Saturday, January 26, 2013


One of the greatest things about owning a cabin in the Manistee National Forest is the abundance of recreational opportunities essentially at your door step.  One of our favourite winter distractions is snowmobiling.  Last winter I decided the girls were old enough to learn how to run the sleds on their own.  I will never forget the ear to ear grins that day as then ran the circuit I had laid out for them on the acreage back behind our property.  I remember when my father let me run his John Deere 440 by myself for the first time.  It's a feeling of freedom one never forgets and I was so happy and proud of my girls that day for embracing the opportunity.  Later that night it was all the girls could talk about and the ride home was filled with comments about the next weekend opportunity and the remainder of winter.  Well the next weekend never really happened nor did winter for that matter.  A major warming trend moved in, melted the base and put an end to winters fun.  Aside from one late major dumping the snowmobiling season really never came to be and the girls never got back on the sleds in 2012. 
Certainly 2013 would be different...perhaps another winter to remember... but once again the snow gods had other thoughts.  The snow events this year have been meagre and late coming to say the least.  That is until last week.  Finally a serious of lake effect dumping on top of extremely cold weather allowed for a decent base and cap conducive to prime snowmobile conditions.  We seized the opportunity and made the trek up to the cabin late Friday evening.  Saturday we awoke to a magical winter wonderland.  The trees were adorning  mass amounts of wintery white and there was no doubt about it that the trails would be prime.  This trip was about the girls and getting them on the sleds so we hastily got our cottage chores done  and geared up for some fun.  After a quick safety talk and once over on the controls we were off and exploring the fairy tale countryside.  The girls are naturals and run the sleds very well.  They even remembered their hand signals and exercised that courtesy readily on the trails.  We did a series of short runs and found ourselves back at the cabin late in the afternoon.  The girls had some school work they wanted to tend to and I immediately saw an opportunity to slip down to the river for a few drifts.
Surprisingly, there was a couple of people on the water and the number tracks in the deep snow spoke to a fair amount of traffic earlier in the day.
Having not expected to fish today I was quite excited to drop in the river and try my luck.  The wax worms failed to turn any players so I reverted back to an old friend and tied on a black and red marabou Norland Jig.  I picked away at the fast water seam down the middle progressively working my way out further and further into the flow.  I started to think about switching to a white jig and work the minnow pattern approach when the GLX was almost ripped from my hands.  I set up and the rod loaded up nicely followed by an explosion in the middle of the river.  There was no mistaking what was on the end of the line.  A short while later a magnificent double striper lay in the shallows at my feet.  It was a great fish and an equally great feeling.  As anyone that reads this blog knows this season has been a trying one for me.  The river has been fishing tough so this fish was a small victory and a welcomed blessing.  I did my photo thing and we politely parted ways.  I couldn't help but think that handsome fellow wasn't out there alone and that there had to be a few more fish in that run. 
I worked it some more and decided to let the run sit while I explored the rest of my rounds.  As like much of this season the lower water didn't produce aside from a shaker steelie so I decided to double back and hit the fast water again with a different offering.  I tied on my washed egg 10mm bead and a fresh wide gap #8 and hiked up to the top of the run.  I fished the closer lines first to eliminate any potential surprises then refocused back to that center chute.  My first cast hit the line dead center and 3 seconds into the drift the float dropped and I had my second fish of the day on the line.  Once again there was a warming sense of accomplishment flowing through my body and a certainty that this fish would find the bank.  A little while later a pretty winter hen was posing for her picture.  I had spent an impromptu hour and a half on the river and had two magnificent fish to show for my efforts.  The daylight was now nearing failure and I decided to make the hike out.  On the drive back to the cabin I couldn't help but think how blessed I am to have the ability to slip down on a moments notice and bring two amazing specimens to hand.  For a day that I had no preconceived plans to fish it certainly played out nice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bucket List...Situk River

We all have our "Bucket Lists".  Whimsical "must do before I die" dreams.  The idea is noble and to dream is ever so healthy.  Especially in this day and age of darkness and despair.  The problem is the majority seem to leave these things as such...mere dreams.  I made a conscious decision a few years back to start realizing my dreams.
 I did the right things in my financial and working life when I was younger.  I made sacrifices and didn't do what a lot of my so called peers were doing...big trips, new cars, gigantic homes etc...  I focused on paying down debt and living a comfortable but modest lifestyle. 
I am not and never will be one on a pulpit preaching that my methodology was correct but it has put me in a position that I can start to realize my life long ambitions and "Bucket List" if you will.  The Cottage was the first and foremost important item on the list.  The Harley...well I didn't even see that one coming LOL!
But now it is time to travel.  Time to experience the world and fish the magical waters that dreams are made of...
I have been considering a trip to Alaska for a while.  In particular to Yakutak to fish the world famous Situk River.  Yesterday marked a giant step towards realizing this dream. 
I booked the flights and made reservations at the Yakutat Lodge for a party of 3 in late April.  Some expected highlights...Hubbard Glacier, Bald Eagles, Grizzly Bears, Mt St.Elias and the World Famous Situk River Steelhead. 
The Situk River boasts the highest Steelhead population in all of Alaska and arguably the world.  The river is smaller and easily self-guided with provided drift boats.  The entire scenario is right down my alley.  I have so much homework ahead of me but the spark has been ignited and the countdown is officially on!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January Warm

January has been  a crazy weather month so far so it was no wonder this morning I awoke to the sound of water dripping off the roof.  Friday mornings deep winter chill was nothing more than a distant memory and the days steelheading adventure was looking rather promising.  I knew this warm spell was to be short lived as the weatherman had already predicted a frigid lock down come Sunday and running well into next week accompanied with lots of snow.  It was looking like winter was going to seriously make a run at it and today was going to be the last gift on the river.  Gary Melzer from Schmidt's Outfitters was so kind as to extend an offer of a day on the river in his Jet Sled.  I fished with Gary back in the spring out of Bear Creek in my Hyde and was eager to get together with him again on the water. 
Gary is serious into the Centerpin Scene over here on  the West side and now offers it as an option for his guide service out of Schmidt's.  Gary picked me up at 8:30 and we made out way to the High Bridge launch.  The winds were non existent and the river was dead still.  There was no traffic to speak of and we made our way up river to some favourable water.  The scenery was magnificent and we couldn't have asked for a better day.  The only problem was neither of us could convince a finned friend to hand.  We threw everything we had at them to no avail.  I could tell Gary was feeling pressured to put us on some fish but I had to explain to him this was all on me and my recent funk.  We laughed it off and spent the remainder of the day with great weather, conversation and scenery. 
We parted ways around 1:30 in my driveway.  I still had time for an afternoon session at the dam so I got my gear together and made my way to the access. 
As expected there was a decent amount of traffic on this section.  Arriving to the river it was apparent this  water fished better than our earlier choice.  There were a few nice steelhead on ropes destined for the dinner table.  I dropped in and worked my A-game trying hard to turn a willing participant.  Nothing was happening.  I continued on around the big bend and fished all of my usual haunts in a half mile or so of river with only a few trout and an acrobatic 15" shaker steelie to hand.  With an hour or so of remaining fishable light I made the turn and decided to walk all the way back up to the dam and see if I could get out on the bar.  When I arrived I was pleased to see only one other fisherman below the coffer and well above my destination. 
I had already re-rigged with a 10mm washed egg bead prior to hiking  back up and was ready to pick away the lines as a last ditch effort.  I slowly worked my way out to on the bar working line after line.  I could see an unfamiliar seam far out toward the other side in the middle slack water section and I pushed myself further out onto the bar so I could reach the line with my next cast.  The throw was perfect and as my float entered the anomaly it jetted below the surface and I set up hard fully expecting a float and bead in my face.   I was shocked as the rod loaded up and a very hot fish raced frantically for the big bend.  The 13' 6" RV9 I am reviewing for Raven loaded up very nicely and was  now getting a legitimate workout.  This rod has been pitched as a big water stick with plenty of backbone so I was seriously thinking I had one hell of a beastie on the end of the line as it was all I could do to stop this fish from hitting the bend.  I started to back my way out of the flow and see if I could persuade the fish away from the center currents. 
I knew it was a ways down river but I immediately became concerned when it rolled on the surface well down by the  log jam.  I had managed to stop the fish but another run would spell certain disaster so I clamped down a little more and continued to work my way to the bank.  Once on the shore I worked my way down towards the fish and managed to convince it to come back into a deep slack section.  It wasn't long there after I made the swing and felt that almost forgotten feeling of success.  It was a very long and lean speed machines of a Steelhead.  The tail was freakishly large and the taper of the fish was reminiscent of a Skam.  This fish was built for speed and it was not wonder it beat me up so bad.  It had to easily push 30" mark but the girth was not conducive to a 10lb fish but more that of a 7.  Dressed in full winter apparel it was obviously this beast had done prior battle with some Pluggers judging by the battle scars on his mandible. 
This time it was a washed egg bead and a #8 Owner hook tucked perfectly in the corner of his mouth that deceived him.  I was now exhausted and relieved.  Finally a decent battle and finally a decent reward.  It has been a tough run this winter and I have come up short more than not on these seemingly rare opportunities.  Under the circumstances and sheer power this fish exhibited it certainly was a wonder we got to doubt a certain amount of luck was involved.
As I collect my thoughts and rest my weary bones I can't help but think that these are the fish that you remember...these are  memories that stay with you for cant buy this sh*t...and that only makes it that much more priceless.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January Cold

I checked the weekend weather forecast mid week and was pleased to see a mild warming trend for the weekend.  On the heels of  it was what appeared to be a deep freeze cycle moving in.  It wasn't a hard decision to cut from work and make the drive up Thursday evening for a few more days on the big river before the deep freeze sets in. 
Friday morning was alot colder than I had anticipated and as a result I found myself alone on the river.  The fishing was tough but at the 11th hour I managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat with a giant Resident Brown.  Another 20" 3+ lb piggy.  There has been a fair amount of giant Resi's in the river lately and I have lost a few that continue to haunt me so I was very excited to put this one on the bank.  The biting cold squeezed me off the river by noon and forced an impromptu warm up session at the cabin. 
My afternoon option saw me down at Udell looking for a change of pace and some Steelhead vindication.  Within 10 mins I hooked up with a large hot hen that jumped three times before heading for the lumber and breaking me off clean in the wood.  The remainder of the outing was spent retying from the multiple submersed hazards of the locale. 
As I type this the warming trend has arrived.  The forecasted low for the night is in the positive ... the morning looks promising...


Sunday, January 13, 2013

On the Button

There is this WFN commercial that has been continuously replaying in my head as of late. Essentially it's some southern bass guy, that apparently everyone should know, sitting on his porch talking about the lows in ones fishing career and how to overcome the slump.

He goes on to make an analogy of Chipper Jones having a bad game and how everyone knows Chipper is alright but mentally needs to shake it off and come out if it.  He further rambles on about how everyone can have a bad game...even Chipper...but its how you come out of it that speaks of your character.  
For the love of me I have no frigging clue who this bass clown is nor do I know what a Chipper Jones is.  I can't even begin to comprehend why any loving parent would label their offspring Chipper... but I certainly can relate to being in a funk and having a bad game...

I seem to be having a very bad game as of late.

No doubt this has been a tough winter season on the west side but I can't seem to be able to keep what few opportunities I have come across buttoned.  I have managed to keep my confidence up and still hit the water with some fortitude but It literally felt like I took one on the button earlier in the day when I blew my 4th and final Steelhead of the weekend.


When the river is fishing this tough you cannot drop the ball on those rare opportunities.   Perhaps I should look this Chipper Jones guy up for some motivation...nope F@ck him and that nobody bass guy! lol!  I have been here before and I'll be here again... I'll shake it off...It's all part of the program.


The weekend was not a total wash. I did manage some big trout, got the Hyde out for two more floats, tried my hand at plugging, and also got to share another drift with Brian T.  It's amazing how quickly life passes you by after your thirties...the weekends literally pass like minutes. 

It really is these tough days on the water that make the good days great...


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A January Weekend

Well another weekend at the cabin has come and gone and as I navigate the lonely interstate home I can’t help but gather my thoughts and ponder the past 72 hrs events...
Friday was the main intent of the trip up to the Cabin. My old GMC was in need of some attention and the local Garage near the cabin affords quality workmanship at a bargain price compared to my home town mechanics. This coupled with the fact that I like to support the local businesses in the area so they are there when I need them saw me without transportation for the better part of Friday as they repaired my old girl. I took the time to tend to some overdue chores around the cabin and give the sleds a good run around the property to keep them in shape. By the time I did end up at the river it was an hour before dusk and I only managed to persuade a few trout before calling it a day. Saturday found me meeting up with a Michigan Centerpinner and new friend Brian T.
We had been corresponding for a while via email and actually crossed paths once on my Ontario home flow back in December. Brian is a super great guy and very easy to be around but is a bit of an a good way… First off he is a Michigan Centerpinner. This in its self is of no significance but when you couple the fact that he has been at it for a long time and fishes all of the Canadian Huron Tribs when he can gives him lots of street Cred in my books. Secondly he has been into the Floatfishing scene for some time.  He knows all the Canadian players, places and suppliers.  
At one time I was beginning to think he fished Ontario waters more than I have over the years. Brian knows his stuff and the MI scene so I was really looking forward to meeting up Saturday morning for a float on the Manistee in his Clackacraft. The morning came early and I awoke to a cold cabin. While getting some wood to stoke the fire the -6C morning air abruptly let me know we would have our work cut out for us. The forecasted high for the day was 1C and I was beginning to lose faith in any such occurrence. Brian arrived at our agreed upon meeting time and we shared some conversation over a coffee before heading to the launch. There was a nasty bite in the morning air and the launch and shoreline were covered in ice.
We got the Clacka safely in the water and were soon on our way. The morning hours faded away quickly in conversation. We failed to turn any fish but we had fun exchanging stories over the mile or so of river we drifted. It was very apparent we chose the wrong section of river for this particular morning so we cut our losses and decided to re-launch higher in the river for round two. Buy now the temps had risen and were actually hovering just above freezing. We worked our way down river picking away the seams, troughs, and buckets. Aside from a few trout we had nothing to show for our efforts. Then Brian tied on a small washed egg bead.
Within 10 mins he had hooked and lost three large fish out of a line we had been working diligently with other offerings. Once again an undisputed bead testimonial had presented itself. We carried on for the remainder of the outing only turning a few trout before calling it a day. It was a full day on the river but when shared with good company and conversation seemed to pass far to quickly. Brian is a great guy and I look forward to sharing a drift with him again in the very near future but next time returning the favor in my Hyde.
I awoke early Sunday morning with aspirations of launching the Hyde out of High Bridge. I had mounted some “Downeaster” rod holders to the front casting platform on Friday as part of my list of chores. I was eager to get out for a maiden plugging voyage but I quickly learned Mother Nature had other plans in mind. There was a couple inches of fresh powder on the ground and more falling.  
I was not prepared to do battle with a slippery snow covered launch in my 2WD on the day I was scheduled to drive home so I decided to call it and made plans to wade fish below the coffer. The morning was relatively mild in comparison to Saturday. The access was quiet with only one other soul on the river when I arrived. I settled into the river and began my day. Maybe a dozen or so drifts into the morning I turned around to be greeted by a familiar face. It was Gary M a Schmidt’s guide friend from the Wellston area. I had fished with Gary out of my boat back in the spring and it was nice to meet up again on the river. We caught up and shared some centerpinning conversation and the overall state of the current fishery. I showed Gary the bead Brian T hooked the three fish on the day prior and tied it on in the process.
The first cast saw my float disappear while in mid conversation with Gary and I had my first fish of the morning. It was a small shaker steelhead but confirmed to us both the effectiveness of these crazy beads. A little while later after a total retie I popped a Waxworm back on and slide down river 25 yards or so. Once again midstream of our conversation my float dropped but this time the surface exploded when a very large dark hen leaped from the edge of the middle chute. She peeled line and screamed downriver. The GLX was loaded up deep but holding her own. I started to work my way down when the fish broke surface again then began to roll on top followed by sudden disappointment...She threw the hook. It was too bad but certainly nice to finally load the rod up with a decent fish on the big river.  It was still early in the day and I was determined to put a decent one on the bank so I shook it off and carried on. Gary had to get going so we bid our farewells and I carried on down river picking away my favourite haunts.
It wasn’t too long when my float once again disappeared and I was into another decent fish. Initially I thought it was a smaller steelhead but soon my thoughts changed when I seen a bronze flash when the fish broke surface. It was a Brown and a decent one at that. I took my time and slowly convinced her to a small cove along the shoreline. She was an old girl and very plump with loose roe. After a quick length reference on my rod and a few pics I carefully set her on her way in hopes she would carry out her spawning mission. The jury is still up as to whether she was a small mature lake run or a large old resident. Initially I was certain she was a resident but I will have to converse with the experts to be certain. The remainder of the day saw me working every nick and cranny searching desperately for a willing Steelie to wrap up the trip. Every locale I visited and every offering I threw turned no players. I finally worked my way back up to the coffer and made a final attempt with a few waxworms before calling it. I was about to exit the river when I decided to give my larger washed 10mm bead a go in the fast water chute as a last desperate attempt. A half dozen or so drifts turned nothing. I decided I might as well give the run a fair shake and dropped down 10-15 yards and hit last years productive line. 3-4 seconds into the first drift the GLX loaded up. It was a big fish and a hot fish. The beads had once again come through and I took my time with what proved to be a large wintered up hen. This fish resembled the fish I had lost earlier that morning and I later wondered if it was indeed the same fish falling for a different offering. Nonetheless my day was now complete at the eleventh hour on a bead. The fishing on the Big Manistee this season has been tough to say the least. Even the number of trout seems to be substantially lower than last year and the years prior but then again last year would spoil any man.  Fishing should be tough…it should never be easy but this year seems to be unusually uncooperative. One thing for certain…The fish you lose sting that much more and the ones you do put on the bank have that much more meaning during years like this. I'll take a 2-3 fish weekend hands down versus sitting at home and dreaming about being out there.
On a disappointing side note I experimented with a new field camera that I had received for Christmas on this outing.  Sadly enough the images are subpar and I apologize to all for their quality.  I keep chasing an elusive ghost with these cameras and now have learned the hard way to be happy with what works.  Lessons of the river...

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 A Year in Review

With the New Year upon us I took some time to put together a sampling of a Great Lakes Steelheaders life...a  piscatorial photgraphic year in review.
Happy New year's to all.  May your lives be filled with meaning.  May your endeavours be filled with prosperity and may you only look forward with anticipation and not backwards with regret.

Thanks to all for stopping by in 2012 and keep checking in throughout 2013 as its only gonna get better.