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

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