Thursday, April 10, 2008
With the Spring fishery swinging into high gear, and a burning desire to fish, another road trip was in order. With substantial high water conditions this spring reported on the south shore of Erie and the timing of the big drop coinciding with our dates we determined there was an opportunity to visit Ohio and put up some big numbers. At the same time MI reports were very favourable and the big melt had occurred with a similar drop in process. My Heart was telling me MI was calling but the lure of the DisneyLand fishery was too much to dismiss and our sights were set on the Buckeye State...
The initial plans were for OMN, HArv, and myself to spend two days chasing chromers somewhere in the Great Lakes Region but, in it's typical fashion, Life interjected and Gene had to bow out at the last minute. Bound and determined to not let this ruin our trip we proceeded as any sane, rational, steelheaders would do.
HArv had prior contact with Domenic Federico from Infinity Rod Creations and arranged to meet up with him at a "secret" spot on the Chagrin. Arriving in the greater Cleveland area we were pleasantly surprised to find the river was in mint condition with little to no angling pressure. After a quick meet and greet river bank style with Dom and his buddy Randy we were into our first drifts. I was looking forward to fishing the new Rainshadow and eager to put her through the paces on some OHIO Chrome. About 4 drifts into the morning the new stick was officially christened and the day looked like it had the makings of something special. Well as fate would have it we struggled for the next hour. Having travelled all that way we wanted to give the Chagrin a fair shake and ventured up river to another suggested piece of water. Once again the conditions looked promising and we hiked up river to find some solitude and willing players. We did manage to find a little of both but once again struggled and only turned a few fish. By now I was beginning to get that feeling and the weather was far from my liking pushing 70 F and full sun. The new Rainshadow had now seen a few fish and was looking promising although I have really taken fondly to my 15' Frontiers the past 7 months and found the initial transition very alarming. There really is no comparison between the two so the transition feels somewhat offside and one gets the initial impression of being underpowered. The rod really doesn't show it's potential until it's fully loaded up well into the curve. Understanding this I am reserving my full judgement until I have 20 or so fish behind it. On our way back to the access point we struck up a conversation with a fellow piscator whom informed us of fair success he had earlier in the morning at a certain location. Once again we opted to give the Chagrin a fair shake and headed up river thinking the majority of fish pushed way up with the big water. We arrived in a very scenic part of the Metro Parks more to our liking. Once again we struggled with the full sun conditions, 70F temps, and very pressured fish. We were approaching 3pm and had to make a call. Being faced with the proposition of staying in a major metropolitan area at a major Motel chain and the reality of another day of urban steelheading with less than anticipated action Michigan was calling us more than ever before.
We decided to cut our losses and make the long trek Northwest. Tom Tom indicated that we had a 7 hr road trip ahead of us that would put us in our accommodation in Baldwin at 10pm. That would put our road tally over 1000km for Tuesday but I was more than happy to put the miles behind us at another opportunity on the West side. As luck would have it the journey was uneventful and we made great time. After stopping for a Border run and few corns we still managed to arrive at the Outdoor Inn for 9:30. We were quick to unpack and settle in. On the drive there we discussed our options in full detail and decided on the Big Manistee. With this in mind HArv decided to break out the IM9 for the larger water. This got me thinking...I had my ass handed to me last spring with numerous chromers on that river with the 15' Frontier...with the big water from the melt and the prospect of 2-3" of precipitation that night I did not want to risk a day being under gunned with the new Rainshadow so I rerigged as well. After a few cold beers and some TV we crashed hard. The next time I saw consciousness was 4:30am when I was awoken by the wind howling through the trees and the sound of rain. It had started raining reasonable hard about 10:30 the night prior so I figured we had received a fair amount. It was not long after the alarm beckoned. The Outdoor Inn in Baldwin is a very fine establishment and for $60 a night it is very clean, has beds from heaven, recently renovated rooms and the best in room coffee I have ever had. We were well rested and ready to hit the road. After a few cups of Joe the car was packed and we were on our way. The ride from Baldwin to Wellston is a fairly straight shot up M37 to M55 where you head West. At the M37 and M55 Junction there is a 24hr gas station/Market store with gourmet coffee and fresh baked goods. We need to gas up for the ride home so we stopped in. During refueling the wind was fairly substantial and we begin to get concerned about the day. At one time I suggested cutting our losses and doubling back to fish the White where we could afford some cover back in the bush but we were practically on the river and decided to tough it out. We arrived in Wellston at 6:30 in need of MI licenses. To our surprise one of the local tackle shops was open and we stopped in and were greeted by two friendly fellows who quickly hooked us up. They also were quick to comment that the main run hit the river the day prior and the fishing had finally turned on. A sense of jubilation ran through my body as if I had finally arrived. We thanked the guys and headed to the access spot at Tippy. After gearing up we started the long trek down the stairs and could see the river through the trees. An initial chill ran down my spine as it looked to be somewhat off colour. Actually looked very chalky and I had never seen this river anything but gin clear. Upon arriving to the river we were pleasantly surprised to witness 18-24" of Visibility. The river was rockin and she was Prime. However, there was an alarming amount of people fishing below the coffer on both sides of the river and it was Wednesday. Does anybody work anymore???? We slid in tight below the coffer and and started to make a few drifts. We were quick to notice fish were being hooked literally everywhere. At any given time there was a fish being fought on either side of the river and they were all large chrome hot fish. Shortly after Steve hooks and lands a nice shaker and was ready for a day to remember. Not long after that I hit a nice coloured up lady pushing 6 or 7. I decided to slide down a few hundred yards and fish below the masses while HArv stayed put. On my way down I noticed an alarming number of stringers tied to shore with some of the largest and prettiest Steelies I had ever seen affixed to them. It was quickly apparent that not alot of fish swim again once being hooked in MI. I also got the impression that the river was polluted with Steelhead. Literally thousands of them and we were in for a day that would not long be forgotten.Well shortly after HArv and I decided we would put some leg work in and see if we could get away from the Dam scene and find a little elbow room. We stopped at one of the wooden stair river access platforms and dropped into the river where it all then began. From that point on we hooked multiple steelhead. HArv landed multiple steelhead while I managed to once again have my ass handed to me by some of the largest chrome steelies I have had the pleasure to tangle with. But not before some epic battles ;o). Oh, and I did also managed to put a few beauties on the bank but it is those monsters lost that I will always remember.
The Manistee is an incredible river and when timed right can be the happiest place on earth. I have never made a trip there that I have not enjoyed and this trip has got to be one of my most enjoyable. In typical closing fashion...I cannot wait to return to the fabled west side. Aside from the Shire there is no place I'd rather fish.
2 days, 2 States, 1461km's, and Chrome - the link to the journey