My good friend and video/photographer Alex Childress spent some time with me this fall chasing a few brook trout and trying to capture that perfect moment of color from the landscape and the trout of our local rivers. Although we spent several hours throwing streamers for large browns, the weather either was too nice for fishing or on the nasty side for shooting video/drone work. If you are looking for a top notch photographer for your family/real estate/product shoot, give Alex a shout and spread the word.
The 2019 season holds a lot in store for the learning & new Fly anglers. So many rivers and endless possibilities. The Tip of the Mitt has exploded with great places to stay and dine, Boyne City/Petoskey seem to be flourishing along with the TC area. Take your family on a weekend get away and perhaps save a couple hours to share some quality time on a cool spring fed river.
I have recently added Sales Representative for the Great Lakes Region under UMPQUA FEATHER MERCHANTS to my business. This will mean a few less trips in years ahead as I make road trips to dealers and attend sales seminars for brands I represent. I plan to maintain my guide License/insurance with the State of Michigan. Over the holidays, it would be great to support local businesses & Fly shops you frequent by purchasing a fly box/flies/vest or sling pack from Umpqua. Look forward to seeing and meeting many new fly folks at various Fly Fishing Expo’s and Demo’s in the coming year.
Ask your fly shop to carry the best, #TIEDTOTHEWATER
Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!
Enjoy some Fall Foliage and brook trout from this great area.
“You mean you float this in the dark?”-
“Actually cast and catch fish without any lights?”
“Often, not all the time, but once you do, you will be forever changed….It is not the delicate soft presentation of a #16 Madame X, actually quite the opposite.”
Client conversation that has happened on more than one occasion over the years floating some of our heavily wooded northern Michigan rivers. Yes it’s true, we do it in the dark, not entirely true, red or green headlamps are acceptable, and they don’t blind the guide/client nor giveaway you presence to any suspecting trout. But what does it take to be a good ‘Mouser’?
Like most fishing, time and patience are critical, but on a totally different level. First, understanding your prey. They are large nocturnal predators, specifically built for hunting swimming tenderloins- whether they be in the form of amphibian, fish or mammal. Brown trout have been found feed almost exclusively at night and are most active just before dawn. They like to hunt in shallow sandbar regions- think Orca attacking seals near islands, smaller prey can out maneuver predators in open water, but in less than two feet of water, the 24″ brown has the upper hand- and nowhere for likely mouse/frog to escape. So flip the normal methodology of casting at LWD(large woody debris) and cast to the shallow side of the river. Next, patience. No really. A LOT of patience. Very few occasions has an angler actually hooked up on his/her very first actual mousing ‘take’. Many big browns will swipe or slash at the mouse pattern to immobilize or stun the prey and more often than not, client and guide have been jacking up on coffee and 5 hour energy drinks to make it through the late night/early morning hours. Your Sense of sight is gone, heightened are all your other senses, hearing & feeling become your primary inputs. When you hear the subtle take from a twenty inch something or the unmistakeable toilet bowl flush from a cavernous mouth of Hog Johnson, it takes every once of restraint not to set the hook and pull the mouse pattern directly out of the trouts mouth. Waiting, patience, feeling the weight of the fish on the other end of the line, connection. Now you have your hands full. Be sure you are properly outfitted.
Some anglers go big and heavy, that is personal preference and completely acceptable. Fly rods in eight weight are good for pulling a two foot bruiser out of multiple stacked logs or deep mysterious pools, but I prefer a solid 6 or 7 weight. Some of our rivers are so heavily overgrown with cedars that a 8′ rod with sold backbone works perfectly. TFO Mini-Mag is that stick, but the new AXIOM II is perfect. BVK or Clouser are great options as well. If you have limited access to rods, you will most likely want to use your streamer rig and adapt it to the night game, which really isn’t ‘that’ much different. You line choice should have an aggressive forward taper, Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX Magnum or Mastery Titan will assist in flipping that foam/deer hair/rabbit strip creation will little effort. SA also makes a Frequency GLOW– great for beginners to get an idea where they are casting. Keep your leader short and stiff. While fishing in Arkansas on the White, I learned to never go below #15 fluorocarbon and 6′ or shorter. Some will argue to use mono because fluoro will sink, but at less than 7 feet, it won’t sink a mouse pattern. Sometimes, we would actually through double deceivers, or other large baitfish style patterns that push some water, so the fluoro comes in handy. Let’s talk about flies…
Make your fly presence known. Seriously SPLAT your water logged drunken lemming pattern on the water, then give it a pause. You want the Mr Salmo trutta to hone in on his next meal. You can then begin to proceed with either short little strips with occasional pause, or some anglers like to jiggle/swing the fly across the water with intermittent pauses. After fishing with many different styles, I can’t speak to which one is more effective, what works one night on one river may not be the key in your neck of the woods. Have faith in your method and your flies. One of my best clients, who has boated a couple decent trout, watches YouTube videos of mice swimming. Sounds crazy. Have fun tying mouse patterns, look for bouffant materials that will also hang just a little in the surface film. A few of my personal favorite and successful patterns come from Rainy’s. Steve’s Loco Mouse hits the water hard, takes a beating and come back for more. Nick’s Cheeky Mouse– when in stock- is a killer skating pattern. Be sure to carry a few of the classic MouseRat by Whitlock. Check out the new Mason’s Mouse Trap– dead, sexy.
The more times you go, the more likely you are to connect. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a few times, we have all been there. It’s part of the learning curve. Keep it fun. Enjoy the journey!
True North Trout
Protect your investment. Keep your flies safe and dry. Aren’t these two of the best services a fly box can provide? True. What about durable and long lasting? You want materials and construction that will last more than one or two +90º days on your dashboard. Ever notice how the foam either peels or delaminates from the box on many other lesser fly boxes. Waterproof- no, REALLY waterproof, like dunk it under water for 5 minutes and see if your flies are wet. The HD from Umpqua Feather Merchants is completely sealed and will keep your flies high and dry. Made of high density shatter proof plastic, which is also see though for visibility, has a latching clasp with a water tight closure. The LT Weekender is slim and perfect for stashing an assortment of your Go-To patterns and hitting the water. Both have 3-D injection molded TPE(Thermoplastic Elastomer) and magnetic closures. The LT Weekender has a magnetic pad for smaller flies and multiple sized slots for a whatever hatch may come your way.
Do you value your flies? Then they deserve a worthy home. Keep them safe and dry in a UPG LT or HD Fly Box.
You can find these great boxes on Amazon.
To say that this past Spring was not your average transition from from Winter to Vernal Equinox might be an understatement. Early April snowmelt and above average temperatures had many of us hopeful for an early bloom, we even raked and were ready to bust out our gardening gloves. Then we were pummeled with over 24″ of white stuff mid April, just in time to slow the progress and reset our fishing calendars. I only mention the seasonal variations to set the stage for what we have been experiencing and prepare for the hatches, or sometimes, lack thereof.
We have had high water. Everywhere. Opening trout season on many small creeks was a blow out. Some rivers saw double and triple flows. Big water had flows that were steadily above the norm for close to a month, boat launches had water levels 12-18″ higher than normal. This did many things to the fish. It pushed them into new homes, displaced some small first year trout, and it also flushed out many rivers. The river systems have been flooded with food. Early season hatches still occurred, without the usual voracious symphony of hungry trout rising to emerging Hendricksons. They were, how shall we politely say- rather full and satiated. Not to mention pushed down to deeper waters, new holds and in some cases, entirely new sections of river. We still caught an occasional trout, just was not as high impact and exciting as one had dreamt during our winter months in captivity while tying flies and reading up on latest techniques. One certainly noticed how well fed those few fish we caught were. Brook trout on a couple rivers had fish that not only had shoulders for a 10″ fish, but also a belly so gorged on earthworms, they were literally spilling out of their mouth. This was noticed on multiple trips.
Then there was the warm up. Spring transitioned to summer with the smoothness of a bike race when the lead takes a spill on a tight turn and the rest can’t avoid tragedy. We saw river temperatures soar into the upper 60’s and even had 70º pledges in effect on Au Sable MIO water, in MAY. Record temperatures ago Memorial weekend across the state had many of us looking for the big bugs that would soon accompany. The drakes did not disappoint. They didn’t always fall, which is typical of the climate sensitive mayfly, but they arrived with great anticipation. Luckily, the evening lows began to drop and return rivers temperatures to fishable levels.
The Browns we have had in the net have been very healthy, well fed and after surviving another winter, eager for the next hatch. The Hexagenia limbata is prepped and ready to give us all she promises. A few things to consider- A) higher water levels and B) well fed/happy trout. What we have noticed in years passed, the higher water allows trout to move into shallow, reed filled water to feed on mayflies amid the vegetation. Be prepared to hear fish that are ‘Up in the weeds’ or fishing on peoples lawns. The fish you hear slurping, may be deeper in cover than you realize, scout your water early and know the length of your cast and target. Don’t under gun your opponent. The big bug game is 6 weight and 2X time. I am headed out tonight test the new TFO Axiom II 6weight and see how fat the fish are.
IN other news~ The North Branch Au Sable has had some concern. Thanks to a few local Grayling Guides, Jamie Clous and Joe Guild, they contacted the DNR with a serious inquiry as to where many of the usual brook trout have gone. After a few trips they not only didn’t catch the usual of eager spring feeding trout, they did not report seeing many fish either. Other guides in the area had the same concern. The folks at Fuller’s North Branch had a serious situation at the end of their dock. The DNR has come out and did two separate fish stockings, the first at Twin Bridges and at Dam Four revealed low numbers of fish. It was alarming only to find 3 fish at each locale when this river was on track to be one of the best brook trout fisheries in the state right behind the Black River in the PRC. Theories abound. Maybe the shockers were malfunctioning. Could the late spring have had a detrimental effect on first year trout? Did the heavy snow and rapid melt push fish further down stream? Has something happened to the Macro-invertebrate habitat? Shelf ice could have scraped out much of the river and displaced bugs? Did the first year trout not withstand the rapid snow melt? I called Neal from the DNR- in his words, “We are flabbergasted- we don’t know where the fish are but it is far too early to make any guesses. We are looking into this and taking this very serious.” The DEQ has been contacted and a second fish shock survey revealed similar results to the fish survey. 2 brown trout and one brook trout at Twin Bridges. Where have all the brook trout gone? After asking a couple local long-time fly tyers in town, the retort was ominous and dark. “I believe they got just what they were asking for…”
Josh at Gates has been heavily involved and if you have questions or concerns, please contact him. They have also teamed up with Vedavoo to raise funds with Anglers of the Au Sable in regards to the Grayling Fish Hatchery.
Hopefully you get out and have a Hexy June!!
Happy Father’s Day!
Recently, I was questioned about my favorite guide flies. A half dozen magic flies that seem to put fish in the net whenever the time is right. I have fished with a variety of fly anglers over the years. From the guy who will only use a parachute Adams- ALL DAY, to the gent who switches out a fly every time he sees a rise, often missing the rise form and many opportunities along with it. True, there are a few flies that seem to be catch-all favorites, but I have noticed these change from year to year. A few years back, it seemed like a traditional olive, orange or yellow Kaufmann’s Stimulator was the winning pattern. Then, a couple years later, Swisher’s Royal or peacock Madame X, along with her split personality- the (parachute) PMX was the winning combination. Nymphs have followed a similar evolution, from the bead-head Hare’s Ear & Sawyers Pheasant Tail to the more modern Barr’s Copper John and Two Bit Hooker, but a few stand-by’s will always be in my fly box for any scenario that may present itself on the water.
Streamers ~ Although Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galloup collaborated on the essential book about streamer fishing that broke the mold, many books have since been written about monster fish, eye-catching, articulated flies. The multi-faceted world of streamers and the plethora of synthetic materials that seem to inundate us from year to year. Each new product comes with various claims of added life or lifelike movement never seen before. These can be geared to see to the angler/tyer more so than the fish. George Daniel and Rich Strolis have both compiled excellent books on the subject, while Mike Schmidt of Anglers Choice Flies has been knocking out killer patterns for years. Mike’s Red Rocket, Grumpy Muppet, & Meal Ticket– Strolis’s Ice Pick, Headbanger Sculpin, & Hog Snare – and George Daniel’s GD Sculp Snack are all top in my meat-locker fly box.
Once in a while you need to pull something out of the closet and dust it off. Trout seem to acclimate to what they have seen time and time again. This is the number one reason why I have had a few banner days on the Manistee with Ray Schmidt’s Rattlesnake. It has the movement and attitude spurring ability of flies twice its size, yet the fish seem to be of a new generation that don’t recognize its agenda. The Zoo Cougar will always be a standard in my streamer box. In yellow, white, black and olive, it has fooled trout and steelhead to big browns for well over two decades. I believe it is primarily the over-wing and its swaying motion coupled with its neutral buoyant deer hair head that pushes and pulses its way from log to log, enticing trout out from their shadows.
What are your favorite flies? There are a multitude more to mention. This was merely the tip of the iceberg. I find that my favorite flies are often the ones that I am using most, which also seem to produce because I have faith in them; hence, using them more, so on and so on. No matter what flies are your favorite, get out and find some new water, try a new pattern and hopefully connect with a few fish. After all, that is the best part, and the very reason why we tie and try so many different flies. Tight Lines!!