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.


  1. Nice writing even though I can't relate to a lot of this. Most of our creeks now are open year round and there really is no opener. At least on Delayed Harvest streams. I don't know the last time I purposely fished a designated Hatchery Supported stream. Not because feel I'm above it but for the reasons you mentioned above. Especially dealing with the tom-dick and jackass part.

  2. If it weren't for an invitation to a dawn-of-the-dead early Rams Horn breakfast, I probably wouldn't venture past my bedsheets either. I'm a sucker for bacon, eggs and hashbrowns though. - WES