Sunday, May 29, 2011

Orioles


Orioles...for some reason these birds seemed to be a rarity at my home in Canada.  Perhaps it was suburbia that kept my encounters with these brilliant critters at a minimum...I don't know...but when I did see one it was so brief that I never really got to appreciate the experience.  With the cabin here in Wellston I have quickly learned there are plenty of Orioles around and an encounter is as easy as opening ones eyes if the proper treats are left out for temptation.  The males are a stunning dark black and orange while the females seemed to have a washed orange and brownish-black appearance.  The males are quiet and reserved while the females are flamboyant and quite vocal.  Hmmmmmmm weird...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Skamania

In the late 1800's fate would see the first Great Lakes steelhead introduced into Michigan's Ausable River.  Shortly after organized stocking were taking place throughout the great lakes.  Agencies across the states and provinces of the Great Lakes began their Steelhead programs.  The origins of the brood stock were primarily from key West Coast systems chosen for genetics.  These initial programs and stocking were to develop into distinctive modern day Great Lakes Steelhead strains.  Some of today's better known or more sought after Great Lakes Genetics include the Michigan or Little Manistee strain and Ontario's famed Ganaraska Strain.  By the mid to late 1900's  the states and province of Ontario had established programs and a somewhat self sustaining Wild Steelhead population with annual returns of huge proportions.  The programs were a tremendous success with well established populations and distinctive regional genetics.  The fishery was however primarily a spring, fall and winter fishery.  Enter the skamania.  In 1971 the visionaries of the Indiana DNR sought a strain of steelhead that entered the rivers in the early summer months.  A summer run if you will.  Their search lead them to Washington's Skamania Hatchery which had a successful summer run steelhead program in play on the Washougal River... a Columbia River Tributary.  Their intent was to provide shore anglers with an almost year round near shore fishery.  The summer run genetics would compliment the Michigan strain and Wisconsin strain currently being stocked by the state.  Initially the program was met with limited success but the Skamania's adaptability to hatchery rearing and the commitment of the Indiana DNR to the program eventually led to a world class Great Lakes fishery.  By 1982 the rivers of Indiana were experiencing healthy annual summer runs and today is the premier destination for the Summer Run Great Lakes Steelhead fishery.  Along the way the state of Michigan also attempted their own Skamania program but it too was met with initial mediocre success.  This accompanied wtih the fear of compromising the more favourable "Little Manistee" genetics let to the decision to abandon the program almost completely.  Currently only two rivers in the state of Michigan get annual plantings of Skamania.  One being the St Joe and the second  being the Big Manistee.  A private club from Ontario with assistance from the MNR also embarked on a limited Skamania program.  Stragglers from Michigans programs found their way into Ontario's Saugeen River.  Here along with assistance from the MNR a private club harvested eggs for their own impromptu Skamania program.  For 8 years the program showed signs of potential but the successful returns quickly dwindled and the program was abandoned.  To this day some stragglers or strays from Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin find their way into Lake Huron Tribs.

If you have ever had the privilege to tangle with a Skamania you will know of their raw brute strength and affinity for air time.  Characteristically long lean and slender these fish do not shy themselves from breaking the surface in multiple aerobatic tumbles testing ones nerves and gear.  Their fight is quite simply unforgettable and at times so intense successful release of these fish is not an option.  Lactic acid build up in the seasonally warmer water pretty much renders these fish as table fare.  Personally, aside from recent years limited Big Manistee catches. I can only recall one Lake Huron accomplishment.  Many describe these fish as extremely long, slender giants with big heads and giant googly eyes.  The one I encountered most certainly met the criteria as she taped out at 34" with all other characteristics matching the ID.  She was caught on a smaller Huron system and thankfully so as the limited pool size only helped my case and eventually led to a subsequent landing.  I can say without any doubt that this fish would have most likely found freedom within moments on a larger system.  Nonetheless we had the pleasure of the experience and  an encounter I will never forget.

As of recent I have found myself away from the river and thinking about future opportunity for the 2011 calendar year.  With the acquisition of the cabin in Wellston and the proximity to one of Michigan's only two stocked Skamania Rivers my curiosity went into overdrive.  It would only be foolish to overlook this opportunity and more foolish to go into it blind so my quest began.  As you have just read the research has been compiled and a game plan has been formulated.  Now it is up to Mother nature and fate.  Hopefully I will have some reports of successes in the coming months along with some stellar images of chrome missiles.
These fish will certainly put the new Imperial through the paces and provide a much needed injection of chrome during the summer months.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Exciting Times...

Well it's official.  I'm on board with the Kingpin crew.  Exciting times.  Looking forward to working with Stuart Ward  and Bill Shearer on promoting the Kingpin name, contributing to their Blog, and fishing the New Imperial hard.  Some of you may recall I had the priveledge of field testing the prototype back in April of last year. Click Here. 
Keep an eye here and at the Kingpin site http://www.kingpinreels.com/  for Blog updates of our adventures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Destiny

As a child I would rummage through my parents photo albums and marvel at the pictures that predated my existence. Many of the Polariods contained people that I had never met and places that I had never been. There were a few Polaroids that subsequently became burned into my memory. In particular were two photos of young men holding fish of imaginary proportion to a child. Truly giant fish never before witnessed by a young aspiring angler. The first time I viewed these photo’s my father was quick to tell a story of what seemed to be a mystical place in a foreign land where fish grew to epic proportion and filled the rivers spilling out of the banks. For as long as I can remember I had heard and known of the Big Manistee and Tippy Dam from my fathers youthful travels. To a young child such a place seemed distant and magical and for the better part of my upbringing and adult life it remained as such. For some reason it had always seemed so far away and unreachable. Still to this day I can conjure up the images of two particular pictures from the photo albums of my childhood as if I were viewing them for the first time. It was not until I read a post put up by a fellow Great Lakes Steelheading blogger that I got the itch to seek out this destination. That initial trip would lead me down a road that would eventually find myself frequenting this locale on a regular basis and eventually purchasing a cabin of our own in the Manistee National Forest. Now I can be considered a local all stemming from an old Polariod picture from my youth and my fathers colourful stories of his adventures. Life is a weird. Call it destiny if you must but I do not try to understand life's mysteries anymore. I have learned it to be much more rewarding to enjoy them.



The above image is the only Manistee Salmon Polaroid that survived a recent basement flooding at my parents house. It will soon adorn the cabin d├ęcor up in Wellston.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Fond Memories

For as long as I can remember fishing has played an integral part in my life.. I have fond memories of fishing with my father and uncles in the Lower Lake Huron watershed. It was not until we relocated to Bruce County for employment that I was introduced to Anadromous species and caught my first steelhead. These were different times and the phrase catch and release wasn’t even coined yet. Aside from that the fishery was healthy as well as the lake. There were no Zebra Mussels or Gobies and the lake actually was a foot or two higher. My childhood memories of living in Inverhuron don’t include PS3, Xbox or the Internet. They are filled with images of running the sandy banks of the Little Ausable looking for Rainbows or getting startled by the thumping of grouse in the cedar bush. Simpler times and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.


I don’t have a lot of fishing pics from my youth but my father did manage to drum up a few that survived his basement flooding a few years back. Here are two that I can share.  I was in the second grade when we moved up there.  I would have been 7  which makes it  spring of 1977.  These images pictorially represent the beginning of it all for me.  It was these early days spent on the Little Ausable with my dad that defined who I have become today.
The first pictures is with my father sporting a smoke, giant glasses, and a rather exhausted demeanor and the second is with my late Uncle Gerald. Notice the old Ford and the stubby on the bumper.
I come by it honestly… :0)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Spring

Signs are everywhere... The weather is making a swing for the better. Well... better if you are not a steelheader.
I think that I am done for the season. There are still a fair amount of fish in the systems but for me its run its course. Time to swing gears and look at new opportunities. Resident Browns and Rainbows on the pin and fly and those dinner plate bluegills are calling. Looking forward to getting the kids in the Hyde and making some relaxing drifts through Gods country. Good times ahead...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Old Friends Reuninted...

The runoff had pushed and carved a trench through the remnants of fall foliage and the well-worn forest floor. It was apparent that there had been a fair amount of precipitation in recent weeks. Not the kind that makes the lawn grow but the kind that cannot all be absorbed into the ground prior to it running along the surface and forming torrents through low spots and hill sides.
Just how much I pondered as I made my way through the bush and down the river valley. Would the prior days rainfall have an impact on my impromptu outing? Surely these tell tale signs of flash flooding were from earlier in the year. Was I walking into a river of despair? Would the day be spent marveling at the nuances of spring and nothing more than a peaceful walk amongst an old friend?
The trail veered hard to the right but with boyish anticipation I ventured forward towards a panoramic vista and subsequent determination of the rivers state. Apprehensive at first I peer over the edge. What lay before me was a river running proud and clean.  Gin clear to be exact and to the point that I could count every rock on the river bottom.
   The opportunity to fish is a gift that we all take for granted but the opportunity to fish with favorable conditions is truly a blessing. Today I was to be blessed. I could feel my heart rate increase and the sense of urgency to get to the river intensify. With determination I made my way along the trail to rendezvous with an old friend. It had been a long time since we had the pleasure of spending time together and I was anxious to get reacquainted.
It was apparent the spring thaw was hard on the old girl and the forest that adorns her banks. For reason’s unbenounced to me recent years thaws have been uncharacteristically hard on the river basin. Has there been an increased tiling initiative in the region or is it perhaps global warming? These thoughts race though my head as I witness signs of a river that crested 4-5 feet above its current state.  One thing I know for certain is that she will find a way to the lake and there is little that will stop her pursuit.
We often forget we are guests on this planet and mother nature is ultimately running the program.  The run I decided to start at this morning I hadn't fished in a few years.  I recall the many fond memories of fishing this location with friends and of past success undeserving of any one person but this morning wasn't meant to be.  Determined to take advantage of the solitude and mile or two of deserted rivershed I promised myself to not waste valuable time on unproductive water.
The days itinerary was lengthy and demanding so I proceeded on around the next bend.  This day was to play out in a run and gun fashion spending enough time at each location to recall the memories of the past 7 years successes and  good times shared with friends all the while turning a fish or two in the process.  I managed to fish my way up to the upper reaches and Genes obsessive new water. 
It was only fitting that I was to land the fish of the day on the first drift through his favoured run.  Fishing solo offers a different experience than fishing with friends.  It affords one time to ponder the random thoughts that flow through our heads and contemplate them to a realization.
Sometimes the realization is personally profound and sometimes bordering ridiculous but nonetheless a process of healing and self cleansing.  There is more to fishing than catching fish my friends and to me, as to many I suspect, it provides much needed therapy.
Hiking out I marvelled at the fact that I had not seen a single sole the entire day and how true friends can become reacquainted without as much as a single word. I suspect this will be my only visit to the shire until late in the calendar year. One thing is certain, when I do return she will be there with open and welcoming arms.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Whore

This weekend I did not fish.  This weekend I whored myself out to the man for a couple of reasons.  First off the money on overtime borders the realm of ridiculous.  Secondly, and most importantly, I couldn't leave my guys hangin.  We were into a major outage and it looked like things were going to run hard into the weekend.  One side of me wanted to head up to the cottage and the river but my heart couldn't leave in good faith.  My heart was right.  After working 16 on Friday and 20 hrs on Saturday we managed to wrap it up and hand the unit over to operations.  I used to live for that shit and to be honest it was kinda fun getting out in the field with the boys.  They are good guys and work very hard.  The river will be there for me next weekend and I will be the tax man's best friend for a little while.  It's a f'd up world we live in.