Elvis has left the building!

We've hopefully seen the last of the salmon waving their white flags.  The egg bite is over and the swung fly is back.  This early morning hen crushed my black and blue scandi style tube and then proceeded with a good minute or so of spastic acrobatics all over the place.  Got to hear my Hardy (Sage) sing for the first time with a chromer on the end of the line.



Coho Jack

We've continued to have low and clear water on the Flat. It occurred to me last night that maybe I should try something smaller and a little less flashy than what I normally use. Awhile back, I had tied up a bunch of comet style flies, based on some Jay Nicholas/Oregon Fly Fishing blog videos. I had an excellent night a few weeks ago with chartreuse and black comet in low light for bass. But I really like blue and black at first light. I tied on a blue and black comet on a size 4 Gammy B10s this morning and hooked up with this little jack. He took it on the hang down right at the end of a deeper hole that sits on the edge a current seam.

Here is the link to the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog Post and Video:
Jay Nicholas’s Blue Chinook Salmon Comet Fly Tying Video


Fall Steel

This rocket ship of a hen crushed my Aquatic Nuisance style Bad Hair Day. Nice hook set and then she took off. Some lighting fast runs and amazing classic acrobatics. After putting a little pressure on her, trying turn her back towards me, she burst into the shallow water and amazingly beached herself right where I normally try to land bigger fish in this run. Snapped a few photos and a got her back into the current. She was pretty exhausted. It was really neat to watch her for a little while under water as I was reviving her in the current. Such amazing looking fish. In the future I think I'm just going to try to tail fish in the current and snap a few photos rather than walking them towards a shallow bank. It's so much better for the fish and just looks neater, plus the photos that I take at the bank usually suck anyways.


First Day of Fall Coho

My buddy Jason stayed over, we fished and scouted the Rouge the day before. Up at 5am on Sunday, grabbed the best run we found special-opps style. Fish were stirring, but nothing consistent until a little after first light. I tried swinging a black and blue bad hair day, and then some comets with no luck. After seeing a couple fish breaking the surface, I tied on a moose hair muddler. This hen took it on the hang down.

Shortly after Jason tied on a strange double fly/spawn bag rig he had pulled out of snag. We were pretty sure this is what the father and son were using that we'd watched fish this run yesterday. A spawn bag, two small simple old school looking streamers with mallard wings and the remnants of wax worms on the hooks. I handed him a Thing-a-ma-bobber that I randomly happen to have in my pocket. This was more of a joke than anything, but amazing he landed a real nice little Rouge brown on it.


End of Summer (run)

I was swinging a black and blue Bad Hair Day streamer through my favorite run at first light this morning and this guy smashed it mid swing. Great hook set and a fairly quick, but heart pounding, battle on my 6wt switch rod. After a few runs and some crazy Chinook style, stiff as a board acrobatics, I got him in the net. Snapped a few pictures, broke the tip off my rod in the process and got him back in the water. This was the biggest steelhead I've ever caught (~30 inches), and likely the biggest freshwater fish I'd ever brought to hand, except for a couple foul hooked, half-dead Chinooks that were incidentals while stripping streamers for fall browns.

After he took off, I walked back to the bank, sat down and took it all in. I've been consumed with trying to make this happen for weeks (maybe more like months or years). This was the best end result I could have hoped for. All the countless hours of fishing, my efforts with fly tying, rigging, researching and reading stuff online. Living and breathing swung flies, spey rods and steelhead...all for exactly this.


Bobber Fishin'

I've heard that people put bobbers on their fly rods and fish for steelhead.  Personally, I'd never do it.  It probably doesn't really work. Even if it does work,  I'm confident that most fish prefer to get stuck in the face with a piece of sharp metal from a traditionally swung and beautifully tied fly, rather than some haphazardly tied glo-bug or stonefly nymph.  That being said, if a person did want to indicator nymph (as I've heard it called), I guess that doing it like the guys in the following video would be an o.k. way to go about it.

All kidding aside, I don't know the guys in this video, but they're on top of it! Their presentation and mending looks great and their fish handling (note that he wets his hand before grabbing the fish's belly) and release are better than what you often see on our rivers, especially from guys this age.

If more people would take a few hours and actually learn how to fish like these guys, I'm confident we'd have a lot less snagging on our rivers.  Maybe even more respect for the rivers and fish and in turn a lot less beer cans and garbage left on the river after the salmon and steelhead army departs the rivers for deer season (ok, maybe that's a stretch).

To that end, here are a couple videos by Mike Schultz and PureMichigan showing how it's done.

"Steel" Your Face from anadromy.com

These came in the mail today from the folks at anadromy.com!


With water comes fish

The Flat River below the dam has been running low and clear for weeks. We got a little rain yesterday morning. So today, I jumped in the river at first light to see if the fresh water had brought in any fish.

 First cast, hit and a miss, but it was something big. Next cast bam and he's on. Shaky knees, heart rate thumping - fight or flight in full effect. A solid hook set and my reel is singing. I quickly wade into shallow water and get ready to walk the fish downstream to a good landing spot. I'm waiting to see the rainbow accented silver bullet break the surface, but instead I see a spiny green dorsal fin. I'm feeling a mix of disappointment that it isn't a steelie, but impressed with the bass I have on. I take a breath and stop walking. 

As is usual for these bigger bass, he runs out of gas pretty quickly and I yank him in. Not super long, but fat, this guy has to be close to 2.5 pounds. I try to snap a few pics and then get him back into some faster current. With a nice tail slap he's gone.

This fish took what is hands down one of the best flies I use for low and clear water, Mike Schmidt's Guppy (Angler's Choice Flies). This is one of the first flies I learned to tie and it's still one of the best - Mike's Guppy Steelhead Alley Fly Tying Blog.

 I tied a few up yesterday using tan Senyo's Laser Dub for the head instead of Aussie Possum. I really like how they turned out.

Lee Spencer Moose Hair Muddler "Burt Toast"

When I first read "American Muddler" by John Larison in the Spring 2013 issue of the Drake, I was blown away by one of the characters.  This guy who spends the better part of each year camped out in front the "Dynamite Hole"  a pool on Steamboat Creek (one of the North Umpqua's spawning tributaries) where wild steelhead stack up and become vulnerable to poachers.

If that wasn't enough, the guy also fishes with a simple muddler that he cuts the hook point off of!
I find this sort reflective approach to fishing (or really anything) amazingly cool.

Come to find out, this wasn't just some character dreamed up by Larison, that embodied  a particular spirit of Pacific Northwest steelehading, this was an actual guy, Lee Spencer.  His efforts at guarding the "Dynamite Hole" are supported by the North Umpqua foundation (northumpqua.org).

The Moose Hair Muddler is just a simple antron yarn body with a single clump of moose body hair for both a collar and head. Rather than trimming the head Spencer say to wet the fly and then burn the head to shape with a lighter...the tips are hit with a lighter to reduce the wings size and likely cauterize the fibers, increasing bouncy.  I gave this a shot, but I was only able to get the sort of muddler head I like on two out of maybe 5 or so flies that I tried.

This muddler pattern really clicks with me, I've tied up a few more using angora goat dubbing for the body and scissor trimmed moose hair for the head.  This is going to become my go to muddler pattern.  I've taken them swimming once so far and had a really great response from my local smallmouth.

Moose Hair Muddler Recipe
Lawrence Journal World Article
Lee Spencer: USA Today Article


Betsie River Salmon

Put in about 12 hours over a total of three days on the Betsie between September 1st-3rd. I was swinging flies (comets and clousers) as well as tossing Thundersticks. I ended up using my 8-weight singlehander with a 390 Skagit Switch line on it to swing flies. It worked awesome. I could hit everything I wanted to and then some. Standing under trees, up against the bank - no problem. This is going to become my small stream rig for sure - the Rouge, White, Platte and maybe even on the Pere Marquette.
Day 1, out at first light, casting Thundersticks. I pretty quickly hooked up and thought I had it in the bag. Big crushing grab, nice sticky hook set. But rather than running the fish goes face down into the river bottom, tail kicking out of the water for what seem like 30 seconds. When this all calmed down, I tried to put some tension on the line but nothing was there. I had one more nice grab after that, but no stick. Rolled a few fish the next day. On the third day I went out with my brother-in-law, but we really didn't see many fish and neither did anyone else on the river.  Explored some other parts of the river, but didn't find anything as nice a my secret spot.


Losing a good fish

At dawn nearly everyday for the past few weeks I'd been stalking a pod of stray Skamania Steelhead that had made their way into the Flat River.  Today I finally got a solid hookup on a swung red and white bad hair day streamer.
The fish crushed the fly and I had a great hook set (and a couple more for good measure).  He took off upstream towards the dam.  I kept the tension on but let him run (like I had a choice) while trying to work my way to a shallower spot on the river where I could attempt to land him.

He ran up under the dam and the fluid tension of having the fish on the line changed to solid, static and hopeless.  I moved around to different angles,  hoping my line was just hung up on something.  After a few minutes with no change in the situation, I swallowed my fate and did the inevitable, I grab my Skagit line, wrapped it around my hand a few time and started to yank.  Eventually the line broke free with no fish or fly on the end. 

I'm pretty sure I'd hooked up with the big buck that had just porpoised a few minutes earlier in the spot where my fly got grabbed.  To further confirm this, I saw him jump again from nearly the same spot where I broke my line off a minute or two after everything went down.

I can take some consolation in that I'm pretty sure I saw this same fish come unpinned in a wonderful acrobatic display from a Mepps spinner a guy was throwing the day before.

Here is John Larison's take on the situation : A Steelheader Farms Another One

"What happened next, I’ll never know for sure, though I have some suspicions. The line came tight, suddenly and abnormally tight, and then it wasn’t the animate flex of a fish I felt but the firm resonance of current parting over fly line. I leapt onto a rock to change the angle, and felt the resonance increase to a hum. And then felt nothing."

Sometimes nothing is the heaviest thing of all."


Ephoron Success

I hardly ever dry fly fish anymore, but this year the majority of my dry fly fishing has been at night. With Gray Drakes, Hex and now Ephorons, I've been having a heck of a time getting a fish to stay pinned. I did some research and I think my problem centers around two main areas:

  1. Slack 
  2. Angle of hook set.

I found the following video,  it really drove home some good points:

I went out tonight and started with a hopper. I missed a couple nice fish right off the bat.  So I  broke down what I was doing, worked on improving my angles and made sure I had zero slack once the fly landed.

Fish on!

 This guy came on the swing below the dam, I went look for stray summer steelhead before last light.


Back on the Little Manistee

Such a nice river.
Things you find on the river and/or stuck in a salmon this time of year  in Michigan

Juvenile Steel -  Hopper Eater


The Ephorons are here, the Ephorons are here!

I was fishing below the dam in Lowell a few days ago and caught my first Ephoron hatch of 2013. It was pretty substantial - lots of bugs everywhere.

Tonight, on the way to pick Brigid up from work, I noticed quite a few Ephorons on the bridge over the Grand. On our way back home, we stopped at the boat launch.  What we saw was nothing short of epic. We got there just after 11:30pm and the river and shore were nearly covered with bugs - awesome!

Earlier today I made the rounds to grab a few tying materials for a simple White Wulff - Ephoron pattern. My largest Flat River Smallie, up until this year, came on a #10 White Wulff during an Ephoron hatch. These are meant to be exaggerated bass versions of the fly. Hopefully I'll be able to get out and give them a try soon.


Kayak Bassin'

I had what was easily one of my best days of Largemouth Bass fishing today.  I think there was some sort of Damselfly hatch going on that was putting these guys on a topwater bite, big time.  Lots of fish landed, a couple lost. Watched my fly pop out of one big guy during a beautiful classic acrobatic display - wish I could have gotten a shot of that - great memories. Only used one fly, my pale yellow gurgler w/ chartreuse crystal flash - Brigid picked out this color scheme.
Pure Michigan


Start of the 2013 King Salmon Season

Made my way to the Little Manistee to check out all the rumors about the river being packed full of early Kings. I left the Interlochen area around 5:15AM and morning was already breaking.  Thought for sure I knew how to get to the access spot I was looking for, but I couldn't find it at first and didn't get on the water until almost 7AM.
Dave's Bad Hair Day in royal dress with a stinger.

Besides this guy, I only saw one other fish and it was a lot fresher.  Not a single bump, grab or hook-up, so I chalked it up to a recon trip. After I got off the water, I stopped by Schmidt Outfitters and talked to the new owner.  He gave me some suggestions as to where to go on the Little. He said the section I was fishing only had 1 or 2 good holes, which is pretty much what I observed.

In any case it was a nice day even without any fish.


Stray Skamania Steelhead

Saw a group of steelhead trying to ascend the dam this morning.  Assuming they're stray Skamania from Indiana.   The DNR fishing report says that steelhead have been caught at Sixth Street dam on the Grand.


I'm not a hater

Rockbass aren't my favorite fish, but when it comes to top-water poppers in summer they are true playas....


Foam Wake'rs

I tied up some more gurglers, wakers, walkers or whatever you want to call them to continue experimenting with tight-line top water swinging for smallies