 20 ft. before striking it. This took place in less than 2 ft. of water, where I could see the whole event take place. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped up after landing that fish.

Take care everyone, may good fishing and "the take" come to you very soon.

I rolled this fish on 2 nights prior to the night I landed him. All 3 nights, the fish hammered my mouse like a freight train.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Freezing Guides, Singing Reels

Today I went fishing with two friends, Dane and Kyle. We fished a west Michigan river and we did all right. Between us, we hooked 3 steelies and several trout. Here's the one I landed.

Check that. This is the one Kyle landed, with only bare hands and a Michigan mitt in 35 degree water in below freezing weather. The guy is a trooper. Isn't it funny that nothing on your body is cold when your holding a chrome steelhead?

There are definitely fish in the rivers. I have a hunch that all the west Michigan rivers received a decent amount of chrome with the last high water event. In the next week, I'll be fishing the east side as well, to do some "research."

On a sidenote, I used a switch rod today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hooked and landed my first steelhead on it as well today. You can get mile-long bobber drifts with that thing...

This blood is probably from a steelhead that was not as lucky as the one we released.

Here's Dane fishing a good lie.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bill Dancin'

When the winter chill sets in, the average fisherman looks ahead to the warmer weather with thoughts of dancing mayflies and rising trout. It is also a time for reflection, thinking about times on the river in the past, learning from them, and applying those lessons towards future experiences. Lately, I have been replaying some of the more memorable moments from the past year or so. In the coming weeks, I will periodically post a story from the past year that I think you may enjoy.

It was hot! I mean sticky hot. The kind of hot where your shirt, pants, and socks feel like they are glued to you. Larry was in the front of the boat as we cruised down the Au Sable waiting for the sun to set. We were after the big bugs, the condor-like Hexagenia limbata. When he caught another small trout, Larry said "I can't wait for it to get dark man." I replied slowly "we have to get where we wanna be first." I started paddling to our spot as night befell us.

On a hot day in mid to late June, there is almost certainly hex flies somewhere on either or both the Au Sable or Manistee river systems. In this case, a hot day had turned into a hot evening. As dusk came on quickly Larry and I arrived at the spot. We were slightly upstream of a bank that both him and I knew held some super trout. Dusk came and went, and I was beginning to second guess my decision to fish this stretch of river. Then, a slight humming could be heard in the distance. I thought that it was surely some of the masses of mosquitos that inhabit the swamps that surround the river. As the humming got closer (and louder), I soon realized that it was not humming I was hearing, but thousands upon thousands of hex flies performing a fatal flight called a "spinner fall." This is the end of their life. As they always do, small fish started feeding first, with the big fish starting slowly after. Gluttenly, big brown trout started slurping down the bugs all around us. As I moved into position, Larry turned on his light and was promptly swarmed by hex. When I saw this I laughed, because I knew we were in for a hell of a night.

Larry landed three fish legitimately over 20 inches that night, but one in particular stood out. To be frank, Larry is a good fisherman, and he showed it that night. After landing one beauty and pricking or hooking a few others, Larry and I heard a beast feeding on the other side of a log. In my head, I had a hunch that this trout had positioned himself in a back eddy and was picking off mayfly after mayfly. My plan of attack was to position the boat as close to the log as possible, and to have Larry "dap," the fish by holding his rod out and letting the line hang below the rod tip. As I moved the boat into position, I mentioned to Larry "better try to yank that thing over the log when you hook it," knowing in the back of my mind that such a proposition is easier said than done. Larry put his first cast on the fish. Nothing. Second cast, the fish loudly gulped his fly under and, as I sat watching, Larry yanked a 23" brown trout over the log that seperated where the trout formerly was and the boat. Breathing a sigh of relief as the fish exited the vicinity of the log jam, both of us were soon letting out a howl as I scooped the fish in the net.

As we left the river that night, both Larry and I knew that while each of us would (and did) see bigger fish later in the year, it would be hard to top the experience we had on that warm June night. That night will forever be known as the night that Larry "Bill Danced," a trout out of the woodwork.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Icefishing the River

Hit the Saginaw River yesterday afternoon with some buddies. Usually the best bite from the walleye is the hour before dusk but yesterday it ended up being from about 4 til 5 o'clock. Managed 3 keepers between us, I donated my 2 to them so they could have a fish fry. We probably landed in the area of 25 walleye. This is a great way to introduce someone to the sport of fishing, and, if anyone is interested in going, drop me a line (my contact info is on the bottom of the page).

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Science of Bobbers, er, Indicators

Bobbers have been used by fisherman since, well, probably since the inception of the modern idea of fishing. Whether it is an in-depth top secret bobber rig for steelhead, or a simple worm and weight under a bobber for panfish, bobbers (or indicators, for those who shudder when they hear the term "bobber") are used across the entire spectrum of fishing. Pictured above is just a small sample of the floats, bobbers, or indicators one can buy on the market. Some are definitely better than others. In Michigan, fishing with a bobber has become the go to method in fishing for steelhead. In the past 15 years, the trend has gone from almost 100 percent "chuck & duck," fishermen to a majority of bobber fisherman that one will see during the fall, winter, and spring runs. Now, I will be the first to admit that not all the water on our rivers here can be fully covered by either method, but bobber fishing can greatly outshine the chuck & duck method at certain times. Bobber fishing allows the flies to float over structure that chuck & duck would get snagged up on. In addition to this indicator fishing can be very productive for trout on our rivers during the summer months. I can't tell you how many times, as a kid fishing the Au Sable, that well known guides would pass by me, see an indicator on the leader of my rod, and go "hmm... I never thought of that." Indicator fishing produced some really nice daytime trout for me, even as conventional wisdom led others to believe that 18 plus inch trout were strictly nocturnal.

As I stated earlier, some bobbers are better than others, and none of them can cover all the types of flyfishing one would encounter here in Michigan. For example, during the fall and early winter, I pretty much exclusively use thill ice n fly bobbers, which are in the picture to the left.

I love the way these bobbers float upright when paired with the correct amount of weight under them. In the dead of winter, I will use this bobber, but I usually elect to go with Drennan or Blackbird floats (pictured below). These plastic floats have incredible soft strike detection, and during the winter this is key because at this time steelhead with "mouth" and eject a fly very quickly. In the spring, I move to a bobber that has taken our sport by storm in the last 2 years. The Thingamabobber, while it has a long name, is an unbelievably low key bobber. During the spring run, when the fish are on gravel, a fisherman needs a bobber that won't spook the fish when overhead. This bobber is made of colored (or white) clear plastic that does not cast a shadow on the river bottom. Finally, during the summer months, I use either a small thill ice n fly bobber or a foam indicator (pictured above) for trout, because in general less weight is needed to get down for trout.

To summarize, the key to finding a good bobber, float, or indicator is to find one that you are comfortable with. Even though the most important element to a bobber is the way it floats, look at other components as well including adjustability and visibilty. Bobber fishing has really opened up a lot of formerly "unfishable" spots for me, and I am certain it will for you as well.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fathers, Sons, and Flyfishing

Everyone needs a mentor, someone to look up to. In my case with flyfishing, that person was my dad, who got me fishing at the age of 2 and flyfishing at the age of 7. I will look fondly back at the many times that my dad took me out in the riverboat or wading when I was younger. Almost everytime we went a-fishing, I managed to lose at least a dozen of my dads freshly tied or boughten flies. However, he was patient and helped me reach the point where I now take him fishing, and I enjoy watching him hook up even more than myself.

As a father of a 13-month old, I can only hope to pass on the same qualities to my son. Maybe some day I can get him to take me fishing. The other day, I was talking to my dad about one of my favorite stories involving my first nighttime "hex fish". It was by no means a remarkably big fish, but to a 10-year old, a fourteen inch brown trout caught in the middle of the night was a pretty huge accomplishment. Everything from that trip is stuck in my brain, from the smell in the air to the feeling in my young muscles when helping my dad lift our 300 plus pound cedar planked Au Sable riverboat onto our winchless trailer. It was one of those nights when time truly stands still. As we paddled up to the honey hole, I remember my dad saying something about catching big fish here in times' past. After we dropped the chain anchor, we waited for what seemed like an eternity until we could hear the ever-increasing pitter patter of mayfly wings. Hex flies. The very bugs that put an extra hop, skip, or jump in any Michigan flyfishers step. As they descended slowly onto the rivers surface, small fish could be heard feeding in the distance. When the flies seemed to increase in volume on the rivers surface, so did the rises all around us. My dad told me to pick one fish to cast to. I decided upon one holding relatively tight to some wood, making big, splashy rises. Dad put me into position, and then the work began. After casting over the fish for 20 minutes or so (while missing several rises to my fly), dad told me to give him a rest, and he changed my fly for me. Even though he knew that this fish was nowhere near the biggest fish in this particular stretch of river, he knew how bad I wanted this fish. He knew that this fish meant a proper introduction to nightfishing for me. He was right.

After several more minutes, I managed to hook and land the fish. As we stared at the gasping fish in the bottom of the net, I decided to keep it and we tossed it in the bottom of the livewell. By the time we finished with the fish, most of the other feeding had ceased. Dad and I paddled out at this point. I can recall all the thoughts that were going through my mind on the way out. Thoughts concerning anything from excitement for my first nighttime brown trout, to melancholy over not being able to experience this feeling forever crossed my mind. As a young boy, I was uncertain about a lot of things, but there was one thing I was certain about; that I was hooked on nightfishing. And I could only thank my dad for introducing me to what became one of my passions for what has been going on 15 years, and hopefully many more.

My son's love affair with trout has already begun ;)

My dad, the sole person I can credit with my flyfishing obsession

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Music, Fishing, and Vic Chesnutt

The making of a good song and a good day of fishing consist of a similar pusuit, solving a puzzle to succeed. A good day of flyfishing means figuring out the right tactic coupled with the right conditions. Anything less, and you'll be catching fewer fish than the other guy. Sometimes, thinking out of the box will reward you in spades. The same goes for the writing of a good song. Putting each instrument together to form a new and different sound reflects the same ingenuity and time investment that flyfishing does.
One of the great solo songwriters in my lifetime, Vic Chesnutt took his own life last week, on Christmas Day. It was a tragically predictable ending for Chesnutt, who was dealing with bouts of deep depression since he became partially paralyzed after a one car wreck when he was 18. He was a master of words, and he wrote great songs, some with snide humor and very dark undertones. After his wreck, he could only play simple chords on the guitar but still managed to put his musical stamp on history through solving the puzzle of a great song time and time again. We will miss you Vic, I bet you would have made a great flyfishermen...

Here's some info on Vic.

Here's a couple of tunes he wrote