Doing something that is different and unique from what everyone else is doing is not always easy. Carving out your own niche, especially in a copy cat industry like fly fishing, can be tough. Breaking away from the norm and creating an entirely new set of fly fishing opportunities for his clients is exactly what Kory Boozer from Boozer’s Guide Service (<–clicky clicky) is doing. When people think of fly fishing in Michigan, trout, salmon, and steelhead immediately come to mind. Likewise, floating down winding cedar lined rivers the size of a 2 lane road is the typical setting. Often overlooked are the unbelievable resources of Michigan’s larger waterways and the abundance of the Mitt’s warm water fish species.
Larger watersheds like the Kalamazoo, Grand, or St. Joe rivers can be intimidating and a daunting task to learn well enough to have success with a fly to most anglers. Spending countless days and hours on these rivers, Kory has earned a PhD in reading these larger waters, understanding where fish are, and how to best target them. He is able to show how special and beautiful these waterways are. Specializing in smallmouth, pike, and longnose gar excursions – Kory offers a unique opportunity for anyone looking for a new experience and to learn how to pursue these great but often overlooked native game fish.
A passionate teacher, Kory gets great joy out of sharing his vast experience and knowledge with fellow anglers. In addition to his prowess as a fly fishing educator, Kory is an innovative fly tier always and supremely talented photographer. Not only will you likely catch the biggest smallie or pike of your life, but you will end up with mantle place worthy photo as well.
What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily?
Saint Joseph, Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers
What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding?
Streamers and surface flies actively fished from a drifting boat. Fishing from an anchored boat is about as appealing to me as watching paint dry. I want to cover water and find active, hard-charging fish that want to kill a fly.
Species of fish that you guide for?
Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Longnose Gar
What’s your favorite thing about guiding?
I love getting folks into the sport and igniting a passion to enjoy and protect our wild and native natural resources. We largely live in a disposable society these days under the premise, if something breaks, you just buy another one or in our case, stock more fish. We should be more focused on enhancing our self-sustaining natural resources and better protecting what we have that can thrive here naturally. There really isn’t anything all that special about a fish raised in a raceway and put here by man. I make an honest effort not to dumb down my program, I do not believe in short cuts, I want my clients to learn to be great casters and how to work a fly properly. I take a lot of pride in my teaching abilities and truly enjoy doing it.
Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?
Good sandwiches, I don’t have time for a grilled shore lunch that takes an hour to prepare and eat, if you fish with me, you are here to fish, not hang out and eat…
If you could be in a band, which one would it be?
Primus… So we could play all the greatest fly fishing destinations around the globe!
Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse?
Clowns and people in big animal costumes kind of freak me out, regardless of what operates Disney World, I want no part of it…
What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?
Passion, hands down… I get more enjoyment out of teaching folks to fly fish and seeing them have a great time than I do fishing myself these days. In regards to the St. Joseph River, I was literally born & raised on the banks of this river, the sheer amount of time I have on this watershed is a huge advantage for me. Some folks go to sleep counting Sheep, I fall asleep rehearsing bottom structure and holding lies on the Joe…
What makes a good client?
Attitude! I want someone who is positive about learning and is appreciative of how much effort I put into each trip.
Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens? We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky?
Yes! This was an actual conversation a client and I had not all that long ago!
If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?
Liam Neeson! Great actor and he fly fishes!
What else would be helpful for people to know about you?
I am all about teaching folks new to the sport how to fly fish, it truly does not bother me if someone is a novice, in fact it can be a good thing as they typically do not have any bad habits to overcome. I encourage folks to bring their children as well, there are few things more rewarding to me than seeing kids enjoy the outdoors and watersheds I am so passionate about.
How does someone contact you to book a trip?
A long time bucket list of mine had been to participate in a fly-in fishing trip to northern Canada, and in the early part of June last year, I was able to finally check it off. If you are unfamiliar with these endeavors, they are all pretty much the same concept. Drive as far north into Canada that roads will take you, hop on a float plane to any of the hundred remote outpost camps on any of the million lakes up there and start fishing. As long as you can keep from being devoured by a bear, trampled by a moose or suffocated by a swarm of ruthless, evil, hate filled bugs…you will no doubt catch more fish than you can possibly imagine. Besides the obvious appeal of fishing for a week straight, the biggest pull for me was how remote these locations are. You’re out on your own, miles and miles from civilization, surviving off only the gear you bring in and the game you catch (sorry…no “keep em’ wet” happening there) all the while taking in nature that hasn’t been completely altered or trodden over by a herd of humans every weekend. It was an awesome experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat with the only negative memory being those damn bugs (pro tip: don’t let them get INSIDE your bug suit…nightmares). But as the resident new guy on this blog, I thought I’d share one of the things I’d do differently if I were to partake in such an adventure again; my approach and plan for catching fish. I’ll break it out for you.
Where we were fishing:
As with the vast majority of water in northern Canada, the two major species we would be pursuing (and living off of) were walleye and pike, of which I have very little experience fishing for. The particular body of water we were on consisted of a decent sized river opening up to a 7 mile by half mile lake with two other rivers that exited on the other side. Our outpost was located at the mouth of the river feeding in, and I was told that we would be spending most of our time around there for walleye and in the river and its tributaries for pike. The walleye were known to hang by structure in water anywhere from 10 to 20ft with pike patrolling the edges and shallow tributaries. We also would be taking a crazy adventurous day trip, 15 miles up river to a set of falls that are known for holding monster brook trout (trout rule, ‘eyes drool!).
How I planned on catching fish:
At the point I was planning for this trip, I had fully converted my fishing techniques to the fly and had all but rid myself of anything relating to gear fishing. I knew pike would be easy. I would treat them like hyper aggressive trout, slap some wire on the end of my leader and throw big, gaudy streamers at them. Walleye were another story. They aren’t known to be a regular target for most fly fisherman and finding large quantities of information on how to go about it was difficult. But the Internet is full of crazy people like myself and I was able to find enough articles to put a plan in place. My idea was this: I’d set up an 8/9wt rig with a long-headed 300gr sink tip line and tie up a bunch of weighted
leech and clouser patterns with colors ranging from black/purple to chartreuse/orange. I figured that if after I cast out as far as I could, I gave the fly ample time to sink before slowly stripping it in, I’d be close enough to the target depth to get in walleye range. Solid plan right? I should note, my father-in-law, who has been on countless number of trips to this lake, and would be with me on this one, thought I was a fool to only bring a fly rod. So much so, that he went out and bought me a spinning gear combo package so that I’d be guilt ridden into bringing gear with me. He wasn’t taking any chances as I’d be part of the equation of whether he ate dinner or not each night. What’s that they say about listening to those that have gone before you in life?
How it turned out:
Yea…not nearly as well as I thought and I was grateful for that spinning gear. The big thing I forgot to factor in was that I’m a novice who, at the time, couldn’t cast to save his life (an accurate metaphor given the circumstances) nor understood the fish or environment I was fishing in. Let’s break this down:
-When you are a very inefficient at casting, a 300gr line with heavy flies is not only a bear to control, but will wear you out lickety split. Add in that I’m a walking stick figure with a career that emphasizes typing speeds over strength, and I was well worn out after a full day behind my rig. This made my accuracy and distance garbage and I spent more time out of the fishy zone than in it.
-I was the only guy using a fly rod. And since piloting an outboard powered boat is near impossible while casting one, that meant the speed and positioning of said boat was almost always in favor of the hardware guys. When trolling, I couldn’t cast fast enough to accurately hit my zones or keep my fly deep enough if we were in walleye territory. When holding still, we were usually out far enough that I had to muster up monster casts to get to where the fish were. Again, my weak casting did not help me here. We had a 5th guy lined up to go with us that is a fantastic fly fisherman which, had he not had to bail at the last second, would have made this a moot point. But if if’s and but’s were candy and nuts, oh what a Christmas it would be. I was going to a camp designed around hardware…not sure what I expected.
-I didn’t tie nearly as flashy patterns as I should have. The water levels were abnormally high and strong winds had the water very cloudy. I obviously could not have predicted this, but you should prepare for everything on a trip like this. The only places I had any success were in the tributaries were the water was clear or low. But the name of the game that week was either motion (more than an articulated streamer can provide) or flash, neither of which my patterns overly excelled at. This was the most obvious the day we spent at the falls. I was the first in the water and on my fourth cast landed a real nice brookie on a white boogieman pattern. At last, I thought, it’s my time to shine! That was the last fish I caught that day. My boogieman was crusty leftovers in the eyes of the trout once they saw the Mepp’s my uncle’s were throwing. And they could cast them farther and faster than I could ever dream of. They put up some impressive numbers of some of the biggest brook trout I’ve seen and left me with my one measly fish and a sore shoulder on the boat ride home.
Did I catch fish on my fly rod? Is the pope catholic? I hooked up with plenty of hammer
handled size pike and even proved my theory correct with a few walleye. But I had to work my butt off to get them while my companions were kicked back slaying them one after another (literally) with spinning gear. And believe me…they let me know it. I eventually gave up and just switched to my spinning rod. I still refused to jig or troll…what a boring and uninvolved means of fishing. But I ended up having a fantastic time ripping stick baits for pike and spoons or spinners for walleyes and ended up with the record for most consecutive fish per cast by going 10 for 10 on pike one night. Quick side note here…the pike in that lake were some of the most aggressive, brutal predators I’ve seen. If it moved, it was food. They would come up and take chunks out of walleye we had on stringers and I swear to you, one even smashed a Rapala that was covered in a foot of weeds. Made for some fun times…but nature, you scary….
What I’d do differently:
Obviously, get better at casting. It’s coming up on a year since that trip and although I’m far from being Paul Maclean, I’ve made big improvements in this category thanks to some relentless backyard practicing and some great guidance from a friend. I also think I’d upgrade my fly rod. Over the summer I switched my Redington Crosswater 6wt over to a Mystic Reaper and it made a world of difference in my casting, especially for large streamers. I think if I did the same for my big streamer rod (combined with even more practice) I’d have a better time at it. But maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to have three Reapers in my collection. Also, I think I’d focus all time with my fly rod on hunting trophy pike and just be happy if a walleye randomly hits my fly. For walleye, I’d upgrade my spinning gear, chuck heavy spinners with ease and be happy doing it. Or pack in some steaks and leave the monotonous task of working a jig to others. Finally, I’d bring along a better assortment of flies. And I’m not talking about anything super fancy here…did you read the part about that pike hitting a grass covered lure? But maybe a little something more to get their attention and mix it up like some floating frog/mouse patterns or a pack of flashabou tied to a hook. That’d get it done.
So at the end of it all, these shortcomings with my fishing strategy by no means took away from an awesome trip. For that matter, it’s made me realize that living in Michigan, I’m limiting myself…just a bit…by swearing off gear fishing for life. The fall salmon run for instance has all be written off for me since I’ve given up the ol’ chuck n’ duck. So I think this September, IF the salmon come back up the river and I have an opportunity to get in there and battle it out, I’ll be throwing plugs and hot n’ tots instead of streamers and eggs. OK no joke…it was really hard to type that. But I’m trying to be open-minded and I promise I won’t be petitioning for this blog to be renamed michiganflyandgear.com. Fly or die people. But, in the meantime, I’m going to go look at pictures of steelhead sized brook trout, Bob Ross level Canadian sunsets and Fireball stealing in-laws to remind me of an incredibly memorable trip…and to keep practicing casting. So hey ya’ hosers, keep some tight lines eh?
“Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” -John Clapham
Michigan waters have a history steeped in controversy, tragedy, and invasion. Ships traveling into our waters from far away oceans have introduced a multitude of invasive species that have resulted in decimating the ecosystems and ravaging the native fish populations. There have been public political battles waged over the use of the watersheds. Public outcry arose when a plan to install offshore energy producing wind turbines was unveiled.
Through over fishing, deforestation, and other damning practices that had profound negative impacts to our watersheds, native populations of grayling and brook trout have severely diminished or become extinct. Populations of other indigenous species have declined so much that they are more of a surprise when encountered, instead of a norm. A love affair developed for dams has lead to substantial blockage of primal spawning grounds for native species, rendering natural reproduction more limited than it should be. We are faced with the perpetual (seemingly inevitable) threat of asian carp invading our waters, if they haven’t already. The extent of their impact upon arrival is somewhat unknown, but we can all agree it won’t be good.
Historic low water levels, warming water temperatures, increased imbalances in critical chemical compositions of our lakes and rivers, degradation of habitat, expanded erosion, additional invasive species, draining of headwater aquifers, and other natural and human induced threats encroach upon our natural resources. The easy excuse is – these are out of our control. The reality is, they are a direct result of us as a human race.
Sure, you could argue that as a result of many of these negative events positives have come about. Positives like the multi-million dollar a year salmon and steelhead fishing industry. Or the increased ability for anglers to catch limits of walleyes in the reservoirs of dams. But at the end of the day, salmon populations are collapsing and dams are failing, and there is probably no way to fix either.
Haven’t we learned from the mistakes of our forefathers? Are we so shortsighted as to think that we can continue to place “band aid” style of fixes to man caused ecological issues and they’ll eventually just go away? Because we have “solved” issues in the past by introducing new species, doesn’t mean that is a sustainable solution.
Here’s a sustainable solution – realize that our waterways are precious and water is life. Click for the trailer on a great feature I watched at F3T over the weekend: Water is Life Trailer. Fish and other aquatic life is are the litmus testers, the canary in the coal mine, that provide insight into how healthy our resources are.
The proposed aquafarm on the Au Sable doesn’t just impact the fishermen that enjoy the resource named “the Holy Waters”. It affects the small towns that call the river home, it affects the entire economies in those areas that jobs are created as a result of the thousands of folks recreationally enjoying the resource every year.
Harrietta Hills Trout Farm has championed aquaculture tirelessly in the state of Michigan for a number of years. Recently, they have proposed significant expansion of an existing farm currently operated as a tourist attraction on the Au Sable into a full blown aquafarm.
In an interview with Michigan Radio authored by Lindsey Smith(Click here for more) Dan Vogler, co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC states:
“It gets the community what they want, which is the opportunity to maintain this as a tourist attraction. And it gets us what we need, which is additional production space,” Dan Vogler said. Vogler is co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC, the small business that’s leasing the hatchery.
How can he be so sure that is what the community really wants is my question. Does the community really want to be known for the good old days of cold, clean, fish filled waters that once were? Do they want to be known for the local businesses that used to line the streets but can no longer exist without the seasonal population booms that come to enjoy the resource?
The article at michiganradio.org goes on to state:
With all the fresh water Michigan has, Vogler believes Michigan could produce much more fresh, locally produced fish, adding value to the state’s economy and residents’ diets.
Here is information regarding consumption of farmed fish found at clevelandclinic.org (Click here for more), citing Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs for short) sound dangerous. They are. POPs have been linked to several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence suggests obesity might be even more of a risk factor for diabetes when POPs are present in your body. And specific types of POPs increase the risk of stroke in women. Why does this matter? Because PCB (one type of POP) levels are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild fish.
“The benefit-risk ratio for carcinogens and noncarcinogens is significantly greater for wild salmon than for farmed salmon.”
Farmed salmon comes with uncertainty about antibiotic use. Wild salmon does not.
There is an obvious threat to the high water quality the river currently experiences. Increased discharge of foreign chemicals and fish feces poses a substantial risk to the health of the ecosystem. In the previously cited interview with Michigan Radio, Vogler had this to say about monitoring:
“Monitoring is very expensive. It’s a lot of lab work and I pay the bill. So as you add more monitoring to my operation, you’re impeding my ability to make a living here,” Vogler said, “The reality is that I’m not a non-profit organization. So if I’m going to be here and run this thing and give the community the benefit of the summer tourist aspect, I have to be profitable. So adding more monitoring burdens without being able to demonstrate how that helps – I’ve got a little problem with that.”
This does not strike me as someone that is overly concerned with the health of the river, to me it seems he is more concerned with operating a profitable business at the potential expense of the resource. To further complicate matters Dan Sanderson writes for the Crawford County Avalanche (Click here for more):
Instead of grab samples, the fish hatchery operator will be required to take three-portion composite samples collected at equal intervals over the 12-hour period of maximum fish activity. A weekly monitoring frequency will be required for all levels of production.
If I am understanding this correctly, the hatchery is being asked to self monitor in this situation. That would be like asking me or you to turn ourselves in every time we exceed the posted speed limit. This does not seem like a viable plan to ensure the water quality does not diminish so much that it is destroyed.
At what point do we recognize that we are destroying the very things that give us life? Apparently, it requires an enormously catastrophic reoccurring event to open our eyes.
Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause. (Click here for more)
Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)
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.
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.
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.
“Being stupid should be painful” – Unknown
This past weekend’s trip I was reminded of a very valuable lesson that I have learned many times over throughout my years of fishing. It is a lesson that I have shared with many people, both experienced and new in relation to their level of experience. I committed a cardinal sin and didn’t have my head in the game the entire day while fishing. As a result I paid dearly for it.
We got on the river around 8:30 AM and within the first 30 minutes into the day I was into what I thought at first was a steelhead. The bobber on my indy rig dropped, I quickly set the hook and something big and heavy began to move. At that moment a familiar feeling of elation quickly overwhelmed me as line began to quickly peel out of my left hand and come tight to the reel all in the matter of about 4 tenths of a second.
The feeling of elation quickly turned into grave disappointment when I realized all that had happened is that I had inadvertendly dislodged a piece of lumber from the bottom of the river, and it immediately was caught in the current, displaying many of the same characteristics as a hooked steelhead. In my frustration I immediately started to “horse” the log in so I could unpin it and get back on with my day. The stress placed on my rod was substantial and quickly resulted in the rod snapping with a sound similar to that made by the .22 caliber gun my father used to hunt small game with in the days of my youth.
So, it wasn’t a fish, I broke a rod, and now I have to walk up 144 steep and icy steps back to the truck to re-rig another rod? Now I’m pissed, but mentally chalked it up to some sort of necessary penance required by the Fish God’s – a toll I’d gladly subject myself to if it resulted in a great day of fishing.
Only it didn’t result in that.
On a river that I know relatively well that had been holding several steelhead as of late, in several cases being the first angler through sections of particular runs, with a good selection of proven flies would usually result a decent outing. All it resulted in for me throughout the day was losing about $467 worth of flies lost and a helluva of a lot of knot tying. I’d rather have walked down to the river, opened my wallet, pulled out $467 and thrown it straight into the river (from the top, not the bottom of those damned stairs of course), and turned around and went home.
After about 7 hours of no fish encounters, Dan questioned whether or not I had the correct depth set on my indicator – stating that I might not be fishing a run not quite deep enough. At this point my head was someplace else other than focusing on what I should have been, I was more or less going through the motions. I turned to Dan and assured him that I had the correct depth and to further prove my point I said “watch, if I cast a few feet closer I’ll drag bottom”.
Upon casting in closer to me the bobber lurched towards the river bottom as I had previously, indicating that my rig was set too deep for the water I was fishing. I turned to Dan and smugly said “see, I told you”.
My confident assertion was met by him emphatically screaming “FISH!”. I quickly turned around and quickly recognized my bobber nearly a foot below the river’s surface, screaming towards the opposite bank with a large silver steelhead not far in front of it.
I lifted the rod and came tight on the fish. The physical attachment to that fish lasted about as long as my mom’s apple pie at a family dinner. All because I was being an idiot and not paying attention, it was over as quickly as it started.
Instead of having an opportunity to land a beautiful January steelhead and erase all of the hardships THAT I CAUSED myself during the day, I added to it because I committed the substantial crime of not having my head in the game at all times.
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.
For the second consecutive year I commished a fantasy football league filled with a bunch of fish heads. A motely crue cast of charachters all bound together by our strong affinity to chase fish. I quickly found out that there is 1 thing these yahoos take as serious as fishing, fantasy football!
I spent most of my season last year getting repeatedly curb stomped but had a good time doing it as the near daily trash talk added good commentary to give me quick breaks from my work day. This year, I decided I’d spice up some of the weeks by publically calling out particular opponents on weeks I faced them and challenge them to a “side bet” of sorts. Well, unfortunately for me those curb stompings from last year carried into this year and it didn’t go well for me.
Throughout this I discovered I may have a bit of a repressed gambling problem, as the typical wager was 3 articulated streamers and each week I lost I would just double down the next week to try and win some bugs back. Let’s just say I burned through a lot of materials this year.
However, thats not where my punishment ends. Oh no…that’d be way to easy. My poor decision making and inability to set a good roster of players continues to punch me square in the throat.
Twice this year I lost to Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt and had to contribute to his already loaded streamer box. Being that I was going to be fishing with him on this past Sunday morning, I worked late into the night spinning up a version of Galloup’s Boogie Man.
Jeff, not one to shy away from rubbing a bit of salt in a pal’s wound decided he would immediately lace one of his winnings up and fish it right out of the gates on our streamer escapade. I quietly chuckled to myself as I sat in the rowers seat and watched him struggle with the bug getting fouled around itself, as it appeared that I unintentionally provided him with a “dud” that had too much space between the hooks and not enough beads to prevent the hooks from becoming entangled with one another during casting. “Serves him right” I thought – but of course outwardly I appeared apologetic. “Jeeze man, I’m really sorry. I thought I tied those perfectly.”
A simple adjustment, opening the loop of this cast up a bit, allowed him to accurately sling the bug without it getting tangled. No worries, the color combination is surely not one we’ve ever seen work in this particular river – he even commmented on it himself.
That’s when the throat punches started rolling in. On his first shift he brought a few fish to hand. Then on his second shift, Mike Tyson punched me square in the neck and this fish decided this terribly tied bug looked good enough to eat.
He continued to fish the fly for the entire day and of course landed not only by far the largest fish of the day, significantly more fish than I did as well. Wasn’t it enough that I just paid my dept and suffered the humilation of proclaiming my Fantasy Football superiority only to be embarrased?
Stay tuned for the report following me paying my bet to Dan, as I practically have to row him around the river the whole day without me even fishing. Fantasy Football sucks.