Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Winter Steelhead Fishing

Au Sable River Winter Steelhead Fishing
Each year I try to convince myself I'm going to make it up to the river more during the months of October, November, & December. Then  hunting season begins... Last year I made it up for 2 days of November steelheading and stayed at the cabin on the Rifle River. This fall I made it up for a day trip on October 6th, duck season began on October 8th, and I didn't make it back up until December 23rd. Being a die hard waterfowl hunter as well as a steelhead junky, it's always a struggle what to do in the fall. Especially since myself & my father each own some prime hunting land and hunting whitetails & waterfowl is only in the fall of the year. No one in our group of friends loves waterfowling more then Belle!
Though Belle enjoys being on the water chasing trout & steelhead with us, she is a pure bread 100% waterfowling machine! She knows what "Fish on" means, she understands what's going on when someone grabs the net, but she associates the sight of a shotgun and the sound of a duck call with keeping her eyes in the sky and keying in on the birds anticipating their fall so that she can hit the water like she's storming the beach on D-Day just to make that solid retrieve. Sure we could hit the river for a little cast & blast, I have a few friends that do it, but when I can walk out my door with a bag of decoys, a lanyard of calls, and a shotgun and be in our duck blind ready to hunt in 30 minutes, well usually I just stick around home during hunting season.
October 6th I fished the river above the whirlpool access and there were already a good number of steelhead behind the salmon in the gravel runs gorging on loose eggs. I landed one steelhead that day and managed to avoid hooking any of the salmon that appeared to be clinging to life as they were turning black & growing fur. After seeing that many fish in the river that early on in October, I had a feeling it was going to be a great fall run. Even with all the pictures of fish friends sent me throughout the fall, I couldn't pry myself away for the waterfowl hunting. November was approaching & I was looking forward to hitting the river for some Michigan Chrome when on October 29th I saw a trail cam photo of a buck I became obsessed with. I was pretty certain he was nocturnal, but put in a lot of time in the field chasing this deer since it was easily the largest buck I've ever seen in this area. Without having any luck and consistently seeing deer every evening I made it out hunting, finally I settled for a 5 point buck. I kept hunting that big fella throughout the entire muzzle loading season, but had no luck.
December 23rd, 2011
I hooked up the boat, threw in a few 10' spin rods & a few 8wt fly rods, all the steelhead gear, & we headed north Au Sable bound! When we launched the boat it was 17 degrees. We had a daytime high of 26 degrees, but minimal sun, mainly overcast, snow showers off and on all day, and maybe a 5 mph wind. It was indeed cold, but on the stretch of the river we fished we never saw another boat! We did see 2 shore anglers but that was it! First cast on the day at one of my favorite spots to fish during the late fall/early winter, I hooked a nice adult fish. I admit I was horsing her a bit, which explains why she broke my leader... Though I lost the fish it was certainly something that would motivate us the rest of the day.
As we floated down stream and the day progressed we passed several pods of skippers which is always a good sign that the spring time planting is working well and the fish are returning to the river rather then being eaten by a predatory fish near the mouth or killed from an aerial attack by a commorant sitting in a tree waiting for an easy meal. The river was in excellent condition running at 1,100 cfs & we knew it was just a matter of properly presenting the nymph, egg pattern, wax worm, or spawn bag to one of these silver bullets hiding in the deep sandy pools.
It certainly looked like winter with all the leaves off the trees and that dead Michigan look. It would have been nice to have some snow for some better photos, but it's Michigan! It could be 30 degrees one day and 70 degrees the next.We had two more pools we had planned on fishing and when we arrived to the first it wasn't long before I had another fish on. She managed to shake the hook after a bit and the sounds of curse words echoed off the banks off the river. I knew there was more then one fish in this deep, dark, nearly dead pool with a run on the opposing side of the river. Then I felt the slightest tap as my line was riding on my fingers feeling for a bite....
Corey was taking action shots as I fought a nice adult steelhead and Belle rounded the banks waiting to see what was pealing line off my reel!
Success! A beautiful chrome hen smashed an egg pattern and was brought to hand. Now it was Corey's turn to put some chrome in the net!
We knew there was another fish in this pool since I hooked two and landed one. Not even ten casts later, I hear "FISH ON!" I looked up and saw another adult steelhead making wake on the other side of the river and running. Corey quickly redirected him and brought him back over to our side of the river.
Chrome in the net!
We still had some daylight left, but decided to call it a day and head home into the holiday traffic. By the time we got our gear off , the rods put away, and the boat loaded, it fell dark. Not sure we could have asked for a more perfect day winter steelheading. We had the river to ourselves and landed two beautiful steelhead.

Monday, December 5, 2011

October & November 2011 Hunting

That's right! I've been gone for awhile but I'm back!!!
Sorry for slacking on the blogs guys. Between night classes, an internship at a hospital, and hunting season it's hard to find time to actually sit down to relax. Unless that is, in a cozy deer blind! I hope everyone is having a safe and successful hunting season this year! I know our group is having both! No injuries (like the year I almost lost my thumb via a cross bow string), and if deer hunting had a name for success, I'm quite certain it would be my father's name! What a season, both archery and firearm! During October he arrowed a beautiful 8 point in rut chasing a doe and while hunting the firearm deer season, the last day of the season and the first accumulating snow fall he bagged a 10 point with his TC Omega .50 caliber muzzle loader (11-30-2011)!!! As this buck came in he was again chasing a doe. Don't become a hunter who is brain washed into believing there is only one rut during the fall months October, November, and December just because someone on the Outdoor Channel said so, (there is a rut for each month). Argue this if you wish, but if you spend as much time in the field as I, and aren't one of these guys who shoots every deer they see, and takes the time to study deer activity, how they respond to scent & calls, etc., you would have already picked up on this. Right now we have plenty of standing water in the fields due to recent rain and the melting of the first snow, but here in Zone 3 our muzzle loading season runs from December 2nd to December 18th. Plenty of time for the standing water to absorb into the ground and it sure is looking like a chilly week ahead with temperatures in the teens! If you're hunting bait, keep your pile stocked (check with regulations regarding amount) and keep dispersing doe estrus when you head out. I've been trying to hunt larger bucks in hopes to collect bones for the house! For those of you that don't know I have over fifty animals and fish taxidermy mounts on the main floor of my home. While I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I told myself "Your hunting a trophy, let these smaller bucks go." Well I don't count button bucks, spikes, or fork horns when I say I passed up a deer since they are about as easy to kill as a doe. Though November 10th a tall 6 point came in and I drew down on him fifteen yards away and after about a minute or so, I put my bow down. I just had a feeling there were bigger bucks out there. I should have arrowed him! He was the first shooter I saw since October 1st. I ended up bagging a 5 point which I thought was a 6 but one of his brow tines were broke off. Here are a few photos of the bucks we bagged thus far during the 2011 deer season. Myself, Josh, Corey, & Mark are still at it. But my father has filled his buck tags, doesn't harvest does, and is all done. But what a season he had!!!

Another huge congratulations to my father on a successful 2011 whitetail deer season in Michigan!
As most of you might already know, when it comes to hunting we typically never leave the farm but do put in alot of preparation to our property which means plenty of work readying the fields for whitetails and waterfowl. This is a year long process which involves taking care of food plots, brush hogging, pumping water, etc. I guess the only thing worse then not seeing deer would be dealing with trespassers which we did in fact have several incidents this hunting season, but the unlawful hunters were caught and had to answer to Johnny Law.
I swore to myself I would take the time to target steelhead on the Au Sable this fall after landing several nice steelhead in November of 2010 but became obsessed with the ducks & geese and even the deer at one point. Though I did make it up in October during the Indian summer and fished the river from the Whirlpool access up to the High Banks. It was a nice day trip on the boat with Belle swinging flies with my Albright 10' 8wt GPX with a Lamson Konic large arbor reel. There were still quite a few salmon in the river I was trying to avoid and did manage to land one nice steelhead on that trip! The greatest thing about fishing migratory fish or resident trout during the fall months is the low angler pressure. Everyone is hunting! After the salmon run that is...

What a fantastic day spent on the lower river in my Hyde drift boat with my good friend Belle!
The 2011 waterfowl season was decent, but nothing like 2007 or 2009! I think 2009 will be a memorable season our group reflects on for years to come! My famous quote regarding opening day of waterfowl season is "Anyone can go out, throw a dozen decoys in the water, anywhere, and harvest at least one duck!" Well when you have an operation that is maintained year round, here are a couple photos of a successful opening morning resulting in a 4 man limit of ducks.

I really wish my father would have jumped into one of the opening day photos, but he departed early from the morning hunt and only Corey & myself hunted the evening (and of course Belle).
As the season progressed we had our good days and slow days. I would never refer to a day in the field as being a bad day. Unless of course a tragic accident occurred as such the incident resulting in the death of a waterfowler at Fish Point this year. Many prayers go out to the family of the deceased.
Here are some photos of time spent in the duck blind crushing birds with some of my greatest friends and the best dog in the world during the 2011 waterfowl season.

I hope all my friends are having a great fall season weather it be swinging flies for steelhead on the rivers, hunting waterfowl, or chasing horns! Though December has just begun it will be over before we know it! January brings the fridged temperatures that makes for excellent predator hunting, deep nymphing for steelhead, and for those that ice fish the walleye and perch fishing should be well underway.
Everyone have a wonderful holiday season and best of luck out in the field and out on the water! Plenty of game and fish to be had in the great state of Michigan!