Credible reports of behemoth smallmouth action resulted in Bassmaster rescheduling this year’s Classic, previously scheduled for Tulsa, OK, to the Flint River in Michigan. Toxic river conditions will likely result in lower than normal catch numbers, however, lead-infused bass have tournament officials expecting record breaking tournament results. Anglers able to haul in just one or two of these metallic monsters are likely to break the 65 pound longstanding tournament record.
With the tournament merely weeks away, anglers are scrambling to decorate their hazmat suits, a requisite given the nature of conditions, with sponsor logo’s and color schemes unique to each contestant’s image. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines simply melt when exposed to the Flint River so anglers are spooling up with a variety of braided metallic products capable of withstanding the extreme environment. Expect to see boats coated with impervious truck-liner materials and anglers waving metal detectors instead of relying on traditional sonar equipped fish finders.
Tournament fish, typically released at designated locations following each day’s weigh-in, will be belt-fed into a portable onsite incinerator to assist with the removal of lead from the ecosystem. Remarkable opportunity arises as the world looks toward Flint Michigan to figure out the crisis in their water system.
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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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
Koz at True North Trout reflects back on 2015 and looks forward to 2016in his most recent writings.
Fontinalis Rising offers a a look back at the year that was for him.
The Fiberglass Manifesto details in words and incredible photos a trip to the Pere Marquette.
Persistence pays off at Gink and Gasoline.
Nomad Anglers announces the 2016 Brews and Bugs lineup at all 3 of their locations.
If you care about our waters you should read this article by Josh Greenberg on A Tight Loop.
FrankenFly put together a rad pictorial of his 2015 – highly recommend looking through the awesome photos.