This is not a religious post. Unless you choose to read that deep, then you may interpret as you wish. Merely a recap of a great float recently experienced on a blustery cold day with multiple fronts and gales blowing in our faces that seemed to not only stop our boat, but freeze time. Client was a retired Army Sergeant from the Lake St. Clair area who had more to offer me than I had anticipated.
As is often the case, one can determine not only the type of day on the water with a client I can expect, but also what kind of life and personal character an angler possesses after first cup of coffee. This particular guy had been through a few tours in Afghanistan and spent his off duty time making fly rods when the French could not provide any fermented grapes to help relax and slow down his brain. His wife is much like mine and readily notices when he needs to recalibrate and spend some quality time on the river setting his medulla oblongata on track, so she sends him off on a river trip. He chose me after a previous article written a few years back on a totally on related topic, but somehow made it primary goal to meet and spend a day on the water together. After we share and exchanged background, families, history and fishing style, I learned he has two children that he taught how to read a river current by having cricket races to discover where seam lies. He also has a long boat that he has spent a considerable amount of time restoring and bringing back to life. Time on the water spent with kids is more akin to being a class instructor on a firing range, keeping bait in check and safety on, less one child hooks the other. Like any good father, its not about actually fishing for us, more about watching our children grow instead of FLASH- boom, they graduate and we missed all the small things. Spending time on the river with anyone always teaches, you have to be ready and open.
“What color fly should we start with?” I inquire. “Yellow, Olive, ginger? Black can be very effective.”
“Maybe we should let the fish tell us what they like.” in a sage and simple retort he responds. We seem to often Think what we should be doing to attract the bite, we need to pay more attention to the river. I still do the routine color change after first choice doesn’t show any response from likely runs, I know the trout are here, we need to tap into the predator instinct. My client does have some vertebrate damage and we aren’t going to throw 8″ double deceivers, so we keep it in the sculpin realm of zoo cougars, zonkers and rattlesnakes.
“Have an apple, it’s a SweeTango*, they are awesome.” I offer.
“No thanks, those things clean your teeth, my dentist is hot.”
I am sure his wife has heard the line before, but it reminded me of our grandfather’s generation. So many great one liners I have heard from fly tyer’s like Jerry Regan and many others over the years. They grew up listening to the radio, spending time telling and sharing stories, while our kids are consumed in these small 4″ devices that feed YouTube medication directly to the retina. Who/where is our storyteller generation? Will we have one? Who will pass on our legacy? I am sure it will be recorded on someone’s iPhone, but lacking a certain classic narration by Morgan Freeman.
He shares minimal war stories of time spent across the ocean. Seeing and living through terrible things unimaginable by my midwest midlife mid standard experiences. Habits of choosing a seat in a restaurant that has three optimal egresses, not taking a viable open parking spot on the street because it doesn’t allow for immediate evacuation to the point it upsets his wife. I ask if the war will ever be over? Is it about oil? Again, my Midwest lack of global current affairs exposed- “No, Never” he replies, “It’s about drugs- Opium. The parents blow opium smoke in the child’s faces so they aren’t hungry and stop crying. We are the only country where our poor are fat.” WOW. So true. Shocking. Never actually thought about it.
He recounts tales of getting caught up in a mosh pit in some bar in W. Virginia-(Maybe?) and one of his Goliath infantrymen- 6’9″ #370 grabs him by the scruff of his neck and lifts him to safety. Nearly getting fired from a civilian job for referring to his manager for riding a short bus and questioning the HR director for finding the least qualified recipient of the job he currently possesses. These and countless other uniquely rich stories, unadorned and raw, but extravagant and delicious nonetheless. Buy a Flannel from Duluth Trading- magnetic buttons, to help make your romantic bedroom activity more exciting. Spend the very first 3 minutes you come home with your canine friend to ensure a lifelong bond- don’t even take your boots off, show him how much he means to you. Make connections with other countries, the French & Germans have good wine. There is nothing to fear in this world, except Mom & God. Everything else is in your head. Make a decision. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
We exchange a handshake on a great day in the river, nobody was shooting at us. chili was perfect & promise to do this again. We have had our tribulations, our worse days are behind us.
Cheers & Tight Lines!!
Denver Colorado, the return of the International Fly Trade Show was nothing short of the feast set out at the return of lost prodigal son since his last appearance in 2012. A grand Homecoming indeed. The stage was set and many hours were put in by the staff and board of AFFTA, noticeable and appreciated. A variety of seminars from ‘how-to’ improve social media contact for businesses, start a podcast for your marketing, breaking barriers through inclusion and exploring diversity on the water to sustainable business practices, managing travel and open to buy fly programs were just a few of the opportunities many dealers were able to attend. Keynote breakfast with Steven Rinella from MEATEATER started the week off with the same vibe- why do we look at another anglers method as archaic? When we really should embrace the fact that they are out there taking part in outdoor recreation. Period.
It would have been difficult to not notice the lack of plastic water bottles overflowing from various trash receptacles- Costa Sunglasses kicked the #kickplastic campaign in high gear for this show, and it was well received. Might take more than a few nudges and free re-usable water bottles for other markets to grasp the concept, but the reality of our finite water resources and lack of effort to not utilize single use plastics has to begin now. The guide/fly shop is the best place to get the word out. Costa was enlisting as many guide/outfitters as were willing to make the commitment to no single use plastics in their day to day operations. True North has been working in compliance for the passed two seasons, we are looking to spread the word and get more people involved. You can find more information and how to get involved HERE. COSTA #KICKPLASTIC
There were numerous friends and industry professionals from across the country, far too many to name and would fear omitting a few by accident. The following is a sampling of photos from last week in Denver,
First of all, I apologize. For being a slacker. It has been a while since I sat and put pencil to paper, but, reality is, I have been busy. I have been making the transition into Sales Representative Great Lakes for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and soon Temple Fork Outfitters. Be prepared for a few shameless plugs on both product lines. More on that next month. What inspired me today? A few things in recent weeks while on the road in Ohio visiting stores, because in northern Michigan, I don’t see and/or feel the direct impact as much as when I’m on the road. Have you seen Wall-E? Yes, the cartoon from Disney* Pixar.
There is a reoccurring theme, the final destination our race is headed towards, and when I travel, it becomes more apparent. We are getting L A Z Y. We need to be better at everything we do, faster, more efficient, yet along the way, we have become slackers at the same time. How is that you ask?
While sitting at restaurant, Pints & Pies in Worthington, OH- Great wings (sriracha garlic-lime) and friendly bartender, btw; I noticed a few different ‘Hipster’ type dudes come in and pick up To-go orders, they were Door Dash delivery drivers, complete with blue tooth ear bud tunes blaring and lack of deodorant hygiene picking up someone’s dinner for a nominal fee. We don’t have this in my neck of the woods, we either walk down the street for a pie or drive and pick up some BC Pizza. We are light years away from Uber/Lyft, I could be very wrong, Traverse City has a small hub of Lyft drivers, but our 2500 population Mayberry town can’t sustain a part time cab driver. We are so excited to have technology make it easy for us. Take YouTube for example, and I am just as guilty of the crime as the next guy- watching videos on “How-to.” I don’t have to read a manual? I can YouTube how to change a lightbulb on my wife’s 2010 Acadia? Great!! save me the time of doing it, I brought the vehicle in, no way could I get my hands in those spaces.
What about Fly Fishing-Tying videos? YES! There is a wealth of knowledge out there, it’s not all bad, as a matter of fact, through proper channels and background, much of it is legit and helpful for many anglers. Take the video series from Brian Flechsig at Mad River Outfitters, if you aren’t following it yet, I would highly recommend you do and share this advice at your next Fly tying pint night. Not only does he present basics in an informative manner, he also has years of experience, mentors and travel to back up his credentials. Check out his work here and his shop –Mad River Outfitters.
Do the work, it will be all the more rewarding when you get there. Sure, doing some of the legwork to establish your knowledge base is great for any sport or leisure activity, but getting out there and actually hiking some terrain to find that thin blue line and scouting water is beyond priceless. Especially when it fails the first couple times, and then Mother Nature decides you have put the time in and allows you to witness some of her beauty.
“I love fly fishing so much, I wish it would die!” This video from HUGE Fly Fisherman conveys what we feel. Thank you Midcurrent for bringing this to the INternet front screen. The Internet- it can be a love/hate relationship, I would not have readers if you didn’t partially agree. The internet allows individuals to raise awareness for multiple causes, Hurricane relief, saving animals, Amazon rain forest, Alaska, and so much more. We can also let it take advantage of our resources. But we must be vigilant to keep our waters safe and preserved for future seasons. I don’t often give locales in posts found on Facebook page, but with a little leg work, stopping in a fly shop, talking to guides, and purchasing some flies/fly boxes and supporting the businesses that need to exist so you have a source for information goes a LOOONG way.
I look forward to getting back in the mode of writing and contributing, Feel free to send me requests on Facebook and let me know where I can help. Next Month I will headed to IFTD, first time and beyond excited to shake hands with some folks I have been virtual friends with for almost a decade.
A guest from the Beardsley House on the river called me the other day~ he had a fish question.
“I was casting a spoon and a decent trout came out to inspect it but turned away. Was I reeling too fast or too slow?” he inquired.
Difficult to have a definitive answer, but I believe it would be temperature related. It has been one of the most pleasant summers I can recall, especially after the cold wet spring that didn’t seem to end. August has not been a record breaking heat spell, but steady daytime temperatures coupled with higher lake levels and relatively little precipitation to cool the rivers make the lower Boyne River near bathwater climate.
Species of trout, especially brook trout will seek pockets of cold water usually fed by springs for thermal refuge. Browns and Rainbow Trout will migrate upstream to find riffle zones that have higher dissolved oxygen levels to help them get through the heat of summer. This is a great time to take the 70 Degree Pledge.
As an Angler- I explained to the house guest that he should probably leave the trout alone, or his catch could prove fatal for the fish. When water temperature nears the 70 degree range, a fish will exert too much energy fighting and ATP will build up in their muscles, even if released, the fish will most likely not survive. We would rather leave these fish and type of water alone. My best guide advice is to seek warm water species like bass and bluegill or go find a thin blue line on a map. Some of my best and most enjoyable fishing is at the end of the year on this type of small stream, be it upper Jordan or Manistee River near Deward. These areas are riddled with feeder creeks that rarely get above 62 degrees and have plenty of trout will to dance with a 3 weight and Chernobyl Ant or Hippie Stomper.
Friday evening March 15, 2019, after Thursdays daytime high of 57º, coupled with snowmelt and rain, a dam located behind Weiss Acres along 131 gave way and washed out. The site was an old grist mill from many decades ago. The dam had been on the radar of local MVWTU and CRA for a few years. Property owners were hesitant to do anything about the possibility of an aged dam but now wish they had. There are cabin rentals along the river bank where vacationers could kayak up a couple hundred yards in slack water before they ran into two undersized culverts on the former entrance to Boyne Mountain, opposite Cherry Hill Road. This site was also looked at by Tip of the Mitt Watershed but complications and funding delayed removal because of buried utilities.
The amount of sediment washed down stream is yet undetermined. Fish kill and macro invertebrate collateral damage is unknown. Biggest concern is young of the year brown and brook trout that may have little recourse in escaping plume of silt or heavy flows. The DNR, DEQ, and Tip of the Mitt have visited site along with Little Traverse Bay Tribe- who took water samples on Tuesday. A crew of surveyors from Ehlmer’s Construction- general contractors on Maple River and Boardman River dam removals, were also on hand and forecast an involved remediation of river and hope for a quick recovery. The portion upstream is high quality trout stream, below former dam site is the Boyne Falls Mill Pond, which may have acted as a large sand trap. There is also evidence that when the dam broke free, the amount of water and sediment going downstream would have stirred and flushed the still water in the pond- pushing a larger plume of silt downstream. The turbid and murky water was visible for 4-5 days in Boyne City.
The river has been through this before. In October of 2016, while performing routine maintenance on the Boyne Property Dam at Kircher’s pond, a log became lodged in the floodgate and most of impounded water was released downstream. Anglers who were in the river fishing for salmon noticed the river suddenly rush from knee deep to over their waist’s and became very murky. Some actually caught pike and large browns that were residents from the impoundment. Some property owners had to retrieve kayaks that were along their shoreline to be found in the mouth of Boyne at Lake Charlevoix.
There are over 2,500 dams in Michigan, many of which are outdated and approaching the end of their lifespan. These dams can have adverse effects on wildlife and fish populations. Not only to dams prevent fish form reaching cooler water in times of thermal stress, they also deter migration of spawning salmonids and increasing surface temperature to detrimental climates for many sensitive macro-invertebrates. Huron Pines has a list of dams they have been working on. MDOT and DEQ recently evaluated the dam in Boyne Falls at M-75 and it was marked ‘satisfactory’. Neither parties felt there was strong public support for removal of dam at the time, perhaps with this incident, a new conversation can begin.
Property owners at Weiss Acres are very concerned about liability and possible fines from DEQ and would like to cooperate in any way possible- hopeful for a better river in the future. It is going to take a lot of combined efforts and money from various parties. My hope in writing this is to gain public attention to many aged and failing dams across the state. Also, to see if this reaches other news publications to gain some traction and possible sources for funding repair of this beautiful trout stream. Let’s share this and get the word out- we need more rivers to flow freely.
There is no time for sleeping-in here. The urgency of daylight is evident as local construction workers meander wave marks and dodge darting iguana’s on three speed banana seat Schwinns in front of the villa at 6 am. I cautiously tip toe across the teak floor, ever so careful not to disturb the scorpion that has eluded his shadowy den. Bleary eyed, making a fresh ground local Arabaica coffee to watch the sun crest the horizon, out a distance where the waves crash upon the reef protecting this magnificent fishery. Amazing colors of pure excitement match the anticipation as I string up my 9 weight and assorted collection of last minute tied Gotchas and Bonefish Bitters, this is San Pedro and it is nothing short of an any Midwesterners salt water fantasy. Bonefish are plentiful out the front door. Tarpon will take a short water taxi, while permit make their occasional appearance to heighten your blood pressure. The people are pleasant and welcoming, smiles are contagious and genuine. For the epicurious, food is beyond imagination, Conch Ceviche will ruin you. I won’t even consider ordering it anywhere else.
This was back in 2001, how I got there was nothing short of miraculous- Let’s just say I met a former marine/sniper on the Muskegon river with a 16’Clacka from Chicago who then met and fell in love with a co-worker of mine, sold his Harley, Drift boat and Hummer to fly us all to Belize to get married on the sandy beaches under an altar made of palm frons in exchange for his T3. It is vividly etched in my memory because much like this resource, I had just cleaned up my life and got off the streets and kicked the bad habits that would have kept me spiraling down into the abyss. The Belizean government saw the beauty in the second largest coral reef (185 miles) that extends beyond the length of its shoreline and many snorkelers travel from across the globe to swim with a variety of reef fishes including nurse sharks and barracuda. The area is not unlike any other Central American state, hurricanes routinely purge the mangroves and estuaries, construction can be akin to witnessing chameleons giving birth. The Bonefish Tarpon Trust has diligently worked in this region to spread the conservation practice of C&R since 2010. Other Central American countries have followed the model, more should pay attention to the millions of tourist dollars fly fishing provides for a community.
I have since travelled to Saint Maarten, DWI and had experienced catching juvenile tarpon waiting for shrimp carried out the with the tide under the Blue Bridge in Simpson Bay. Among the broken glass and plastic bottles that adorn decades old fishing nets on the large man-made monoliths, I fished with locals who ran a #40 LINE around the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and chucked out bait on large circle hooks. When I hooked my first 15 pound tarpon on a chartreuse Lefty Deceiver, my new found fishing buddy yelled “Sabado! SABADO!!” Did that mean good? Bad? Faster? My rusty Spanglish soon gathered it referred to the species of fish, but also meant table fare. The non-paid guide sprang from rock to rock with the agility of a deft iguana who basks in the sun on these very rocks mid-day, grabbing my line and pulling in my fly line and quickly breaking off my much lighter leader. After a few “Gracias, mucho gracias” I thanked him for the assist & moved further down the channel to have my own area. The realization set in that these guys aren’t down here for the mere sport of tagging into a leaping Silver King.
Fall of 2018, post Hurricane Irma, we went to Melbourne, FL and experienced the Banana/Indian River with Captain Rick Worman of FLATLINE Guide Service. We immediately clicked as he poled the skiff into little inlets and we hooked a few #60-75 poon, decent black drum, and redfish and we talked conservation, politics of the region and the overwhelming amount of sewage that has contributed to algae bloom we saw in the north section of the estuary. A year later, I went back to see a definite lack of fishing due to the RED TIDE and I immediately felt the same gut wrenching feeling Capt. Rick has when he is on the water. Fish are showing up dead by the thousands. The Ocean is crying for our help, from many facets of the world. There is no time to sleep on this one.
Reach out and do your part at bullsugar.org
A few months ago, AFFTA, The American Fly Fishing Trade Association was running a guide essay competition to raise awareness to the various crisis happening in our salt water resources- I entered, but did not make the final cut. The competition among those of us who are passionate about or resources is a fierce & beneficial. Look forward to the winning entry. Tonight we head out to attend local F3T in hopes to see others knee deep in conservation projects near and far.
In the not too distant future, there is the real possibility of anglers who wade in Northern Michigan’s cold waters to have the opportunity to catch a once native Arctic Grayling. Imagine the potential. Rewriting history in our lifetime. This is truly Epic.
Walking through a dense fog in early morning, you can feel the dew brush off the ferns as you meander through poplar, birch and cedar fens, the aroma of promise and wet forest floor meet your anticipation of fish rising as you reach the river. As early as 2025, one may have the opportunity to catch brook, brown, rainbow trout and Grayling in the Jordan, Maple, Pigeon or Manistee Rivers.
This Project is one part science, one part fantasy and two parts funding. The research is being conducted at MSU fish rearing facility where Nicole Watson, PhD, is doing what she claims to be her dream job. It is better to see her face in person as it lights up when she talks about how she went to the Chena River, Alaska, to fish and pick up her babies to bring back to Michigan. Small trials as they packed a couple hundred eggs in a small cooler with gel-packs that should have been ‘cool’ to go through TSA, but not once they melted and turned to liquid, jeopardizing the livelihood of a yet future char offspring. She is a very intelligent, bright, personable scientist, as well as a very fishy chick- you can tell that in a few moments just by chatting with her. We met a few years ago on the Upper Manistee when her and Tom- her husband of 12 years- were about to embark on a midnight mousing trip and we exchanged benevolent wishes and steelhead migratory research she was working on at the time. This Grayling Project is like a dream come true. Think about it- we are hoping to find a river that can suitably sustain a species that has been extirpated from its once native waters. A few factors made this happen nearly 100 years ago. As the lumber era boomed and white pine stands were toppled and shuttled down the rivers each spring, we eroded naturally protected banks and introduced more sediment to the watershed. Combined with loss of habitat and spawning grounds, the Grayling were reportedly very easy to catch, often, three or four at a time on one line. The last Grayling was reportedly caught in 1936 in the Otter River of the Upper Peninsula. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has attempted to re-introduce Grayling back in the 80’s. Some dozen kettle lakes and small rivers near Pigeon River Country were used to rear 145,000 yearling for control sites, but disease and infection, perhaps predation wiped them out in a couple years. What makes this attempt more valid? Where is the funding coming from? Why is the DNR behind it?
First things first. This began as a collateral research project for Michigan Tech and Little River Band of Ottawa Indians as a re-introduction of Native Species Grant, it has gained attraction and momentum in the passed five years. The DNR is working with LRBOI and money has been set aside from various donors – Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation, Traverse City Rotary, Oleson Foundation, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Consumers Energy, and Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation have graciously donated to the cause. The biggest hurdle was getting money for UV treatment of Oden Fish Hatchery to prevent any disease or infection of the young Grayling from Alaska. Second stage is set for building a rearing facility and more money for research. The Montana model is key in making this a successful re-introduction. Remote Site Incubators are critical to allow the young Grayling to imprint on their new environs. The reason coho and chinook have the inate ability to find their birth river is because they are released when they are parr and imprint on a home river. RSI’s will allow eggs from brood stock Arctic Grayling to be in the river and safe while they develop and drop their nutrient rich egg sack.
“Another hurdle: previous attempts failed. But we are now taking a different approach. A common problem with previous attempts was quick outmigration by the Grayling. They “disappeared”. This could be due to imprinting to waters. Salmonids readily imprint to there home waters – this is how Steelhead, Chinook, Coho, and others know where to return to for spawning. The question is: how early in life do Grayling imprint. This is another question that my research is attempting to answer. Montana had success by using RSIs for stocking which allows the Grayling eggs to be exposed to stream waters at the egg stage. Michigan is using this as a model for reintroduction. Montana found fish had higher site fidelity when stocked using RSIs instead of being reared in a hatchery then stocked at a larger juvenile life stage.” stated Nicole Watson, PhD. while doing research on her first year of young Grayling. She also noted how well they grow with Brook Trout and quickly drop their vital egg sack so they are not weighed down and can acclimate with some native species. Which brings up predation. It is a concern.
We don’t know how a once native fish will respond to these introduced rivers with other ‘naturalized’ trout species. There will be some predation from brown trout. Studies have shown that the few who do survive, tend to be larger and heartier, possible genetic trait to pass on. Will there be enough habitat for spawning, cover, food for young of the year brook trout and grayling? I asked Nicole how her recent study was going in regard to these points.
Nicole will be doing a presentation on March 30 in Zion, Illinois for the Midwest Regional Trout Unlimited Conference if you can find time to attend.