The last few years we have dealt with severe high water events that have prevented my father from being able to spend much time on the river with me in the spring chasing steelhead, this year has been a nice break from the historical high flows and has allowed us to spend much more time together.
High hopes for a huge day quickly dissipted after we walked up and down the river searching for a decent spot to begin our day, only to be met with enormous amounts of traffic from other anglers. While its great to see so many people out enjoying the resource, there are days that solitude is preferred.
We spent most of the day hanging out on the bank of the river together having great conversation, exploring topics we would never speak of in front of mom, we also formulated exact resolutions to all of Michigan footballs recent woes – in case Jim Harbaugh reads this, feel free to call us for some free advice.
Eventually, we were able to settle into a run and our patience was quickly rewarded with finding a few willing players – landing 2 solid fish in a matter of minutes.
Sure, it was nice to be able to bring a few fish to hand, as they were the reason that brought us to the river – but, the fish were just a bonus. It’s these days of being in the presence of the man that sparked my passion and constantly encourages me that make steelhead fishing and spring so special.
My brother is a very busy person with an occupation that requires a great amount of attention and effort. He also is an exceptionally devoted father and husband that spends most of his little free time with his family. He does have hobbies and passions – fishing for steelhead used to be one of them.
Nearly 7 years ago, he and I choose different passions to focus our free time energy allotment into. As young men our father had introduced us to the outdoors, and taught us many great lessons – using hunting and fishing as the text books of his classroom. My brother with limited time to enjoy outdoor activities choose to hyper-focus his attention into hunting, it’s obvious what I decided to pour my free time into.
We figured out that it had been nearly 7 years since my brother joined my father, whom still splits his time between sitting in trees and standing in rivers, and myself on a fishing excursion. This year everything finally fell into place, our schedules all synched and my brother expressed renewed interest and excepted an invitation to join us.
A few days of planning and coordination only added to my own anticipation to spending a day on the water with my father and brother as we had done so many times long ago. I was excited to have the gang back together, and it became obvious on Friday night that my brother shared the same sentiment.
We met at my house early Saturday morning and loaded my 2 man inflatable raft, and my fathers 1 man toon. After a quick double check of the gear inventory we were off.
My brother, a talented outdoorsman – actually he is talented at anything he chooses to do (don’t tell him I said that though) – jumped right back into the game, as if he hadn’t even left it.
A mere minutes into the float, my brother was able to hook and land his first steelhead in a long time. Years of memories of he and I tagging along with dad, stumbling around on creek banks in oversized waders and packs weighted down by several sandwiches and extra clothing packed by mom, came rushing back. It was again the way it always was, it was familar.
This was familar to me as well.
What was unfamilar for me was the food. As many of you have already gathered, both by my past posts and my growing waist line, I enjoy good food. On most occassions, I am the coordinator of the riverside lunches. Cooking for others is a gift given to me by my mother, a wonderful cook that always makes certain every meal is carefully prepared and can be enjoyed by everyone present. However, on this day I reluctantly relinquished my typical duty of going to great lengths to make sure that even if the fishing sucks, at least there is a great bankside meal to look forward to. My brother spent much of the day prior, when not filling his flask with scotch or looking for gear that hadn’t seen the light of day in many years, prepping a feast.
We ENJOYED pork that had been in his smoker for much of the previous day, bacon wrapped BBQ venison tenderloin bites, and homemade baked beans, (once again, please don’t tell him) a meal far better than anything I’ve put together on the river before. Unlike many days I’ve spent on the river, we didn’t need a hot meal to lift the spirits of the group.
The rest of the day featured a few more shots at fish, and of course getting back to our roots, good natured competition and ribbing ensued. As I was the only one to not be able to capitalize on an opportunity, it was a 2 horse race between my two companions. Those two would make a competition out of anything – especially when outside of the supervison of mom.
It sounds cliche’ at times, but this day truly was not about the fish – they were simply the excuse for us 3 to be back together enjoying the outdoors together as we had so many times before. It was great to be in their presence again.
My son is growing up fast and the signs are starting to show that he’s gearing up to be an independent little dude. Those days of getting a hug before school in front of his friends or after a baseball game are gone. We do have our times though, and fishing together happens to be one of them. A short window of opportunity opened this past weekend so we both jumped at the chance to run out for a few hours. It was one of those quick trips that finds me in a mad scramble for gear and wondering whether I forgot something during the entire ride up. Things were forgotten but we had what we needed to set out.
We had time to fish only a couple runs so I was happy to see the one I had in mind was open when we walked up. He’s been tying some flies lately and we picked one he tied last spring during high water, a black rabbit strip leech over an orange estaz body.
It didn’t take long before a nice fish was hooked. He did a solid job of fighting the steelhead, knowing when to reel and when to let the fish run.The fish was fairly compliant and after a few runs in the pool I was able to get a net under him.
The fish was a clean, nicely colored male steelhead. We’ve had our share of fishless outings so it felt great to see him bring a nice fish to the net in one of those moments when a lot of things could easily go wrong but didn’t.
We took a couple quick photo’s and released the fish to finish it’s work over the course of the next few weeks as the spring spawning period kicks into high gear. Afterward we made some half-hearted attempts at another knowing we got what we wanted out of our afternoon. We found a river rock to memorialize the day as we always do then made our way back to the car talking about cedars and trying to find the best tree to build a tree fort in so that we can live near the river permanently. Often times the highlights of a fishing trip are just the twizzlers and orange soda we eat and drink on the way up and back. This trip had a bonus fish and some good ideas on where to build our dream home.
We are fortunate in Michigan that we have the ability to target so many different fish in varying types of water on the fly. The opportunities here are seemingly endless in regards to the species we can catch and the type of water we can catch them in. In my opinion, the 2 greatest sport fish we have available are Steelhead and Large Brown Trout. I have, over the years, waivered back and forth as to my answer to the question: “if you could only pick one fish to fish for, what would it be?” So, I thought I’d weigh out many of the deciding factors that go into it for me. These attributes are just my opinion on the matters – would love to hear what everyone else has to say about it though!
|It’s reasonable to expect that you would be able to find a brown trout pretty much all 12 months out of the year. Great Lakes steelhead are typically only available from October through April (sometimes May). Edge Brown Trout|
|Photogenic qualities||This is a really tough one for me – giant slabs of buttery goodness are not exactly a dime a dozen, but steelhead go through several unique transformations of coloration and composure once they enter the rivers. In a close call, I’ve got to say Edge Steelhead|
|Watersheds found in||
|Most of the rivers that steelhead can be found in will also hold a population of large brown trout. However, there are several areas that browns are found in that steelhead don’t have access to, including some of the most beautiful/pristine stretches of river this state has to offer. Edge Brown Trout|
|As the saying goes, the tug is the drug when it comes to steelhead. While I will admit that the ‘jolt’ a steelhead on a swung fly is exciting, for me the visual experience of catching a big brown on a pulled streamer or on a dry fly can’t be matched. Watching a buttery brown propel itself towards the boat at Mach5, and open its mouth to inhale a streamer makes me weak in the knees. Edge Brown Trout|
|Tactics they are targeted with||
|Swing and bobber fishing for Steelhead vs. Pulling streamers and dry fly fishing for Browns. I’m an extremely visual person and watching a bobber all day while visual, is far less interactive than pulling a streamer or manipulating your line for a drag free drift of a dry. Edge Brown Trout|
|The Fight||This one isn’t even close. Rarely, in my experience will a brown put up nearly the fight or require the amount of skill to land once hooked that a steelhead requires. Edge Steelhead|
|Uggggghhhhh…..steelhead brings people out of the woodwork, people come from all over the country to experience the great fishery we have. Many people you encounter will be utilizing questionable tactics as well. You’ll often times spend as much time searching for a spot to actually fish than you will fishing. Edge Brown Trout|
|Success Rates||Steelhead, when they are available are for the most part more easily caught than large brown trout. Steelhead success rates are measured in #’s, browns are measured in inches. Being that steelhead are typically easier to encounter – Edge Steelhead|
|Tying the Bugs||
|Steelhead fly tying, whether it is for swinging or nymphing gets very monotonous, it feels like full on production mode. Tying streamers for trout allows me to flex the minimal creativity that I possess, and I enjoy it. Not to mention you only need a few streamers and a few dries and you’re all set. Edge Brown Trout|
January got off to a good start – steelhead fishing with Dan.
Streamer Fishing in January can’t work – can it?
#somestreamerchick backs up a boat and wins an award.
Fly Fish the Mitt comes back into the fold with an awesome new video.
Wait – there’s more from FFM with That Never Happens (I agree by the way). Then the birth of some idiot streamer dude, then he talks about a bunch of dummys that aren’t able to identify a Hennie flat. (what a bunch of losers)
Rich at Trout on the Fly wraps up his Arkansas trip HERE
Kent at Gink hauls some water or water hauls or does something to make you a better caster. Louis talks first rods – need to check this out for sure! Koz discusses the danger that is intruding on the Great Lakes (eff off big head carps!)
Drink your PBR in style – #glassisnotdead
Not freshly minted this week, but is only a few weeks old and a really touching read at Rivers of Reckoning
Early 2015 has been vastly different than this time last year. Most everything was on complete lockdown last year, temps hovering in the single digits, with no end in sight. While 2015 hasn’t been spectacular by any means from a weather standpoint, it has still afforded a few opportunities to fish and not deal with frozen guides, anchor ice, and misery.
We decided to go against the grain a bit and pull streamers last weekend instead of making the logical choice and fishing steelhead on a smaller river system. This of course goes against conventional wisdom, as the conditions were far from ‘ideal’ for a good streamer bite.
Things started off better than expected when my Olive Boogie Man streamer got thumped in a deep run, I came tight – immediately putting a significant bend in my rod. I felt a few hard head shakes and then nothing – we never saw the fish, but we were encouraged by the relatively immediate action. Shortly after that Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt, and streamer guru (he has a serious addiction that most likely requires an intervention – but who am I to ruin what I consider a good thing?) had a shot at a serious trout from a likely lie, but somehow did not get any hooks in him.
Then nothing…………..for many hours……………..it had already been better than we expected, but the early returns on our investment were overly encouraging and nearly set us up for failure as we immediately forgot that water temps were near 33 degrees, low and clear, and it was January!
Shortly after parking the boat and having a mid river chat with another group of pals that had launched shortly before us, things started to pick up once again.
Jeff narrowly avoided disaster while trying to net this fish – we both had lost track of where we were in relation to the bank and just as I begun lifting the fish towards the net, Jeff noticed that we were a mere feet away from going broadside into a log/tree combo that would have potentially caused havoc.
Soon after that Jeff put together the most productive, unproductive shift of the day. In streamer fishing there are several ‘near misses’ or ‘what could have beens’ or ‘if onlys’ – times where fish either commit to your pulled bug and don’t get pinned, or they give chase only to turn away and go back to their deep water haunts. The thrill of the chance, from multiple perspectives, is what keeps me wanting more and coming back. One fish in particular was summed up eloquently by Jeff as, “I seriously feel like I just got intimate with that fish”. 2 great fish and nothing to show for it.
It was nearing the end of the day, and the 30 min timer had just gave notice that it was time for me to stop casting and to switch the rower’s seat. Jeff insisted that I spend 5 more minutes casting before we switched, after a back and forth exchange with me arguing that I had enough and it was his turn to fish, he won and I ‘had to’ keep fishing. I buried the very next cast into a small twig that barely broke the surface of the water – further expounding my desire to sit in the comfy rower’s seat, put my mittens on and enjoy the rest of the float. After Jeff’s encouraging to do everything in my power to shake the bug loose and not disturb the water, I was able to finally free it. Then on the very next cast this happened:
This undoubtedly should have been Jeff’s fish – not mine. Hell, he even did more work than I did to catch it. He rowed us across the river, he put me in the correct spot, he encouraged me to make a smart decision, and then netted the fish for me.
Streamer fishing is similar to what I understand drug addictions to be – users are always chasing that first high that they experienced. I’ve already set my self up for failure for the next several times I get out to pull streamers, as I am convinced that everytime out I will have the exact same experience – or better. And I will do everything I can to chase that feeling again. It’s a good thing that Jeff is the only one that is an addict here.
2014 was a great year spent in the outdoors. Here are a few pics wrapping up the year that was:
After the longest lay off from fishing that I can remember in my life, the weather finally broke enough and my schedule permitted an opportunity to spend time with Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt in his new boat, with he and Joe.
Surprisingly, the traffic was exceptionally light and the bite was fantastic for the vast majority of the day. All of our rods got a full work out.
The fat kid (me) forgot the food, Joe hooked us up and saved the day before it even began. With water temps still brutally cold, and the air temps not helping the situation throughout the day, we were hoping for the best, but not anticipating the day that unfolded.
The net stayed busy throughout the day. It was nice to meet new finned friends.
Encountered this gem of a video this morning (Thanks for sharing on Facebook Koz). I die a little each day that I’m not here.