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River Conditions

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.

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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?

 


2016 Recap Part 2

Something tells me that when I’m an old, crotchety, drunk most of the time old man sitting in a nursing home spending my days planning an escape attempt, I will always remember the summer of 2016. I spent more time on the water this past summer than any other year – and the fishing was overwhelmingly good for the most part.

After more than a decade of suffering the fate of a fishing widow, my wife finally decided to put in more time on the water with me.  She did a really great job learning how to cast and manipulate streamers – and had a lot of success with smallmouth all summer.  It was a really great experience to spend time with her on the water, and the excitement that she showed for each and every little thing that happened made me realize how much I take for granted.

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The smallmouth scene was really good all summer on the local rivers, low and clear water presented ideal conditions to go out and find several each trip.   There were even a few pike mixed into most outings.


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The Bass 1 Fly happened again this year, in our 5th year of the event it has grown to 27 anglers.  It’s the dumbest event on the planet and I never have any fun during it, I don’t even know why I torture myself putting it together and showing up (if you couldn’t tell…..I didn’t win……again).  Heres a pic of some stupid idiot that did win – he’s banned from the event in 2017 (just kidding Sean…..kind of).

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Guide, teacher, presenter, explorer Nome Buckman (more on her in an upcoming Guide Feature) invited me to join her for a day of Musky fishing this summer.  Something I’ve never done before – so I spent countless hours researching and tying and piles of money buying new stuff that I don’t even need.  I even constructed a Musky Medical Kit – I heard shit gets wild and I wanted to be ready.

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Jeff came along for what turned out to be one of the more fun weekends I’ve ever had.  Beautiful scenery, the most intense sunsets I’ve ever seen, and a number of opportunities at fish.

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I got on the board on Day 2 – and I still have all of my fingers, so it was a success.

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Towards the tail end of the summer when the smallmouth become slightly more scarce and harder to find and salmon start making their annual pilgrimage to their spawning grounds – I finally got the Mitt Monkey Intern out into the boat.  Adam is an old pal from High School and an incredibly proficient newer fly guy.  He threw tight loops and hit the right spots with his streamers all day and was rewarded with a 20″ smallmouth – one of the biggest I saw all year.

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If the summer of 2017 is half as good as this past year, I’ll be happy.

 


We’re Back…….

 

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The very first post written on MichiganFly was published on Jan 9th, 2014 – 3 years ago today.  That Michigan winter was especially brutal, temps that reached a high in the single digits for several days in a row and snow that was measured in feet instead of inches.  Dan and I started this as a coping method as we searched for any crutch available to maintain the level mental sanity we both had.  Luckily for us, jumping on the internet and acting like clowns worked to the degree that we didn’t have to resort to our final plan that involved tons of drugs and booze.

We decided at the time that we would operate the blog through the winter months, then bail out of it when time no longer permitted, usually signaled by the polar bears and penguins migrating back to more permanent arctic lands.  So……..we’re back for the next couple of months.  Who’s ready for Tuesday bananas?

2016 was a good year – they are all pretty damned good if you have a group of friends that you spend time with on the water.  Here’s a the start of a brief recap:

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Instead of typing some BS that nobody wants to read here, a video recap is probably better.

A few trout a few steelhead, nothing wrong with that.  Then towards the latter half of spring, something happened that….that changed everything forever.  In our circle a 20″ trout is usually referenced as a “good fish”, anything over 24″ becomes a “giant” and if you topple the 27″ mark, something that has been done once by Jeff (see his work at  Fly Fish the Mitt) its legendary status.

Well, Dan (MichiganFly co-founder) didn’t just set a new bar this year, he took the old one, broke it and shoved it up everyone’s rears.  Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness a 30″ resident brown trout being put into the net – but it happened.

The fish ate a fly of Dan’s own design – the Mitt Fiddle.  Guess what bug got fished by everyone else a lot for the rest of the year?

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Personally, I was on the struggle bus a bit streamer fishing this past spring.  I had a number of opportunities at good fish maybe even a few giants in there – but usually I had my head up my ass and completely blew the chance.  Definitely, something that will be addressed this year.  I don’t know – is there some surgical procedure or something to remove craniums from rectums?

Rest of the year recap to come soon.  Tune in tomorrow for the 1st Tuesday Bananas of the year!


2016 B1F – Chase for the Duke & Lily Cup

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UnHoly Waters (Part 3)

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“Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” -Cree Indian Prophecy

Growing up in rural mid-Michigan, nearly 15 miles from the nearest town, in the rolling rich agricultural ground that is abundant in that region, farming is an essential part of who I am.  Spending the days of my youth picking rocks and weeds out of fields, operating tractors, enduring sweltering afternoons loading hundreds of bails of hay into the loft, and tending to herds of cattle has shaped and molded the person that I am today.  I find it darn near impossible to not root for the small family farms as the industry has evolved and giant corporate like farms have encroached and gobbled up gigantic swaths of land, making it hard for the “little guy” to compete.  I understand the importance of providing family owned businesses with the necessary means to compete in the ever growing global economy.

While supporting farmers and small businesses tugs at my heart strings, I also work very hard to keep in perspective the larger picture of the surrounding world and develop an understanding of other important issues.  The fishing industry in Michigan has been stated to be a $7 billion a year influx into our economy.  Say it with me here, SEVEN BILLION each and every year that is infused into our local economy.  How many local jobs at hotels, restaurants, bait shops, fly shops, gas stations, boat dealers/manufacturers is that?

The truth of the matter is that the great lakes and the waterways that feed into them are substantial to the existence of a healthy economy in our state.

It is troubling to think about all of the potential dangers that our natural resources face, and now they are threatened by additional dangers associated with fish farms under the guise of economical development.  There are many data points that suggest a high likelihood of profound negative impacts to our waters and the fish that inhabit them if fish farms are introduced.  While there are measures that can be imposed or put into place in an attempt to mitigate the potential risks, the possibility of a total demolition is still greater than 0% and I do not believe that is a risk that should be taken.  It’s similar to playing Russian Roulette for money, only someone else is the one pulling the trigger of the gun aimed directly at our resources AND getting the money from it.

I’ve thought long and hard about the proposed fish pens in the Great Lakes and the proposed aquaculture on the Au Sable watershed, and I fail to see the risks that the businesses running those operations would assume, but it is easy to recognize all of the risks posed to ecosystems in and of themselves and to the people that enjoy those resources.

If allowed a scary precedent will be established and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that these aquacultures will begin to pop up throughout our state like claims during the times of the gold rush.

It brings about the question, is the risks associated really worth the reward?

To see more about this issue, please see Parts 1 and 2 (click links below)

UnHoly Waters (Part 1)

UnHoly Waters (Part 2)

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)


UnHoly Waters (Part 2)

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“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” – Ansel Adams

In an effort to share and provide further education regarding the issues that surround the proposed aquaculture fish farm on the Au Sable, below you will find a compiled list of documented concerns with aquaculture.

From Natural Society (Click here for more):

Fish farms cause serious environmental damage – Raising fish on farms causes serious ecological harm—by polluting natural waterways and more. The U.S. farmed fish industry is said to have $700 million in hidden costs, which is incidentally half the annual production value of the farms.

Farm-raised fish can be rife with disease – Because they are crowded into areas that are far more compact than in a natural environment, disease and illness can spread rampantly. Oftentimes, these diseases can even spread to wild populations.

From Food and Water Watch (Click here for more)

Massive amounts of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides are required to keep disease at bay just to keep fish and shrimp alive in overcrowded conditions (typically in nets, cages, or ponds). The risk of contamination is high, both to the surrounding water and within the enclosures themselves.

Uneaten fish feed, fish waste, and any antibiotics or chemicals used in fish farm operations flow through the cages directly into the ocean. This can significantly harm the ocean environment. Caged fish can escape and compete for resources or interbreed with wild fish and weaken important genetic traits. Farmed fish can spread disease to wild fish.

Factory fish farms may interfere with the livelihoods of commercial and recreational fishermen by displacing them from traditional fishing grounds or harming wild fish populations.

From Mercola.com (Click here for more)

The Jevons Paradox says that “as production methods grow more efficient, demand for resources actually increases – rather than decreasing, as you might expect,” MindBodyGreen reports.7 This is precisely what has happened with aquaculture.

Aquaculture has been deemed both ecologically and economically unstable, with “an unequal tradeoff between environmental costs and economic benefits.” In the US, hidden environmental costs are said to cost $700 million a year, which is half the annual production value of the farms.

There are multiple problems that result when farmed fish escape into the wild (which they do, in the numbers of millions each year). For starters, the ‘wild’ North Atlantic salmon that you purchase may actually be a farmed escapee, making it difficult to know what you’re really eating. The escaped fish also breed with wild fish, and research shows that these hybrid-born fish are less viable and die earlier than wild salmon. This could contaminate the entire gene pool and harm the future of the wild population.

From the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Click here for more)

The main environmental effects of marine aquaculture can be divided into the following five categories:

  1. Biological Pollution: Fish that escape from aquaculture facilities may harm wild fish populations through competition and inter-breeding, or by spreading diseases and parasites. Escaped farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are a particular problem, and may threaten endangered wild Atlantic salmon in Maine. In the future, farming transgenic, or genetically modified, fish may exacerbate concerns about biological pollution.

  2. Fish for Fish Feeds: Some types of aquaculture use large quantities of wild-caught fish as feed ingredients, and thus indirectly affect marine ecosystems thousands of miles from fish farms.

  3. Organic Pollution and Eutrophication: Some aquaculture systems contribute to nutrient loading through discharges of fish wastes and uneaten feed. Compared to the largest U.S. sources of nutrient pollution, aquaculture’s contribution is small, but it can be locally significant.

  4. Chemical Pollution: A variety of approved chemicals are used in aquaculture, including antibiotics and pesticides. Chemical use in U.S. aquaculture is low compared to use in terrestrial agriculture, but antibiotic resistance and harm to nontarget species are concerns.

Some environmental impacts of U.S. marine aquaculture have considerable immediacy. Since organisms cannot be recalled once they are released, biological pollution is often permanent.

Other biological impacts from aquaculture may not pose immediate threats to endangered species. Nevertheless, potential introductions of marine diseases, parasites, and transgenic fish could permanently harm fish populations and even marine ecosystems.

From Modern Farmer (Click here for more)

The vast majority of farmed fish are raised with methods that are detrimental to the environment (and sometimes the consumer) in one or more of the following ways:

  • Removes unsustainable quantities of water from rivers or ground sources

  • Returns contaminated water to local water bodies

  • Employs hormones, antibiotics and aquatic biocides that damage local ecosystems and have negative effects on public health

  • Raises fish on pelleted feed made with unsustainable ingredients, such as GMO soybeans and the waste products of factory-farmed livestock

  • Fails to prevent the escape of farmed fish into nearby waterways, where they may behave as invasive species and spread disease

From a study titled “A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids” authored by Jennifer S Ford and (Click here for more):

We have estimated a significant increase in mortality of wild salmonids exposed to salmon farming across many regions. However, estimates for individual regions are dependent on assumptions detailed in the Materials and Methods section, and the estimates often have large confidence intervals. Given that the data analysed are affected by considerable noise—including changes in fishing and environmental factors—the important result of this study is that we are nonetheless able to detect a large, statistically significant effect correlated with trends in farmed salmon production. The significant increase in mortality related to salmon farming that we have estimated in almost all cases is in addition to mortality that is also acting on the control populations.

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)


UnHoly Waters (Part 1)

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“Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” -John Clapham

Michigan waters have a history steeped in controversy, tragedy, and invasion.  Ships traveling into our waters from far away oceans have introduced a multitude of invasive species that have resulted in decimating the ecosystems and ravaging the native fish populations.  There have been public political battles waged over the use of the watersheds.  Public outcry arose when a plan to install offshore energy producing wind turbines was unveiled.

Through over fishing, deforestation, and other damning practices that had profound negative impacts to our watersheds, native populations of grayling and brook trout have severely diminished or become extinct. Populations of other indigenous species have declined so much that they are more of a surprise when encountered, instead of a norm.  A love affair developed for dams has lead to substantial blockage of primal spawning grounds for native species, rendering natural reproduction more limited than it should be.  We are faced with the perpetual (seemingly inevitable) threat of asian carp invading our waters, if they haven’t already.  The extent of their impact upon arrival is somewhat unknown, but we can all agree it won’t be good.

Historic low water levels, warming water temperatures, increased imbalances in critical chemical compositions of our lakes and rivers, degradation of habitat, expanded erosion,  additional invasive species, draining of headwater aquifers, and other natural and human induced threats encroach upon our natural resources.  The easy excuse is – these are out of our control.  The reality is, they are a direct result of us as a human race.

Sure, you could argue that as a result of many of these negative events positives have come about.  Positives like the multi-million dollar a year salmon and steelhead fishing industry.  Or the increased ability for anglers to catch limits of walleyes in the reservoirs of dams.  But at the end of the day, salmon populations are collapsing and dams are failing, and there is probably no way to fix either.

Haven’t we learned from the mistakes of our forefathers?  Are we so shortsighted as to think that we can continue to place “band aid” style of fixes to man caused ecological issues and they’ll eventually just go away?  Because we have “solved” issues in the past by introducing new species, doesn’t mean that is a sustainable solution.

Here’s a sustainable solution – realize that our waterways are precious and water is life.  Click for the trailer on a great feature I watched at F3T over the weekend: Water is Life Trailer.  Fish and other aquatic life is are the litmus testers, the canary in the coal mine, that provide insight into how healthy our resources are.

The proposed aquafarm on the Au Sable doesn’t just impact the fishermen that enjoy the resource named “the Holy Waters”.  It affects the small towns that call the river home, it affects the entire economies in those areas that jobs are created as a result of the thousands of folks recreationally enjoying the resource every year.

Harrietta Hills Trout Farm has championed aquaculture tirelessly in the state of Michigan for a number of years.  Recently, they have proposed significant expansion of an existing farm currently operated as a tourist attraction on the Au Sable into a full blown aquafarm.
In an interview with Michigan Radio authored by Lindsey Smith(Click here for more) Dan Vogler, co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC states:

“It gets the community what they want, which is the opportunity to maintain this as a tourist attraction. And it gets us what we need, which is additional production space,” Dan Vogler said. Vogler is co-owner and general manager of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm LLC, the small business that’s leasing the hatchery.

How can he be so sure that is what the community really wants is my question.  Does the community really want to be known for the good old days of cold, clean, fish filled waters that once were?  Do they want to be known for the local businesses that used to line the streets but can no longer exist without the seasonal population booms that come to enjoy the resource?

The article at michiganradio.org goes on to state:

With all the fresh water Michigan has, Vogler believes Michigan could produce much more fresh, locally produced fish, adding value to the state’s economy and residents’ diets.

Here is information regarding consumption of farmed fish found at clevelandclinic.org (Click here for more), citing Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs for short) sound dangerous. They are. POPs have been linked to several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence suggests obesity might be even more of a risk factor for diabetes when POPs are present in your body. And specific types of POPs increase the risk of stroke in women. Why does this matter? Because PCB (one type of POP) levels are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild fish.

“The benefit-risk ratio for carcinogens and noncarcinogens is significantly greater for wild salmon than for farmed salmon.”

Farmed salmon comes with uncertainty about antibiotic use. Wild salmon does not.

There is an obvious threat to the high water quality the river currently experiences.  Increased discharge of foreign chemicals and fish feces poses a substantial risk to the health of the ecosystem.  In the previously cited interview with Michigan Radio, Vogler had this to say about monitoring:

“Monitoring is very expensive. It’s a lot of lab work and I pay the bill. So as you add more monitoring to my operation, you’re impeding my ability to make a living here,” Vogler said, “The reality is that I’m not a non-profit organization. So if I’m going to be here and run this thing and give the community the benefit of the summer tourist aspect, I have to be profitable. So adding more monitoring burdens without being able to demonstrate how that helps – I’ve got a little problem with that.”

This does not strike me as someone that is overly concerned with the health of the river, to me it seems he is more concerned with operating a profitable business at the potential expense of the resource.   To further complicate matters Dan Sanderson writes for the Crawford County Avalanche (Click here for more):

Instead of grab samples, the fish hatchery operator will be required to take three-portion composite samples collected at equal intervals over the 12-hour period of maximum fish activity.  A weekly monitoring frequency will be required for all levels of production. 

If I am understanding this correctly, the hatchery is being asked to self monitor in this situation.  That would be like asking me or you to turn ourselves in every time we exceed the posted speed limit.  This does not seem like a viable plan to ensure the water quality does not diminish so much that it is destroyed.

At what point do we recognize that we are destroying the very things that give us life?  Apparently, it requires an enormously catastrophic reoccurring event to open our eyes.

Here’s what you can do to help, go to the Anglers of the Au Sable site and read their statements regarding the issue and make a donation (if you are able to) to the cause.  (Click here for more)

Order a shirt supporting the efforts (Click here for more)

 


Fly Fish the Mitt and Mitt Monkey Videos

A could of vids to help get you through the week.


Head Games

“Being stupid should be painful” – Unknown

This past weekend’s trip I was reminded of a very valuable lesson that I have learned many times over throughout my years of fishing.  It is a lesson that I have shared with many people, both experienced and new in relation to their level of experience.  I committed a cardinal sin and didn’t have my head in the game the entire day while fishing.  As a result I paid dearly for it.

We got on the river around 8:30 AM and within the first 30 minutes into the day I was into what I thought at first was a steelhead.  The bobber on my indy rig dropped, I quickly set the hook and something big and heavy began to move.  At that moment a familiar feeling of elation quickly overwhelmed me as line began to quickly peel out of my left hand and come tight to the reel all in the matter of about 4 tenths of a second.

The feeling of elation quickly turned into grave disappointment when I realized all that had happened is that I had inadvertendly dislodged a piece of lumber from the bottom of the river, and it immediately was caught in the current, displaying many of the same characteristics as a hooked steelhead.  In my frustration I immediately started to “horse” the log in so I could unpin it and get back on with my day.  The stress placed on my rod was substantial and quickly resulted in the rod snapping with a sound similar to that made by the .22 caliber gun my father used to hunt small game with in the days of my youth.

So, it wasn’t a fish, I broke a rod, and now I have to walk up 144 steep and icy steps back to the truck to re-rig another rod?  Now I’m pissed, but mentally chalked it up to some sort of necessary penance required by the Fish God’s – a toll I’d gladly subject myself to if it resulted in a great day of fishing.

Only it didn’t result in that.

On a river that I know relatively well that had been holding several steelhead as of late, in several cases being the first angler through sections of particular runs, with a good selection of proven flies would usually result a decent outing.  All it resulted in for me throughout the day was losing about $467 worth of flies lost and a helluva of a lot of knot tying.   I’d rather have walked down to the river, opened my wallet, pulled out $467 and thrown it straight into the river (from the top, not the bottom of those damned stairs of course), and turned around and went home.

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After about 7 hours of no fish encounters, Dan questioned whether or not I had the correct depth set on my indicator – stating that I might not be fishing a run not quite deep enough.  At this point my head was someplace else other than focusing on what I should have been, I was more or less going through the motions.  I turned to Dan and assured him that I had the correct depth and to further prove my point I said “watch, if I cast a few feet closer I’ll drag bottom”.

Upon casting in closer to me the bobber lurched towards the river bottom as I had previously, indicating that my rig was set too deep for the water I was fishing.  I turned to Dan and smugly said “see, I told you”.

My confident assertion was met by him emphatically screaming “FISH!”.  I quickly turned around and quickly recognized my bobber nearly a foot below the river’s surface, screaming towards the opposite bank with a large silver steelhead not far in front of it.

I lifted the rod and came tight on the fish.  The physical attachment to that fish lasted about as long as my mom’s apple pie at a family dinner.  All because I was being an idiot and not paying attention, it was over as quickly as it started.

Instead of having an opportunity to land a beautiful January steelhead and erase all of the hardships THAT I CAUSED myself during the day, I added to it because I committed the substantial crime of not having my head in the game at all times.