Saturday, November 23, 2013


I lost one today well into the teens...It was after 10-15 mins of pain.  Big hot fish in -5C  temps with driving snow squalls and big giant water is not for everyone.  I thought long and hard about chasing this fish but there really wasn't any real estate left.  I stood my ground and after what seemed an eternity I had to clamp down.  There was a fraction of a second where I actually thought I might turn this fish...That was followed by a sudden moment of silence...the GLX unloaded.  It was actually a relief...My hands were frozen to the point of intense pain and my shoulders were aching.  He the better of a fresh 8lb flouro tippet.  Insane!!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Everybody and their Bronies

Lot's of traffic today.  I guess it's to be expected when there is only a very slim window of opportunity every 5-7 days.  I can't wait for December and the snow!  We arrived to our starting point extra early only to be 4th in line for the hike.  We were having no part of that and opted for some old haunts.  Even then we had an extremely brief moment of isolation before the smell of Pot and Rise of the Valkyries could be faintly heard in the distance followed by the zombie apocalypse.  We got our licks in early and cut our losses quick.  It was actually nice to get out of the bush early for a change and relax with lunch on the tailgate back at the access. Did you all know there are conventions for Males in their early to mid 20's that have a fascination and or obsession with "My little Pony" dolls...They are called Bronies!    Seriously...I cant make this shit up. CLICK HERE  
We are doomed!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Booked...Situk River Spring 2014

DONE! The deliberations are over, the return to Yakutat has been finalized.  The plans are made and carved in stone.  The accommodations have been secured and the cheques in the mail.  The flights are booked and the seats have been assigned.  It's once again a reality and the clock is now officially ticking.  This year I opted for the first week of May.  It's always going to be a crap shoot but from my research the last week of April and first week of May are typically $$ weeks.
This year brings an entirely new crew but I'm excited.  I have a great bunch of guys going with a passion to fish and an equal obsession to have fun.  Hopefully the Rain Gods behave and we experience modest to normal precipitation.  As most will remember the last trip saw upwards of  8-10" of rain fall over the course of 4 days.  The river rose upwards of 5-6 ft nearing flood stage and resulting in evacuation and road washouts.  We got our licks in early and still managed to boat fish everyday but it really left me wondering just how good it could have been.  Hope to put that doubt to bed in 2014.
This year's game plan is 3 days floating the river, 2-3 days wading above 9-mile and 1-2 days Hali charter and Glacier tour. All that's left is to work some OT, pay the bills, and count the days...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Big Water Season...

Water...A steelheaders dilemma…It seems that we are always chasing it.  The flows are either too high or too low, too clear or too dirty for our liking.  Whatever your preferred poison there is always a reason of concern when it comes to river conditions.  One could almost state that River Conditions are a Steelheaders Nemesis.
So far the 2013 Season has been interesting to say the least. The past 5 years have been a struggle waiting for the rains to arrive and allow opportunities to chase our adversaries. Some years conditions held anglers at bay awaiting enough water to carry a float while other years found the smaller flows remaining mere trickles for the entire duration. It seems we are always waiting for the rains to come. This years season has been the opposite.
The rains came early and have continued to come. They have kept the mean river levels on the upper edge of fishable and quite often have been returning before the rivers had come into shape injecting another 2-3 days of grief and down time.  The trips I have taken had been timed for what I interpreted would be the best opportunities based on weather forecast and hydrological data. I have yet to arrive and fish the river under what I consider "mint" conditions. The flows have remained big and have kept the fish scattered.
The visibility has been on the edge and only managed to come into shape at the end of each outing.
It's been an interesting and challenging year and the secret to success has been to cover all of the water. Typical lies have been mediocre and keeping one’s mind and eyes open have been producing results. It's easy to fall into the trap and concentrate on the "money" water but the fish are on the move and distributed throughout the entire system.  I have always been one that prefers the high flow rates but my preference and confidence lies with big clear water.  
It's refreshing and challenging but the physical demands of running miles of river can weigh heavy on you.  The last trips hike out of the back waters really weighed on me.  It certainly brought to light the cold reality that my youth is escaping me.   I try to keep myself in shape for this crazy obsession and for the most part I feel I can keep visiting the waters I love to fish but I have realized that a clock is ticking. That water is a young man's game and perhaps the epic hikes need to be scaled. 
Nothing worth obtaining is ever easy and everything good comes with a cost.  The water we fish certainly has a physical component to it and the big flows adds to that equation.  It forces us to cover lots of  river which inherently requires multiple crossings.  These efforts are multiplied by the raging flow and an impaired visual component.  When you can’t see the rivers obstructions from the stained water it’s imperative to take it slow, make each step count, and be focused on your game.  The more time spent in the raging currents equates to increased efforts. 

Throw in a foot of snow, slippery boulders, and the absence of river bank and the miles hiked take their toll.  I shouldn’t complain as this water is certainly a blessing to the watershed and all of the creatures that rely on it.  The system has undergone a  good flush and the fish have had no problem scattering throughout it’s entirety.  “Shooting fish in a barrel” has not been a reality for the fair-weather crowd so spawning adult numbers should see an increase come spring.   
Also...fighting wild Huron chromers in a large raging flow is second to none.  The water has certainly been large this Oct/Nov but on the flip side of the equation, we are only mid-way into the season and December has the potential to be outstanding if the freeze-up keeps at bay.  The Rains of 2013 are certainly a mixed blessing and hopefully we are paying it forward with limited opportunities now for exceptional  December opportunities later.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

MI Love

Hit the cottage again this weekend looking for some MI Love.  We worked hard for them Friday and managed to sniff out three fish.  Two came to hand one of which was another Personal Best.  This time it was Red's turn at a MI giant.  Late in the day we ran the Hyde up tight to the coffer.  Within a few drifts Red set up and the chase was on.  It wasn't without effort but we pulled it off around the corner from the boat launch.  It was another giant buck pushing well into the teens.  Certainly a great way to end a tough day of fishing.  We broke the rods down, packed up the gear and went to start the motor.  On the first pull the cord broke and recoiled into the housing leaving the black rubber pull handle in my hand along with a look of concern on my brow.  Luckily we were close enough to the launch so I just rowed us to shore and we walked the boat back up .  Friday evening was spent driving to Cadillac for a metric socket set followed by a 2 hour repair session in the garage that included a much needed outboard oil change. 
Saturday  was a totally different day.  The morning brought overcast skies with rain in the forecast.  There was a damp cool breeze in the air and we launched the Hyde with intentions of revisiting the coffer run.  As our luck would have it the run was occupied when we launched so we set up around the corner in hopes of waiting out the occupying party.  With lady luck on our side they pulled anchor within minutes and drifted past us headed down river.  We didn't waste any time and motored up tight to the coffer and set the anchor.  It took a little while to dial it in but once the olive marabou jigs were offered things got interesting.  The first fish to strike was a brute and made short order of my jig straightening it out moments after being hooked.  Yet another bitter lesson on the necessity of running double strong jig hooks when chasing these fish.  It really stung but I shook it off with hopes of redemption in the next few drifts.  Sure enough the float dropped a few drifts later and a decent Lake Run Brown came to hand followed shortly after by another Steelie.  The morning was certainly looking promising but with lots of water to cover we pulled anchor and made our way around the corner and down the straightaway towards Suicide.  It wasn't until we hit the midway point that the action took another turn for the better with 4 fish in 20 mins.  This time beads and Roe bags were the ticket.  It was a nice to trick a few today and feel the rods load up.  It was even more satisfying to put a few in the boat for the photo op.  Deer opener was Friday and the river should start to see a drastic reduction in traffic as the temps continue to travel into the negatives.  We are entering the best time of the year for those afflicted with the chrome addiction.  Good days lie ahead...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lose yourself...

"I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself "
 Joseph Monniger

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I just returned home from three days fishing on the West Side.  I hit the Big Manistee hard out of the Hyde down low on Friday, up top on Saturday and waded around Tippy on Sunday.  The tally was bleak.  0 for 2 Friday, 0 for 2 Saturday with a chunky brown and only another resident brown this morning for my efforts.  That river can be a miserable bitch and just when you think you have her dialed in she redefines the game.  She can be extremely giving one week and excessively stingy the next.  Covering water seems to be the only consistent recipe for success and I'm limited with the Hyde.  Make no mistake...I had my chances this weekend but lady luck was on my adversaries side.  She is a river you don't want to miss any opportunities on and holds her cards tight more than not.  I have been fishing her for some time and I just can't seem to dial in any form of consistency.  When she does reveal her gifts they are outstanding and when those rare moments of monumental success arise the memories are never forgotten.  I have had some pretty crazy days on this river but they are always brought into check by the lessons in humility she quite often serves.  I have seen peers turned away more than not by her bitter acceptance of anyone that has not paid their dues and I have seen her torment them as well with small glimpses of greatness.  It should never really be easy I guess but I have revelled in her glory and accepted her gifts. Once bitten...

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Paying it forward

"I believe everything in life happens for a reason.  I learned early on never to force things.  If it was meant to be it will happen.  Life has a funny way of working things out..."

I heard a while back that one of the kids my daughters went to grade school with was an aspiring fisherman.   His mother had told me once that he was obsessed with it.  I remember telling Norland about this kid and how we should take him under our wing and show him the magical waters of the Huron Flows and ruin him forever LOL!.  Well that never happened and time went on.  The kids are all in high school now and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days.  Three weeks ago  I get a phone call out of the blue one evening asking about some gear I had listed for sale on the internet.  It turned out to be Cole's  mother...the crazy fishing kid.  She called on a hunch that it was me selling the gear and wanted to surprise her son Cole for his up coming birthday.  It had turned out that the gear I was selling was exactly what Cole was searching for right down to the very line on the reel.  We talked in length about Coles continued passion for fishing and how he had stuck with it all this time.  She went on to tell me he was a gear hound with eleven or so rods and spent all his spare time fishing, watching fishing videos, and tying flies.  It wasn't until she told me his secondary educational choice of Aquaculture at Sir Sandford Fleming College that I realized this kid was indeed a mini me. It turns out Cole and myself have driven the same roads in our lives only paralleled by decades. 
Fishing has always been my passion and I had initially chose the same career path as young Cole back in the day while attending SSFC.  It then became true and apparent that I had to share the wonders of the backwaters of a cherished Huron Gem with this young man...paying it forward if you will.  I dropped the idea in Cole's mothers hands along with a link to the blog and left it at her discretion.  Then came the meeting.  Cole and his father came over to look at the gear they were interested in purchasing a few days later.  While they were here we discussed the blog, photography, writing,  and the opportunity to fish together on the home waters.  I could see it in his eyes and his mannerisms...there was a fire...he wanted to go and go so bad.  It was exciting to watch his reaction as I answered the questions he threw at me and explained what to expect from such an outing.  I remember those early days  and the desire to get to these fish.  We parted ways and I told him I'd be in touch.  Well as we all know the Rains have put a damper on the Huron options for the past month with the exception of a few short windows.  As luck would have it things were shaping up nicely for an escape today so I reached out and extended the offer.  It didn't take any time for Cole to accept.  The 5 am departure time didn't even phase him in the least.  Soon the outing was a reality and we were making our way North. 
As expected the traffic on the river today was excessive.  Nothing of epic proportion but way outside the norm.  Cole and myself made the best of it.  We exercised courtesy and stretched our legs in search of isolation and fish.  Although it was tough sledding out there we managed to find both.  We worked for the fish as well as the isolation with 4 river crossings under fairly hardy flows.  I think young Cole may have underestimated the physical demands of Steelheading in the back country as well as the power of an angry flow.  Nonetheless he worked hard and kept up with the pace.  Crossing a river is a skill learned with patience and practice.  He got better at each crossing as the day played out.  He learned how to read some water and managed to hook into 5 fish.  He also learned that early November Steelhead can be quite a handful after getting tuned by 4 out of the 5.  Rome wasn't built in a day and paying ones dues are part of the game.  It was nice to see and at times I thought to myself this young man may very well be taking me fishing some day.  It was a nice thought...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Narrow Windows

The word...the opportunities have been few and far between on the Huron flows this year.  This season is reminiscent to 2006 when big water was plentiful.  The only difference has been the absence of 2-3 days of fishable conditions prior to the next precip event. There was a narrow window of opportunity last week and we rolled the dice and slipped in for a few. We weren't certain what to expect and it almost didn't happen but I'm sure glad we made the drive.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

"The fish are big this year..."

The fall Salmon Season of 2013 has run it's course on the Westside of Michigan.  The run was significant and one underlying theme early on in the run was that the fish were big this year.  Reports of giant kings pushing upwards of 35 lbs were reported.  Our brief shot at the almighty king proved no different with a share of hefty brutes to the bank.  The notable increase in size only spoke of prime and ideal conditions encountered in the big water.  This left us all wondering... How did the Steelhead  fare?

The Ontario home waters have been inundated with large amounts of precipitation over the past month.  As a result they have been unfishable more than not this season.  This weekend proved no different.  With back to back downpours the rivers once again spiked to unmanagable conditions just in time for the weekend.  With this in mind we hit the border in pursuit of some lower river Steelheading on the Big Manistee.  Early credible reports spoke to larger than normal Steelhead all along the Westside of the State. 
We set out from the cabin Friday morning with the Hyde in tow and headed towards the lower river.  Its was a classic fall outing and we couldn't have asked for better conditions.  The skies were ominous with a constant threat of rain.  The winds were cool and a cold front was on the fringe of pushing in.  The river was up and rising from the early morning rain event but the colour held true and near perfect.  We set the Hyde adrift and rowed towards our first destination...The Pumpkin Run. 
We didn't hit a tonne of fish but the few that graced us with their presence were outstanding specimens.  Although both fish I touched were awesome in their own regard one clearly stood out.  My new personal best Great Lakes Steelhead.  I am not good with weights but if I had to be a guessing man I'd commit to the better side of fifteen.  Truly a fish that will never be forgotten and a story to be retold and relived over the coming years.  Are the fish bigger this year?  I'll give that a Hell-ya!

Gratuitous Slideshow

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Misty Morning

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of arriving to a river in hiding.  As the fog lifted and slowly released it's grasp the treasures of a Michigan Fall revealed themselves.  Sometimes its just the journey but man what a journey it can be.