Flies

2016 Recap Part 2

Something tells me that when I’m an old, crotchety, drunk most of the time old man sitting in a nursing home spending my days planning an escape attempt, I will always remember the summer of 2016. I spent more time on the water this past summer than any other year – and the fishing was overwhelmingly good for the most part.

After more than a decade of suffering the fate of a fishing widow, my wife finally decided to put in more time on the water with me.  She did a really great job learning how to cast and manipulate streamers – and had a lot of success with smallmouth all summer.  It was a really great experience to spend time with her on the water, and the excitement that she showed for each and every little thing that happened made me realize how much I take for granted.

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The smallmouth scene was really good all summer on the local rivers, low and clear water presented ideal conditions to go out and find several each trip.   There were even a few pike mixed into most outings.


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The Bass 1 Fly happened again this year, in our 5th year of the event it has grown to 27 anglers.  It’s the dumbest event on the planet and I never have any fun during it, I don’t even know why I torture myself putting it together and showing up (if you couldn’t tell…..I didn’t win……again).  Heres a pic of some stupid idiot that did win – he’s banned from the event in 2017 (just kidding Sean…..kind of).

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Guide, teacher, presenter, explorer Nome Buckman (more on her in an upcoming Guide Feature) invited me to join her for a day of Musky fishing this summer.  Something I’ve never done before – so I spent countless hours researching and tying and piles of money buying new stuff that I don’t even need.  I even constructed a Musky Medical Kit – I heard shit gets wild and I wanted to be ready.

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Jeff came along for what turned out to be one of the more fun weekends I’ve ever had.  Beautiful scenery, the most intense sunsets I’ve ever seen, and a number of opportunities at fish.

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I got on the board on Day 2 – and I still have all of my fingers, so it was a success.

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Towards the tail end of the summer when the smallmouth become slightly more scarce and harder to find and salmon start making their annual pilgrimage to their spawning grounds – I finally got the Mitt Monkey Intern out into the boat.  Adam is an old pal from High School and an incredibly proficient newer fly guy.  He threw tight loops and hit the right spots with his streamers all day and was rewarded with a 20″ smallmouth – one of the biggest I saw all year.

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If the summer of 2017 is half as good as this past year, I’ll be happy.

 


We’re Back…….

 

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The very first post written on MichiganFly was published on Jan 9th, 2014 – 3 years ago today.  That Michigan winter was especially brutal, temps that reached a high in the single digits for several days in a row and snow that was measured in feet instead of inches.  Dan and I started this as a coping method as we searched for any crutch available to maintain the level mental sanity we both had.  Luckily for us, jumping on the internet and acting like clowns worked to the degree that we didn’t have to resort to our final plan that involved tons of drugs and booze.

We decided at the time that we would operate the blog through the winter months, then bail out of it when time no longer permitted, usually signaled by the polar bears and penguins migrating back to more permanent arctic lands.  So……..we’re back for the next couple of months.  Who’s ready for Tuesday bananas?

2016 was a good year – they are all pretty damned good if you have a group of friends that you spend time with on the water.  Here’s a the start of a brief recap:

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Instead of typing some BS that nobody wants to read here, a video recap is probably better.

A few trout a few steelhead, nothing wrong with that.  Then towards the latter half of spring, something happened that….that changed everything forever.  In our circle a 20″ trout is usually referenced as a “good fish”, anything over 24″ becomes a “giant” and if you topple the 27″ mark, something that has been done once by Jeff (see his work at  Fly Fish the Mitt) its legendary status.

Well, Dan (MichiganFly co-founder) didn’t just set a new bar this year, he took the old one, broke it and shoved it up everyone’s rears.  Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness a 30″ resident brown trout being put into the net – but it happened.

The fish ate a fly of Dan’s own design – the Mitt Fiddle.  Guess what bug got fished by everyone else a lot for the rest of the year?

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Personally, I was on the struggle bus a bit streamer fishing this past spring.  I had a number of opportunities at good fish maybe even a few giants in there – but usually I had my head up my ass and completely blew the chance.  Definitely, something that will be addressed this year.  I don’t know – is there some surgical procedure or something to remove craniums from rectums?

Rest of the year recap to come soon.  Tune in tomorrow for the 1st Tuesday Bananas of the year!


2016 B1F – Chase for the Duke & Lily Cup

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Springing Into Action, Pre­Spawn Smallmouth Bass on the Fly

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Today’s feature is from Kory Boozer, SW Michigan and Smallmouth guide extraordinaire.  CLICK HERE to see more info about Kory and how to book a trip to elevate your Smallmouth game.

When fly fisherman think of Smallmouth Bass in Michigan, they think of hot Summer days spent tossing poppers at the rivers edge and while this is a great time of year to pursue Smallmouth Bass, it is far from the only time of year fly fisherman can enjoy chasing these river assassins.

While many anglers are still chasing Steelhead or Brown Trout on Michigan’s Rivers, Smallies begin to put on one of the biggest feeding binges of the year, typically once the water temps reach the mid to upper 40’s is when you will begin noticing a sharp increase in activity. They have yet to vacate their Winter holding lies and are still congregated in large groups which means if you find them you can typically catch a bunch of them. Look for fish to hold in deeper water in slack water areas, such as natural wing dams, sharp drop offs in the river bottom, eddies, etc… Any area that provides baitfish, slack current and deeper  water with access to spawning habitat nearby while retaining access to food is the ticket.

The results of properly matching the fly to the most abundant forage.

The results of properly matching the fly to the most abundant forage.

As far as gear goes, this isn’t time to fish floating lines and light weight rods, I recommend Scientific Anglers Sonar lines in the 250-350 grain range depending on the rod you are using. Some days you simply need to get down deep and I will throw a 9 wt and 350 grain line. As the water warms fishing deeper water becomes less and less of a necessity though and for the most part 7 and 8 wt rods are all you need. When you fish weightless flies as I do a heavier line is necessary to get them down, lucky for us a good sized Smallie will fold a 7, 8 or even a 9 wt to the cork. You do not want to fish large streamers, even if you are targeting big fish, streamers roughly 3″ – 4″ in length are ideal to properly match the forage at that time of year. Fish them slow with short and fast strips to provoke reaction bites, some times very slowly swinging through an area with minimal action is ideal, others they want more action, this can vary by the hour so something you want to continuously play with to maximize your effectiveness.

Releasing a chunky pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass.

Releasing a chunky pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass.

Fly choices are dictated by the most available forage where you are fishing. For example if Chubs, Suckers or Gobies are the dominate food source where you are fishing, you want to match the colors, size and flash these bait fish give off as closely as possible. If young Trout & Salmon or Shad are the most abundant food source in the area, then that is the type of forage you want to mimic. A flies effectiveness for Smallmouth Bass is measured by how much motion they provide without movement, how closely the color and flash matches the natural forage and how fast and cheap I can tie the fly in my opinion. I want a fly that swims without being stripped, matches the size, hue and flash of the naturals while being slightly transparent and one that I can tie reasonably fast. I also when possible want it to be cheap so I don’t mind losing them and will fish them like I stole `em so to speak. You can basically get away with 3 flies, a white/grey hue, an olive hue and a brown hue, which would do a good job of matching everything from Shad, Baby Bass, Sculpins, Gobies, Suckers, Shiners, etc… A pattern called the Bad Hair Day, developed by my Friend and Wisconsin fly fishing guide Dave Pinczkowski is a great starting point for flies emulating anything in the baitfish form. It utilizes craft fur which is cheap yet has amazing action in the water, various types of flash and wool or dubbing as a head. Simple, Cheap and Effective… Simply match the materials you are tying with to the forage you are imitating, and get started.

A group of Bad Hair Day streamers tied in various colors to suit a variety of conditions.

A group of Bad Hair Day streamers tied in various colors to suit a variety of conditions.

The pre-spawn bite will vary in duration, typically it takes place until water temps reach the mid to upper 50’s and the fish begin to spawn. Depending on weather and location, that can lead to a vastly different window of opportunity. If your into hard fighting fish and don’t like fishing around heavily pressured areas, early Spring Smallmouth Bass might be just the thing for you!

Kory Boozer – Boozer’s Guide Service – www.BoozersGuideService.com

 


Nomad Anglers Brews and Bugs

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Nomad Anglers Brews and Bugs Lineup <- Clicky Clicky!

Local shop (to 3 metro areas now!) and all around great group of dudes, Nomad Anglers puts on a winter series called Brews and Bugs where they invite fly spinners in to share with participants a few different patterns.  Unlike a lot of tying events, this series encourages active participation – so instead of just sitting around and watching a fat kid (like me) flap his trap about how awesome a fly pattern he came up with, you actually get to practice tying yourself.  All the materials are provided, all you have to do is find an excuse to leave the home for a few hours without explaining where you are going, bring your vice and other tools, and a healthy thirst that can only be quenched by consuming copious amounts of alcohol (be sure to Uber your ass home if you over do it).

Erich at Nomad in GR asked if I would share a few different steelhead nymphs on March 1st at Schmoz in GR.  So if you happen to be in the area, and want to listen to some really poor off colored humor, marvel at the fact that I wind my tying thread backwards, or simply throw fruit and vegetables (no blunt or sharp objects please) at me while I act like I know I’m doing – PLEASE RSVP TO : INFO@NOMADANGLERS.COM with your Name, Phone Number and Email Address.

On the tying menu for the evening will be – Latexed Stone Fly, Latexed Hex Nymph, BBC (Bitches Be Crazy) Fry pattern, and a “secret” egg.

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Damsel Madness

A couple years ago I was on a streamer trip with friend Joe Donati.   It was a day in late May and the weather was warm and overcast with water a bit up and stained, perfect for pulling bugs.  Joe had landed a few nice trout and we came into a straightaway with grass tight to the bank.  I was rowing and Joe noticed a trout shoot completely out of the water for some right along the bank.  We dropped anchor mid-river and watched for a bit as more fish along the bank proceeded to come flying out of the water with reckless abandon.  We soon realized they were going after damsels hovering near the grass.  We sat there for a while just watching one after another taking shots at these bugs that were obviously driving the trout mad.  Neither of us had anything remotely similar to a damsel so Joe just went with a hopper pattern and was able to get one to go.  I took some video that really doesn’t do the moment justice  but worth sharing.

After telling Bob this story that evening he laughed and said that he’d just taken the two or three damsels he had parked in his dry fly box out because he never thought he’d get a shot at fishing them.

If you’ve been living off the grid for the past couple years and haven’t seen this amazing video of trout crashing damsels then check this out.


The Ones that Keep Me Coming Back

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught.  ~Author Unknown

Far more often than any of us would like fishing outings conclude with thoughts of “what the hell happened” or “what went wrong” instead of the glorious celebratory end to the day that we all yearn for.  As I look back upon my past few years pulling streamers I have experienced a fair amount of success and have been fortunate to come face to face with a number of quality trout.

Thats all fine and dandy, and I feel honored to have been able to put a fish in the net – but thats not what drives me.  I am unequivocally motivated by the fish that I had brief encounters with.  Those ones that showed themselves in a lightening quick flash as soon as my streamer descended into their habitation OR the ones that charged the stripped bug all the way to the boat and inexplicably turned away without commitment OR (and the worst ones of all) those fish that ate or tried to eat and in a fit of excitement and stupidity I trout set the shit out of and they quickly came unpinned.

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I spend way more time than I should trying to figure out how to elicit a reaction from a predatory fish with a brain the size of a dime.  I lose sleep at night because of it.  It’s a sickness in which there are only 2 cures – more whiskey than my bank account could afford or more time spent on the water.  The biggest problem is, far more times than not I have a brief encounter with a fish that undoubtedly in my mind looks somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 times larger than it really is if I were to actually catch it and get a tape on it.  The fish that we don’t catch seem to always be potential record breakers that would land us piles of “thumbs up” on Facebook, never before seen levels of street cred, piles of endorsement, and an endless stream of friend requests from women not trying to sell us Oakley sunglasses (seriously, what’s up with that on Facebook right now?).

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The persistent challenge that exists of cracking the code of trout drives me.  If it were easy I don’t think I would do it as much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that if I had the ability or opportunity to walk out my door and start railing 30″ giant browns one after another any day of the week, that I wouldn’t do it.  Of course I would – I’d also probably be unemployed.  What I’m getting at is that the ever changing challenge of catching these fish on streamers is what gets me going.  If I could go out and rail 30″ giants, I wouldn’t feel the need to devote so much time and energy into figuring this stuff out.

The sad fact of this is….this is a game you can never really win.  There will be days that you are ahead in the score column, but in the end the fish will always be victorious more times than not.  So, the reality of this is I’m going to spend an enormous portion of my adult life trying to win at a game that is impossible to win.  Sounds like a great plan to me.


Warmwater Thoughts

Michigan differs from most other states that have a trout oriented fishery, unlike the landlocked states of the Rocky Mountain west we are fortunate to have a migratory fishery available to us.  Another often overlooked opportunity to enjoy the bountiful resources in our state is targeting warm water fish.

This year I plan to spend a considerable amount of time pursuing bass, pike, and pan fish in many of the lakes that are in my immediate geographical area.  Instead of settling into the same routine of summer which is smallmouth bass fishing every weekend, I’m excited about learning something completely new and different.

I’ve made the statement several times over, that “if you put me in a lake, you might as well blindfold me because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.”  I said that to my wife not so long ago – and she surprised me with a guide that focuses solely on the lakes in our region.

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Doing a fair bit of research between this guide and the internet, has more than peaked my interest this year – it has me really excited.  I’m completely engulfed right now with gathering as much knowledge as possible to learn about how to fish these resources.  Another exciting component is that while my normal trout/bass streamers will most likely work just fine, I have enjoyed seeking out new patterns to tie.

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While I’ll always be a trout streamer and steelhead nympher first – finding a new way to further immerse myself in the sport isn’t a bad thing.


Welcome to Ameautre Hour

When Chief first asked me if I would contribute to this prestigious fly fishing blog, I figured someone blasted him in the head with a musky streamer on a back cast. Then I thought, what if someone has finally recognized my true potential as a savant fly fishing blogger, and now is my big chance to amaze the Internetz with my skills and knowledge?! Unfortunately, my dreams of winning a Pulitzer were quickly extinguished as he revealed that the segments were to be focused towards fisherpeople (I see you fisherladies!) who are new to fly fishing — and as I was the noobiest of noobs he knew, I’d be a perfect candidate. But, I’ll still take it!  Everyone, welcome to amateur hour!

First things first: being “new” at fly fishing is incredibly relative, as there are so many different facets to this sport. So, even though I definitely want to make true newcomers feel at home, some of you pros may find something useful here, as well. With copious ways of putting flies in front of fish, in just as many geographical and seasonal scenarios, there are always opportunities to jump back on the new guy bus. A grizzled, seasoned fly-chucker can find himself lost in the sea of kindergarten supplies as he finally delves into tying his own flies. Or an “out-west” angler who’s used only a 5wt and dry flies to seduce trout-skis from soothing, unobstructed meadow streams may find himself moving to Michigan. As such, he may be coerced into a 20ft, 15wt double-handed skagit rig, and may try to throw six-inch articulated piles of marabou and deer hair for steelhead in large rivers filled with sunken trees that have magnets tied to them (true story: MI rivers are where kitchen magnets go to die). Odds are he’ll be forced down the skill ladder lickety split and feel like it’s his first time on the water when that slab of chrome runs under a log and makes him a fool. But to me, this is what makes fly fishing so great. It’s really hard to find yourself bored or unchallenged (or with a healthy savings account).  Hopefully, this will be a place we can all come together and talk about how lost we all can be in this sport — and maybe even ways we can navigate learning it better.

When not watching YouTube videos of how to catch steelhead on midges and blue winged olives, Adam hones his magical levitating abilities.

When not watching YouTube videos of how to catch steelhead on midges and blue winged olives, Adam hones his magical levitating abilities.

But, as this is amateur hour, I feel the need to prove I’m not some retired river rat masquerading for fake Internet points, and actually someone who is still finding his way around this sport. Even though I can hold my own with the puffy-jacketed, flat-brimmed, old-timey-cigar smokers in a fly shop conversation, I assure you, I still really have no idea what I’m doing. Sure, I tie my own flies (with a vast variance in skill and outcome), have multiple rigs, can tie blood knots in my sleep and have a fairly decent overhand cast (also with varying skill and outcome), but there are plenty of things that still make me Mayor of Newbville. To show you how fearless I am, let’s examine a few of my fly fishing flaws on the Internet, shall we? What could go wrong!?

  • Despite how much I think/talk about fly fishing and with all the money I have put into this never-ceasing obsession, I really don’t even fish that much. It’s not because I don’t want to; I just live on the wrong side of the state in relation to the “good” rivers. Add in life events, other hobbies/passions, and life/family obligations, and it doesn’t amount to too many hours in my waders. I’ve made the best of it (high five to my wife for being awesome, and my Father-in- Law for keeping me from drowning!) but this is the number one reason my progress in becoming a better fly fisherman has been so slow. As my uncle always says (after mocking me and claiming  “trucker” hats are for Ashton Kutcher wannabes): “You gotta go to know.”
  • I’m TERRIBLE at roll casting. Seriously, who has fly fished in Michigan for as long as I have and can’t freakin’ roll cast?! It’s touted as one of the easiest forms of casting and the basis for a good majority of more complex casts — and I’m just the worst at it. A benefit of this (and being really tall), though, is that I’m pretty good at retrieving flies stuck in overhead trees!
  • Real talk: I only barely understand what the crap skagit or scandi or switcheroski fly fishing is all about. I mean, I think I get the premise of it, maybe? Some fisherpeople were having a hard time throwing big flies or rigs and were all like, “Hey, let’s come up with this new form of fly fishing where we make the rods impossibly long so no one can walk through the woods with them and then, THEN, let’s change how we classify all the lines and come up with even crazier ways to rig them up! That will totally make it easier to cast this size six wooly bugger with extra flashabou!” And after THAT, someone over in the corner shouts “Hey! You guys ever heard of centerpin fishing? It’s the only way to fish indicators now!” I’m pretty sure centerpin is a bowling reference somehow…but that’s about all I understand here.
  • I have never in my life fished from a drift boat. Walk-in only. I’m always so jealous of you guys in your fancy, zero-displacement luxury crafts, stealthily making your way (except you guys that can’t use oars) between boat-only honey holes while drinking beer, taking naps and warming yourself over Mr. Buddy heaters. (All the while staring as we earth-bound plebeians are struggling through tag elder with our skagity switch rods you tricked us into buying, and wading up to our belly buttons navigating around private property.)  It must be a magical experience.
  • I can’t tie anything smaller than a size 10. I seriously don’t understand how you out-west guys make nymphs sized in the 20s. I honestly struggle to tie most nymphs that aren’t wooly buggers, eggs or caddis flies (large ones, anyway), as my hands shake like I’m on an eightball of coke (I most definitely am not; I’ve seen The Wire), and there is just so little space to work with, I usually end up with some pretty disproportionate-looking barely-nymphs. Good thing pulling streamers is so fun!
  • Reading water is still like watching a foreign film with no subtitles for me. I can kind of get the gist of what’s going on under there and can usually understand the obvious spots… .but really I’m just guessing most of the time.  Again: a skill best learned by actually being on the water.
  • Finally, I only have ONE fly fishing sticker on my truck… and it’s not even that big!  Blasphemy.

Ok, I’ll leave you all with a video of one of the Golden Girls roll casting like an absolute BOSS….since I clearly can’t.

Joan Wulff: The Roll Cast


Steelhead Flies

Now that the holidays are behind us, its back to our regularly scheduled programming…….who am I kidding, there’s nothing “regular” about us.

Spent some time behind the vice the past few weeks, spinning proven steelhead targeting nymphs and trying to come up with a few “new” patterns.  There’s really not much new in the world of fly tying, we borrow materials, proportion templates, color schemes, and pretty much just about anything else fly construction related from others.  However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying new things, developing new ideas and adding new bugs to their box.

Here are the “new” bugs that I put together for this year’s edition of my steelhead nymph box.

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