2016 Release Planned for “How to Catch Fish off Gravel”
If there’s one thing Daryl Starks knows well, it’s raking fish off gravel. Whether salmon in the fall or steelhead in the spring, his tactics have become the envy of every lead-slinger in the great state of Michigan and beyond. Starks has recently announced the publication of his 31 page autobiography titled “How to Catch Fish off Gravel”, a compilation of strategies, motto’s and insights compiled over the last 20 years of bending the law. A few of the more legible chapters are dedicated to rigging, tactics, flies, lifting and positioning.
Rigging – “Go big or go home”
Starks recommends using heavy duty gear and prefers a converted catfish rod with a bright yellow blank and guides seemingly well suited for offshore adventures. Starks theorizes that yellow rods strike fear in the hearts and minds of fish. When it comes to reels, most anything will work as long as it can hold a minimum of 500 yards of 50lb mono or 30lb braided line. For terminal tackle, the recommended setup involves a three way swivel connecting the line to a bell sinker or spark plug for weight and 30lb mono to a tandem fly rig tied between 6 and 8 feet from the swivel.
Tactics – “If I spot em’ I got em’”
When it comes to spotting fish on gravel, Starks is a Jedi Master. Starks takes the reader through the whole spectrum from spotting tail fins sticking out of water to reading wakes made by milling fish and even using a high powered flashlight at night and early morning to set up on fish. Starks shares some pro tips on securing and maintaining key spawning gravel. These include running between known gravel, key phrases and tricks to use on evicting anyone fishing “his” water, and using dogs and kids to corral fish.
Flies – Tickler/Cricket
When it comes to flies, Starks is not a picky man although you won’t see him using anything lighter than a “Turks Tickler” consisting 2/0 treble hook. Starks encourages readers to dress the hook up as much or as little as you want, typically using tufts of glo bug yarn or pipe cleaner. In recent years he has been known to tie most of his flies on 10/0 weighted alligator snatch hooks, with lead welded directly to the hook a configuration he affectionately calls the “Michigan Cricket”.
Lifting – Finer points of Feeling “Strikes”
In this chapter, Mr. Starks goes into detail about how it is imparative to maintain a tight line so that you are able to at all times sense “strikes” from fish that are on the gravel. He employs a technique that he refers to as “lifting” that allows him to feel the fish and gives him an advantage on early detection of “strikes”.
Positioning – “Death from below”
When wading the river the angler should try to positing themselves below and cast well beyond and above the target so as not to spook the fish from the giant splash that the large hooks, lead, swivels, and line makes when hitting the surface. Starks debunks the theory of using stealth since the fish he targets are often either too tired to care or keyed-in heavily on spawning.
Presentation – “Finish with a rip”
Stark’s signature move, and everyone needs a move according to Starks, is his rip finish. After guiding the rig through a pod of fish Starks employs a swift rip of the rod as a final measure. Starks signature rip is often said to make the difference between hooking a mere 15 fish per day and hooking 50.
If one were to point out some shortcomings of the book it would be poor illustrations and his creative use of the English language. We had the rare opportunity to sit down with the legend during the recent fall salmon season outside his vintage RV located in the Tippy Dam parking lot on the Big Manistee river. Starks had finished a morning session of roping salmon and had just popped the top on a fresh Meister Brau when our visit came to an abrupt end. Starks spotted a conservation officer checking fish limits, blurted out “interview’s over”, jumped into his RV and sped out of the lot in a haze of black exhaust.