Monday, January 9, 2017

WINTER THAW COMING-DINOCROC TIME

                             January winter thaw coming this week- thank God!...It's this time of year when we get some of the most selective/reflective pooled up and bored to tears dinocroc beasty boys of winter's doldrums ...think January Pink/slow/biomass drift...and fish late afternoons into dusk as a water temperature change of as little as one and a half degree Fahrenheit and minimal increase in flow from snowmelt and rain will pique a dormant big buck or hen's interest. Look for deep guts of winter pools and holding lies and slow down your swing or drift significantly and add extra long hang-times on your downstream dangle- slight pumping and twitching your flies for lethargic/slow to rev up winter steelhead.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016/2017 RECAP/REVIEW- PART 2- THE PASSION OF THE TROUT BUM




( a stunning wild " ground zero" salmo trutta from a small Michigan spring creek almost in my backyard, that received the first milk canisters of hatched fingerlings off a train bridge .The 1880's brought the German Black Forest brown trout invasion blessing to the new world- Michigan was the first "ground zero epicenter " that was blessed with a brown trout utopia!- we take so much of it for granted- miles of hidden jewels that beg us to explore them- make 2017 a year to venture forth to explore all the many small rivers/streams/little springs that we drive over on our way to the big headline venues )

“There are an awful lot of scientists today who believe that before very long we shall have unraveled all the secrets of the universe. There will be no puzzles anymore. To me, it’d be really, really tragic because I think one of the most exciting things is this feeling of mystery, feeling of awe, the feeling of looking at a little live thing and being amazed by it and how it has emerged through these hundreds of years of evolution and there it is and it is perfect and why.”
— Jane Goodall
        “Happiness ... not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.”
                                                                      — Walt Whitman

The quotes above reflect how I feel about my passion for trout and the eternal enigmatic chase that makes all of us become little boys and girls forever on a pure natural world journey to explore, be enticed , intrigued and dream by what lurks just around the bend or down a forested streamside path. On a magical day on Elton Brook, a tributary of the Cattaraugus Creek in the southern tier of NY, with precise detail, I still remember explicitly the first wild 10 inch brown trout that I caught on a fly at the age of 7 .



I remember and cherish that life altering event with a romantic sentimental value akin to a young man's first love . Every detail of that experience and seeing my fish feeding on a Grey Fox Stenonema mayfly hatch on a late May evening, as it moved to take my first crudely tied White Cahill dry, is still vivid in my dreams even to this day., Though much to my dismay, my imitation dragged and twitched due to my developing skill level yet not quite cricket form yet, but it didnt matter and was most likely perceived for a struggling still-born by the little wild salmo child.

Those moments we fly fishers have all experienced in our development as a troutsman/woman/bum, has given us the most joy over the years. That is why I was poised to immerse my lifetime in that enigmatic chase- the joy of an Albert Camus'-like existential absurd satisfaction and joy from a trout's rejection to the fly and turning what many would perceive as disappointment to joy when a trout refuses a fly . The joy becomes ecstasy when we finally solve the riddle of the fly take and the spoils are so sweet.


It is in these such pure and self cleansing and humbling moments that has possessed me to write my lifelong passion of a twisted and perplexed happiness in my book: 'Selectivity'.


Trout will always fill that passion of awe and wonderment in the fact that they can humble even the most astute and technically perfect angler- always and forever. Their beauty and prowess to frustrate and push us to take our game 'to the next level' is why we fish for them rather than bluegill and bass , which are great game and tons of fun mind you, but too easy for my tastes. If I had to fish for a fish that always would strike and in good numbers and in big sizes ', the mystery, the precision in approach and execution and the joy of cracking the code would lose its purpose- that's why I am and will forever be a 'trout bum'.


A fly fisher still looking for identity and purpose only needs to read the humorous tale/vignette by G.E.M Skues , forever the master of the mind and soul of the thinking man's trout bum about ' Mr.Castwell', in his humorous and delightful short vignette " Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire". Here Mr. Castwell, a wealthy and pompous elitist , upon dying was cast down to hell by St.Peter only to live out his life on a chalkstream in a Camus' 'Myth Of Sisyphus'-like constant misery of having to catch a 20 inch brown trout on the dry on every cast , on every minute ,every hour forever into eternity all the while begging for this torture and insanity to stop with no respite and quarter by his gillie torturing him in a hellish Dante's Inferno nightmare.



In an unfortunate new era and generations who only understand the concepts of immediate gratification of 'BIGGER/BETTER/FASTER/MORE/NOW', we are increasingly being blinded by the beauty of the simple and quite natural world that was and will forever be 'FLY' fishing. Yes throwing 'bad ass articulated streamers' for killer fish is cool beyond belief ( I have been addicted to it for a long time!). But this somewhat dark side angling pursuit- (even though its too much fun and I love it to death!), often binds us into an insatiable size seeking  viscous rut and addiction (still good stuff!) But it can somewhat demean and distort the simplistic and gentle sport of the sublime and simple joy of the wonderful world of trout and the fly.It was originally brought about through hatch matching or flea flickering  impressionistic deception patterns, where the always selective phase driven cunning kill artist trout, which is the focal point of the Tom and Jerry/cat and mouse chase.It is part of the science and deciphering the biomass daily is the dope to the addiction as a trout goes on its precise love affair of picky feeding and being fussy and finicky in its daily rituals of survival, which evolution and climate change will only perfect and fine tune.


To be a modern true Troutsman/Trout Bum, the joy lies in all the amazing techniques we can perfect for a lifetime,: dries,nymphs.swinging wets, streamers etc. Not to mention all the amazing venues: sandy spring creeks, tailwaters, freestoners, night fishing etc., and we literally have a universe of possibilities.


The history of Michigan's trout legacy is vast and breathtaking . Yet I'm worried it is disappearing for the immediate gratification game ,where 'paying your dues' need no longer apply. If you have a cool 4x4, cash and credit card and are 'dialed in' with 'all the right stuff', you have arrived at fly bum nirvana- or what is sadly perceived as such !.

The legacy of Swisher/Richards, the magnificent writings of Ernest Schwiebert, Robert Traver, the AuSable TU founders Mason/Neumann/Griffith, Heminway, Pobst etc- the list is endless, just as Pennsylvania has its Marinaro/Fox/ limestone regulars legacies etc., is unfortunately all being brushed and dusted aside for 'BIGGER/BETTER/FASTER/MORE/NOW'


It is in this cornucopia and plethora of delights from the angling arts and writings, the design and passion of the fly and cane/rod, is why delve and relish forever the joys of this wonderful world of trout. One of the most beautiful and yet cunning human pursuits the Almighty has ever given us.



The trout bum in his or her zen-like realm is forever pure, mystical and magical as they passionately pursue their chosen curse or glory, just as is the world of nature itself with its serenity and and chaos. To be a 'trout bum' is a virtue and blessing from God that will take us to the grave with a smile on our face with our souls burning with a passionate fire that can never be extinguished .


Enjoy now, and for what you have near you be thankful as Walt Whitman said above. Too often in Michigan, due to our plethora of riches , our vision is often blinded as we chase world pursuits like we have been so deprived at home ( this goes for my eastern and western friends as well)-shame on us!.Find your nearest trout stream and love her to death!

In 2017, keep it simple and go back to the magic that brought us to the game and passion.The ride from there only gets so,so much better!

Romance the fly, however you like to fish it, slow down and take in all the subtleties of mother nature's world all around you, whether in a city suburb or deep wild forest setting- she is begging you to pay her Her due.


PART  III- The Michigan Trout Experience- Sizing Up the Fisheries of 2016/2017 

Cheers!/Na Zdrowie
Matt Supinski- Jan. 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

ADDENDUM TO PART 1- 2016/2017 RE-CAP/OVERVIEW :STEELHEAD/FLOODING


 I discussed how weather was a significant factor in 2016's potamodromous salmonid (freshwater to freshwater) river migration timing and success. With heat and droughts, and than again sub-zero and ice-up, these 'extreme' events cause marked restructuring of LSS (Life Survival Strategy for successful procreation) of steelhead.

Several positive factors occur with extreme spring weather flooding and also extreme summer heat and drought we often take for granted.

1. Smolting Success

When wild Michigan strain hatchery smolts are stocked the first week of April and rivers are flooded, there is a very good chance that they will smolt quickly and with good success to the big lake with minimum predation by other river predators: fish/birds/mink etc. River coloration and visibility is good for cloaking them. Also, the long dark runoff plum at river estuary mouths gives them additional protection for large predator fish and cormorants once they meet the crystal clear waters of the Great Lakes. With two strong flood years behind us, we should see excellent returns in the spring of 2017. 
2.Multi-Year Class Survival of Returning Spawning Adults
DNR and Federal biologists often fail to underestimate the significance and importance of repeated multi-year spawning by steelhead. Especially on larger river systems with wild reproduction and stocked smolts like the Grand, Muskegon, Big Manistee, where flooding is significant.
Flooding allows thousands of spawning steelhead to enter the river, dig redds/gravel, spawn and vacate downstream to the big lake in a big hurry- especially when coupled with warm water temperatures. Our last two years floods had exactly those scenarios.
So the chance for the fish to grow larger and return the following year is very good. Often , as in Michigan, steelhead studies ( a.k.a. Seelbach studies of Michigan) are done on very small streams like the Little Manistee. Here the low waters and difficult stream negotiations for movement often don't favor repeat spawners and there is greater mortality. 
Also a very important point on small rivers is that they have tons of wooded structure. Many large spawning steelhead run for trees/obstructions when hooked and break off anglers, often by doing some damage to their skin/jaws/mouths etc., which often become infected with bacteria and cause deadly lesions. These coupled with the rigors of spawning and teeth jousting by males also finds greater mortality.

Also, not that I'm implying or implicating, ;),  but many fish are still "illegally snagged' on gravel, or legal "lining" is severe in low water conditions ( throughout the Great Lakes). These have major implications on wild river systems that depend on spawning for their steelhead populations- both more difficult in heavy stained river flows.

3. Heat/Drought Positives
Though you can time Skamania summer steelhead runs by late June/ July/August like clockwork, extreme heat and drought will benefit the fish by allowing them to stay in more comfortable conditions in the big lake- some still forage and grow, but most are already emptying their stomachs for river migration. 
If they run rivers on drought/heatwaves ( some do/most don't), they would surely die upstream as they often do, especially after a cool front/ two day thunderstorm event- then reverting back to 90F heat and mortality. Like they did last year, many steelhead will forgo running altogether which should make for magnificent runs in 2017.

4.Flooding and Zebra mussels
Floods kill zebra mussels by causing runoff sediment to clog their inhalation process and bury many-also they are still water ocean/sea organisms that don't take kindly to heavy flowing waters. After severe floods , mounds of dead zebra mussel shells appear on banks. Mussels cause serious depletion's of caddis and other benthic insects that fry/smolts and parr need. Also they increase diptera midge populations that feed on plankton and decaying detritus.

So next time you are sitting home and bitching about rivers being flooded or cancelling guide trips, there is a literal 'silver lining' to all this madness.


FOR MORE INFORMATION, MY BOOK HAS A TON MORE INTERESTING NOTES ON ALL THINGS STEELHEAD

Hope to see you in 2017!!!!
Cheers!
Matt

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016/2017 RE-CAP/OVERVIEW: TROUT/STEELHEAD/SALMON-MICHIGAN'S MAGNIFICENT GOLD COAST-PART I- STEELHEAD

                             ( a massive 'Michigan born and raised' Atlantic salmon ( caught by Brett Howard 11/16) , from our freshwater TSS- Trout, Steelhead. Salmon utopia. From the Great Lakes, to thousands upon thousands of inland glacial lakes and pristine fertile blue ribbon, spring-fed, trout filled river systems and tributaries , all of which makes Michigan one of the most unique salmonid ecosystems on the planet)
On this New Year, we along the magnificent gold coast of Lake Michigan's salmonid tributaries, are blessed beyond belief with having the 24/7, 12 months a year world class options to catch wild browns,rainbows, brook trout, unique wild strain steelhead-winter and summer strains , wild Pacific salmon;chinook , pink and coho, and a blossoming Atlantic salmon fishery like nowhere in the planet.
Our vast subterranean aquifers trap water water through the glacial till soil like the chalk downs of England's chalk streams. Through its sandy and gravel soils, spring creeks surge upward and feed the larger river systems and the Great Lakes in a constant hydrological infusion that through precipitation constantly replenishes the systems. 
Very much like the entire Baltic coastline from the Scandinavian countries to Russia, its dense forests of pines,cedars: with their bog wetlands, birches and hardwoods, along with gentle rolling hills of the northwoods, create the ultimate habitat and ecosystem infusion to allow massive wild trout and salmon spawning nursery waters and populations in such vast scenarios like no other. Yes, Montana , New York, Pennsylvania are epic and unique in their own ways and have similar world class fisheries. But Michigan's vastness of cold, clean water and it's mild to cool temperate climate is the finishing touch to this amazing wonderland. Having the most intense, diverse and prolific aquatic insect hatches on the planet, this all fuels the whole fly fishing experience that is truly 'Pure Michigan'. 

STEELHEAD
( From reduced sized steelhead observed in 2015 due to a falling big lake forage base, 2016 saw a major tilt towards larger fish due to the thinning out of  Pacific salmon predation which impacted positively both steelhead and salmon sizes) 
The past 2016 year global climate change reared its ugly head in a big way. A massive heat wave ( by cooler temperate Michigan standards ) materialized from late May and lasted all the way through November. Flooding , and than to quickly 'drying up and hot' was the norm all over the Great Lakes in the El Nino year. 
Major initiatives were under way in the management of the fishery like banning chumming and what looks like the future ability to grow more wild strain Michigan steelhead as smolts in future hatchery programs, we are still plagued by liberal laws that allow the killing of three wild steelhead a day by anglers. The one fish limit was agin rebuked by fisheries officials, which was sad news and made no sense for quality anglers verses meat harvest anglers. Thankfully, more anglers are 'catch-and release'- or 'limit kill' quality seekers.
As the alewife populations diminish and fluctuate, this bodes well for multi-predator foraging steelhead that will target the vastness of pelagic and benthic prey such as sculpins, chubs, smelt, shiners,sticklebacks,perch, whitefish, gobies- just about anything that swims. Also freshwater shrimp, and the booming mayfly and midge hatches ad to the mix. Its wild and stocked smolts have very fertile rivers and salmon and sucker eggs to predate upon as well.

WINTER/SPRING-2016
After a mild start, a deep arctic blast came February thru March. After that was heavy flooding from rain and melt off- a bizarre spring. Stable conditions didnt materialize until mid late April with many fish already spawned and left. May still had good numbers of steelhead but it warmed up fast. The size of the fish were definitely much bigger than the previous year and showing a positive trend. The early black stonefly hatch happened in the flooding and wasn't a factor of the run and trout taking dries which was very sad. 


SUMMER SKAMANIA STEELHEAD


More brutal daily heat coupled with a drought did not allow any serious migrations to take place on the St. Joe River until September/Labor Day. First year we saw such an endless heatwave in as long as I can remember- especially when the two previous summers were actually cold and had the fish running everywhere and endlessly. When the fish finally came in they were of good size and healthy quality which bode well for the anglers that got to be there at the right time.
On a positive note, most likely many summer runs forgoes running the rivers which should make for a very healthy  and larger year class/classes in 2017.
We continued to experiment with dry line terrestrial and mysis shrimp patterns including swinging for steel.
NOTE: On years when we have serious heat and drought waves, rivers like the Muskegon and Grand attract many stray summer runs like we had at 6th street on the Grand, the Muskegon at Croton and the Kalamazoo and Paw Paw. Fish starving for colder water or following bait on lake turnovers result in these runs.

FALL STEELHEAD

The heat, drought and very low waters continued. Surprisingly good numbers of fish entered the river but were easily targeted ( many were killed) due to no water flows and fish congesting at holding lies. With less eggs in the system they were more willing to chase and nail a swinging intruder or spey. Finally when we received rain/snow by early December good numbers of larger sized steelhead started to enter the river. The massive beast above taken on the swing by Paul Dolbec of Delaware at the end of October when a few very large fish entered our river systems

2017 OVERVIEW
 A large hen steelhead taken by myself on the Muskegon Christmas day is a good sign the lake forage is stable and diverse in predator food forms and promises well for 2017- other rivers like the P.M. also had excellent numbers of large healthy sized steelhead all fall and winter.
A late blooming year class of alewives not thought to be that strong be are showing up along with lots of sticklebacks/chubs/sculpins/shiners , including invasive shrimp which are eaten heavily. 
With lots of snow and rain all December into January, barring no extreme weather like we had in 2016, the new year shows more promise than 2015/2016 and a return to "normal', if that exists anymore!  
Feel free to comment and your thoughts are welcomed!....hope to see you at the Gray Drake in 2017!