Sunday, September 27, 2015

End of Season

Can you believe it? Bloody Kremlin enforces its copyright. Picture at left on loan from Presidential Press and Information Office at Obviously, President Putin fishing.

Wet wading... and took his shirt off to dry. Pity he's wade fishing with spinning gear. Figures. Knife is for bear, I'd guess.

I know this is how I fish: Shirtless in BDUs. I don't use imperialist spinning gear, however.

Saturday sundown saw the end of regular trout season here in Michigan. I took a couple days off work and rented a cabin on the Manistee.

Last year, the Amber Angler crowd went fishing around the third week in October on a year-round flies-only stretch of the Manistee. We had waders frozen solid in the mornings.

This year, this weekend, and they haven't had frost yet.
I caught a few smallish aggressive browns and a baker's dozen brookies. The largest brown was in the 8" range. The largest brookie came last night at just at  9" (handle reference measurement).

No pictures. I kept 'em all wet.  I had a cell in a dry pouch that an Amber Angler gave me in the spring. Nothing big enough to drag it out, however. I was going for a foot in brown and ten inches in brookie for a photo. Nothing made the limit.

I fished alone. None of the Amber Liquid guys made the trip.

I had lots of old demons come keep me company in the nights. They've been hanging around enough lately we've started a pretty good game of Pitch - just like I played in the days that spawned them.

I had some good fishing and some poor over the weekend. I had decent wades and some beats that were brutal. Michigan's rivers are usually tree-choked banks and shifting sand with muck. The Manistee has a lot of sand and holes that will float you. These holes normally occur adjacent to ten foot of quicksand-grade muck and alder thicket for a bank.

It was Michigan fishing. Blue bird weather, though. Stunning fall days and strong coffee mornings.

I finished the season stalking a trout.

I'd spotted a nice brookie feeding downstream of the cabin the first night. One, I thought.

I couldn't get to him and caught some smaller browns. Friday, I made an effort in the morning to get down to him. I found a path through some islands and around a bend coming at him from back upstream. Didn't hook him, though. Went elsewhere for the day.

Friday night, I'm on the deck recovering from a fairly hard wade on a downstream beat (one which involved a fight with a silt trap that might have ended me). I'm drinking a Bell's Two-Hearted leftover from Salmon Run (thanks Chip) when a fellow rounds the bend coming up precisely the path I'd scouted in the morning.  I'd been watching my brookie, mind you, and just getting around to stalking him in a serious manner.

There's about thirty minutes of sun left, no one else at any of the other cabins, and this guy pops out of nowhere.

Sure enough, he hooks a nice seven inch brookie right in the hole I'd scouted.

He makes it upriver to me (not trying for any other fish in the hole)  catching a couple of the browns from runs and a pool on the way. We talk.

His name is Nick and he's about thirty-five from South Bend (N.D. Irish country) here with the in-laws for the weekend. He had to get out of the cabin (mother-in-law and the grandkid talks) and made a desperation break upstream because his father-in-law wouldn't wade against current.

I congratulated Nick on his fish - said it was the best I'd seen scouting the hole and made sure he knew to come back. Told him he could use the cabin property to wade out and hike the road back downstream.

I felt for the guy even though I thought he'd just taken my fish for the weekend.

He was fine, He went around the island in front of the cabin and in a half-hour was headed downstream back on the main channel. Last I saw of him. I only had three beers for the weekend and was on number two so no, I didn't share. He had that whole clean-cut thing going for him and I'd already asked him back to fish the hole.

Saturday saw hard fishing and a lot of miles. I ended the afternoon standing and watching the brookie hole. More than one fish was feeding.

I suited up again and mucked my way down and around sitting on the bank in silt-grass for an hour when the sun was still too high while watching the river. I rigged three different times.

I tried an upstream presentation twice but the area where I could stand put line-shadow through the water on approach and also put the fish down. I shifted around and up where a feeder from between the islands cut a deep channel that I could just manage to dig-in on the edge.

I cast downstream. I pulled five fish in just a little under an hour. The largest was maybe six inches. That was it, I thought.

The next half hour of twilight saw three brookies and a brown. The largest brookie ran to nine inches. I took him on a five weight Hardy Zenith because my three weight wasn't stiff enough for the seventy-five feet I had to cast. Yea - seventy-five (because I drifted out to the backing knot). I couldn't get closer.

He took it on the dangle - a pair of flies (a flight) but he took the dropper.

Great fish. Bigger than the night before's effort by Nick. Current, me perched on a silt bank, too bloody much line. I just had his lower lip and ran my hand to fly dipping my rod handle in the water next to him. A lift - I fished barbless this year - and he was off.

I went back to my little dock and traded for my Trout Bum three weight (has my name on it) and a little Galvan brookie reel.

Almost dark and two little browns one five and one six inches. I took them from a deep run downstream of the dock on successive casts. Dark now, my season had ended with the brookie I wanted badly, and two browns on successive casts.

Sundown, last Saturday in September, and 2015 in the bag.

I dumped my Finn bag and my trout bum, stood in cold water (46 degrees in the Manistee) and drank a flask of scotch to celebrate the end of season. I might have talked a bit about how important the good end to the season was to me.

This was everything I wanted from fly fishing when I came to Michigan. I wanted the tight little streams of cold water and strong fish on light tackle. I wanted technical fishing when I had to improve from wide open loops to tight rolls slung under sweepers and brush overhanging the banks.

I got it. I got everything I wanted from it. I had a good season.

I'll throw some streamers for steelhead later in the fall with a buddy who likes a big two-handed rod. Trout though: that's the end.

One never knows if this is the last season or not. I had good outings. I saw Osprey and Pileated Woodpecker (the size of a small chicken). I walked-up on a porcupine. I caught fish on flies I tied myself.

I took the big brookie on that ugly white buggy thing (below) tied in size 16 and fished as a dropper.

I ended the season standing in cold water past my thighs drinking scotch old enough to vote held with a slime coated hand.

I did however keep my shirt on.

Hope your end of season treated you as well.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Fall

At left, a brook trout from US Fish and Wildlife. Photographed by Eric Engbretson as part of official duties. Copyright-free image. Hosted by wikicommons.

Thanks to Eric for the great snap.

I'm off for some of these fellows this week. There are browns in the water, too. I'm after nice brookies, however.

My fishing partners have no love for "little fish."

I learned on hungry browns and cutthroat. I'd read about brookies. Contrary to the popular sentiment, one lusts after what one doesn't have. If you grow up without brookies, then they have a magical hold on your soul.

Now, I've got brookies. Feisty buggars. I'd rather a day with ten 8-inch brookies than a day with one 16-inch brown. There it is. I like the take. I like the frantic fight and run. Put one on 3 wt. gear and it is a blast.

SO, I'm off to have a little fall on the last full week of the season.

I'll walk some small water one morning and fish some larger on languid afternoons. I'll finish a murder story. Start another. Eat a couple smoked sausages. Smoke a pipe. Fry a couple eggs. Tie a few Red Ass soft-hackled flies in size 16 and see what comes of it.

Those last hours of the season can be enough to last the winter if we use them correctly. To me, they taste of honeyed scotch and wood-smoke.

I'll pack a little scotch, too. Some Bushmills as well. No too much. Mustn't spoil the senses. I'll have to remember the weekend all winter long.

Or I'll have to remember it until Halloween when I try my hand for steelhead and talk about next season's trout opener.

A flexible mind is essential in this game. Don't let your dogma bark too loudly. It bothers the neighbors and scares the fish.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Fish: Story in Pictures

Most of the Amber Anglers abandoned Salmon Run this year. Many conflicts. Australia, brewery anniversary bash, kids. September has a lot of competing demands here in Michigan.

We have a couple of words on the subject of conflicts. One: we have shirts. Two: we have fish. Mine didn't get to the boat but was hooked, jumped, and witnessed.  My buddy's victory story below.

An Amber Angler all hooked-up. Guide Miles in
the foreground concentrating as well.

The fish on a run.


From Drop Box

Near the boat, and net. The dangerous time.

From Drop Box


From Drop Box

And relief.

From Drop Box
Victory smile (the fish smiles as well).

The release.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Salmon Run

Image at left courtesy US Fish and Wildlife, Dan Cook photographer. Copyright-free image.

This weekend marks the second annual Amber Liquid Salmon Run.

It didn't start out that way.

My trout buddy grew up in a life like a lot of us: something good, something bad.

One of the very good things in his life was his buddy George. I never met George. I only met the outcome of George's efforts.

George must have been a helluva guy.

Anyway, George liked a salmon trip and when he became ill enough that he couldn't make the trip, I was offered a chance to step-in. I had a blast.

And it's my seat in the boat now.

I'd name this run for George but that somehow doesn't seem quite right, either. A lifetime perfecting the outdoor pursuits cannot be tied to something as small as a single trip. This is the Amber Liquid crew's trip and if George were around, he'd be a welcome member.

I suspect that might sit just fine.

Salmon run here in Michigan and with a little cool and a little rain, it can be just the entry into fall that does a fellow right. You need hot coffee from a thermos in the morning - and maybe a little whiskey chaser.

Hook-ups do all the better with a little scotch in the drizzle. Helps break the disappointment of not setting the hook hard enough or not keep the slack out of the line on that first hesitation before the run.

I'm looking to bring a fish to boat this year. I'd say I'm looking to bring a fish to hand but that'd be presumptuous. Must not tempt the gods' displeasure.

Don't look at the cards until they're all dealt out.

I'm going north.

I'm going with a guide who keeps his mouth shut except when there is something important to say - and that important means about the fish. Outside of the boat the rest of the world doesn't exist. He'll answer any direct question, ask the requisite niceties in the most abbreviated fashion, and focus on the fish.

Nothing like a guide who helps you focus on the fish. Can't stand any other type.

I've got an outfitter in Canada I love. He's a great guy. Put him in a boat and he can't stop jabbering. Wears a fellow out. It's his boat and his cabin and his airplane and he's damn nice about everything even when you're being a damn fool. He won't shut-up, however.

I like fish because they don't talk. They're the opposite of young women.

I can't understand a couple distant associates who are in the young-girl chasing business lately. Makes no sense. Of course, they're distant associates so there's that.

Close friends have vices like expensive whiskey and trout and sometimes fast cars and occasionally airplanes.  Politics maybe. Yes, politics. They don't have women vices - unless they married it.

I marry women I cannot afford. I fish for trout. See a pattern?

This weekend? Salmon.

Moreover, it's salmon with a guide who will keep me from making a damn fool of myself and look the other way quietly when I do. He'll put me on fish and let the rest come.

He'll feed me smoked pork chops.

Pretty good outing - but then I'm fishing with a good friend who will be in the front of the boat and what good is a fish-of-a-lifetime if not for someone who shares that joy?

Even if I'm just filling in for someone else's lifetime.

Not bad work - if you can get it.

The barrier to entry is however too damn high.