Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trout Opener

Yes, the opening day of trout season in Michigan is once again upon us, and several of my friends want to know where I'm going, what flies I'll be using, and whether I'll be able to sleep the night before. Here are the answers.

I'm not going.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the general trout season is open (the last Saturday in April as per Michigan tradition), and I relish the idea of being able to fish anywhere I want starting this Saturday. But I really don't care about the trout opener.

I wasn't always this way, and when I was a kid I used to lose sleep fretting over whether I had cleaned and oiled my spin-cast reel properly, if my line was in good shape, if my worms were frisky, and if my alarm was properly set. I'd wake up at 4 a.m. , give up on sleep, quietly make toast, then ride my bike the five miles to the river in the frosty dawn. Then I would catch nothing.

I have maintained that tradition up until now- not the losing sleep part or the toast, but the not catching. The trout opener for me has always been absurdly bad- frosty mornings, cold water, hordes of bait- and hardware-chucking locals tossing absurdly weighted offerings into the river with a sound like they've lobbed in a used toilet.

Several years back I fished the opener on my favorite brook trout waters. I was spinner fishing back then. It had been a cold April, and frost and ice were everywhere. I was fishing some prime water, and hit it hard for over an hour before I noticed something- redworms were everywhere on the river bottom. They were drifting singly, or in small mats, or in large balls rolling gently downstream, but there was nowhere you could look in the current and not see worms. I caught one fish that day. Really, why would any fish chase down my spinner when they could lie on the bottom, scratch their bellies and belch after that great conveyor belt buffet? For the next several years I accepted my friend Steve's invitations to fish walleye, which season also happens to open the same day. Not that we did much better.

Another factor affecting my opening day attitude is the fact that a lot of Michigan water stays open year round, and I've become a year-round angler, especially for steelhead. The opener just isn't that special anymore. When you consider that I've been able to enjoy some prime water to myself all winter you can see that it is really hard for me to rub elbows with every Tom-Dick-and-Jackass on what is always a so-so day.

This year could be different- we have experienced record cold this spring, with weather in April that is more like March. Snow is still in the forecast. What's different is that the rivers could be chock full of steelhead for the opener, and this could be very exciting for a lot of anglers.

Me? I'm working a side job Saturday, then fishing Sunday for pike with Alex Cerveniak. I just got the new Sage pike rod in the mail to test, and with the late spring the pike should be up shallow trying to get some sun. I tied some big flies with Schultzy a few weeks back that need to be tested, and I can't wait to flex this thing and try to hook up on some toothy critters. Don't worry, all my other rods will be in the back seat. It has been FAR too cold to worry about dry fly fishing yet, but I'll probably sneak in some steelhead fishing as well. Next week we have some 70 degree weather on tap which should blow the doors off. Tuesday evening I may have to sneak out and see if maybe, just maybe, there's a few Hendricksons coming off.

After all, I love the trout opener, if perhaps a little indirectly.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Morning Coffee- Mid-Winter in April Edition

Aaauuppgghh!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. Let's have some coffee.

Unfortunately I have bad news to share. Apparentlly spring has suffered some godawful accident and died, slowly, deliberately, and by Gollum's own hands. Winter has been forced to step up, step in, and keep the show on the road. You know what I mean. We must have weather, right? It isn't right for it to ask us what it has in its nasty pocketses.

So nothing has changed much here, especially the frickin' weather, and it's getting old. Tom Hazelton came and fished with me all weekend and we caught nothing. Not only that, but there are no beds, no fish, and nothing to share. The woods and skies are full of snow, the wind is cold, and the long days now only remind you how awful winter can be. Sure, the birds are back, but they are just another bitter reminder of what could have been, and when we start finding their dead carcasses on the drifts I'm sure we'll realize how bad life is.

So all I have to share are pictures of Tom.

This is Tom hiking in on the snow. At this point he is still happy and optimistic.

This is Tom fishing a hole. At this point I would say he is still content and satisfied

This is Tom fishing another hole. At this point he's probably a little over it by now.

This is Tom on a completely different river at a moment when snow was not blowing directly down our necks. At this point we are sick of winter.

This is Tom wading to sh.ore after fishing the mouth of the Boyne River. At this point his hands do not smell of fish.

This is Tom so bored he's casting off a dock. At this point we are just wasting time.

We wrapped it up shortly thereafter and called it a weekend. Honestly, I had a great time, we got lots of exercise, I worked on my indie technique and we drank some brews, watched some fly fishing videos, ate some good hearty meals (okay, I was the cook, but hey, I know good food when I eat it) and otherwise were guys for a weekend. The fact that the fishing stank had no bearing on whether we enjoyed our weekend.

At least that is what we will keep telling ourselves.

Things can only improve, so let's get after it.

Oh yeah, there was this jackass.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Morning Coffee- April 8 2013

Auuuggghhhh!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. Dang, is it Monday again? Let's have some coffee.

Well, if you can't tell by yesterdays post, the gray and cold continue, and I'm back into a fishless period. We received several inches of snow last week, the nights were cold, and we still have a healthy snow pack on the ground, all of which means that the steady trickle of icy run-off is suppressing the bite in our small northern streams. We should be in the middle of our steelhead run right now and it hasn't really started yet.

This could be good news, we could have a protracted run that lasts into May. That's good depending on how you feel about dry fly fishing. Sometimes I don't like my seasons overlapping that much, it's nice to have time to enjoy them all. If it warms up suddenly the steelhead tend to get the job done in a single week, which can make for some epic fishing if you catch it, or you may be stuck catching suckers if you miss it. Rumor has it that a lot of the Lake Superior tribs aren't even accessible due to the snowpack.

I took a drive yesterday with Alex Cerveniak through the central U.P. yesterday to check on some rivers I had always wondered about. I had heard guys were getting fish at the mouth of Cut River which makes a spectacular slice through the dunes to Lake Michigan. I've only seen this river from the bridge high overhead and had no sense of its scale. When we got to lake level it turned out to be just a tiny creek that didn't look fit for brook trout.

We bypassed Brevort river knowing what a miserable ditch that is and went on to the Millecoquins. Come to find out all of the fishable water is inside the Hiawatha Club. It's a rather large river with a good flow but the only accesses are in the frog water at the mouth and at the outflow of Millecoquins Lake. Any Hiawatha Club members want to say if this river gets decent numbers of fish? I may have to kayak this stretch of river this summer.

Next down the coast is the Milakokia River. We didn't even bother. The open water is very short and flows right through the middle of a limestone quarry. I'm sure the locals catch fish there. I'm happy for them.

mouth of the Cut after a long walk down. Nothing to see here.

Next down the pike was the mighty Manistique River, which is open for steelhead from the dam in the namesake town down to the lake. Unfortunately you can see the lake from the dam, and the fishable stretch is just a couple of hundred yards long. Several guys were there fishing, including a vehicle with Wisconsin plates, but the setting is so industrial, being next to a pulp mill and god knows what else, that Alex and I looked at each other and shrugged, walked back to the car and drove all the way back across the central U.P., crossed the Mackinaw Bridge, and went home.

Despite the lack of fish and fishing it was a good day. I crossed some rivers off my list and had some questions answered. Even on a gray day the UP is always interesting. We saw at least a dozen bald eagles, tons of deer, and crossed several black fly riddled creeks that need to be explored for brook trout later.

Now that I've shared my scouting with you I think you all owe me some gas money. Coffee is over and it's going to be a busy week.

Let's get after it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Some Days

the only fish I saw

Some days are better than others. This is such a droll statement that it needs no elaboration.

Some days are like today. They simply exist. They are not good or bad. Nothing got done, nothing got fixed, and the only thing you can say for certain is that a lot of oxygen and carbon had a three-way.

Some days you do far more driving than fishing. There's a simple reason for this. You know for a certainty that no fish are willing to come out and play, that the accesses are still mired in deep snow, and that the gray skies and gray snowbanks are telling you it's not time yet.

Some days you need to go for a drive, be with a friend, talk about fishing and nothing else. Your job, your taxes, your bills and your exes do not exist on such days. The only things that do exist are your friend, the road and the hum of your tires on it, and the ceaseless fuzzy scalp of the landscape punctuated by the vastness of Lake Michigan.

Some days you need to get out and explore, and when you reach that X on the map, the spot you were always wondering about, that blue squiggle writhing through the plat lines, and you realize the whole enterprise is worthless, you still have the satisfaction of having seen it, laying your fantasies to rest against the reality, closure in its purest and most simple and easy sense. What is better than knowing that a map does not live up to your expectations and moving on?

Some days you need a rest, your own Sabbath, a break from all the pressures you are under, to burn some gasoline and have the freedom of the road, to have a friend who doesn't mind if you ramble on aimlessly and absentmindedly all day even while he nods off in the passenger seat. If you're used to talking to yourself anyways this is perfectly acceptable.

Some days are like this one, in which I get to leave behind the bile and filth of my life, the pain and regret, the slavery, insouciance, pop culture, greed, ambition, and the myriad things tugging at my sleeve, and truly escape. Today there was no music and very little fishing, and truthfully no fish at all. There was only me and a good friend, some ideas to chase down, tease out, discover that they were only cotton candy, and to leave the fair grounds disheveled, slightly sick, and sure of the idea we will never eat corn dogs again. When we finally hit shore and landed it was sublime, peaceful despite the carnival. We took local routes. We fished local waters. We caught nothing. We drove home with our heads held high.

Some days are like that.