A semi-coherant collection of ramblings,misdealings, and Tom Foolery experienced in pursuit of Great Lakes Steelhead.
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.