Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wrapping up the 2012 Hunting Season:

It seems like it was just yesterday we were grassing layout blinds and filling the trailer with goose decoys, but rather counting the days left of deer season and preparing to transition to predator hunting and winter steelhead fishing.

Early goose season was hit and miss. When the birds started showing up in early August, I knew it was a bad sign. Over the years we've noticed when the birds begin hitting the fields that early, typically by September 1st, their patterns change. We hunt the north end of the Mississippi in Michigan inland from the Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron). The birds transition from the water to the wheat fields, pickle fields, corn stubble, soybean fields, etc each morning and evening. The birds follow an aerial path that just so happens to be a short cut from the Crow Island Game Reserves, the Shiawassee Game Reserve, the Saginaw River, etc to the Saginaw Bay. Our farm happens to be right smack dab in the center of this aerial path which makes for some decent waterfowl hunting. With far less hunting pressure than the 2011 early goose season, we had a few good days in the field hunting over large decoy spreads in wheat stubble that was brush hogged.

Before archery season and regular duck and goose began, we made a trip to the northwest side of the state for the fall salmon run. The first day was phenomenal! We never saw another angler, not sure how many kings we hooked, but we only managed two fish to hand. To readers who have caught salmon or steelhead out on the big lakes while trolling, it's not the same as fighting one of these torpedoes in the streams and rivers of northern Michigan. Though the salmon do get a bad reputation for migrating up the streams, spawning, then dying, if you can manage a fresh fish they fight hard and taste great! As I said, the first day was phenomenal, then began the downward spiral of snaggers infesting the creek and heavy rains which left my drift boat with inches of water in it. Typically one would think rain equals more fish migrating up the river making for even better fishing. True, but when guys pushing fish and casting weighted hooks have them so frightened fishing isn't so hot... Here are a couple shots of the fish we landed.

Usually we have the first weekend of October to archery hunt whitetail deer, but with changes the Department of Natural Resources made opening waterfowl season in Zone 3 a week early this wasn't the case. We made it out several times during the week for whitetails, then spent opening weekend of waterfowl season with family, good food, and a new duck blind on our north pond. After Hurricane Sandy tore apart the east coast, the winds from the storm effected the flight patterns of waterfowl from the Atlantic fly way as well as some of the Mississippi. In some areas pushing the birds nearly 100 miles west of their usual flight path.We didn't have the best year on the farm by any means, but still managed a few good hunts.

Mark was probably more excited to make it out on opening day than all the rest of us. But 9:15pm the night before, his wife Danielle went into labor and early that morning they had a little baby girl. So obviously the picture below is of the following weekend.

As far as archery season for whitetail deer, I have no complaints...

Well maybe two... As much time as Josh spends chasing whitetails, I really wish his dedication would've paid off. By far he spends more time hunting whitetail deer than anyone I know. He pasted up so many smaller bucks waiting for a trophy he had caught on his trail cam, but has yet to fill a tag. RESPECT!!! Letting the year and a half old bucks live only promotes bigger bucks for the 2013 season. As for my father, a.k.a The Buck Slayer, a.k.a Fred Bear, due to faulty equipment his time in the field was cut short as a limb split in two on his Parker cross bow. Extremely poor customer service from the archery shop the bow was purchased left him without a bow for nearly two months. Firearm deer season came and went with the three of us consistently passing smaller bucks, and now into the final week of muzzle loading season and the tail end of archery season, our optimism has depleted to some extent, but there are still some good horns out there and with hope, it's still possible we might fill another tag (or two, or three).
I hope everyone enjoys a safe and joyous holiday season with family and friends! Thanks for the read! As the year is about to come to a close we'll be switching gears to predator hunting fox and coyotes as well as a whole lot of winter steelhead fishing! See you on the water!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Small mouth and Rock bass on the Cass

Small mouth and Rock bass on the Cass:
The several inches of rain we received over Memorial Weekend really bumped up the water levels on the river making fishing tough as the water resembles chocolate milk.
Hands down the top producer on this river is the Murdich Minnow! I actually just ordered another dozen from Great Lakes Fly in several different color variations.
Though we have caught fish on Zuddlers and Great Lake Deceivers, the Murdich Minnow is a Cass River killer! We've been fishing 6wt and 7wt 9 foot rods with Rio 250 grain 24 foot sink tips and it seems to be the perfect set up producing plenty of fish. Primarily small mouth and rock bass with the occasional northern pike.
The river runs 61.5 miles from Cass City to it's discharge point at the Saginaw River. It meanders through the Shiawassee Wildlife Refuge as well as several Cities. The wildlife is abundant along the river and is very common to see depending which stretch of the river you are on. As we were on the water one day several weeks ago we noticed some different may flies and caddis. I did some research and found the river actually has quite the prolific hatches, very similar to the Au Sable (minus the trout).
The results show the insects that will be hatching on or around the Cass River. Hatch times fluctuate based on water temps.
Insect Size Date Range:
Blue Winged Olive 18: April 15 to April 30
Little Black Caddis 16,18: April 15 to April 30
Hendrickson 12,14: April 15 to May 15
Mahogany Dun 16: April 15 to May 15
Tiny Blue Winged Olive 22: August 1 to September ...
Blue Winged Olive: 16 July 1 to July 30
Trico 22,24,26: July 15 to August 31
White Mayfly 12,14,16: July 15 to September 15
Hexagenia 4,6: June 1 to June 15
Light Cahill 14: June 15 to June 30
Gray Drake 12,14: May 1 to May 30
Sulfur 16,18: May 1 to May 30
Terrestrials 6,8,10,12,14,16,18: May 1 to September 15
Caddis 16: May 15 to August 15
Brown Drake 10: May 15 to May 30
Though due to recent water levels there hasn't been much surface activity besides some of the bass grabbing bugs while hiding near shore, before the rain the river received over Memorial Weekend, while streamer fishing every now and then we would see large bass exploding the surface while grabbing caddis and cahills. Keep in mind due to the mild winter and warmer than usual temperatures the may fly hatches on most Michigan river systems are several weeks head this year.
Order some flies!
Redington CPX 9' 7wt fly rod, 3.5 Lamson Konic large arbor reel loaded with Rio 24' DC sink tip with a Murdich Minnow streamer fly.
These fish are a ton of fun to catch and fight like champs! All caught and released and waiting to be caught again! The rivers gradient does change drastically from the head waters to the tail with the changes of it's path through farm country, cities and towns, wildlife refuges, etc. The agricultural fields bordering the river which are tiled do drain quite a bit of water into the river (see USGS chart above for accurate statistics).
Some incredibly beautiful drake mallards along the river right now as the hens are all still tending to this springs brood.
If you plan on attending Frankenmuth's Bavarian Festival this weekend, stop down to the river and wet a line! Be aware M-83 will be closed during the parade over the weekend. It looks like residence of the Saginaw Valley region are in for some hot weather this weekend with temperatures reaching 90 degrees! Get out and enjoy some outdoor activities, but don't forget the sun screen and bug dope! Also, if you have a pet be courteous to their needs regarding insect repellent and sun block. Bay Valley Animal Hospital sells a combination of the two in a gel form which repels mosquito's, flies, etc. Another fact to be aware of is due to the significantly mild winter, it is tick season and there are plenty of them. B.V.A.H. also sells a monthly treatment for protection for your pet. My chocolate labrador "Belle" the television sensation on NBC's morning show gets this simple to apply treatment along with Heart Guard monthly.
Enjoy your weekend everyone!!!
This is what it's going to look like...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spring 2012: A few days in the field and on the water.

Hard to believe Memorial Day has came and went!
I usually look at Memorial weekend as being the beginning of summer, and Labor Day weekend as being the end . But as many camping trips and outings are planned for the Memorial weekend, never forget what the day means and honor our fallen heroes and take the time to thank those who have served our country.

Trout Opener

Trout opener was pretty slow on the feeder creek we have been fishing and camping on for over a decade. With lack of precipitation and a very mild winter the water levels were extremely low making for poor fishing. Opening morning I hit the water and it was a start to what appeared to be clock work as the first pool I fished produced a nice 12 inch brown, the next a 13 inch brown, then the drastic slow down began... I returned to camp around noon to find my dad had had a few nice size feeder creek fish on, but nothing to hand he wanted to keep. If he were keeping legal fish (8" brooks and browns) he would have had his limit, but he released plenty of fish this size. When we fish the feeders we're looking for not only the serenity of the woods and water, but trout for the smoker! There just isn't much to smoke on a fish in that size range. I give my father credit for releasing those fish, it kind of goes along with the proposition the Department of Natural Resources has to raise the limit of brook trout in the U.P. In my opinion it is already ridiculous that it's legal to keep a 7 inch trout in the upper peninsula.
When we fish these feeder creeks with spin rods, we aren't trophy hunting by any means. Though we've caught some very nice 17-18 inch trout from our opening day/weekend spot, it just wasn't happening this year. We did have one rain shower pass through, but nothing that could hinder the enjoyment of the sound of the stream, the smell of the forest, and the conversation around the campfire at night.

Though it was a great trip, we decided to pack up a day early since the fishing was so slow. So upon arriving home and unpacking from a trip across the state with spin casting gear, I hooked up the boat and loaded the truck with fly rods and the next day headed to the Au Sable to float below Mio during the Hendrickson hatch. An 8 mile float and I saw 2 wade anglers near Meadow Springs hoping to catch the spinner fall that evening as well as Bruce the owner of the Au Sable Valley Inn fishing at Comins Flat. I never saw another boat the entire day! I had stopped in to visit Bob at the fly shop and he pulled the river map out and said "Be sure to fish these 3 spots. Whether it be with streamers, nymphs, or you could possibly see a good fish going." It was text book! I rounded a bend as the Hendrickson duns began coming off the water and there was a good rainbow for the Au Sable going EXACTLY where Bob had said!!! I positioned the boat and it was the 3rd or 4th time I drifted a henny over that fish it was on!

As I stopped for a quick photo of that lunker of a rainbow that put a nice bend in my 6wt, Belle stood along the shore of the river of sand and watched planters rising everywhere. These small bows can be fun for about the first 30 minutes, than it kind of becomes annoying. While stripping streamers with a 7wt, if I downsized from a GLD or a Murdich Minnow size streamer to a Zoo Cougar , Zuddler, or Wooly Bugger, this was the result.
These fish were aggressive and striking anything they saw. Maybe they realized they better have all the fun they can since the majority of them would surely turn into brown trout food.
This is Belle giving me the look, "Alright, time to get back in the boat and cover some water."

Though we only got into one good fish (along with countless planters) it was an absolutely perfect day on the water. As I visited with Bruce at Comins Flat, we both wondered where the spinners were? I took my time loading the boat and putting my gear away, lastly getting my waders off it seemed as soon as my feet went into my shoes, SPINNERS EVERYWHERE!!! Bruce shouted from the river "Get your waders back on!" I could see about 3 nice fish going but I figured I would call it quits as Belle had been sleeping in the back seat of my truck for the past 45 minutes.
4 days later Corey and I headed up, the river was high and dirty. Perfect streamer conditions, no bugs, cold, rainy, and lots of boats on the water, (it was a Saturday).

We waited it out hoping for some bugs as many of the other drift boats did, but no dice.

Sulphur hatch a few weeks later.
I had the privilege of making a trip to the Pere Marquette with Don Albrecht. I met Don through his niece and have been talking fishing with him for nearly a year and we finally made it out! Don has many ties to the fly fishing community as he is an active member in Trout Unlimited and use to guide. Though we only had a few follow ups while streamer fishing, and a few smolt to hand while nymphing, Don truly helped me improve my skills on the sticks! I thought I new how to navigate a drift boat down a river, but once we launched on a river much smaller than I am use to floating, after several times of crashing into shore, Don began giving me some instruction. We hoped to make it off the water in time to hike into a different section of the river to fish the grey drakes, but a pretty brutal thunder storm put a quick end to that. I look forward to much more fishing with Don in the future!
Don and Belle after a great shore lunch Don made on the shore of the Pere Marquette River.

One Sunday afternoon, myself and friend of 20 years Jereme grabbed our .223 rifles and headed out to the farms we have permission to hunt woodchucks. Jereme spotted one and ranged it at 330 yards. I put about 6 inches of elevation on it and shot right over him. We waited to see if he would come back out, and 5 minutes later there he stood. Jereme again ranged the shot at 330 yards, I put the cross hairs between the chuck's eyes and rolled him with a .55 grain Federal Premium Nosler Ballistic tip.
Often times at a 300+ yard range, if you are out of sight of a woodchuck, if you do miss your first shot they will sometimes come back out within fifteen minutes or so. It's a waiting game that can pay off.
Recently I was asked by NBC 25 to do the morning show with meteorologist Janet and reporter Brett. The show would be on Memorial Day so I thought it would only be appropriate to invite my cousin Mark a 2 time veteran serving in the Marines and touring Iraq, as well as being an Officer in the Navy and touring Afghanistan.
Though the catch to doing the show was we could not travel further north than Bay City...
Which in one aspect was good since we wouldn't be subjected to the traffic on Memorial Day, also Mark and his wife Danielle were planning on attending a Memorial Day service for fallen soldiers later that morning. I struggled with where to take the NBC 25 crew fishing and my mother suggested the Cass River.

A tributary of the Saginaw River, the Cass River I found to be abundant with small mouth bass, rock bass, as well as northern pike. I had to go quite a way up river to find some good structure, but the streamer fishing was excellent. 3 days later I returned with my cousin Corey to again have an excellent day of streamer fishing!

I didn't have very high expectations of fishing near the boat launch for the morning show which proved to be true, but yet had a wonderful morning with Mark, Belle, Janet, and Brett on Memorial Day morning!

I typically wake each morning to the NBC 25 show and it was a real pleasure meeting Janet and Brett. Both have an open invitation on my drift boat any time! They are both a couple of wonderful people who are laid back and very professional making being on live television very comfortable.
With the Sulphurs still flying on the Au Sable along with March Browns, Brown Drakes, and Isonychia starting, I can't wait to make it back up to the river! After all the storms on Monday, it seems the Saginaw Valley region was hit far worse than the northern section of the state as we received nearly 2 inches of rain. The USGS hydro graphs show the Au Sable to be in perfect shape, but with a cold front beginning to push through the remainder of the week, I'm torn to head north in search of rising trout or to head back to Frankenmuth for some killer streamer fishing for some catch and release small mouth fishing.