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Fish Farmageddon Update

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Let’s face it, the national political scene is about as entertaining as a never ending Nascar crash.  As a result, local issues seem to be easily set aside.  About a year ago Michiganfly, along with a number of far more credible sources, reported on the Grayling fish farm and their pursuit of a permit to operate the largest fish farming business in Michigan located in the East Branch of the Au Sable River (Michiganfly Piece).

To bring everyone up to speed, here’s what’s happened over the past year or so:

Trial Update

The Sierra Club and Anglers of the Au Sable weren’t able to win their case.  On February 1, 2017 Judge Daniel Pulter upheld the MDEQ permit with modifications including requiring Harietta Hills to conduct additional water quality monitoring and install settlement basins at the downstream end of each raceway where fish waste would be collected for removal.

The Permit

TDEQ Director Heidi Grether will reportedly make a final approval on the amended permit on March 8, 2017.  If so desired, Director Grether has the authority to deny the permit although this isn’t seen as a significant likelihood.

When will the facility be operational?

The facility is reportedly able to begin ramping up operations at this time.

Can anything be done at this point?

Yes, there is still hope as Anglers of the Au Sable plans to take the case into the judicial court system.  Those of us interested in supporting their cause can do the following:

1. Get educated

MLive piece Read This

Anglers of the Au Sable Trial Recap Read That

NY Times piece (hint: if you have anger management issues DO NOT read the comments) Read if you’ve got the time

2. Those active on social media are encouraged to share updates from the Anglers of the Au Sable website: https://www.ausableanglers.org/

3. Anglers of the Au Sable has spent several hundred thousand dollars and anticipate several hundred thousand more.  Funding comes from the general public Get wallet and click here

4. Take a look at Congressman Dan Kildee’s legislation and write your congressman.  So, new legislation was proposed by Congressman Dan Kildee on February 9, 2017 to ban fish farming in the Great Lakes and all federal “Wild Scenic Rivers” including the Au Sable.  The legislation is called the Ban Aquaculture in the Great Lakes Act.  Mlive has a nice overview of the proposed legislation (MLive Link)

This massive fish farm is a bad idea and needs to be shut down.  Get educated and get involved by voicing your opposition and supporting those who are willing to fight the good fight.  The national political scene is a mess, we all get that, but let’s not become complacent about what is happening in our back yard here in Michigan.

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Travel Ban Invoked Against Michigan Anglers

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This week marks the midway point of the annual migration of Mitt Monkeys to the northern Arkansas White River watershed and, as expected, tensions with local residents are at an all-time high.  From the bloated Cotter Courier police blotter to boat ramp protests at the Bull Shoals dam, it’s clear that Michigan anglers have once again worn out their welcome.

With local officials at their wits’ end, area officials reached out to inquire whether the new administration’s controversial travel ban could be invoked.  After hearing testimony from local restaurant and hotel proprietors and reviewing selected 911 recordings, the administration quickly became sympathetic to the plight of Arkansas residents and committed to adding Michigan anglers to the travel ban under an executive order.  “We think this is best for everyone” tweeted POTUS, “these Mitt Monkeys are really bad and totally stupid”.

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The area has a long history of Michigan angler distaste.  Tensions boiled over in 2015 when Mitt Monkeys were suspected of starting a fire at the Bull Shoals dam (link to article).  In 2016, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission issued an invasive species alert for Michigan Anglers, a tongue-in-cheek campaign with limited success (link to article).

A rapidly growing group of area politicians are advocating additional tactics to supplement the ban including the construction of a wall said to be paid for by Michigan anglers at the Arkansas border.  Others have put forth a plan to post “Welcome to Buckeye Country” signs at the border meant to confuse, disorient, and deter Michigan anglers.

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With the expectation of an executive order, residents may finally get permanent relief from their distant neighbors to the north.  Will the impending travel ban keep Michigan anglers from venturing south or is a massive wall in order?  Michigan anglers may finally realize that they aren’t welcome back in Cotter.

* Tuesday Bananas is a once a week satire column intended for entertainment purposes only.  No fish were harmed in the creation of this post.

Bananas: Fly-Tying Edition

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If, like me, you have an Instagram feed filled with strangers who share the passion of fly fishing, you’ve no doubt noticed that the big deal right now is streamers.  It seems like everyone and their brother is coming up with new ways of slapping a fancy head on a couple of wooly buggers that are joined together by coated wire and plastic beads.  But rip’n and swing’n streamers is a ton of fun and for those that TYOF (tie-your-own-flies…it’ll catch on, trust me), putting them together is the ultimate way of flexing your creative muscle and earning sick social media cred.

So, as a budding tier , I thought I’d get in on the game before it’s over and come up with some new patterns myself.  The following are some recent creations I’ve conjured up based off of trends I’ve noted on Instagram and Facebook.  I’ve shared as much of my recipes as I can….but honestly some of it is just pure unaccountable genius that comes from bourbon and copious amount of snack foods from the health food aisle at Kroger.

First up….I call this the Fire ‘Tot Jr.  I derived this pattern from the growing trend of using “masks” for the heads of streamers such as the Fish-Skull brand helmets (which in keeping with the tradition of natural materials for flies, are made from real fish skulls. Gross right?!)   For the FT Jr.,  I’ve made my fish helmet extend a….bit….longer down the body of the streamer.  I’ve also taken the little “cone thing” that goes with the Salmon Snake pattern, cut it in half and used it on the front of the mask to help with the dive and wiggle of the fly.  The hooks are custom made “triple B10s”…but as a friend-to-the-fish, I’ve bent all the barbs so they won’t get hurt.  Rounding it off, we have a dubbed collar and legs up front with (of course) copious amounts of marabou out back.  This is a big hit for Michigan Salmon and Steelhead.

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Great fly pattern to work into holes from the top of the run!

My second pattern came from watching Chief Rocka’ have a pre-mid life crisis last year with Muskie streamers.  Looking more into these patterns, I’ve decided that there are three things you MUST have.  More deer hair than you can possibly imagine, Game Changer levels of articulation and massive proportions.  What I’ve done here is taken that to extremes…so much so that I need three vices to make it.  For hooks, I’ve selected four that Tiemco list as suitable for Blue Marlin and something called a Giant Trevally (I have no clue what kind of fish that is…I’m afraid of the ocean so I’m not Googling it).  I’ve wrapped each hook with a full pack of buck tail and distributed at least three packs of Flashabou throughout the pattern.  The fly is garnished with some wing feathers from a red tail hawk to give it extra enticing action when you do the required Figure-8 move! Get meat!

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Deer hair gives bulk without weight so it will be a cinch to cast.

My final pattern is aimed at the more artistic tyers who design patterns that look so lifelike, you’d think it were a real critter!  Some of you tiers out there are crazy talented with spinning deer hair, shaping “game changer” materials or crafting resin into super realist streamers and to emulate that style I’ve chosen to create a lifelike baby trout pattern.  This streamer was made 100% with a hot glue gun, sharpie markers and googly eyes.  I have some improvements to make in my next rendition so it’s OK if you don’t quite see the “fish” shape in the pattern.  When it’s wet and moving in the water is when it all comes together.

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So real looking that it smells bad if you don’t use it soon after tying.

To wrap this up, my last fly here is not a new pattern but more of an idea for an accessory.  It’s a known fact that by adhering large quantities of fly fishing brand or shop logos on your truck windows, laptop, boat or family pet you increase your chance to catch fish by eleventy five percent.  So why not put them on our streamers as well?  If you can super glue googly eyes to a streamer, you can sure as heck glue a small decal on there as well.  By doing this, you not only increase your odds of hooking fish, but you increase the odds of getting high fives from your brahs when you show them your Bugger Box.   And if you are a fly shop owner or fly fishing gear manufacture, what better way to advertise than to have your logo hanging from trees and logs along the riverside by means of snagged flies?  This is my MBA at work here people….

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Look for your favorite fly fishing blog logo in a tree near you!

 

**Special thanks to all you folks out there that share your fly tying creativity and talents with us hack trying to better flies!

Guide Profile – Max Werkman

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Four years ago, I received an email message from Max Werkman.  I have saved this email as it is a constant reminder to me, and I refer back to it in times when I ponder what direction the sport and industry of fly fishing is heading in.  With a new generation that is typically pre-occupied with tweeting cat videos, posing half naked on Instagram, spending their time with their noses buried in their phones, or trying to level up in the most recent Xbox game – there are young men and women out there like Max.  As long as we have people like Max involved in this sport and industry, we will be in good shape.  I won’t share with you the entire email, but here’s how it begins;

My name is Max Werkman,  I’m 15 years old and I live in Holland Michigan. I love fly fishing and I always have.  I do most of my fly fishing in my local rivers here in Michigan. I also see that your company is based out of Portland Michigan, so your might know the rivers I am talking about.

I met with Max a short time after receiving this email and was came away from that time we spent together extremely impressed with his passion, thirst for knowledge, and commitment to the sport.  With all of the different opportunities available to find social connections and to be entertained, Max more than anything just wanted to fish.

Since that time I have been fortunate to spend time with Max on the river and feelings of admiration and if I’m being completely honest some amount of jealousy came over me.  I admire Max’s work ethic, energy, and passion that he exhibits while on the water – he works extremely hard and is able to find fish in even the toughest of conditions.  The jealousy stems from my own personal experience in that I don’t think I was nearly as focused, driven, and committed to anything at his age, as he is to fishing.

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Most people Max’s age are spending their summers figuring out which party they are going to go get wild at, living in the comforts of their parent’s homes, bumming money from dad to fill a tank with gas, and working on a tan at the beach.  Not Max.  Max left the comforts of post high school/pre-holy shit I have to be responsible for myself life to gain more guiding experience in Alaska.  Coming back to the Mitt, with a ton of experience Max is ready to spend the day on the water sharing his knowledge and passion for our resources –

Not only is Max and Werkman Outfitters committed to giving their clients a great experience, they are also extremely strong advocates of our environment.  Here is a statement from their website: Click here for more.

“Being from southwest Michigan, we saw the ecological and economic damage that occurred as result of Enbridge’s Line 6 B spill in the Kalamazoo River. Although the clean up has restored the habitat we feel a spill in the Straits would be far worse and more difficult to clean up.  For us, having a healthy wild fishery in the Great Lakes is critical to our livelihood. If a spill were to occur it will effect wild populations of salmon, steelhead and trout not only in the Straits, but as they are migratory, through out the Lake Michigan / Lake Huron basin. In addition, the native smallmouth bass and carp populations that live along the flats in the area will be negatively effected.”

Here’s the Q&A with Max:

What rivers do you guide on primarily?

White River

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy while guiding?

Honestly my favorite method of guiding would have to be float fishing. It is the most effective way for me and my clients to catch fish, but it is also a very easy method of fishing to teach as well.

Species of fish that you guide for?

 I guide for Salmon, Trout, and Steelhead as well as Smallmouth bass.

Are oranges named oranges because oranges are orange, or is orange called orange because oranges are orange?

I think that oranges are named oranges because oranges are orange. The color orange was probably established before the food in my opinion.

What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

My favorite thing about guiding is seeing the excitement that someone shows when they catch fish or see/do something that they have never done before. Seeing the excitement of catching a huge steelhead or just helping someone learn to cast a fly rod for the first time is what I love about guiding.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

Probably my favorite lunch to prepare on the bank would have to be hamburgers. There easy to cook, don’t take up much space in the cooler, and almost everyone loves hamburgers.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be?

I am a huge metal fan so if I were to be in a band it would diffidently be Avenged Sevenfold.

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If I were to eat myself, would I become twice as large or completely disappear?

I think that I would probably disappear if I were to eat myself.

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

I am only 19 years old so I am a younger guy, but I have tons of experience. Most clients have never spent a day on the river with someone who is the same age as me.

What makes a good client?

To me a good client is someone who likes to have fun, takes my advice into consideration while fishing, and someone who is willing to try something new.

Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

I would rather fight 100 duck sized horse’s because I feel like being taller would be a good advantage in fighting duck sized horse’s.

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?

I would want Charlie Day to play me. I think he has a goofy personality like me and he is a very funny actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I am not a very up tight guide, I like to have a good laugh about stuff on the river. Another thing would be that I can’t control everything that goes on during the day. Weather that is catching fish or not, or if a client is cold I cannot control everything that goes on during a guide trip.

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

Visit my website at www.werkmanoutfitters.com. Email me at max@werkmanoutfitters.com or call my cellphone at 616-403-8780.

 

Fly Fishermen Ponder the Approach of Peak Beard

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Although few would argue that the steady rise of beard fanaticism is sustainable, many were taken by surprise this past week when Dale Dobak greeted his clients at Green Cottage on the PM Monday morning with a face as smooth as a baby’s bottom.  Dobak has long been considered a leading indicator of peak beard not only due to his use of beard fibers as dubbing in many of his unique steelhead patterns but also because his wooly mammoth beard covers a number of ill-advised face tats.

Michiganfly reached out to several local bearded fly brah’s for comment on this momentous event:

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“Once I saw a small pair of hands shoot out of Dale’s beard to help with a client’s tangled line”

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“I heard that brah’s beard got him in tight with a pack of local Sasquatch.  That shave is probably some kind of Sasquatch hazing ritual”

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“What’s next, are you going to tell me that Dobak took up golf?”

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“No way.  Dobak’s beard has some kinda forcefield around it.  One time at a tying demo I saw his scissors get too close to that beard and they just flew out of his hand”

Is peak beard in sight, will the Dobak doctrine hold true, was Dobak duped into shaving his magnificent beard?

Tough Day? Go Bigger.

If you’re anything like me you’ve had far too many days when the steamer bite is tough, fish seem harder to find and engage and it seems like you are floating along simply getting 6 hours of casting practice.  Bug switches become frequent as panic starts to sit in that the dreaded “skunk” is staring you straight in the face.  Each and every single time you open your giant box of flies, a feeling of helplessness comes over you – and all of these great once proven fish catching patterns strike ZERO confidence.

We have all been there, sometimes the reasons are obvious why we aren’t able to engage fish – sometimes all you can chalk it up to is that fish are assholes.

As I look into my boxes of streamers I see several neatly organized rows of mostly natural appearing food resources.  There are natural colored, natural sized sculpin imitations.  There are piles of small appropriately colored baitfish patterns.  There’s weighted flies, there’s unweighted flies.  There are flies that swim left to right, flies that swim up and down, and flies that do both.

What I didn’t have in my box are large, bright, flashy, here I am type of streamers.  Everything is in the 4″ to 5″ range with muted flash.

Before my last outing, looking at the water temperatures (33 degrees) and anticipating higher and dirtier flows than normal, I hurried to throw together some larger flash bugs – for when those desperate times called for desperate measures.

I’ve read it before, I’ve heard it before, I’ve seen it work before – but I’ve never done it before (I’m a slow learner), on slow days when you are not able to engage fish actively looking to feed………invade their safe space to invoke a reactive territorial strike.

Some times fish just won’t eat – but almost all the time they will protect their homes.

After fishing a half a day with 3 guys in the boat and seeing no fish, I figured it was time to throw caution to the wind and go big and bright.  My confidence was nearly zip when I saw how stupidly bright and giant the fly was in the water, it was unlike anything I’d thrown before.  Planning to give it an honest 30 minute trial run before going back to the tried and true more natural imitations – I only had to wait about 5 minutes before my large fly was completely inhaled by a fish about a half a strip after it landed in the water.  I must have threatened this fish’s home for it to jump on the fly so quick and violently.

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Sitting back down in the rowers seat, having a victory cigar never felt so good.  After hours of casting and not seeing a fish – a nice trout like this is even more sweet.  After spending a little over an hour trying to find fish for my boat buddies, I jumped back up to the front of the boat as shoulders were getting sore and spirits waning a bit again.  About 10 minutes longer using the same giant ball of flash fly, and not even getting through one full strip of the line I was rewarded again.

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The lesson here for me was simple and it was something that I’ve heard and read many times from far more accomplished and wiser anglers than myself – if they don’t eat, go directly into their kitchens and threaten them.

Guide Profile – Kory Boozer

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Doing something that is different and unique from what everyone else is doing is not always easy.  Carving out your own niche, especially in a copy cat industry like fly fishing, can be tough.   Breaking away from the norm and creating an entirely new set of fly fishing opportunities for his clients is exactly what Kory Boozer from Boozer’s Guide Service (<–clicky clicky) is doing.  When people think of fly fishing in Michigan, trout, salmon, and steelhead immediately come to mind.  Likewise, floating down winding cedar lined rivers the size of a 2 lane road is the typical setting.  Often overlooked are the unbelievable resources of Michigan’s larger waterways and the abundance of the Mitt’s warm water fish species.

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Larger watersheds like the Kalamazoo, Grand, or St. Joe rivers can be intimidating and a daunting task to learn well enough to have success with a fly to most anglers.  Spending countless days and hours on these rivers, Kory has earned a PhD in reading these larger waters, understanding where fish are, and how to best target them.  He is able to show how special and beautiful these waterways are.  Specializing in smallmouth, pike, and longnose gar excursions – Kory offers a unique opportunity for anyone looking for a new experience and to learn how to pursue these great but often overlooked native game fish.

A passionate teacher, Kory gets great joy out of sharing his vast experience and knowledge with fellow anglers.  In addition to his prowess as a fly fishing educator, Kory is an innovative fly tier always and supremely talented photographer.  Not only will you likely catch the biggest smallie or pike of your life, but you will end up with mantle place worthy photo as well.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily? 

Saint Joseph, Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding? 

Streamers and surface flies actively fished from a drifting boat. Fishing from an anchored boat is about as appealing to me as watching paint dry. I want to cover water and find active, hard-charging fish that want to kill a fly.

Species of fish that you guide for? 

Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Longnose Gar

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What’s your favorite thing about guiding? 

I love getting folks into the sport and igniting a passion to enjoy and protect our wild and native natural resources. We largely live in a disposable society these days under the premise, if something breaks, you just buy another one or in our case, stock more fish. We should be more focused on enhancing our self-sustaining natural resources and better protecting what we have that can thrive here naturally. There really isn’t anything all that special about a fish raised in a raceway and put here by man. I make an honest effort not to dumb down my program, I do not believe in short cuts, I want my clients to learn to be great casters and how to work a fly properly. I take a lot of pride in my teaching abilities and truly enjoy doing it.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients? 

Good sandwiches, I don’t have time for a grilled shore lunch that takes an hour to prepare and eat, if you fish with me, you are here to fish, not hang out and eat…

If you could be in a band, which one would it be? 

Primus… So we could play all the greatest fly fishing destinations around the globe!

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse? 

Clowns and people in big animal costumes kind of freak me out, regardless of what operates Disney World, I want no part of it…

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience? 

Passion, hands down… I get more enjoyment out of teaching folks to fly fish and seeing them have a great time than I do fishing myself these days. In regards to the St. Joseph River, I was literally born & raised on the banks of this river, the sheer amount of time I have on this watershed is a huge advantage for me. Some folks go to sleep counting Sheep, I fall asleep rehearsing bottom structure and holding lies on the Joe…

What makes a good client? 

Attitude! I want someone who is positive about learning and is appreciative of how much effort I put into each trip.

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky? 

Yes! This was an actual conversation a client and I had not all that long ago!

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you? 

Liam Neeson! Great actor and he fly fishes!

What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I am all about teaching folks new to the sport how to fly fish, it truly does not bother me if someone is a novice, in fact it can be a good thing as they typically do not have any bad habits to overcome. I encourage folks to bring their children as well, there are few things more rewarding to me than seeing kids enjoy the outdoors and watersheds I am so passionate about.

How does someone contact you to book a trip? 

Cell: 269.235.0664

eMail: info@boozersguideservice.com

Web: www.boozersguideservice.com

 

Pollution May Be The Asian Carp Solution

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Severe weather in the Midwest is taking a toll on Lake Michigan waterways as urban chloride pollution from 50 years of heavy winter road salt application has turned sections of area rivers turgid with nearly a half million tons of salt discharged into storm sewers each year.  Since 1960 when the use of road salt began, the salinity levels in the Chicago Area Waterway System have steadily increased to the point now that sections are now classified as salt water.  While Lake Michigan is relatively unaffected, thanks primarily to the reversed flow of the Chicago River, its immediate inland rivers no longer resemble fresh water.

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Surprisingly, this salt pollution has resulted in an intriguing opportunity in the war against Asian Carp. During the fall of 2016, an independent scientific coalition calling themselves SADSACS, Scientists and Democrats Seeking Asian Carp Solutions (Republicans commented that they have their hands full with an invasive species of their own) tested with favorable results the release of several predatory salt water species in a section of the Cal-Sag Channel.  A 6 ft hammerhead shark reportedly survived for 18 hours in the channel until it was caught and eviscerated by a local catfish angler confusing the giant fish with a mutant channel cat common to the area.  Despite the loss, SADSACS confirmed that the shark remained confined to salt laden waters of the channel.
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Hammerhead sharks were selected based their affinity for not only Asian carp but for anything remotely edible including small appliances, discarded auto parts, and empty cheese whiz cans littering the rivers.  The sharks are expected to live quite comfortably until carp eventually arrive in the kill zone. Watersport restrictions are being considered but debates are ongoing as to whether the waterways in question could become any more hazardous.

Confirmation that the salinity of Chicago and NW Indiana water has attained levels high enough to host ocean predators is seen as the likely solution to the Asian Carp conundrum.  In a related note, scientists in San Diego, CA recently provided disturbing evidence that hammerhead sharks are becoming increasingly tolerant to freshwater ecosystems.  When asked about a future involving the great lakes teeming with sharks, SADSACS representatives commented “Let’s just solve one problem at a time”

* Tuesday Bananas is a once a week satire column intended for entertainment purposes only.  No fish were harmed in the creation of this post.

What Canada Taught Me About Fishing

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Canada knows how to do sunsets…even if they aren’t until 11:30pm

A long time bucket list of mine had been to participate in a  fly-in fishing trip to northern Canada, and in the early part of June last year, I was able to finally check it off.  If you are unfamiliar with these endeavors, they are all pretty much the same concept.  Drive as far north into Canada that roads will take you, hop on a float plane to any of the hundred remote outpost camps on any of the million lakes up there and start fishing.  As long as you can keep from being devoured by a  bear, trampled by a moose or suffocated by a swarm of ruthless, evil, hate filled bugs…you will no doubt catch more fish than you can possibly imagine.  Besides the obvious appeal of fishing for a week straight, the biggest pull for me was how remote these locations are.  You’re out on your own, miles and miles from civilization, surviving off only the gear you bring in and the game you catch (sorry…no “keep em’ wet” happening there) all the while taking in nature that hasn’t been completely altered or trodden over by a herd of humans every weekend.  It was an awesome experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat with the only negative memory being those damn bugs (pro tip: don’t let them get INSIDE your bug suit…nightmares).  But as the resident new guy on this blog, I thought I’d share one of the things I’d do differently if I were to partake in such an adventure again; my approach and plan for catching fish.  I’ll break it out for you.

Where we were fishing:

As with the vast majority of water in northern Canada, the two major species we would be pursuing (and living off of) were walleye and pike, of which I have very little experience fishing for. The particular body of water we were on consisted of a decent sized river opening up to a 7 mile by half mile lake with two other rivers that exited on the other side.  Our outpost was located at the mouth of the river feeding in, and I was told that we would be spending most of our time around there for walleye and in the river and its tributaries for pike.  The walleye were known to hang by structure in water anywhere from 10 to 20ft with pike patrolling the edges and shallow tributaries.  We also would be taking a crazy adventurous day trip, 15 miles up river to a set of falls that are known for holding monster brook trout (trout rule, ‘eyes drool!).

How I planned on catching fish:

At the point I was planning for this trip, I had fully converted my fishing techniques to the fly and had all but rid myself of anything img_2612relating to gear fishing.  I knew pike would be easy.  I would treat them like hyper aggressive trout, slap some wire on the end of my leader and throw big, gaudy streamers at them.  Walleye were another story.  They aren’t known to be a regular target for most fly fisherman and finding large quantities of information on how to go about it was difficult.  But the Internet is full of crazy people like myself and I was able to find enough articles to put a plan in place. My idea was this:  I’d set up an 8/9wt rig with a long-headed 300gr sink tip line and tie up a bunch of weighted
leech and clouser patterns with colors ranging from black/purple to chartreuse/orange.  I figured that if after I cast out as far as I could, I gave the fly ample time to sink before slowly stripping it in, I’d be close enough to the target depth to get in walleye range. Solid plan right?  I should note, my father-in-law, who has been on countless number of trips to this lake, and would be with me on this one, thought I was a fool to only bring a fly rod.  So much so, that he went out and bought me a spinning gear combo package so that I’d be guilt ridden into bringing gear with me.  He wasn’t taking any chances as I’d be part of the equation of whether he ate dinner or not each night.  What’s that they say about listening to those that have gone before you in life?

How it turned out:

Yea…not nearly as well as I thought and I was grateful for that spinning gear.  The big thing I forgot to factor in was that I’m a novice who, at the time, couldn’t cast to save his life (an accurate metaphor given the circumstances) nor understood the fish or environment I was fishing in.  Let’s break this down:

-When you are a very inefficient at casting, a 300gr line with heavy flies is not only a bear to control, but will wear you out lickety split.  Add in that I’m a walking stick figure with a career that emphasizes typing speeds over strength, and I was well worn out after a full day behind my rig.  This made my accuracy and distance garbage and I spent more time out of the fishy zone than in it.

-I was the only guy using a fly rod.  And since piloting an outboard powered boat is near impossible while casting one, that meant the speed and positioning of said boat was almost always in favor of the hardware guys.  When trolling, I couldn’t cast fast enough to accurately hit my zones or keep my fly deep enough if we were in walleye territory.  When holding still, we were usually out far enough that I had to muster up monster casts to get to where the fish were.  Again, my weak casting did not help me here.  We had a 5th guy lined up to go with us that is a fantastic fly fisherman which, had he not had to bail at the last second, would have made this a moot point.  But if if’s and but’s were candy and nuts, oh what a Christmas it would be.  I was going to a camp designed around hardware…not sure what I expected.

-I didn’t tie nearly as flashy patterns as I should have.  The water levels were abnormally high and strong winds had the water very cloudy.  I obviously could not have predicted this, but you should prepare for everything on a trip like this.  The only places I had any success were in the tributaries were the water was clear or low.  But the name of the game that week was either motion (more than an articulated streamer can provide) or flash, neither of which my patterns overly excelled at.  This was the most obvious the day we spent at the falls.  I was the first in the water and on my fourth cast landed a real nice brookie on a white boogieman pattern.  At last, I thought, it’s my time to shine!  That was the last fish I caught that day.  My boogieman was crusty leftovers in the eyes of the trout once they saw the Mepp’s my uncle’s were throwing.  And they could cast them farther and faster than I could ever dream of.  They put up some impressive numbers of some of the biggest brook trout I’ve seen and left me with my one measly fish and a sore shoulder on the boat ride home.

Did I catch fish on my fly rod?  Is the pope catholic?  I hooked up with plenty of hammer

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Probably one of the smallest…but the one I’m most proud of!

handled size pike and even proved my theory correct with a few walleye.  But I had to work my butt off to get them while my companions were kicked back slaying them one after another (literally) with spinning gear.  And believe me…they let me know it.  I eventually gave up and just switched to my spinning rod.  I still refused to jig or troll…what a boring and uninvolved means of fishing.  But I ended up having a fantastic time ripping stick baits for pike and spoons or spinners for walleyes and ended up with the record for most consecutive fish per cast by going 10 for 10 on pike one night.  Quick side note here…the pike in that lake were some of the most aggressive, brutal predators I’ve seen.  If it moved, it was food.  They would come up and take chunks out of walleye we had on stringers and I swear to you, one even smashed a Rapala that was covered in a foot of weeds.  Made for some fun times…but nature, you scary….

 

What I’d do differently:

Obviously, get better at casting.  It’s coming up on a year since that trip and although I’m far from being Paul Maclean, I’ve made big improvements in this category thanks to some relentless backyard practicing and some great guidance from a friend.  I also think I’d upgrade my fly rod. Over the summer I switched my Redington Crosswater 6wt over to a Mystic Reaper and it made a world of difference in my casting, especially for large streamers.  I think if I did the same for my big streamer rod (combined with even more practice) I’d have a better time at it.  But maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to have three Reapers in my collection.  Also, I think I’d focus all time with my fly rod on hunting trophy pike and just be happy if a walleye randomly hits my fly.  For walleye, I’d upgrade my spinning gear, chuck heavy spinners with ease and be happy doing it.  Or pack in some steaks and leave the monotonous task of working a jig to others.  Finally, I’d bring along a better assortment of flies.  And I’m not talking about anything super fancy here…did you read the part about that pike hitting a grass covered lure?  But maybe a little something more to get their attention and mix it up like some floating frog/mouse patterns or a pack of flashabou tied to a hook.  That’d get it done.

So at the end of it all, these shortcomings with my fishing strategy by no means took away from an awesome trip.  For that matter, it’s made me realize that living in Michigan, I’m limiting myself…just a bit…by swearing off gear fishing for life.  The fall salmon run for instance has all be written off for me since I’ve given up the ol’ chuck n’ duck.  So I think this September, IF the salmon come back up the river and I have an opportunity to get in there and battle it out, I’ll be throwing plugs and hot n’ tots instead of streamers and eggs.  OK no joke…it was really hard to type that.  But I’m trying to be open-minded and I promise I won’t be petitioning for this blog to be renamed michiganflyandgear.com.  Fly or die people.  But, in the meantime, I’m going to go look at pictures of steelhead sized brook trout, Bob Ross level Canadian sunsets and Fireball stealing in-laws to remind me of an incredibly memorable trip…and to keep practicing casting.  So hey ya’ hosers, keep some tight lines eh?

 

Friday Update

Happy Friday, for us 9-5er’s that are essentially caged animals Monday through Friday another respite is nearly upon on.  Weather looks good in the Mitt this weekend, hopefully things don’t blow out with too much water.  A couple of interesting things going on right now I wanted to make everyone aware of:

MYSTIC RODS (Friends of Mitt Monkeys and all fish heads everywhere) has new hats and they are sweet.  They have free shipping from now through Sunday if you place an order.  I know that supplies are limited, so get in while you can. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.

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Nomad Anglers has a great lineup of fly tiers at their 3 Locations this winter, whether you are a beginning or an expert that is always something you can learn.  I’ll be tying giant junk for trout on Feb. 22nd at the Grand Rapids location – I promise to tie mediocre flies but tell spectacular lies.  Facebook SIgn Up <— Facebook signup here.

Have a good weekend, get outside and do awesome stuff.