Thursday, April 30, 2009

Opportunity knocks...

Ideal river conditions present themselves ever so seldom this time of the year and to miss an opportunity at a system when it comes into it's own is an injustice. Today I had the pleasure of fishing our little piece of heaven on the drop from it's second bump this week. Solitude, Emerald green water, long lean bullets, heart stopping aerials and even a tight chromer were the order of the day. Late Spring fishing can sometimes be outstanding and today was one of those outings. There was a presence on the river but once I exercised my legs I disappered into the back waters.
When I hiked out of the Shire the rain was falling hard. I can only imagine how she will fish Sunday morning...Hmmmmmmm perhaps...
I fished hard today and my aging body is constantly reminding me of that. No doubt a price for todays rewards.

A price I'll gladly pay again and again. We often take for granted the fishery we have here in the Great Lakes. Today was another reminder of just how fortunate we are.

Slideshow of the highlights enjoy...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Norland's Opener

Nothing like shaking that "first fish funk"...Nobody does it like Norland.

Enjoy the video and pay particular attention to the audio. The birds are putting on a symphany.

Norland 2009 Opener from Brian M on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ontario Opener 2009

It's been a while since I last fished an opener in Ontario. I used to live for it. I mean I would save vacation time, arrange my personal life around it and count the days until the last Saturday in April. Oh my that is a sad tale...
Having not had the opportunity to fish with Norland a great deal this year I coaxed him into spending the day on our home trib for the 2009 opener. If for nothing more a walk in the bush and a pre-fall preview of a river that had seen two separate epic flood stage events this year. One thing for certain...we were not going in with grand expectations of fish and solitude. You see, opener in Ontario is like a sale at the beer store...It don't happen too often and there ain't gonna be too many peeps that miss out on it.

Aside from the imminent inrush of vermin on the river we were going to have to contend with unseasonably high temps, low water, and bugs...friggin bugs.
I have to say, all in all we managed to pull off another quality day on the river. We caught a few fish, shared many laughs, swatted many a bug and witnessed first hand the raw power mother nature instilled upon our poor little river. Most importantly I got to spend what might be my last day of the season on the river with a great friend. Norland you are the gayest POS I know. Thanks for taking the day and getting out there with me.

Slide show credits go out to Old Man Norland and Myself...Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I love my wife...

Having had a rather stressful couple of weeks and with my birthday around the corner my wife approached me with a rather odd request.
Simply put she said "we should get away, do you think you could get that cabin in MI for the weekend?" Having just returned from there she had seen my pictures of our accommodations and was intrigued. This would afford her some much needed R&R and me a wonderful birthday present on the Manistee. How could anyone say no to a request like that? Seriously...
So I got to work and made the arrangements. The girls were more than happy to spend the weekend with friends and family and the Cabin owner as equally happy to generate some much needed revenue. Next thing you know we are driving across the state early Friday morning with a van full of supplies, the dog, a killer weekend forecast, and piscatorial anticipation. Heather's boss lent her his waders and we had purchased her a 24hr license with high hopes of getting her into a nice MI steelie. My wife used to come along with me on local fishing outing when we were dating buy had never really gone steelheading with me so I was hoping we would turn a fish or two.
Arriving at our accommodations I offloaded the supplies while my wife toured her "cabin in the woods". To say she was impressed was an understatement and I think I will have a hard time going back without her. By now we were approaching 2pm and the heat of the day was at it's peak. Like many die hard steelheaders I'll take a freezing day on the water over a warm one any time but my wife was enjoying the unseasonably high temps to say the least. Thinking my wife may not want to fish to the extent that my OCD tendencies will drive me towards I suggested she bring a chair and her book. Keeping that in mind we decided to hit the sawdust section as it is a beautiful section of the river where one can easily escape the stresses of life and become lost in nature. Arriving at the access site I was surprised to only see a handful of cars. The camping section was full and the same crews was still there from the week prior. We geared up and made our way to the river. Thinking about starting out at the long run to the right from the bottom of the hill I peeked over the bank to see 6 guys waist deep. It was reminiscent of an Ontario river after opener and my stomach slightly knotted up. We crossed our fingers and hiked further down to the section where we had our best luck last week. Amazingly enough this section was uninhabited so we started our afternoon there. The river was very clean and had dropped about 6-8". This section affords some depth so it had taken on that ever so alluring emerald glow. I had a good feeling and gave Heather a brief rundown on the pool and how to approach it. I have to give her credit as she stuck it out for a while to no avail before the call of the chair and book was too much to resist. I continued to do my thing and made my way up and down and in and out of the river. This water was awesome but we could not turn a fish. Sometimes that just the way it goes. The armada of riverboat traffic surely didn't help things. We decided to cut our losses and head back to the cabin. It was approaching 4:30 and the fresh air must have gotten to Heather as she was thinking nap time while I was thinking here was an opportunity to slide down to Suicide as we did rather well there last week in the evenings. Once again the parking lot was rather empty and I ran into a nice gentlemen just walking back from a full days fishing. He was quick to comment on the lack of fish and informed me the entire section to the right at the bottom of the stairs was all mine if I was so inclined.
That was enough to convince me to make the climb down the million stairs to the river bank. The sun was just at the right angle that afforded some shade down in the tail out so started to make my way down there floating along the way. With the exception of a few 1 lb brownies an uncomfortable theme was starting to settle in on this trip. I made the hike out just before 7 pm and headed back to the cabin.
Heather was just getting up from her nap and we decided to take Cody for a nice walk down the road to a field where I had just passed three deer on my drive back. It was exceptional spring weather and I really shouldn't complain about it. Just not fishing weather. Being a lab Cody is always in his element when we are North and longs for the long walks. I can only imagine how his nose must go into overdrive with all the critter smells and the like. After returning to the cabin we had a nice meal and settled done on the couch with some TV and a nice fire in the fire place. (note to self...when you think the damper is open...visually check with a flash light! IDIOT)
5 am came too early the next morning and I found myself drinking coffee with baileys on the couch waiting for the first signs of daylight. I was certain I could turn a fish or two down at Sawdust and that was my plan. Arriving at the access point I wasn't surprised to be alone. MI fishermen like their sleep and first light is seldom busy in my experience. I gave the first run a decent go to no avail and decided I better head down to the preferred water before the troops started their decent on the river. The sun was just starting to peek over top of the hills and the reflection of the trees and sun from the far bank on the water was hypnotic.
I pounded this particular section of river from top to bottom to no avail but still I kept my confidence in check. I was certain there were fish here when what I figured was a fair sized brown rose and took a fly in some swift water very close to the bank just up from me. I made a perfect cast way above from where the fish rose and started to mend my line as the float meandered down towards me. Suddenly the float dropped and instinct had me abruptly pull back on the big rod. The rod loaded up and a familiar thumping action ensued. I was certain it was a 1-2 lb resident brown when the thumping increased in severity and duration. Suddenly the fish exhibited its power and I immediately knew it was a MI steelie. The week prior I had noticed similar patterns in these fish where they initially sound in the current as if they are unaware they are hooked until they realize they are and explode. It was very hard to tell how big this fish was as I could not get the fish remotely close enough to have a glimpse. The battle ensued for quite some time until I finally got a glimpse of a long drop back buck. With luck on my side I managed to swing him onto the beach and give my aching shoulders a break. The power and grace of these MI fish never cease to impress me and this fellow was eager to get on his way. After a few quick photos he did just that and returned to the section from which he came. It was very cool to see that fish actively feeding on flies off the surface and as equally cool to have picked him out of that run. By now the river boat traffic was starting to show up and I decided I had enough time on the water for the morning. It was time to head back to the cabin, make breakfast for Heather, and have a lazy morning. Later in the day we decided to checkout Bear Creek at the Coates Highway bridge. The river was looking rather skinny so it was not a viable option. With this days increased temps and full sun I figured Suicide and Sawdust would be not better than Fridays experience. We decided to take a leisurely drive over to Tippy and show Heather the circus. The parking lot on the Wellston side was 3/4 full and the majority of peeps would no doubt be fishing above the coffer. I decided to gear up and hope for some room below to get a few drifts in. Heather brought her book and chair and we made the descent down the stairs. There were a few fish being taken and the river looked very appealing. I did manage to find an opportunity to drop into the river at the first bend and picked up a chunky brown but now steelies. All the water that I would have loved to float was occupied by lead chuckers or riverboats. Nonetheless it was still nice to spend some time on the river and take in the entertainment. On our exit from the river we had a chuckle after reading some MI sportsman's interpretation of PETA plastered on the back of his 4X4. On our way back to the cabin we took the back roads and did some wildlife spotting. There was no shortage of turkey, deer and grouse viewing opportunities on this trip. Arriving back to the cabin I threw the steaks on the grill and and cracked a few cold ones. After supper we settled onto the couch and watched a movie and a had few more cold ones before crashing for the night.
Sunday morning the alarm beckoned very early but was quickly silenced never to be heard from again. I felt my time would be best spent in the warmth of a comfy bed to catch up on some sleep. It was nice to sleep in and have a lazy morning before the 4 hr drive home. Another terrific trip over to the West side. I like it over there. It has a relaxed pace and feel. The rivers are stunning and the people are genuinely friendly. I know my wife enjoyed herself and will most certainly be up for a return trip to the cabin at some point in time. The fishing she can do without but the relaxed pace, silence, and lack of distraction is right down her alley.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Early Morning Epiphany

Trying to capture the peace and serenity of drifting the Manistee we had an epiphany...

Early morning epiphany... from Brian M on Vimeo.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harv's Sawdust Buck

Late in the second morning Harv hooks into a stellar buck that put the boots to the new IM8. Norland managed to tail it only to have fate intervene and lose his grip before the gravy shots could be taken. Luckily I managed to capture this video. was a nice fish.

Harv's Sawdust Buck from Brian M on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

a chance encounter...

Every so often you catch one of those fish that are special and stick with you. This past trip I had a chance encounter with one of these gems. Check out just how gay we all get when one of these moments happen. Spectacular fish indeed. Big thanks to Norland for putting me on that fish after he hit two out of that run.
Seriously, what a gift.

a chance encounter from Brian M on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

West Side Suicide and the Highbank Drifters

The 2009 season had been fairly low key for me with the exception of a killer guided trip on the Mo in January and I was banking all my fortune on the Spring Manistee run. Back in December I polled a few of the POS Rubes I fish with to see if anyone would be interested in a 2 day stint on the West side come early April. As expected the interest levels were high. Well sure enough the dreaded winter of 08/09 finally let go and April was upon us. Having struggled through the winter I was in need of some quality time on the water and decided to poll the guys to see if they wanted to make it a three day trip. Surprisingly there was little to no resistance as everyone seemed to need a reprieve from everyday life and to fill a steelheading void. Norland, Harv, myself and newcomer Arn made up the motley crew that were to impose our wills upon the West Side. Arn agreed to drive as if sent from Heaven on a mission. God bless him and his mini van! I started to look into accommodations late as I was quite expecting to just stay at our usual haunt in Baldwin and make the short commute up to Wellston and beyond. On a whim I put a post up on TSS for some info on accommodations in the Wellston area. That's when I got a PM from a really nice fellow I had met a few times on my home trib reminding me of an accommodation he had used in the past up that way. I decided to have a close look at it and was very glad I did. Many thanks go out to Scott from the four of us. With short notice I managed to work out the logistics and procured a stellar cabin in the woods for our stay. All I will say is we had platinum accommodations and have already made next years reservation.

As all trips seem to, we started out in my driveway at 3am, loaded up the van, and made our way to Timmies to rendezvous with Harv and some extra large coffees. After a quick duty free run we made our way over the bridge and into Michigan for the 4+ hour drive over to the West Side. The homos in the back crashed and Arn and myself piloted and co-piloted our way across the state. Our initial plan was to hit the river but after much discussion we decided it be best to offload our gear at the cabin and avoid a dreaded vehicle break in. After all we had a few cases of Keith's and Creemore's in the back. ;0) Upon arrival at the cabin we opened the door and were greeted by a page from a Cabela's furniture catalogue. The accommodations were stunning. After quickly unpacking we cracked a celebratory beer and discussed our options for the morning. We decided we would start out at the Sawdust Section of the Manistee. Until this trip I had always fished the Wellston side of the river with exception of Tippy so I was looking forward to checking it out and seeing what the river had in store for us. The weather was outstanding and the river carried a moderate stain. All indications were pointing to a recipe for success.
We made our way downstream and dropped into the river from a high bank access trail. This run was rather long with a very definitive seam and resultant slack water section. A dozen or so drifts into this run and I managed to hook up. In typical fashion this fight was short lived but would set the pace for the morning. Eager to see what this secion of the river had to offer Gene and myself made our way further down river where we came upon some stairs leading through a bunch of scrub brush to the river. Gene dropped in and I walked 20 metres or so downstream. I was not in the river more than a minute when Gene hooked up with a nice chromer that quickly spit the hook. Not a handful of drifts later he hooked up again and the battle was on. This section was rather tricky. It was full of wood and afforded no means to walk your foe downstream. After a well deserved battle Norland managed to swing her in to my awaiting hands and the first chromer of the trip was on the bank. It was nice to see G put that fish behind him as he has a self imposed MI funk that I had all intentions of putting to bed. After a celebratory photo op and handshake she was sent on her way. Gene insisted I fish this run so I dropped in while he tended to his setup. No more than three drifts in and my float drops. I set up and sure enough it was time to state the customary "Fish" proclamation. The flow of the Manistee is proud this time of year and the fish that run her banks are very powerful so it is always hard to determine the exact size of fish you are fighting until you get a decent look. Initially all I know was that she was a fresh dime bright bullet. I had no chance of landing this fish I thought to myself and was waiting for the inevitable float in my face. At time this fish would park itself in the run and impose her will upon me. After numerous runs and what seemed like an eternity I managed to swing her into Norlands grip. We were awestruck by her complete and utter size and beauty. This fish was brand spanking new and not a mark on her. This fish was most likely the prettiest chromer I have had the honor to catch. Harv managed to make it down for the final moments of the battle and like a bunch of homo's we had the camera's filming and taking tonnes of pics all the while taking care not to harm this fish. After we were done I distinctly remember how quickly she shot right back into the slot that she came from like a lightening bolt. It's always a good feeling to see a release like that and it is a true testament to how hardy these fish are. We handed the run over to Harv for a trifecta and it wasn't long before he was into a fish. Unfortunately Harv was having one of those mornings and blew three fish from that run. Useless!!!!!!!! Norland and myself dropped down just below Harv and Gene hooked into a large Winter fish that jumped no less than 4 times and put on quite a show.

Norlands Sawdust Buck from Brian M on Vimeo.

The colors on this fish were outstanding and the morning was well on its way to becoming one of those moments never to be forgotten. A few minutes later and I managed another dime hen from the same run in the 7 lb class. We decided to work our way back up river and stopped at the run that I had lost the first fish of the morning. Arn was fishing the tail out section and was struggling all morning. I dropped in well above him and began to fish the same line just off the seam into the slack. After 6 or so drifts I hooked up on a large buck just before the tail out and the battle was on. I knew this was a decent fish as he showed himself a few times breaching the surface. This was another coloured up fish and full of fight. We managed to swing him to the bank after a long battle for a brief photo encounter before send him packing. By now we decided to head back to the cabin for a few beers and to discuss our afternoon options. We landed on fishing the Suicide Run as it was close and none of us had ever fished it from the Brethern side of the river.
Arriving at the parking lot we didn't know exactly what to expect as there was a handful of pickup trucks and SUV's already there. Making our way down the stairway from hell we were pleasantly surprised to see there was lots of room. The suicide section essentially is a 90 degree bend in the river. We were fishing the outside of the bend and as we quickly discovered the fishing was at our feet no more than 10-15 feet from shore. The majority of people fishing down there were bottom bouncing the middle of the river and fishing over the fish. It didn't take long and everyone was into fish with the exception of poor Arn who continued to struggle. Harv and Norland went to the tail out section and Arn and myself stayed upstream. At one time I could see Norland battling a fish one moment only to hook up myself shortly after then look over and see Harv fighting a fish. The pace was fairly decent and with much anticipation my float plummeted again. I set up and instantly a large fish leaped from the water and shot downstream. Norland had looked over exactly as I set up on the fish and saw it leap from the water all the way across Suicide and made his way over. We managed to bring this fish to the bank and it was a stellar double striper. They don't all get this pretty but when you come across one they sure our special fish. The Michigan ones are particularly beautiful and seldom forgotten. My last was on the White back in April of 2007. We finished off the evening with a few more fish and decided to keep one for diner. We made our way back up the stairway from hell to head the nearest grocery store for some supplies. Arriving back at the cabin we geared down and cracked a few cold ones while dinner cooked and recapped the days events. It wasn't long after diner and our decrepit old bones were longing for the comfort of the beds. I think I was out at about 9:30 to be exact with a 5 am alarm set.
The alarm wasn't long sounding and I hit the shower only to be lured from it's warmth by the smell of fresh deli cut and cured bacon frying in the kitchen. Arn had taken the liberty to get the coffee on and the bacon and eggs cooking. Hmmm I thought to myself...he drives and he cooks...Sweet!!! We discussed our options over a killer breakfast and decided to hit the Sawdust run again as we anticipated grand things for first light. It was a crisp morning and a decent frost had set on. We anticipated iced guides and were not wrong. Our mission this morning was to put Arn on some fish. A trip really isn't a trip unless everyone has the experience and we weren't about to let Arn go without so we all parked our butts while Arn dropped into the first run and had sole control over it. The boat traffic on the river was already starting to concern us so we decided to leave Arn to his devices and drop down to procure the section we had our best luck on the day prior before someone else did. That way we would have prime water for all four of us to fish for the morning. I dropped into the section where I had landed the monster hen the day prior and was into a fish in two drifts. It was short lived and it managed to spit the hook. A little while later and I hooked up on a 1 lb resi-brownie.
The river was gorgeous and the mirrored reflection of the golden sand bank on the far shore was incredible. We honestly couldn't have asked for better weather. Gene hooked up and soon lost a fish out of the run just below and we decided to walk downstream to some high banks while Arn and Harv continued to fish the run. The banks were a good 20 feet up off the river with a very tempting section at our feet. The water looked too appealing to pass so we stopped and fished it for a bit when my float dipped and I hook up with a pretty hen. I managed to slide my way down the bank and we had a chuckle about being the High bank Drifters. We fished a few more runs below and decided to make our way back up towards the van and head back for lunch. Harv dropped in the first run of the morning and hooked into a fish that he lost at the shore. A little while later we caught up to him and he hooked into a stellar buck that beat the crap out of him. ;0) After a very good battle that was all captured on video he managed to swing it to the bank and Norland tailed it. Before he could pass the fish over to Harv for a photo op the fished managed to squirm its way free and shot back into the river. Useless!!!!! but we do have the video.
We decided to cut our loses and head back for a quick lunch and some beers before heading to the tackle store for some gear. At Andy's baits we got some good Intel from the manager and decided to try some private access water on Bear Creek. For a small fee a farmer will let you access his property and fish. We decided this was well worth pursing and headed over. The river was beautiful and very intimate. The section immediately down from the parking spot was wide open and had lots of room for the rods. Norland wasn't long hooking into a fish and blew it in the lumber. Harv and I decided to head up river and find some holes. We crossed and made our way through the bush. The Bear Creek is no place for 14 and 15 foot rods and we were struggling to say the least. We did manage to find one spot where Harv hooked up with a nice little 4 lb hen that I almost got tailed before she spit the hook. We continued to battle our way up river before deciding it was a hopeless cause with the gear we had. We doubled back and met up with Norland who was still fishing the same spot. It turned out that Gene hand managed a nice fish shortly after we left and was quite content to keep fishing that section. Arn had slid down river and was fishing around a bend. We told them that up river wasn't really an option and we should cut our losses and head back to suicide for an evening fish. Harv and I headed back up to the van for a rest and a bevy while Norland continued to fish his section. A little while later he made his way up the hill and informed us he had blown another fish out of that water. I knew he wanted to stay and it's always hard leaving fish but there really wasn't enough options for the four of us so we all agreed to leave. The afternoon fish at Suicide was on again. Everyone managed to hook up and Arn put three on the bank including a very nice brownie to seal the deal on the trip. We all decided some celebratory steaks were in order so we hit the country market for some NY Strips and baked beans. We also snapped up some more of that fantastic bacon from the day prior along with other much needed fare.
The steaks proved to be nothing short of spectacular with Montreal Steak Spice and every ones guts were stretching after diner. We all made our way to the great room and flopped our pathetic asses down on the lodge furniture and threw in a dvd of the blue collar comedy hour. It wasn't 5 minutes running and 3 of the 4 our us were out like a light. Harv snapped a few pics of Arn, Norland and myself passed out and I'm still holding my beer on my gut. Actually I woke up when I spilled some of it on my shirt. LOL!!! Hardcore steelie fishing isn't for the faint of heart.
The next morning the alarm sounded only to be snoozed for at least an hour before I finally dragged my ass out of bed and into the shower. Once again Arn had the bacon and eggs cooking and we all filled our stomachs with some down home cookin.
This was our last day and we decided to fish Suicide for first light then get on the road around noon. Arriving at the parking lot we were bummed to see the parking lot was rather full. Making our way down the stairs we experienced a noticeable increase in river boat traffic and bank pressure. Like Norland says "The bank maggot hatch was in full swing" We all spread out and it wasn't long before I hooked into a hot chromer that quickly schooled me. I worked my way back down and slipped in the next available section just past the stairs. First drift and I hooked up on a very hot fish that took me quite a ways down river before we managed to swing her to the bank. It was a clipped hen and she was loose. I decided to selectively harvest her for the cause. Talking to Harv I learned he had managed a nice chromer and Gene had lost one. Other than that it was a tough morning as the crowds increased by the minute until there was essentially no open spots to get a decent drift in. We decided to call it an early morning and make our way back to the cabin for a relaxing pack up. In the blink of an eye another stellar steelheading experience was behind us and we were on the road back to our everyday lives armed with the fantastic memories and pics.

One thing that stuck with me from this trip was a conversation that I overhead Friday morning down at the riverbank at Suicide between two elderly strangers. The conversation stemmed from the use of portable lawn chairs due to their ages and the fact that they can no longer wade the river. The one elderly gentlemen said to the other..."When I worked I said I was gonna fish everyday when I retired...Now that I'm retired I can't physically do it..." It drove home a good lesson and point to me. Carpe diem gentlemen, Carpe diem. If anything, the stairs at Suicide will remind you of that.

A photo journal of the trip. Photo's courtesy of Norland, Harv, and Myself...Enjoy!

Monday, April 06, 2009

OMN turns 40...

With little thought and in celebration of his 40th birthday Norland decided to eat his family. Happy 40th bro. It’s all down hill from here you 700lb POS.
Who's gonna clean your unmentionables now...