Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead

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.