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.