Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday Morning Session

The alarm broke the silence like finger nails on a chalk board and I quickly rolled over to find the snooze in the darkness. Having fine tuned the entire process I was back fast asleep in no time until 10 mins later and dammit the submarine was sinking once again. Those of you with IPhones will know the tone. It is unmistakable and will wake the most hung over of individuals in a heartbeat. It is an evil tone directly sent from Lucifer himself but this morning it was different. It was semi welcomed. Semi meaning only met with 3 or 4 snooze sessions. With Saturday's successes still fresh in my mind and visions of monster bucks and chrome hens I managed to pull my aching bones from the warmth of the bed and out to the kitchen to put some coffee on for the useless rubes in the other bedroom. We all must have shared the same excitement as the boys were soon to follow. We found ourselves on route to the river shortly after first light. The word must have gotten out as our first choice of starting water was well populated. We shook it off and put the legs to work and hiked down river. The early exercise was a mixed blessing as the morning temps were a crisp -13 C on the truck thermometer. The snow crunched under our feet as we navigated through the forest along the river. We were blessed to have the remainder of the river to ourselves this morning and spaced ourselves out in a very long sweet section of productive water. It didn't take long before we each had a couple of lb fish to our credit and I noted just how much colder the water felt on the hands this morning. I also felt a burning sensation on the tips of my ears that was certainly reminiscent of January and February Steelheading.
Unknown to me Harv had hooked up with a nice hen and put her on the bank for a quick photo op with Arns help. I was out in the river on a sweet little gravel bar that virtually isolated me from any other company up or down river. I had just happened to retrieve my rig and looked down river to notice a fish had come up to the surface just before a large sunken tree about 25 yards down from where I was standing. I gently dropped my float in front of me and watched in anticipation as my rig approached the location. And like it was scripted my float slowly disappeared followed by a quick and firm hook set. The surface of the water erupted and then line screamed from my reel as another very large fish shot down and across the river.
Suddenly a giant buck leaped from the water on the other side of the river upstream from the direction my line indicated the fish was headed. The brute was racing through the run so fast that the line drag in the current didn't allow me time to catch up with him.  A sudden feeling of hopelessness set upon me for what felt like the next 15 mins as I tried fruitlessly to persuade the beast to come to my grasp. Harv came out to the gravel bar to assist when things started to look like I had a remote chance of success. We got the fish to within ten feet of our location when the rod went silent. I was certain the fish had gotten me on some wood directly in front of us in some deeper water so I released all tension and watch the float waiver in the current void of life. I was about to give up and try and pull it out when the float moved a foot sideways and the game was once again on. After another couple of minutes we managed to get the fish about a foot from Harv's grasp when it seen his mug and made one last ditch effort at freedom. I was a good call on his part as the hooked popped free and came back at me with a nasty mess of braided line tangled on it. The braid must have been the culprit of the initial snag and it was a wonder that it became untangled from the bottom without my line breaking. Good knots and good Flouro I guess. By now I was almost relieved as my hands were in a very poor state.
I remember fishing one December with Norland in the Shire and his hands were so cold fighting a giant fish that he was begging me to take the rod and spell him off . I now knew what he felt that day and as I attempted to warm my hands in my jacket warming pockets the pain intensified as they came back to life. Big fish have their place I thought to myself but this location was no place to fight giant fish. Especially without a net. I shook it off rather well and at least Harv got a good look at the beast as did I when it did it's initial jump from the river. After my hands regained dexterity we fished the section a little more before secumming to Arn's desire to hike through the brier patch to the inside of Suicide.
We made the hike from hell and fished that miserable piece of water to no avail once again. Don't get me wrong...it is nice water but I have learned that it has it's time and place and is better fished when fish are starting to do their business. We plugged away fishing our way back towards the access site. Arn lost another decent fish in the middle of the river as did I. By now it was getting towards the middle of the day and we had a long drive home so we made the call to "high-tail it" out of the valley and get back to the cabin to pack up. It was a good morning outing with everyone experiencing victories and defeats. Things are headed the right way and with the coming weeks warming trend they can only get better. It's always a lot of fun when the boys get together for a reunion and this trip proved to be no different. I sincerely hope our schedules align once or twice again over the coming month for an opportunity to better our successes and increase upon our laughs.

Norland is a DB!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sign of things to come

Today was a pleasant surprise.  The temperature hovered below freezing and was wreaking havoc on the guides but the skies were clear, clean, and crisp.  The fish gods finally shined upon us.  Today was a pleasant surprise indeed and truly a sign of things to come.  I've said it a few times recently and I'll say it again.  We are on the verge of the main run.  Next weeks warming spell will certainly tell the tale.  If today's fish are any indication of what lay ahead then it will be absolutely ridiculous when it pops.  Way too tired to conjure up a wordy entry so I'll let the pictures speak the tale.  Props to Harv for taking some amazing photos and proving to me that my Sony isn't all that bad I guess.

Maiden Voyage

Well the first boys weekend of the spring was upon us. Norland was out and the game plan was for Harv and myself to head up Thursday night with Harv's new 4x4 and fish The Big Manistee on Friday with the Hyde. Arn was coming up late Friday night for the remainder of the weekend. When we planned this trip the weather was shaping up for what might play out to be the first big push of Chrome from the lake. But as luck would have it a freakish snow storm dumped heavy wet snow on much of the Central Great Lakes Basin. We pulled in to the cabin and were very glad Harv had a new 4x4 as the lane way was under a fresh blanket of 6-7" of the white stuff. We woke the next morning with plans of finishing the remainder of work that needed to be done prior to taking drift boat on the water. After an hour of finalizing the details we were on our way to the river with the boat in tow. We hit the launch, paid our fee and loaded up the boat. Harv's big Dodge made short order of the launch and we soon found ourselves firing up the new Merc. The only problem was the outboard had different ideas about fishing the big river. Pull after pull failed to start the brand new 4 stroke. I must have gone over everything three or four times until I finally realized the fuel petcock was in the off position. Once the fuel valve was turned on the motor fired up after two pulls and soon we found ourselves heading upriver. The plan was to run up river for about 30 - 40 mins at half to full throttle to break in and seat the rings of the motor then fish our way back. It was a great boat rids as the river appear void of other boats for the most part.
The sky was blue and the sun warmed our chilled bodies as we set out on the maiden voyage. After being satisfied with the break in run we decided on a straight stretch with some wood and current breaks. We fished this section hard and made our way down towards the next bend where I decided to fire up the outboard and motor around the corner. The motor started right up but soon stalled. After a couple of unsuccessful start attempts I decided to check the gas tank and low and behold we were out of gas. The internal fuel tank is very handy but also very small. After a quick refuel we were on our way and back fishing. We fished hard for the next 2 hours without as much as a sniff other than a large RedHorse sucker Harv picked up while drifting between holes. Trying not to loose faith we continued to read the river as best as we could. It was a little difficult as the flow was up and she was carrying a fair amount of stain. We focused our efforts mainly on wooden runs with well defined current breaks and slack water.
Then finally my float dropped and I set up on a fish rather than the routine snag. It was a small shaker but nonetheless validation of our ability to read the river. It was nice to put some silver in the Hyde and get her Christened. We continued to work our way down river hitting every interesting piece of water until we hit a long heavily wooded strait away. We got half way down when Harv announced he had a hooked a fish. I quickly turned to see a giant slab erupt from the river way down by a large gathering of wood. The fish continually raced for the lumber but Harv managed to keep her just shy from freedom. The current in the middle of the river was strong and this fish made good use of it as Harv tried fruitlessly to bring her to the net.
At the peak of the fight there were three other fishing boats waiting patiently up and down river for us to put the fish in the net. Harv would get the giant hen close to the boat and she would race down river time and time again. Finally Harv got her to the bow of the boat with her head at the surface. I knew I was going to get one shot at this fish with the net and the audience wasn't helping my nerves any. I lunged forward with focus and successfully scooped up the giant fish. As soon as she made the net the leader broke sending the float flying back at Harv. By now Harv was spent and the congratulations were coming from the passing fisherman as they navigated their boats past us.
The net man even got some praise. The fish was ridiculous. She had to be 11lbs and 32-33" long.
A crazy solid Manistee giant that made the entire outing. After a bunch of pictures she disappeared into the depth unscathed. We continued on with our game plan and picked away for another hour or so without a sniff. We were approaching a bend in the river but there was a nice piece of slow water behind a fallen tree just before it. We set the anchor and started to fish the run. I focused on the slack water behind the main seam and shortly into my 2nd drift my float disappeared followed by a quick hook set and multiple jumps from 2lb juvenile. This fish jumped about 7 times in the course of the battle and put up a great fight. After a few photos and follow up drifts we were back on our way down river in search of more chrome.
By now the sun was starting to show signs of late afternoon and the dropping temperature validated it was time to make tracks for the launch Once again the big Dodge made short work of the boat ramp. By now our bones were aching and our faces were burning from the windburn. The heater was rocking as we towed the boat back to the cabin. In between the frequent deer sighting we discussed the days events and before we knew it we were backing the Hyde into the garage.
All aspirations of snowmobiling were squashed as we settled into the couches with a few cold beers. The efforts of the days outing were soon realized as my aching back kept reminding me there is a price to pay for this passion. The scenery, company, solitude, fresh air, and occasional chance encounters make it all worth the while.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Managed to slip down to the river for a morning session before packing up to head back to reality.  Wasn't expecting much as the past few days have been less than mediocre to say the least.  I did managed to hook into one decent shaker on his way towards 2 lbs.  For a small fish he certainly reminded me of what is to come.  This fish jumped a foot or better from the river 4 times in 20 seconds.  Although I long to hook into some fresh 4+ lbs fish these little shakers are filling the void until the main push.  There were some larger fish taken today but were all dark coloured up fish that had been in the river all winter.  Like I said before...we are on the edge.  One decent rain and it will be game on.  The river is looking good and with another 6 inches she will be spectacular.  Looks like we will be hitting the lower river this Friday for the Hyde's maiden voyage.  Can't wait...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A must read

I can literally count the books I have read in my forty years on two hands.  I know this may come as some sort of shock to the lot of you but my literary prowess isn't derived from the influence of any other authors.  No literary genius has bestowed his stylings upon me nor have I stolen the prose from any.   Oh no...not at all.  My train wreck approach to writing comes from the darkness that lies within.   I watch my wife and kids devour books like they are friggin bacon and sometimes I am envious of their ability to get lost in the pages. However, for me it has always been more about experiencing life or figuring it out for myself opposed to living someone elses experiences or following someone elses ideals as to what is the correct way to do anything.  The books I have been able to read consisted of true accounts of items of interest to me.  But even then I still didn't get the mental stimulation from reading them to put any real effort into reading any more.  It does strike one as odd though as I do get a great deal of enjoyment out of the entire writing process. 
This weekend while we were at the library my wife handed me a book we had seen at a novelty store on the Strip in Vegas this past December.  For the record I was checking out the free DVD's at the time.  On a whim I decided to sign it out in the hopes that it just may peak my interest and get me one book closer to counting my literary accomplishements on my toes.  I must say it just may be one of the funniest things I have ever come across.  So much so that I cannot stress enough the fact that everyone of you must read this book.  It is called "Sh*t my Dad Says" and is an account of one mans youth and the many colourful words of wisdom his father bestowed upon him and his family during his upbringing.  Please...get this book.  You will laugh the hardest you have in years and  it will make you feel like less of the POS father you feel like now.  LOL!  Check it out peeps! (Especially you Norland! you DB)

Calm before the Storm

The fishing has been less than mediocre the last few days.  Perhaps its the calm before the storm but the extended winter and subsequent increased snow base seems to be keeping the fish concentrated in the lower river.  From all accounts the fishing in Lake Manistee at the mouth of the big river is starting to pop.  The melt has been gradual and until this minor mild spell the river level has remained rather low.  Yesterday showed signs of things to come with a 4" level increase along with some colour but still reports of a slow day all around.  One thing for certain...Spring Fever is in the air and the traffic on the river truly speaks to the fact that everyone is chomping at the bit to get this season underway.  Right now we are on the edge looking over the cliff.  I managed to finalize the details with the Hyde and the Secretary of State.  Just have to get the motor mounted, numbers displayed on the bow, and load her up with the required gear and she will be good to go for next weekend.  Harv's new 4x4 should do the trick at the launch.  Then it's an entirely new ball game.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Kick in the Stones

Today was an exercise in futility.  Today I experienced what Norland must feel when he has one of those days on the river.  Right out of the gate I hiked up to a newer piece of water that I had great luck with the day prior only to blow a solid fish.  Deciding not to let that ruin my morning I sucked it up and made the trek through the thickets and thorns to fish the inside bend of suicide.
I laid tracks so I had great expectations only to struggle with birds nests and random tangles the entire time.  At one time I re-tied only to make a cast and retrieve a mess of knotted mono filament.   I was determined that greater things would come of my efforts so I re-tied again and kept a positive attitude.
The stonefly's were hatching in full force and perhaps that was the forage of the day.  I fished along the way on the hike back to the stairs but managed nothing until I fished below the coffer while resting my legs before the ascent.  There I saw a dwindling flicker of hope to salvage a day of frustration in the form of a 12" Brownie and a 12" Rainbow.  These fish are genuinely beautiful and I cant help but marvel at them every time we cross paths.  Hopefully I put all that bad karma aside today and the remainder of the season remains somewhat civilized.  I guess I had to pay some back for yesterdays success.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


There seems to be a fair amount of juvenile fish in the upper waters right now.  Determination, Confidence and the ability to read water is key along with that gift of "just knowing".

 Early spring weather is very unpredictable and this morning proved no different with snow, rain, and wind.  Quality gear protected me from the elements but every fish reminded me just how cold the water really is this time of the year.
 The river is starting to show an increase in traffic and I suspect cabin fever has set in full force with the Steelheaders of the central Great Lakes Basin.
There is a fair amount of snow base in the region and think the main push is a week or two away.  Next weeks temps will tell the story.  One thing for certain...when it pops it will be ridiculous.
I discovered some new water in an old location today and It got me excited.  Going to scout out some more tomorrow in preparation for the first push. 
The river is running clear but holding a fair to decent level.  Another 6-8" would be perfect but that will come with the thaw and rains.
Stay tuned kids...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Pine River Corridor

I awoke this morning to bright blue sunny skies.  The absolute polar opposite of Saturday's deep wintry theme.  Having satisfied my piscatorial fix Saturday at Horseshoe bend I sat down with my morning coffee and pondered what the day might bestow upon me. Knowing very well that winter's grip was subsiding I figured I better seize the opportunity and head out on the trails with the snowmobile.  I had been wanting to catch a trail along the Pine River Corridor after hearing about it a few weeks back.   Friday nights drive up was under torrential rains but by morning there was about 5-6" of fresh wet snow on the ground.  What this meant was the trails would essentially be abandoned.  The weekend crowd stayed home so I had the system virtually to myself.   I could not have asked for a nicer day and a better way to wrap up the snowmobile season.  The trail along the Pine was outstanding.
The Pine River is designated a "National Scenic River" by the US Forest Service. The Pine is also designated a "Natural River" by the State of Michigan and thus carries special restrictions.  The panoramic vistas are outstanding and I cannot wait to hike, bike,  canoe, and fish the area in the coming months.  Did I mention the Pine is considered to be one of the finest trout rivers in the East.  No stocking takes place on the pine so all fish carry uncompromised genetics.  All this and a grand total of 5-8 mins from the cabin doorstep.  I guess I better start shopping for a fly rod.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


I managed to salvage some time for myself this afternoon.  The hyde is not yet registered with the state nor is the outboard motor mounted and set up.  This and the fact that the ramps were snow covered pretty much dictated my afternoon game plans.  I threw the waders on and jumped into the truck destined for the Tippy Dam access.  Part way there my game plan changed.  I don’t know what it was but I had a strong feeling that I should hit horseshoe bend.  So strong was the feeling that I immediately made a U-Turn and headed towards plan B.  The road back to the access only showed signs of one other vehicle.  I parked the truck and made my way to the stairs.  Much to my chagrin I laid fresh tracks in the snow.  We were on the front end of a large cold front system and the winds were beginning to pick up while the temperature started to dive.

The run at the bottom of the stairs is my favourite in this section so I quickly got my rig set up and made the cast to the front side of a sunken tree towards the middle of the river.  It was nice to see  the river has seen a level increase and was carrying a slight stain compared to the low gin clear conditions she has employed all winter.   That confident feeling I had was still prevalent and I was anticipating a strike at any moment.  Then after a few drifts without warning it happened.  The float dipped and I was into a nice 2-3lb chrome bullet.   It was a beautiful fish and once again validation as to why I follow my gut instincts when they arise.  A dozen drifts later and I was into a second chromer a bit smaller than the first but a great fish nonetheless.   Shortly after releasing her a jet sled come motoring around the bend and made it's way towards my vicinity.  I could see it was a guide with two clients. They made their way slightly past my location and anchored the boat part way through the run I was fishing. Its funny how a guide with a means of fishing the entire river would move in and low hole a shore angler that obviously put a great effort forward to get to that location. Having had success I decided to shake it off and move up river to some deep wintering water that owed me a fish. I fished the first section hard to no avail and decided to make the longer hike up the the next river bend. A minute into the hike a large gust of cold wind screamed down the river valley and stopped me in my tracks. I began to second guess my decision to make the giant hike up to the next bend and turned to look at the river beside me.

I was standing beside a short section of deep wintering water with no more than 40ft of drift before finding yourself into a very large and nasty tree. Compared to the chilly hike this section looked like a good alternative. I made a short cast to to the top of the run and thought to myself that there would be no chance of pulling a fish out of this section with all the wood. A missed opportunity is far better than no opportunity so I made another cast with all intentions of letting my rig float right up to the wood. Just down stream from me and before the tree the river undercut the bank and there was a slight back eddy. My float cocked slightly and I initially thought it was the eddy. I began to reel it in when I realized it was a fish. I set the hook and a giant wintered hen exploded from the surface. With full expectations of loosing this fish I clamped down and made every effort to keep her towards the top of the run and out of the wood.

I slid down the steep bank into the mud and once again understood why I follow my gut instinct when it speaks. With the cold river temps and lady luck on my side I managed to put the 30" 10+lb monster hen on the bank. In complete disbelief I frantically snapped a few pictures while I marveled over the size and beauty of this fish . I had been a while since I caught a giant fish and this one could not have come at a better time. After watching her disappear into the depths I made my way back towards the stairs but not before losing yet another small chromer in some wood. Four fish in three hours under nasty winter conditions. I'll take it any day over shoveling snow. Man I'm glad I turned that truck around.

All work and no play

Finally managed to meet up and finalize the Hyde boat purchase.  Naturally the day I managed to arrange the pickup was under a Weather Advisory.  Freezing rain, torrential downpours and subsequent snow seemed to be my nemesis.  However,  I'm a steelheader...and in comparison to some of the sh*t we have driven thru to fish it was a cake walk.   After what seemed like a full day of driving Cody Buddy and I made it to the cabin, cracked a couple of cold ones and hit the hay.  We woke up to aspirations of hitting the river but mother nature once again had other plans for us.  Now where is that friggin shovel...