Monday, July 30, 2012

Tricos...or maybe not

No rest for the wicked…this last weekend found me on the road once again.  This time I was headed up to northern Michigan to chase around some brookies and brown trout on the North Branch of the Au Sable River with my youngest brother, John, as well as Jason Tucker of the phenomenal blog Fontinalis Rising.  This is one of my yearly trips up there in hopes of catching the Trico hatch just right, so last Thursday night I got the ride all packed up with the appropriate gear.  Knowing that sleep is a valuable commodity when I travel to the north woods I hit the sack early and, before I knew it, the alarm was going off signaling the start of a long day.   Off to work I went and when two o’clock came around it was off to the races for me.  I pointed the car north and, before I knew it, I was  pulling off of 75 and in to the beautiful wilderness of northern Michigan.  I was all smiles as I pulled in to our campsite on the shores of Shupak Lake, and in short order had a cold Yuengling in hand as I surveyed my options.  As expected the site was awfully full, due to the amazing weather and the annual canoe race being over the weekend, so I was glad John was able to get up there early and get a site; as it turns out he got the last one!  With the camp hammock quickly in place I got down to the business of relaxing.  Not long after I got set Jason made his appearance and then local guide Kevin Forrester made an appearance. 

Through the evening the fire provided ample light to get the gear rigged and ready to go.

As the minutes stretched to hours the list of stories told got longer and the supply of Yueng got shorter.  About the time we ran out of wood for the fire we decided that was a sign that we should hit the rack since 5:30a would come real early. 

I racked out in the hammock and was out in very short order.  The night was filled with dreams of fish...not unlike most other nights.

As the light was just starting to filter in through the mosquito netting the alarm made it known that it was time to get moving.  As I slowly rubbed my eyes I realized that it was real foggy and damn cold, 51 degrees to be exact, so Tricos were not likely going to be found.  Despite the extra chill in the air we got moving and headed over to a favorite spot on the river to see what was moving around. 

My brother John is in the beginning stages of a crippling fly fishing addiction.  He loves to do it but just does not have the time put in yet to really know what needs to be done.  I wanted to be sure to get him in to fish so I put on the guide hat and paired up with him to start the morning.  One quick scan of the air and back eddies confirmed the lack of Tricos, but I was pleased to see some fish rising in the usual spots.  As we stood riverside I set him up with a BWO 24 snowshoe emerger on the Mystic 2WT.  If you have not cast a rod from Mystic Outdoors then you should do yourself a favor and check them out.  I have six of their rods, four single handers and two switch, and really enjoy fishing all of them (especially the 2WT and the 7WT switch).

After a minute of coaching as to the correct casting and mending he would need to do, John and I slowly jockeyed in to position.  After just a few casts John had that cast and mend that you could tell was just cherry.  The fly was coming back right through the brookies wheelhouse and he took it without hesitation.  John was all smiles as he set the hook and played the fish back to the net. His first successful North Branch fish!  He proceeded to catch a few more as we swapped casting time for the remainder of the morning. 

After lunch Jason and I decided to head back out to the river and wade a good stretch to see if the fish were looking up.  I started out with a simple beetle pattern and we made our way carefully downstream. 

It was nice to have a second angler along with a camera so I could get some pictures of myself taken out there.  Jason and I talked a good bit about photography over the weekend and the different techniques we have been working on learning.  Based on the shots he got I would say he has been doing something very right!  The shots of me here were taken by Jason Tucker and he graciously allowed me to use them for this narrative.  Check out more of his shots and fantastic writing over at Fontinalis Rising.

We hit each likely pocket, seam, raft edge, and grass line…fishing was tough.  The pressure change and low water along with the extra high and bright sun made the fish a bit more wary than normal.  We did see some splashy rises about an hour in so I added a small X2 Caddis along with the beetle and did get some to come out and take a look.

This brookie was hanging out in a side channel with a few buddies and they were actively picking off food as it was washed around a deeply undercut raft.  It was a long cast and drift, but it paid off when the fish popped up and hammered the caddis pattern.

What these North Branch brook trout lack in size they show in coloration.  It always amazes me to see the bright spots on these fish that somehow still blend in like a ninja in the dark.

This was not an uncommon sight on the day...the re-tie.  Trying to cast a two fly rig on 7X tippet tends to lead to a few spin ups.

Towards the end of the stretch I broke out the tasty beverage I had been hauling downstream.  Though we had started the day off in a little fog from the previous night it sounded good and tasted even better.  It was a perfect way to transition from the day on the water and get ready for one more night hanging out in camp.

Sunday morning I woke early and rolled over to see a truly spectacular sunrise over the lake.  Despite the lack of the target bugs, Tricos, it was another great weekend in the northwoods.  I always look forward to getting out with my youngest brother on the water and passing on a few things, and fishing with Fontinalis Rising was a blast.  Certainly looking forward to next time.

-mike schmidt

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Voodoo video

So...Brian Wise, of Fly Fishing the Ozarks, has been at it again and this time put together a video of the Voodoo Squatch.  Brian does a great job on putting these together so I was pretty jazzed to see how it turned out.  He warned me in advance that he used the Gama B10S for the back hook in the video instead of the Daiichi 2141.  Outside of that change he ties it awfully close to how I put them together...and it is a deadly fly with a ton of movement inthe water!

I have been a little behind and am playing catch up since getting back from Wyoming.  The plans are coming together for next years trip quite nicely though so any interested parties can contact Greg Senyo at for the details when they are ready.  I am headed north for a little time fishing the black curse...yup, Tricos.  I will be back in a few days and hope to have some good shots from northern Michigan.  Hoping to catch up with Jason Tucker, of Fontinalis Rising, as well to trade some stories and laughs.  Have a great weekend!

-mike schmidt

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wyoming 2012 - Day Three

Dawn broke on the third and final fishing day of the trip and as the sun forced us out of bed the excitement for the final river grew.  We had been told that this river was a new lease for the ranch and the water was amazing.  Based on the stories from earlier in the season it sounded like the river could be fickle but when it was on the fishing was off the charts...and we were of course hoping for the latter! 

After breakfast we threw our gear in the cars and started off west towards the Bighorns.  They are truly an impressive range, the scale of which you simply can not get from a picture.  The closer we got the more awe inspiring they were as the moutain walls towered over us.

We made our way up and over the 9666 foot of elevation crest at Powder River Pass, and continued on down the western slope towards the water.

We stopped on the way back down and took a panoramic from one of the pull-offs.  This valley was immense and it seemed we were just perched along the edge.  Definitely makes one feel small.

After a few hours in the car we wound our way on to the ranch and pulled up to a winding river with long slow pools right where we parked.  This river was just a little wider than the last two days and had open casting lanes.  With water this clear they could see us coming from a long way both things would play to our advantage.  The fish here were big and certainly no slouches...they require long casts with long leaders and, of course, long drag free drifts.  If it all came together though you could expect a fish to come from every fishy looking spot to take a look, and some others to appear where you least expect them.  It was AWESOME!
In a few places the river did choke down and form a few braids, but for the most part it was a classic freestone river with pool after riffle after pool...and repeat over, and over. 

Greg and I had the pleasure of fishing the day with Clark, the owner of the outfitters.  Clark was an absolute blast on the water.  Perfect parts guide, teacher, and friend to have along for the day.  I think the following shots pretty much talk for themselves so I will stop typing now for a bit and let you check them out.  Lots of big browns and rainbows taking hoppers in a setting like this is not something I will soon forget.

So, I do have to jump in here for a second...  This was the bend that we fished just before lunch.  We did manage a few nice fish but had one big old rainbow slash at a hopper then disappear and not show itself again.  On the way back from lunch we came in from the high bank side of the bend to scan the water, and decided to give it one more shot.  We discussed what we would do, in theory, if a fish was hooked then I moved myself in to position.  From up on the outside bank, about six feet up, I pulled off line and launched a foam hopper pattern about 80 feet in to the center of the fast riffle water and watched in anticipation as it floated back towards me.  Nothing happened on the first cast so I tried another, landing the fly about a foot left of the first cast and took up the slack.  About 15 feet in to the drift the rainbow appeared and nailed the hopper, I set hook, and all hell broke loose as I though 'Oh shit...what now'!  The fish came 5 feet out of the water while violently thrashing a couple times then came straight at me.  Somehow I kept it from going into the undercut bank that I was on and it settled nicely in to the pool.  After a minute Grag eased his way down on to the clay ledge below me and slipped it in to the net
The three of us rotated rods through the day, catching fish and just laughing.  There were strong fish from a foot up to two feet that were landed and many new stories burned in to my memory over the course of the day.  I cannot imagine a better hopper river.

We did take some video over the course of the trip with both the GoPro and the G10, with water this clear it was not something we could pass up.  Over the next few weeks I will see what we got and edit down some highlights to share.
As you can see these fish had could they pull!

This was a trip that I lost sleep over, and when the time finally came it exceeded even the high expectations that I had built up for it.  On this trip we hit some of the best hopper water that I have ever seen and it produced in spades.  The fishing was far more technical than I would have expected, but a good few drifts would yield results.  These fish pulled hard and jumped like no trout I have seen before, and I can not wait to get back...which will be next July!  This is not a trip I plan on skipping anytime soon.

Greg Senyo, of Steelhead Alley Outfitters, and myself will be hosting two separate three day sessions, back on these waters, to chase hopper eating trout again in July of 2013.  If you are interested in coming along with us then contact Greg for more information on this amazing trip.  You can shoot him an email at or drop him a line on his cell at 419.466.9382.

-mike schmidt

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wyoming 2012 - Day Two

The previous night’s sleep was delayed a bit by some re-rigging, delicious cold Fat Tire, and a conveniently placed Tosh marathon on Comedy Central.  Though not as early as we likely should have called it an evening, eventually the lights went out and I laid there starring at the ceiling for a bit before crashing out.  Despite the late night we woke up ready to go as on day two armed with the knowledge that we would be hitting Greg’s favorite water of the trip…or perhaps anywhere.  With gear in hand we headed downstairs to meet up with the crew for a quick breakfast, and then off we went to hit the water.  Our targeted river for Day Two was about 90 minutes away, or the Wyoming equivalent of ‘just down the street a bit’. 

I had thought the scenery from day one would be hard to beat, but day two was unbelievable.  As we made our way southwest and then off the highway and in to the hills we found ourselves in a landscape that seemed a cross of Sedona and Moab.  With red rock cliffs and canyons, and endless arroyos, it was easy to see how the Sundance Kid and his gang could melt away in to thin air ahead of their pursuers in this county.  As we wound our way back farther and farther in this unforgiving environment I could not help but think that if we were not following friends then this remote maze would certainly be cause for concern.  Luckily we had guides Cole, Zach, and Teddy along to keep us out of trouble.

Eventually we wound our way down along the river and parked back up under a grove of trees.  Everyone geared up quickly and we split off to see about some fish.

Right off I could see that today was going to be a blast.  This was small water with plenty of overhanging cover.  The casting was going to be challenging and mending across different water speeds tough, but this water looked super fishy.

It did not take long for Greg to get on the board with a nice brown that made quick work of a variation on a Madame X.  Cole is the head guide for the outfitter and was along with us for the day.  He was a pleasure to work with on the river and exuded a confidence that what we were doing would work.  

Again I was amazed at how technical the fishing was.  Despite only seeing a couple rods a week through this water they were extremely spooky and demanded a drag free drift to even show themselves.  Often they would come out from the slower lies and nose up to investigate the fly for a few feet before deciding it was an acceptable meal, or sensing something was wrong and disappearing.  The program stayed the same for us all day long...long casts, drag free drift, hitting every seam and undercut, multiple times, and setting once the fish turns away but not before.

Rather than go through every picture I will let them speak for themselves.  The scenery, water, and fish were truly spectacular.


After another long day on the water we were exhausted heading out, but all smiles and sore arms.  This would not be a day we would soon forget. 

Once the gear was broken down and the flip flops were put on we got in the cars and headed back out through the canyons.  The drive out was no less awe inspiring than the drive in.

Rather than head to town for dinner the outfitter owner, Clark, put together a Prime Rib feast for us out at the ranch.  The dinner was fantastic and then we stuck around to have a few beverages and trade stories with the guides and other guests.  This building is the oldest in the county, I believe the fourth oldest in the state, and now serves as the fly shop on the ranch. 

Inside is a great little bar for everyone to gather at and embellish stories.  The bar is filled with all sorts in old and new items, gag mounts, dart board, and of course pictures galore.  As you can see the fridge is as stickered up as my car.  Going to have to send an Anglers Choice Flies sticker out there for it...

This was the scene for a few hours that evening.  It really was fun to talk about the day on the water and to hear some of the stories of past wins and losses vs both fish and life.  This was definitely my kind of gathering; everyone had a smile on their face and a beer in their hand. 

As the evening wound down we started to turn our thoughts towards the last day on the water that was just a few hours out.  We were told that we would be hitting some newer water that the guides said had been absolutely on fire and was a few hours away over the pass through the Bighorns.  On the way back we did our best not to run over any of the hundreds off mulies and pronghorns that lined the road back to town.  We did our best to doze off quickly since we would need our rest for one final long day on Wyoming trout water...

-mike schmidt