Sunday, February 15, 2015

A RIVER NEVER SLEEPS- THE BEAUTY OF A MICHIGAN WINTER/SPRING RUN!

( my three favorite Great Lakes sunrise/sunset scenes shot in the last couple weeks- first, on the Muskegon, second on my nightly jogs in the Huron Manistee National forest, that runs in our backyards- it surrounds us!, and a gorgeous southern Lake Michigan sunset from the world class INN Harbor Shores in St Joseph , Michigan- where I've been spending some quality time, with some very talented people - more great things to come! )

We often fail to see the beauty all around us in the Great Lakes. It is a true  'embarrassment of riches' as Michigan poet laureate and good friend -Bob Linsenman, would say. 
These Great Lakes winters have all tortured us to grow accustomed to them, tolerate them, to take for granted because we live here- work here, love it here, hate it  here, evolve here!- we  often walk with blinders on. We just had a full moon- the light against the snow and a wise old owl perched in my driveway on his/her favorite oak tree, looking for the dark shadow of tiny field mice against the white snow scampering in their nightly ritual of foraging. 
Winter weather today has become a catastrophic political media event. I was on the east coast for the "bogo-blogo-whatever ! genesis/ Juno" event !- when at the Somerset Fly Show NJ. Mass hysteria took place: epic, biblical,apocalyptic, events reminiscent of George Orwell's " War of the Worlds". I drove to an epic white out blizzard like I have never seen in my lifetime of living in the Great Lakes- remember I'm from Buffalo/Niagara Falls !- and have fished the Tug Hill plateau off of Lake Ontario/Salmon River all my life-I know what blizzards can be. Yesterday's drive from St Joseph along Lake Michigan was downright scary- trucks collided next to cars right next to me in a complete 0 visibility eerie nightmares- I got side swiped by a semi that smashed into the car in front of me- I was praying hard! But we were all afraid to stop and still drove less than 5 mph just to get out of the nightmare.
Weather is no more a part of the beauty or a curse of winter- it has become a mockery and a media event demeaning the beauty and power of the seasons.
 Weather now is a fear tactic that anchor news 'talking heads': Ken & Barbie types: who didn't make the cut for soap opera stars,  modeling careers or bad car dealership advertising spots, etc.- sorry for my candid opinion! However respect comes from content and the current media lacks everything in that venue( Brian Williams eh!), and have became 'political and weather' experts-sad, very sad. They care more about"trending now" then the beauty, love and pioneering hardships of Great Lakes winters that gives all of us a deep sense of rest, respect- yet anticipation of the spring bounty to come . 

Tying flies for the spring Hendrickson or Early Black Stonefly hatch, will make a trout bum's soul come to life by the fireplace, as a comfort Beef Bourguignon slowly simmers, a hearty cabernet or a soul searching whiskey:scotch/rye/bourbon, invests in the human spirit that makes you appreciate the aroma, the back tongue swirl and breadth of its true essence- prelude to the depth and anticipation of the comfort meal to come, which makes the olfactory and palate go into euphoric overload. 

Winter Steelheading 



( So here is this anecdote. Gene Kelly from Boston ( above), an ardent fly fisher had this issue with me on the cover sitting next to his porcelain thrown for years. One day while deep in thought, he said to himself, "Damn it , I have to get out there to Michigan to get one of those huge winter steelhead" . When he called it was early February and he wanted to come around Valentine's day with his wife. "Perfect I said....plus there was a full moon going on- trickle migration ! Needless to say he caught  some massive steelhead around February 11/12, 2011- in two days , with water temps at 33-34F. The full moon did the trick despite crazy low water temps- and an amazing winter run!.)


Winter steelheading "should be !" at its finest now- earning a fish !!!!- or two is a Great Lakes honor, when EVERYONE IS WAITING FOR THE CLICHE "SPRING RUN"!- . 
 But the fishing has been terribly slow since the fall- can't lie about it! It hurts to report that we are suffering from mismanagement of the resource which I brought to everyone's attention 10 years ago and just got snubbed , ridiculed and laughed at. Even die hard spawn dunkers, chummers, fly guys, center pinners and noted mykiss killers, everybody!, is complaining- that is actually a good start to get the DNR's ear!.  
Simple solution almost every 'true steelhead lover' will agree upon- yes!- the die hard bait/hardware/center pin/swingers/nymphets will all unanimously agree upon! - We need "a one steelhead limit" to protect our wild strain steelhead-PERIOD! 
The Salmon River on Lake Ontario in New York did it almost a decade ago and they have had massive repeat spawner year classes and a 4-9 fish day for a fly dude/swinger being very common and the NORM! I dont even want or need to get into chumming and other issues- let's start with a ONE AND DONE! Guides/serious steelheaders will have so many more fish to play over and the resource is constantly being restored and nurtured despite the fact of targeting spawning fish

GOOD NEWS ON THE VERY NEAR FUTURE!. The mid February period leading into early March has some of the largest pre-spawn migrating steelhead I have consistently seen in 20 years of guiding. The spring run in all earnest begins on the full moon/longer daylight photoperiod of light around Valentine's day. Here the large pre - spawn alpha females and males, all hone in on their natal rivers despite below zero temps and very cold water :34F. It is a steelhead life survival strategy that has been handed down for millennia that just doesn't end.
(Late February/Early March Alpha steel )
Soon the little black stoneflies will begin the downstream biological drift and snow crawl, baby salmon sac fry will hatch, and a new cycle will emerge to begin the rites of spring.


( the early black stonefly hatch on the Muskegon is a massive "super hatch"...never seen anything like it in North America!- it brings up fat football browns and rainbows from March all the way to early May...an amazing ritual that no dry fly fanatic can resist!- coupled with a massive spring steelhead run!- swinging/nymphing and dries all in one day!- where in the Great Lakes can you do all this?- Pure Michigan !

This all takes place with the anticipation of hearing the male grouse beat its wings against the hollow drum roll.. thump..thump... quintessential Harley biker thump,  of its perfectly selected tree stump that met its acoustic standards.  As a Stradivarius is hand selected and cultivated , the wood  that Bonesa Umbellus, that  trubador that made his virility and eagerness cry out to a fertile and ready female to procreate, is a" life survival strategy" , which has been given down to them by the almighty powers for millions of years.
  Soon the woodsy smell of wild ramps, garlic and fiddle heads will be aperitifs to the Morel mushroom bounty soon to become a gastronomique event fit for a mushroom overdose...morchella deliciosa !

 Spring coho salmon will be prowling the coast lines looking for runs of smelt and other pelagic bait seeking freshly bloomed plankton/ midge larvae along the beaches- St. Joseph/Indiana's Gold coast: Michigan City, are the first to lead the promenade  


LAKE-RUN BROWNS

What happens when you don't get a fall run of steelhead has a silver lining....an excellent fall run of lake-browns!.

We had an excellent fall winter run this year- there are still good numbers of them in the river system but have become ultra selective/reflective. We also have some massive resident browns that were caught this past spring that need to be developed with some special experimental trophy trout regs. Here is a huge donkey caught this past early May that went close to 30"- a resident brown!

WINTER NYMPHING TAIL WATER STYLE

( excellent winter nymphing using scuds/midge and caddis larvae -#18-20's - indy fishing can be had now!)
( THIS IS A GREAT STORY AND WAS MY BEST CATCH EVER! December 2005- Another excellent year for lake and resident browns and a huge lack of fall steelhead-  here is my " 23 and 21 inch DOUBLE BROWN!!!!- on the top and bottom nymph Indy Rig.
It was a guide's day off and Johnny "Delaware Bugsy" Miller and I were smoking cigars, nipping some great single malt at the dusk night bite in the Sycamore hole-( know called Stockmal Pool). I was lifting the Indy rig to the surface and a nice 23" brown grabbed the bottom hex wiggle nymph-THEN,  literally 3 seconds into the battle on 4lb/5x tippet, the male 21"brown came out of nowhere right to the surface as it chased the Indicator and turned and swallowed the scud shrimp- I was totally blown away to have two huge browns wagging their heads- I feared no way am I ever going to see even  one in the net- should have been an immediate break off as they each fought in separate directions. Johnny had the large Loki net ready and handy to land the the first brown , and swiped both browns into the net-WE WERE TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY!- 44 INCHES OF BROWN TROUT ON 5X AND IN ONE NET!!!)

LANDLOCKED ATLANTIC SALMON IN GREAT LAKES




2014 was the best year we ever seen for Salmo Salar on the inland Great Lakes watersheds like Torch. Never seen so many fish in the spring and fall EVER!- since 1992! 

Here is an amazing story were less than optimal stocking ( fall fingerlings vs the much more desired larger smolts),
turned out an amazing fishery after stocking was discontinued after poor returns in 2008. When my client and I guiding him caught the world IGFA record Landlocked Atlantic( record still stands at 27 pounds!-check out their web site), the larger smolts were sent to the salmon barren tributaries of the Au Sable etc. on the Lake Huron shore- Torch got the surplus fingerlings as a token. Th fingerlings turned out to be an 'amazing blessing and insight" which baffled all the experts.
 Looking at hundreds of Atlantics looking up to take a swung white muddler on the surface with a Scandi short line in a blinding snowstorm is an epic event we have in our own backyard!!!!- the most exciting fishery yet to develop!- If the Chinooks go belly-up, can anyone say "Salar and Coho?" - TWO GREAT SPORT SALMON ON THE FLY!

EVENT CALENDAR
I am extremely honored to be the guest /speaker/host of the most revered/prestigious- Fly Fishing Club of Harrisburg/PA-2nd oldest in North America- first is Anglers Club of New York. It will take place in Harrisburg March 27th at their annual "reading of the papers". Presenters and founders of the club were a long list of dedicated visionaries like Ed Hewitt, Gingrich, Vince Marinaro, Shenk, Charlie Fox, Schwiebert, Wulff and many more...I'm honored!  
I will also be doing a a Master Selectivity Spring Creek/Tailwater weekend April 25/26th at Beaver Creek Fly shop, on the lovely Beaver Creek/spring creek i Hagerstown, Maryland- should be a fun event!



SPRING BOOKINGS

If you haven't booked your spring steelhead/trout fishing trips we would love to have you!- also doing bookings for summer Skamania steelhead/ Atlantic salmon trips- email or call us...
Cheers!...Na Zdrowie!
Matt