Sunday, April 30, 2017

Black River Fish Report

Forest road 49 doesn't make much of impression at first sight. The path here in the picture runs for about half a mile back to a small parking area where a trailhead exists for the fishing trail. The road in place is indeed a logging road. High clearance is required in spots.

 Halfway to the trailhead, you pass this gated entry which the logging has made superfluous.

"Keep it wild. Walk in." Or, drive right around over there ...  There is a pathway leading to the Blue Lakes from this junction.

A tail goes from the parking area for a half mile to the river proper. The trail then turns sharply and follows a bluff over the Black River.

You see the river below you as you hike along looking for game trails or those paths created by anglers here before you.

The river above is the reward when crawling down the game trails. The far bank is a private club -- the Blue Lakes Club -- which has cleared the forest for shooting alleys in their deer harvest.

These bloomed in the underbrush. The blooms are roughly the size of a dime.

These lived in the river.  The big fish was near 14" but I dropped camera and fish on the photography effort. Luckily, the camera is waterproof. The fish above came out of the same hole and was 11". Nice brookie.

Most of the eleven I landed were more like this:

Overall, it was a fantastic opener. Most of the fish came during a two hour period when the Hendricksons actually hatched. I was shocked. These fish above came on a partridge and yellow.

I started with this fly:

A purple and snipe.  Some smaller fish came to hand but the real action didn't start until the Hendricksons showed up. Most of the brook trout were over six inches but under nine.

I caught a pair of the five-inch variety near my campsite on Friday evening. I was glad to see the larger fish on Saturday because while I had a three weight outfit with me, the breeze didn't allow for its use.

This rod was perfect for rolling the soft hackles across-and-up and managing the drifts on downstream work across-and-down.

Winston 8' bIIIx in #4. That's a Douglas Argus reel and a Wulff TT line in #4. The outfit was perfect for the Black. It's a roll cast machine that is long enough to manage line when fishing in close quarters. A large rod would be a burden and something smaller might not yield the roll casts necessary to shoot line under obstacles.

Great opener. Happy season. My weather ran into the mid-50's with a bit of overcast. There was a modest breeze but nothing that wasn't manageable with a four weight. I had a great camp and while it did freeze on Friday night, the day's warmth still allowed for a decent late-afternoon hatch that was a delight to see.

 A view down the river. The bottom was almost all cobble. Deep holes stopped short of five feet. Most ran to three and the stream edges allowed easy passage. Looking under the rocks, I can see the stream is filled with mayflies throughout the season.
Tinned clams and Two Hearted Ale. Opening day late lunch. Thanks, Mobes.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Happy Opener

Brook trout above from Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife,  Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

It is the Michigan opener here on Saturday. I'm avoiding the cluster that is Grayling and the Au Sable on opening weekend.

I'm going to the Black River. It's a river of brook trout who also happen to be our state fish.

The water temperatures are up and spring came on quickly. I'm looking for aggressive takes on soft hackles fished upstream.

I'm loaded with 4 wts., scotch, smoked oysters, and the last of some fine Briar Fox tobacco for the pipe. I've only been using this tin for fishing with the Amber Anglers but I'll celebrate opener with the last of the tin's memories.

 I opened the jar last night (this tin has been open since 2012 but I store it in a mason jar) and was greeted with the deep aroma of raisin, peat, and cocoa. I couldn't have picked something better for a cool spring evening at the campfire.

Next up in the trout rotation is Fox Hound from Nording in their Hunter's Blend series. That's a much lighter Frog Morton-ish blend. I like the On the Town blend in that series. I like Fox Hound in camp while breakfast is cooking. Works all day but is too light for the campfire. Compromise, compromise.

I'm a devoted Squadron Leader fan for thirty years now but find a new blend for a trout season helps those specific special events stick in my mind a little better than when I just use "the regular."  There are a lot of walleye mixed up with "the regular" and trout deserve a more delicate handling.

Walleye taste good, though. Never doubt a piece of fried walleye.

There's a little Maltese Falcon from G.L. Pease around here to finish-up, too.

Hope you're out for your own opener.

Time for some fun.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Brown Bridge Dam -- Removed -- Boardman River

 At left, Ranch Rudolf on Saturday and again on Sunday. The river came up. Horrible photography but the lesson is that the Boardman is as responsive as most Michigan rivers to spate flows.
Yea, so I'm done with the "out the door" photography.  Mostly. let's face it: I am horrible with a camera.

I've cut off more heads with a camera than Blackbeard with a cutlass.

Brown Bridge Road downriver from Scheck's Place campground. This road is at least Subaru or better.

At least.

On the right (towards the river) is the Broan Bridge Road quiet area. Several trails lead back into the forest towards the river. Specific paths and access points are yours to investigate.

Here is the "we paid for this" dedication for the removal of the earthen dam formerly known as the Brown Bridge Road Dam.  Now I think it is the Brown Bridge Road Removed Dam.

 Stairway to the river at the dam's canoe landing.
 Flow across a sixty foot stretch of river.  The flow was at "drown me"  velocity. The current seems to have channelized what was formerly a broad but calm outlet.

The removed damn. Not the full channel flow. I cannot run as fast as the current was moving.

So much for tossing streamers over a former cobble bottom of relatively moderate depth tailwater.

Hey, the dam is gone. Always better.

[ I live on a bluff over a river. I'm not stupid enough to live in the actual floodplain. I've seen rain.]


Thursday, April 20, 2017

South Branch Nature Preserve, Boardman River

 North of the Forks Campground, Broomhead Road leads to South Branch Road which leads to the South Branch Nature Preserve.

This little outpost of nearly fifty acres is a rugged managed conservatory right along the north side of the Boardman River's southern branch. The sign says South Boardman but the legal description says South Branch. Go figure.
Here's a panorama from atop the central plain at the back of the property looking just south of west.

It's a lovely short meadow out of which I chased both turkey and deer as I made my way across.

The meadow once extended to the river proper but now bramble and low alders inhabit the fringe.

Marsh muck from the sudden weting that extended for forty yards from the river bank down on the meadow's lower plane.

Below is a typical image of this upstream portion of the Boardman where, for a small but pleasant hike in a near park-like setting, you an have relief from the vacation fisherman I've heard descend on the Boardman during the summer. Certainly new construction in the resort region is booming.  I'd expect congestion on the more accessible parts.

Yes, there are a lot of deadfalls right now. That's brookie habitat not unlike portions of the Jordan.

There are no canoes on this section and thus no efforts to clear the river's course.

Fishable? Certainly. The water was quite high at the time of the snapshot.

Summer pressure may well make on consider a more difficult wade to counter a flood of other anglers.

Off to write. There is work to do.

More to follow in this series on the Boardman.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Scheck's Place Campground and Trail Camp, Boardman River

 South-ish on Brown Bridge Road outside of Traverse City, MI one finds the Scheck's Place campground compound.

I can almost pronounce Scheck's Place without sliding into a movie title featuring an ogre.

At left, the first of three campgrounds of interest to the angler: Scheck's Trail Camp. Michigan has a shore-to-shore trail for horse enthusiasts. Scheck's Trail camp is on the path and caters to the horse crowd. However, the campground is open to all. At left, the trail camp. The bits of "Rommel's Asparagus" sticking up are hitching posts at campsites. Wide open spaces. Don't fence me in.

 The trout piece of this location features the watering hole for the ponies and the angler trails that wander upstream and down from the location. Here's the horse signpost.
 Here's the gravel tongue in the river for pony watering. The flow is again moderate and the river is on the order of thirty to forty feet wide.

I was here on Saturday and should have just fished it the rest of the day ... but for the growling offshore thunder that I knew was conspiring to ruin my wilderness culinary treat of dinner.
Downstream from the ponies about fifty feet along the angler's trail through brush and alders. The trail is pretty good considering it's just a wear path. The river is nice in this section with good pools, undercut banks, and timber. Within every cast length is some sort of "fishy" structure that deserves attention. The flow was up (river flow doubled while I was there over Easter) but I think I could have managed a nice wade here.

Father downstream a few hundred feet is the confusingly names Scheck's Place Campground -- this one is not for ponies. However, Brown Bridge Road bisects the campground and the dirt trail that is Brown Bridge Road is sandy, rough, and holds water all at the same time. It's a Subaru-or-better road.

 North side, Scheck's Place campground. Full of water. Most campsites swamped and one section of the camp road covered with siz inches plus of standing water.

This is not a worry-free location to camp. No one likes water incursion from a downpour.
 Flooded campsite, typical of most sites here.

Some sites at the very rear of the campground were quite nice; but, I drove through six inches of water to get here. There's a stone walk to the river and an island divides the current right inside the campground itself.  The island wasn't helping the intention of wading with its channelizing of the high flows into higher and faster flows.

Not wadable.  Downstream view from the north campground.

The campsite has a nice handicapped fishing platform. Good bird-watching spot.
 Across the road is the other small southern portion of Scheck's Place Campground. I counted seven close pads and a river access canoe launch o'rtopped with river. There is a bridge on Brown Bridge Road between the campsites and with the river up, the bridge was more of a culvert.

In this flow, a misstep would run one through the wringer and there'd probably be drowning involved. Might be fine at other times; but, the Boardmanwas brutal on Easter weekend.

Horrendous snap but the south campsites were dry and under some nice trees. Canoe loading will bring the trailers right in front of each campsite all day long, however.

Sometimes, trout guys like to nap before the hatch and wade that can run into the evening. Canoe loading is seldom a lullaby.

Hope this helps future excursion anglers.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Boardman River, Forks Campground

Above, a panorama of the Boardman from the Forks Campground, Brown Bridge Road near Traverse City, MI.

The Forks Campground is an unremarkable series of eight small sites and pads. What is notable is that the campsites are steps from the Boardman River.

Here's a series of campsite snaps from Easter weekend.

 Campsite eight is at the end of the line. Here's the new trout car as I make camp.
 This is the line of campsites along the river. They're right out in the open without any barrier one to another, The river is just off frame to the left.
 Campsite eight. Encamped here.
 The river from campsite eight.
 River detail. Upstream. Nice at moderate flows.

The Boardman escaped the heavy rains of the last two weeks. Then, I arrived.

The flow doubled from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. Nearly two inches of rain through the weekend evenings. Tent worked. Gear worked.

Saturday afternoon when the flows were moderate, the wind came up. It wasn't a horrible wind; but, it was a marginal five-weight wind. I fished some sinking flymphs and thought of throwing streamers on Sunday. I thought really hard about throwing steamers as thunderstorms started rumbling around five on Saturday afternoon.

The river is great here at normal flows. At the higher flows, the sweepers and submerged timber force the wading angler into current that just isn't fun. The bottom is mostly firm with some larger gravel that erodes under your feet in fast strong flows.

I only hooked two - neither to hand. Barbless hooks, downstream. Anxious playing and LDR (long distance release). Upstream fishing: I had no takes. I think maybe I should have used more weight on the line. I wasn't on the bottom or hung-up enough.

In retrospect, I wasn't consistently deep enough in the water column. I hate to add shot weight on my leader. I should have gone with a 3ips versileader. Maybe a 5ips. Had both of those. Probably would have helped.

Putting my faith in more serious fishing on "tomorrow" was a problem, too. I've been bit by unpredictable events before and this time, the river rising nearly another foot was my undoing on Sunday. I counted on access at a spot I'd not been before based on a book that is now out of date.

Stupid bear.

It's a little early up north. Great camping, though. It's a sure cure for the civilization disease (CD). There's still some of that around the edges.

More trip report later with a visual profile of access in the area. I hope it helps other anglers.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Going Boardman and Soft Hackles

At left, the Adams Fly in a nice tie made possible by Mike Cline who granted this photograph copyright-free status as hosted on wikicommons. Thanks, Mike! (Oh, nice tie!).

At left, the Adams. It is in every box. I don't put wings on mine but am prone to include a tiny piece of white Antron as a centerpost so I can see them in the dusk.

The Boardman River in Michigan is where the fly first was developed. I'm going there this weekend on a trout camping outing.

It's spring. It will probably rain. The roads are crap this early before the commission has a chance to get out. No worries. I've a new heavy-duty trout car and no longer do I fear bad terrain. I'm fine with rain, too. Keeps the other anglers at bay.

Will not freeze on the Boardman this week since Monday night. That's a good sign.

I'm a little punchy. My wife says I've gone a bit off. It's the spring. I need to be in the woods. I'm going. You should too.

You've heard of "going bodmin" ... well I'm "going boardman." Just about the same thing.

Some odds and ends below ....

My fly photography drew some catcalls from a couple guys I ran into outside my flyshop. Here's a better image of the BWO Soft Hackle Hare's Ear. The hare is quite dark but I used better light for this photo and it shows up well.

Steel gray SLF and dark hare's mask dubbed together with a touch of possum in there too, Pheasant hen tails, waxed.. Herl. Dun hackle on this one. I use darker hackle early in spring but I grabbed this guy from my box of leftovers from last fall for this shot.

A fully plamered Herl-and-Hackle after Stewart's Spider. This fellow is a plump beast because he also does duty as beetle bait here in later spring. I do occasionally chase bluegills.

This is on a size 13 barbless TMC hook and I probably will end up drifting a few along the bank in brookie country this weekend.

I tied more than a dozen last year and have none left. They work.

A hackled streamer using grizz feathers for tails. Small. I am tossing these next week in the morning on Mill Creek. I'm going to try and fish this sort of streamer by imparting my own action to it instead of the "dead drift."

I saw Jonathan Barnes do so and I want to give it a try. Small stream work with streamers has been pretty weak for me. I think the action of "dancing" the thing has merit.

We'll try.

Outing boxes sorted and ready to go. I need a few more scud for the Driftless but I'm pretty good right now through early June.

I'm a lazy caddis and Partridge-and-Yellow sort of fellow for most of the summer turning to Partridge-and-Orange later towards fall.

I'm all excited in spring but come fall, I'm convinced a stray bit of cork can be presented well enough to catch trout.

My concession to Ed Engle. I read his book last spring and tried to decide on pursuing the 20/20 club. I did so only halfheartedly.

This year I made the effort to tie some very small soft hackles. There are some PTN and some Hare's Ear in here too ... though the Hare's Ear are actually tied with beaver. I like its very smooth texture quality for flies in the film.

 The ant patterns in this Tacky box are tied on #17 hooks.

I'm not Ed Engle but I have wanted for small flies on occasion. I'm going to try and use these extremely small flies this year. I've 7X and an arsenal of several 3 wt rods.

Somebody stop me.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spring Fly Fishing Gear

At left, one of my resident jakes. Not strictly fly fishing gear but I do collect the odd feather from the local turkey activity.

It's snowing sideways. Not even the Thursday fly shop reports could do much this week to put "flurry" spin on the weather. The Mason Tract on the South Branch of the Au Sable is 200% over "drown the bear" stage for my wading.

My local water -- the Huron River which indeed does flow into mighty Lake Huron -- is right at flood stage.  My restoration creek Mill Creek set a new high flow measurement for this date today. It's got a foot to go before "flood" so there's that.

It's spring. High water won't last forever and when it recedes and clears there are some very reachable opportunities for the fly fisherman. The clearer slower water will be close to the banks.

No reason to dredge the horrendous mid-channel flows which make contact nymphing especially tough at "roaring" velocity. Yes, there are fish under those flows in depressions. No, you will not be able to detect a strike unless the fish hooks himself.

Let me correct myself. If you can detect a strike while nymphing mid-stream at three times customary high-water flow, then you are at or near the level of commercial fisherman. You are an adept in the league of the fellows who catch the "usual" trout. I'm excited about any trout and that makes me an aspiring "occasional" angler. I'd like to reliably catch the occasional trout.

I still catch the "infrequent" trout.

Anyway: high water. The edges will harbor fish in surprisingly shallow water where you wouldn't otherwise find them. They'll be a little more spooky and you'll need to fish to habitat instead of fish. However, they'll be more fish in less water than is usual for early season and concentrated fish can be catchable fish.

I'm going to the stream next week early in the mornings. I'll be at the water at first light before the behavioral drift has fully stopped. I'll be fishing bank lines, breaks, and anyplace the current slows to a slow walk or clears to less than milkshake.

I haven't been out enough. Morning before the day gig allows that to happen.

I'll sleep when I'm dead.

New gear. 

A year's supply of barbless hooks. Using the Tiemco this year. I liked the Hends but my local does business with Umpqua and Tiemco so I give them the business. Fine hooks.

They come packaged in paper slips just like unmounted diamonds. Yes, I've spent a lot of time looking at diamonds. I have a jeweler friend who is a rock hound and I've a thing for women I cannot afford. I know diamonds.

The size 13 TMC103BL are especially nice mid-season wet fly hooks. The wire is extra-fine so a dubbed spider can go from sub-surface to dry fly with a slight drop of floatant. That's a nice trick. It works, too.

Also, the hooks while small have an extra-wide gap that really help the hook-ups when your on-river habits involve "screwing with your gear."  When I'm comfortable and in-stride in mid-season, my attention can wander: the pipe; the odd bird on the sweeper branch; that odd looking nymph in the drift, a pattern in my box I should swap out for what is down on the dangle even now ...

UV dubbing in pink because I'm going to the Driftless and, well: Pink Squirrel.

I know I know. Look: pink squirrel. That's all I'm going to say. You can look it up.

Drink the wine. Drink the wine.

I use the Spirit River for this because it says "Pink" in large print right on the package so I know what the color is when tying. You try sorting this stuff when you cannot see color. Labels are selling points.


A replacement  field watch . My Bertucci from last year had a problem with the second hand and they replaced it and gave me a new band. Great service.

A replacement Swiss Army pocket knife. This one is the "gardener" to replace my "picnicker" of a few years ago. This is a large heavy knife with sheers -- not scissors. I use a Solo bush stove for camp cooking so spend a lot of time processing sticks and such into small bits of wood. The sheers will make that more pleasant than breaking bits by hand for an hour. I tend to process a whole weekend's worth of wood on the first night.

Anvil pruners would work as well but they'd be a single purpose and I despise single purpose tools when I have to pack them in.

A Missouri Meersham pipe for on-the-water use. Mark Twain smoked one. It's a great pipe for a very little folding money. It's a lot more reasonable to carry on the water than a lovely Peterson piece of brier let alone the more expensive Savinelli or Dunhill models. Save those for staged pictures and the campsite. I too shall return.

Scotch. Yes, scotch is indeed classic fly fishing gear. Make your own list.

 A Cuban cigar in a tube. A trout buddy brought that back for me after his three week outing to the island here in March.

A fly box filled with my own spring ties (but for the drakes ... mine aren't very good and so I was given a half-dozen by a better tier than myself here last Christmas.)  This is my early spring resource box. I'll carry it in a high pocket and use it as fallback. I like to carry a very small day box. Sometimes in spring I can be caught short if the day changes.

How about your day? Are you ready for the change? It can go from soup to sun in an afternoon here this time of year.

The most important fly fishing supplies for early spring? A full tank of gas and a spouse who won't mind if you miss a few meals.

An understanding boss helps, too.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hendrickson Soft Hackle and Spring

It's spring and Lou the foxhound is unhappy. He has the heartbreak of bunnies in his meadow, in his yard, in the woods. This must be a bunny year for us.

Alternately, the four brush piles that I didn't get burned last fall might have contributed to the heavy carry over.

It's spring today.

My local fly shop had a talk on a restoration stream.  I got to see a bunch of folks I run into only once or twice a year. I fondled gear. I talked about the opener.

I complained that the rivers are in the trees and one or two of them seem to be actively plotting a drowning: mine.

*** Disclaimer *** I know Hendrickson's have three distinct tails. I assure you that the trout has no idea how many "three" might be. My wife's cat is a predatory mammal (predators have higher reasoning skills) and can barely handle the difference between "one" and "more than one." There is no way a trout is going to turn from your fly because it has two or five tails. No. Way. That. Happens.

Above: Hendrickson dun, male. Photograph by Judy Gallagher in 2013 as stored on wikicommons and available for use with the attribution we list here. Judy: nice picture. This one is listed as on the SFSU Field Campus in Bassetts, CA. Males have big red eyes and I thing those eyes are red. Color is lost on me.

Hendrickson Flymph

At left, a soft hackle flymph I've worked up based on the Hendrickson mayfly. It's buggy. It uses four to six turns of non-lead so has enough mass to work on a -- gasp -- jigging sort of action.

It's basically a rust-brown hare's ear (I use SLF in rust blended with gray) with added waxed tail from pheasant rooster, a rust hen hackle, and an orange UV seal-x dubbed collar.  Size 12.

I like to let these sorts of weighted flies "hover" downstream on the swing through troughs and across drop offs. Works for me. Probably not the only way to fish these sort of bottom column flymphs but is what I've done.

I've not made a species specific flymph before because I'm a presentationist and a representationist. I don't subscribe to "match the hatch" but it's spring and so in that spirit: a try. I usually fish "black", "brown", and "not black or brown" for flymphs.

Two Hendrickson Soft Hackles:

These are designed to imitate the mayfly itself either dun or adult. I have had evidence of fish preferring the male to female or female to male. I think. I'm never quite sure why a fish takes a natural nearly like my fly but ignores my fly on repeated drifts. Does anyone really know?

Ned the Trout still won't say.

If I fish the Michigan Opener and find any Hendricksons (snort of amusement), then I'll fish one of these two attempts.

I should add that the usual Michigan opener is a bug-free zone for me. I'm hoping for intermittent driving rain with occasional sleet this year. One, that'll really cut down on the number of other anglers hanging about and; two, Hendricksons love to hatch when the weather is absolute crap.

I've been skipping the opener weekend because I hate combat fishing. Might go this year if the forecast is ugly.

First: a full-bodied Hendrickson Soft-Hackle.

Hook: Umpqua #12 3x long down-eye.

Tail: Cock pheasant fibers, waxed, split with dubbing needle.

Tag: Ball of Pearsall's orange silk, well waxed.

Body: Pheasant Tail, twisted, wrapped.

Thorax: Possum.

Rib: Micro wire (over body and thorax).

Hackle: Brown or Rust Hen.

Collar: UV Seal-X orange dubbing or, as on this one, an exaggerated ball of Pearsall's orange thread.

The fly's shape is a relatively stout tube for a soft-hackle fly. I'd say it is three times the diameter of a customary thread-bodied fly.

It'll float as a dry in the surface layer with a drop of floatant else it'll behave like any soft hackle. It is a buoyant beast, however. There is an underlayer of waxed silk under all of it.

I tested these in the fly tier's usual method: I dropped it in my glass of water and saw how many I could tie before it sunk. I tied four more before the fly started to sink below the surface.

I've not fished it so no real voice of experience. Use at your own risk.

I was playing. I will fish them.

Maybe I'll give them away.

Thread-Body Hendrickson "North County Style"

Hook: Umpqua #12 3x long down-eye.

Tail: Cock pheasant fibers, waxed, split with dubbing needle.

Body: Peasall's orange silk.

Rib: Microwire (covers body and not thorax).

Thorax: very lightly dubbed possum left rough.

Hackle: Brown or Rust Hen.

Collar: UV Seal-X orange dubbing or, as in this one, an exaggerated ball of Pearsall's orange thread.

This fly behaves as a normal soft hackle in the glass of water. I heavily wax my flies and this one will float in the film through three more ties. Maybe more but I needed fresh water. End of test.

I do fish a Partridge and Orange and find it a reliable pattern all through the season. Will this version do for Hendricksons?  A pure thread-bodied P-and-O does so sure, why wouldn't it?

It's spring. Let's go ask a trout.