Wednesday, January 18, 2012


(Matt's selective alpha buck!- waited to "0 dark hundred" to slam a sculpin- biggest buck of 2011/2012!)
The January's deep winter steelheading continues to roll on a wild ride! From last week's pre-snow storm mild winter, to my last three days of howling snow and bitter cold temps, the winter of 2012 is shaping up to be one of the finest I've seen in 20 years of Great Lakes winter shit!
Had the extreme pleasure of guiding Dr. Matt Zaccheo for a couple of days this week- this dude is a 'serious steelhead magnet"!....he could pluck out hog bucks out of a gold fish bowl!!... Armed with  Helios switch rod, he cracked untold big double red band bucks- his biggest was 39-40 inches as seen at the top. "This pool' ( which will go unnamed) was fished hard all Monday by several guides and boats since it was warm ( 40f) and a holiday. Matt hit a nice big 11-12 pound buck right off the crack of first light there in 33 F water, since air temps were around 18F. The buck came flying 2 feet in the air on first hook-up in 11 feet of water....amazing for that cold water temp. Matt loves red bucks, especially the bright deep red band strain of Michigan steelhead. He lived and went to medical school in Erie, PA, and fished Elk and those creeks hard. He thinks our Michigan fish have the most awesome coloration when compared with steelhead alley's......being a new Michigan transplant, he is totally addicted to our fishery! He spent three days with his Friend Todd from Pittsburgh  with me back in middle December and they both hit lots of big chrome hens, Matt wanted the big kyped red banders and boy did he get them this trip!
( Got a chance to get out with Laurie to get some awesome images of those gorgeous snow and ice covered trees and test out some new heads. Bumped a nice fish on the swing- the 600 grain Skagit froze solid, the fish was air born near the bank and 'gone"""- nice to know at 34 F WATER TEMP , a fish wanted Pantano's Hang Time leech!)

( Zaccheo was "out of control" hitting 4 big bucks in a day and a half- the bad nasty weather killed us yesterday! and we only got 6 hours in)

The first day when Matt cracked that nice buck in the a.m, I told him about 'the dusk bite". I knew where a few hog pens were but we are not touching them till 5:30 ish or so- dusk is at 6.
"Those really big selective /reflective alpha fish will lay there all day and watch all kinds of crap thrown at 'em...spawn bags, glo-bugs, you name it, they've seen it all', I said. "At dark, that is when they get on the hunt- they are looking for sculpins, dace, shiners- they ain't gonna hit an egg pattern!" At 6:05, couldn't see crap, Zaccheos rod went off and the water boiled. I took my sunglasses off and was blind! was Matt!!!. That big buck went into the backing twice and after a long battle - I had no idea how I got my net under that humongous pig- we landed it! crushed a Grim Reaper sculpin with a little sparse flash on the back- a small pattern which differs from the larger fall version. "HOW THE HELL DID THAT BUCK (around 18 on the boga) see that pattern in a deep 12 foot pool in the dark is beyond me", said Matt.That fish waited till all the knuckle heads- including us- were off the river- little did he know we lurked in silence rowing a jet sled! That is the beauty of these selective Steelhead in winter-our favorite time- it's a head game at this time of year- I LOVE IT!

( the grim reaper for selective winter alpha males)

( there has to be easier work - this winter steelhead guiding wasn't what my high school counselor told me to do....BRUTAL!)....NOT GREAT FOR ARTHRITIS!
Last week during the warm spell, I had the infamous Cahn Tran from Chicago who hit some nice chrome hens- he is becoming a steelhead addict needing a fix almost every month. Also had the pleasure of guiding Bob Moreland, a retired jumbo 747 pilot from IL. who flew his plane into Fremont airport and caught some nice steelhead- his first of 4 that day. Bob is an avid Atlantic salmon angler who owns a section of the Sandhill River in Labrador- he was impressed with our winter fish.

( Commodore Bob with his best hen of the day)

(Cahn Tran with a brace of nice hen steels)

Winter Steelhead Tactics: As I said , its a head game of persistence and patience- also timing of day is'huge". Look at winter runs and pools, but fish are moving around now that daylight photoperiod is really kicking their hormonal spawning development into full gear. Lots of alpha territorial behavior going on now. Water temp-34-36 F. Level- 1,780 CFS.....perfect for fussy steelhead! Believe it or not, Cahn hit a large spawned out hen already!....spring is coming fast!..that's way too early for me
WINTER AND SPRING STEELHEADING........ With all the fish in the river winter steelheading will continue to be impressive, seems the worse weather days have the best bites. We still have "A FEW CHOICE DATES", for spring and would love to have you fish with us! If you want "real trophies"- February and early March , before the "gravel rippers ascend", is when you want to target big alpha steelhead. Here is Mr. Gene Kelly from Boston last Valentine's weekend- his first steelhead ever!
 Given the fall and winter run we have already experienced, spring will come early and should be amazing....that ain't just Michigan guide talk....the pictures tell it all!
                                                            WHAT'S BEEN COOKING AT CHEZ MATEO'S
                                                                       DOCKSIDE CULINARY EMPORIUM?


( Matt Zaccheo had a "delish " lunch of classic Perigord French Beef Burgundy- a bottle of red wine stock simmered the beef for 4 hours in the slow cooker and warmed up pot side on the river.....carrots, mushrooms, and an asparagus risotto......."a killer dish for winter" on a cold day!)