Advertisements

Streamers

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.

3

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.

4

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.

Advertisements

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.

al2 al1

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.


657 4 3

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).

8

 

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.

12

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.

10

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

11

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.

9

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

 


We’re Back…….

 

62881406

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:

SPRING

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?

13076731_1321896621159154_8692134748978847743_n

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

2016 B1F Program2016 B1F Program 12016 B1F Program 22016 B1F Program 32016 B1F Program 42016 B1F Program 52016 B1F Program 62016 B1F Program 72016 B1F Program 82016 B1F Program 92016 B1F Program 102016 B1F Program 112016 B1F Program 122016 B1F Program 132016 B1F Program 142016 B1F Program 152016 B1F Program 16


Springing Into Action, Pre­Spawn Smallmouth Bass on the Fly

title

Today’s feature is from Kory Boozer, SW Michigan and Smallmouth guide extraordinaire.  CLICK HERE to see more info about Kory and how to book a trip to elevate your Smallmouth game.

When fly fisherman think of Smallmouth Bass in Michigan, they think of hot Summer days spent tossing poppers at the rivers edge and while this is a great time of year to pursue Smallmouth Bass, it is far from the only time of year fly fisherman can enjoy chasing these river assassins.

While many anglers are still chasing Steelhead or Brown Trout on Michigan’s Rivers, Smallies begin to put on one of the biggest feeding binges of the year, typically once the water temps reach the mid to upper 40’s is when you will begin noticing a sharp increase in activity. They have yet to vacate their Winter holding lies and are still congregated in large groups which means if you find them you can typically catch a bunch of them. Look for fish to hold in deeper water in slack water areas, such as natural wing dams, sharp drop offs in the river bottom, eddies, etc… Any area that provides baitfish, slack current and deeper  water with access to spawning habitat nearby while retaining access to food is the ticket.

The results of properly matching the fly to the most abundant forage.

The results of properly matching the fly to the most abundant forage.

As far as gear goes, this isn’t time to fish floating lines and light weight rods, I recommend Scientific Anglers Sonar lines in the 250-350 grain range depending on the rod you are using. Some days you simply need to get down deep and I will throw a 9 wt and 350 grain line. As the water warms fishing deeper water becomes less and less of a necessity though and for the most part 7 and 8 wt rods are all you need. When you fish weightless flies as I do a heavier line is necessary to get them down, lucky for us a good sized Smallie will fold a 7, 8 or even a 9 wt to the cork. You do not want to fish large streamers, even if you are targeting big fish, streamers roughly 3″ – 4″ in length are ideal to properly match the forage at that time of year. Fish them slow with short and fast strips to provoke reaction bites, some times very slowly swinging through an area with minimal action is ideal, others they want more action, this can vary by the hour so something you want to continuously play with to maximize your effectiveness.

Releasing a chunky pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass.

Releasing a chunky pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass.

Fly choices are dictated by the most available forage where you are fishing. For example if Chubs, Suckers or Gobies are the dominate food source where you are fishing, you want to match the colors, size and flash these bait fish give off as closely as possible. If young Trout & Salmon or Shad are the most abundant food source in the area, then that is the type of forage you want to mimic. A flies effectiveness for Smallmouth Bass is measured by how much motion they provide without movement, how closely the color and flash matches the natural forage and how fast and cheap I can tie the fly in my opinion. I want a fly that swims without being stripped, matches the size, hue and flash of the naturals while being slightly transparent and one that I can tie reasonably fast. I also when possible want it to be cheap so I don’t mind losing them and will fish them like I stole `em so to speak. You can basically get away with 3 flies, a white/grey hue, an olive hue and a brown hue, which would do a good job of matching everything from Shad, Baby Bass, Sculpins, Gobies, Suckers, Shiners, etc… A pattern called the Bad Hair Day, developed by my Friend and Wisconsin fly fishing guide Dave Pinczkowski is a great starting point for flies emulating anything in the baitfish form. It utilizes craft fur which is cheap yet has amazing action in the water, various types of flash and wool or dubbing as a head. Simple, Cheap and Effective… Simply match the materials you are tying with to the forage you are imitating, and get started.

A group of Bad Hair Day streamers tied in various colors to suit a variety of conditions.

A group of Bad Hair Day streamers tied in various colors to suit a variety of conditions.

The pre-spawn bite will vary in duration, typically it takes place until water temps reach the mid to upper 50’s and the fish begin to spawn. Depending on weather and location, that can lead to a vastly different window of opportunity. If your into hard fighting fish and don’t like fishing around heavily pressured areas, early Spring Smallmouth Bass might be just the thing for you!

Kory Boozer – Boozer’s Guide Service – www.BoozersGuideService.com

 


The Ones that Keep Me Coming Back

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught.  ~Author Unknown

Far more often than any of us would like fishing outings conclude with thoughts of “what the hell happened” or “what went wrong” instead of the glorious celebratory end to the day that we all yearn for.  As I look back upon my past few years pulling streamers I have experienced a fair amount of success and have been fortunate to come face to face with a number of quality trout.

Thats all fine and dandy, and I feel honored to have been able to put a fish in the net – but thats not what drives me.  I am unequivocally motivated by the fish that I had brief encounters with.  Those ones that showed themselves in a lightening quick flash as soon as my streamer descended into their habitation OR the ones that charged the stripped bug all the way to the boat and inexplicably turned away without commitment OR (and the worst ones of all) those fish that ate or tried to eat and in a fit of excitement and stupidity I trout set the shit out of and they quickly came unpinned.

10270435_10152327735706311_91884961737397944_n

I spend way more time than I should trying to figure out how to elicit a reaction from a predatory fish with a brain the size of a dime.  I lose sleep at night because of it.  It’s a sickness in which there are only 2 cures – more whiskey than my bank account could afford or more time spent on the water.  The biggest problem is, far more times than not I have a brief encounter with a fish that undoubtedly in my mind looks somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 times larger than it really is if I were to actually catch it and get a tape on it.  The fish that we don’t catch seem to always be potential record breakers that would land us piles of “thumbs up” on Facebook, never before seen levels of street cred, piles of endorsement, and an endless stream of friend requests from women not trying to sell us Oakley sunglasses (seriously, what’s up with that on Facebook right now?).

12573917_10153251200655588_8399998178424611345_n

The persistent challenge that exists of cracking the code of trout drives me.  If it were easy I don’t think I would do it as much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that if I had the ability or opportunity to walk out my door and start railing 30″ giant browns one after another any day of the week, that I wouldn’t do it.  Of course I would – I’d also probably be unemployed.  What I’m getting at is that the ever changing challenge of catching these fish on streamers is what gets me going.  If I could go out and rail 30″ giants, I wouldn’t feel the need to devote so much time and energy into figuring this stuff out.

The sad fact of this is….this is a game you can never really win.  There will be days that you are ahead in the score column, but in the end the fish will always be victorious more times than not.  So, the reality of this is I’m going to spend an enormous portion of my adult life trying to win at a game that is impossible to win.  Sounds like a great plan to me.


A Year in Review – Brown Trout edition

I’ve been really fortunate to be a witness and active participant in seeing and experiencing a number of really great fish this year.  While I really enjoy chasing after all fish species, brown trout has a special allure for me.  Seeing a big brown trout make it into the net is an awesome experience and sharing that moment with pals in the boat makes it all the better.  Here’s a look at this years fish that I had the privilge to witness first hand.


bt2bt1 bt3 bt4 bt5 bt6 bt7 bt8 bt9 bt10 bt11 bt12 bt13 bt14


Fantasy Football Ruined Fishing

For the second consecutive year I commished a fantasy football league filled with a bunch of fish heads.  A motely crue cast of charachters all bound together by our strong affinity to chase fish.  I quickly found out that there is 1 thing these yahoos take as serious as fishing, fantasy football!

I spent most of my season last year getting repeatedly curb stomped but had a good time doing it as the near daily trash talk added good commentary to give me quick breaks from my work day.  This year, I decided I’d spice up some of the weeks by publically calling out particular opponents on weeks I faced them and challenge them to a “side bet” of sorts.  Well, unfortunately for me those curb stompings from last year carried into this year and it didn’t go well for me.

Throughout this I discovered I may have a bit of a repressed gambling problem, as the typical wager was 3 articulated streamers and each week I lost I would just double down the next week to try and win some bugs back.  Let’s just say I burned through a lot of materials this year.

However, thats not where my punishment ends.  Oh no…that’d be way to easy.  My poor decision making and inability to set a good roster of players continues to punch me square in the throat.

Twice this year I lost to Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt and had to contribute to his already loaded streamer box.  Being that I was going to be fishing with him on this past Sunday morning, I worked late into the night spinning up a version of Galloup’s Boogie Man.

12342560_10153164588670588_5665290192043299302_n

Jeff, not one to shy away from rubbing a bit of salt in a pal’s wound decided he would immediately lace one of his winnings up and fish it right out of the gates on our streamer escapade.  I quietly chuckled to myself as I sat in the rowers seat and watched him struggle with the bug getting fouled around itself, as it appeared that I unintentionally provided him with a “dud” that had too much space between the hooks and not enough beads to prevent the hooks from becoming entangled with one another during casting.  “Serves him right” I thought – but of course outwardly I appeared apologetic. “Jeeze man, I’m really sorry.  I thought I tied those perfectly.”

A simple adjustment, opening the loop of this cast up a bit, allowed him to accurately sling the bug without it getting tangled.  No worries, the color combination is surely not one we’ve ever seen  work in this particular river – he even commmented on it himself.

That’s when the throat punches started rolling in.  On his first shift he brought a few fish to hand.  Then on his second shift, Mike Tyson punched me square in the neck and this fish decided this terribly tied bug looked good enough to eat.

bt12jeff trout

He continued to fish the fly for the entire day and of course landed not only by far the largest fish of the day, significantly more fish than I did as well.  Wasn’t it enough that I just paid my dept and suffered the humilation of proclaiming my Fantasy Football superiority only to be embarrased?

Stay tuned for the report following me paying my bet to Dan, as I practically have to row him around the river the whole day without me even fishing.  Fantasy Football sucks.


The Streamer Salesman

In my latest readings of the book by Jason Randall, titled Trout Sense, a work that is subtitled “A Fly fisher’s guide to What Trout SEE, HEAR, & SMELL” the author draws an extremely interesting comparison.  He compares fly fishermen in a sense to door to door salesmen – putting the entire act of chasing trout on the fly into an entirely new perspective.  He writes:

We are marketing our wares to a skeptical consumer, one that is often not quite convinced it wants what we are selling.  To help us make the sale, we need the equivalent of market analysis.  A good salesman considers two things: the target audience and how the product appeals to the target audience.

Simply put, what can we do as anglers to cause an “EAT” reaction, instead of “DON’T EAT” response?  With streamer fishing we are knocking on a lot of doors throughout the day – there are a extreme multitude of factors that play into enticing an “EAT” response that we must consider.

562570_10150735247205588_1013836183_n

Size, shape, and color of the streamer often times plays an extremely important role in triggering a desirable response.  Does the pattern that we are presenting to our ‘customers’ match or resemble what they want to ‘buy’?  Also, action of the streamer plays an enormous role – does the pattern move or act like potential prey?  Does the fly act like a fleeing or injured food item, making it an easy target?

543588_10150718516825588_36647563_n

The product that we are selling is ENORMOUSLY important – as any salesman will tell you, if you don’t have a good product that is marketable, it makes selling it much more difficult.  However, I’d argue that at the very least equally important to the product – probably even more important – is the number of doors we are knocking on.  In many sales type roles, it becomes a numbers game, streamer fishing is not any different.  Simply put, the more doors you knock on the better your chances to make a sale.  Even if your product is not the perfect offering, if you present it to enough fish the odds tip in your favor.

Get your bugs in the water and pull them around…..the more times the better.  Don’t waste time making several false casts, don’t get caught up with frequent bug changes, and don’t waste time doing other things that prevent your flies from being in the water.


Faith is Better than Hope

Nearly 1 full year ago I picked up a book from Glen Blackwood, owner of Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company.  He highly recommended this particular read as a counterpoint to many of the other recently published writings that highlighted fish, trout specifically, as highly intelligent and evolved beings capable of semi-cognitive reasoning.  The book is called What Trout Want (Link to Amazon for more info).

While I’m no where near completion of the book, I already have plans to re-read most if not all of the sections presented as it is certainly a very different perspective than we as fly fishermen have grown accustomed to.  The author of this work is Bob Wyatt – and simply put he states that trout, while indeed highly evolved creatures, are still trout and they have no idea of what is going on in the world outside of their watery ecosystems.  He goes on to explain that trout are unlike humans in many ways – most significantly that their consumption of food is solely for survival, not pleasure.  Therefore, unlike most theories – trout are not as discerning consumers as we’d often paint them to be.

To be fair there is a helluva lot more thought and development that goes into that philosophy, certainly more than I’m capable of writing out here.  However, there is one thing that I read yesterday that really struck me and made me really start to re-think my thought process when fishing, in particular when pulling streamers for trout – “FAITH IS BETTER THAN HOPE”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fishing, whether it’s floating a dry fly past rising trout, indicator fishing for steelhead, casting 1,000,000 repetitive times for musky, or pulling streamers in moving water for trout, is a lot about confidence.  If you are fishing with confidence, you are fishing to the best of your ability.

How many times have you caught yourself saying “I hope the fish are feeding today” or “I hope we hit a bite window” or “I hope we find some players” or “I hope that we see some action”?  Hope is not faith.   Fish are going to be feeding – thats what they do, they have to.

Just because they are not reacting in a desirable fashion to your offering, does not mean that they are not willing to eat at all that day.  All it means is that you are not giving them the type or size of food they are interested in, in the fashion that they are keyed into.

Not a giant, but went a LONG WAYS in renewing the faith that fish would eat a streamer in 33° water.

Not a giant, but went a LONG WAYS in renewing the faith that fish would eat a streamer in 33° water.

Have faith that the fish are willing participants, change your perspective and your success rates will probably change as well.  Know that fish are going to eat at some point during the day – it maybe only for a short window, or it maybe a causual all day grazing.  Understand that it is up to you to figure out what they want and how to best present it.   Keeping the faith that ‘something’ can happen at anytime will make for a more enjoyable day for you and everyone else in your boat, and will lead to more success.

For more thought provoking ideas, look up What Trout Want – please be sure to check with your local Fly Shops first.