Monday, June 30, 2014

Chasing some of downstates finest

What a weekend.  This year has been jam packed at the vise to the exclusion of quite a few days on the water for me, so the last few days was a real treat.  About a week ago a good friend, Capt Brian Meszaros of Great Lake Flyfishing, had some cancellations pop up during prime time.  I took a quick look at my calendar and then pulled the trigger to book him up for Saturday.  Since I was already going to be up there I touched base with Mike Schultz over at Schultz Outfitters about getting out on Sunday.  Mike was going to be in the UP but said that James Hughes was available and a river ninja so I shot him a text message to confirm availability and then locked him up.  The weekend had serious potential...enough that I lost some sleep over it before heading up.

After work on Friday I headed north towards Detroit; destination Mom's place.  She is a block off of Lake St Clair so after having a delicious home cooked meal we decided to take a walk down towards the water.  As the sun started to go down I was looking up at the trees and watching a massive Hex cloud bounce lower and lower.  It was torture to see that and not be on a river.  By the time we were walking back down Lakeshore to her place it was dark and they were everywhere.  I grew up seeing this every summer but it seemed like so many more bugs were around than I have seen in a long time.  Every lightpole was covered and there were massive swarms of bugs...enough that the flapping of the wings all but drowned out the sound of passing cars.  The street was covered with hex and under the lights they were inches thick!  Generally it's a rainstorm that comes through and changes my plans, but a hatch like that is just as effective.  The smallies would certainly be gorging on hex and not so quick to follow a fly thrown in their direction in the morning.  Good thing the plan was to chase the musky that were gorging on the smallies that were gorging on the to love the food chain.  With my head thinking about trout eating hex and the excitement of the coming day on the lake sleep was hard to come by and daylight cam quick.

My alarm went off at 4:45a but it may as well not have as I was already up and searching for the 'BREW' button on the coffe maker.  After a quick breakfast I was headed to the ramp to meet up with Capt B and good friend Will Turek, from Midwest Spey, as he was available and excited to split the boat with me.  The boat was just being dropped as I pulled in so I grabbed my bag and jumped in so we could head out.  It was a gorgeous morning with the lake being glassy calm and the sun rising.
Capt B said the plan was to hit a close shoal on the way out to see how the hex hatch affected the appetites, so in a matter of minutes we had the rods out and were searching for fish.  It did not take long and I was on the board with a largemouth that promptly spit up a fistfull of hex as I went to remove the popper.

The plan had been to chase musky as the main course for the day and fill in with smallies but the weather had other ideas for us.  High sun and cloudless skies can be overcome and east wind can be overcome, but the combination of the two makes for a super tough bite.  We hit a few spots rigged up with Scott Musky Special fly rod that Brian worked with Scott to design and gave it a go.  That rod made throwing a 350gr sinking line with a 15 inch fly feel no worse than throwing my standard 6wt set up, it was amazing.  After putting in a few hours hitting super fishy spots without so much as a follow we decided to pull the plug on that game and change to smallies. 
Schoolies were around and we took it out on them.  It was pretty cool to drift up on a shoal and have them chasing down the fly in gin clear was a very visual game.  There were more than a few times that I had multiple fish in the 4-5lb range follow a retrieve back but I just could not get them to commit with their bellies full of bugs.  We switched back and forth between Clousers and poppers depending on if we had surface boils or not and enjoyed our time on the water.

As you can see it was gorgeous out.  At one point we headed down river to check out a few spots and I snapped this shot looking through the Belle Isle bridge at downtown Detroit.  It was so clear that you can see the Ambassador Bridge in the background! Detroit doesn't look so bad from the water.
All in all I was disappointed that we could not get the musky game working but had a blast on the water blowing up smallies with Brian and Will.  Fishing those shoals and flats in clear water is quite an experience.  Retrieving your fly and watching a smallies come from 20 feet away in bathtub clear blue water is crazy fun!
After getting off the water my body was toast.  I got back to my Mom's place and sat down to watch the soccer game.  I was there in time to watch the last five minutes or so of the first half...then woke up in the 93rd minute, doh!  There is a new establishment at the south end of Grosse Pointe that just opened up last weekend so decided to go check it out.  Atwater Brew has been downtown for a while and looking to expand.  They bought an old church in GP, dumped a pile of cash in to renovating it, and reopened it as a traditional German Biergarten style brewery.  Inside the circle bar is set under a floor to ceiling stained glass window and there are four long bench style rows.  Outside there is also a small bar and another four long tables.  It is a unique experience in the area and they have some phenomenal beers both from the main downtown brewery as well as a few brewed right on site.

Day two on the water found me about 40 miles inland with James Hughes and the Schultz Outfitters crew.  Hughes is a young guy that has put some serious time in chasing fish and has his game dialed whether you are looking to chase carp or smallies.  Corey came over from the shop to car spot and help drop the boat in at a pretty gnarly looking 'ramp' then we headed off.

If you have never targetted carp then you don't know what you are missing.  They are an exceedingly intelligent and spooky fish that require every bit of the stealth and ability you would amploy against the most wary spring creek trout.  In the first hour I had shots at fish that spooked, fish that outright ignored a few different flies, and fish that would swim up to investigate and bump the fly with it's nose before turning away (sometimes multiple times).  Frustrating to be sure but so rad to watch them in such clear water.  Trying to fool these fish is one hell of a fun game. 
This micro was my first successful fish of the day and I have no idea how the fish did not come unbuttoned.  I made the cast and got the fish to eat but it then promptly headed straight at me far enough to give itself some slack to turn hard and take me in to an old submerged rootball.  Hughes jumped in and headed over to the wood where, for a good five minutes, he was trying to get the fish to come out.  The whole time I kept pressure on and occasionally felt a head shake or burst of energy, but kept it from getting any deeper.  Afer about five minutes it swam back out and nearly lasso'd Hughes legs as it U-turned back in to the wood then a minute later I got it out and he got the net on it.  I have no idea how the line did not get wrapped up and break under that gnarled rootball or how the hook did not pull from the pressure...but I am glad it didn't as I got on the board.

We ended up getting four fish landed, three from the boat and one sniped while stalking on foot.  There were a handful of break offs as a hooked fish went bananas and ran like a freight train to some wood, and I lost count before lunch of the number of carp that we fished to and watched them investigate and refuse offerings.  It was unreal.

I had the camera along with a few lenses so we took our time with landed fish and got a few shots throughout the day.

It's hard to believe that a freight train of a fish like this can be so easy to spot sometimes, but then completely ghost away while you are looking right at them.  Their camo is very impressive and can have you tearing your hair out at times.

Released to see another fisherman...and likely be even a little harder to catch next time.  I can not wait to get back out on the water with Hughes, so much so that we already talked about getting some dates set up for next year to chase carp and smallies in the spring and summer.

The weekend on the water was an awesome distraction from the day job and the tying. Going to be spending the next eight days knocking out a few remaining orders and packing as the annual Wyoming trip is coming fast.

-mike schmidt

Monday, June 9, 2014

Demo Days weekend

Just got back from Demo Days weekend at Schultz Outfitters and all I can say is wow.  The whole SO crew put in a ton of effort leading up to this weekend and once again pulled off an excellent event.  Mike and Allison had the exhibitors and presenters out to their beautiful home for a barbeque and Eirik Vitso was able to herd us all together and get this great shot.

Saturday was the day of the event that I had a presentation so I got there early in the morning to see things get set up and to hang out with a very fishy group of people.  In case you have not been there yet, Schultz Outfitters is located on the banks of the Huron River in Ypsilanti Michigan and there is a park conveniently located on the other side of a foot bridge on the side of the shot.  The reps and vendors started showing up at about 8 and got the tents set up for the day.

Orvis super rep Doug Bear had all the newest Orvis goodies along for the trip and enticed people to check them out by throwing out the vibe.

Midmorning I took an opportunity to get out and chase a few fish around with good friend Pat Turberville.  It was very sunny and a pleasure to be out on the water for a bit.

Just a few casts in my rod doubled over with what I thought was a hefty smallmouth.  Just a few seconds in to the fight though I could tell it had to be something else as it was just bulldogging deep.  After a bit I got it up close and saw that it was a surprise walleye!  This time of year they have generally come and gone already, but this healthy fish was very well fed and super clean.

Matt Phillip and Scott Hullinger, from Fly2Frame, were set up on the side of the building.  Part way through the day they could no longer stand the blank wall and got down with some urban beautification.  The result was a rad mural of a smallie chasing a Swinging D.

Chris Willen was one guy that I was hoping to be able to catch a little more of as he ties some sick bug fish bugs.  His tying presentation was right before mine so I got there a little early and watched him knock out a Double Nickel.

Another very popular draw was to have April Vokey there doing a few womens and casting workshops as well as an on stream demo.  It was good to be able to catch up with her as once her existing scheduled workshops are done she is out of the game for a bit to concentrate on achieving her casting masters certification.  I was only able to catch part of her demo after my presentation but in just a short time I was able to learn quite a bit.  Her fiancĂ© was along on this trip so we got to hang out a little bit...he is, as expected, one very cool guy. 

Mike was only able to make it out of the shop for a few short stretches during the day.  He'd make the quick walk over the bridge and around the park, then would head back as it was pretty busy.

The other half of the Schultz Dynamic Duo, Allison, came through sporting the new look for the season.  Nothing says comfort like wet wading in boots and jean shorts! 

Sunday I did not have any presentations so I made the call to take off and head further north for a night.  On the way across 72 I made the obligatory stop off at Gates to pick up a few things, and then continued on to the meet up with my brother on the South Branch of the AuSable.

New on the right, mine in the middle and John's on the left.  Based on this shot I think it is safe to say that John has spent more time on the water than me lately.  Something that needs to be rectified.

We headed to the river and jumped in just to stretch the legs for a bit before heading off to stake out and wait for the Drakes.

We patiently waited and watched.  There were a few different mayfly species and caddis flitting about, and then at 8:45 the drakes started coming down out of the trees in swarms. 

This pretty brookie was my first fish on a dry this season...and it felt oh so good.  I went on to land another dozen over the next hour ranging from six inches to about double that without moving more than ten feet.  I was hoping to get in to a nice brown but couldn't bring myself to leave rising fish and try another.  By about 10 the show was pretty much over for us so we headed back to the camp and got the bonfire going.  Great way to spend a night...and a weekend.
-mike schmidt

Monday, June 2, 2014

Regal stress testing

If you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life.  Good thing I love tying flies because I have been 'not working' a whole lot this year!  The support ACF has received this year has been amazing and continues to grow.  This year I have put more hooks through the vise to date than any other year...kind of feels like I am stree testing the Regal Revolution at times.  It has been awesome to see the flies finding fish mouths all over our country and others as well.

The writing was on the wall for me that this last weekend was going to be spent at the desk, so I took a few hours after work on Friday to sneak away to the a local fishery and mentally reset.  I was going to meet a friend and fish a stretch that I have not fished since winter, but a last minute issue came up for him so I was on my own.  After a short deliberation I decided to hit the stretch anyway though that would now mean a bit of a hike.  I headed off up the road for a few miles before cutting across a fallow field where it pinches down to it's shortest distance  from the water.  Up and over the berm I went and then once in the water I kept heading upstream another 500 yards or so in some pleasantly cold thigh deep spring water to get to the place I wanted to start.  I quickly brought a few in hand, that were hardly bigger than the fly that I was using, before getting to a long and relatively featureless stretch.  This particular stretch only has a handful of depressions with cover big enough to hold fish over a few hundred yards of water, so you can really sneak up on the spots to target them...but you better have your casting game.  Success here requires you to be able to lay down a long and accurate cast above the target that have little splash down.  I have met a few good fish before that call the stretch home and this time one of them was interested in my offering.  As I retrieved I could see a two foot dark shadow following behind...the kind of follow that you know will come all the way back to you and spook if you let it, so I changed up the retrieve and it slowly slinked back to cover.   I changed up the fly color a little and after a few minutes put the fly back in there with the same result but a little more aggressive of a follow.   Playing the game I again changed flies, this time to something a little more weighted to give me more of a vertical jig than the side slide.  I let a minute pass and put that fly right in the bread basket.  I saw a flash behind it as the fish turned to follow.  Strip-strip-pause...strip-pause...strip-strip-pause...striiiippppp-paaauuuuussseeee...strip-strip... 
That crafty fish followed and charged to within inches of the fly, gills flairing and pec fins quivering, repeatedly and for nearly the entire thirty feet back to me before seeing me hunched over like a heron and bolting off.  I knew what that meant but put a few more casts out anyways to confirm it was gone. Touche you old bastard. You win this time, but I know your address.

The weekend was consumed with tying starting the minute I got off the water Friday.  I took breaks for food of course and each day for half marathon training, which is made more challenging when it is in the upper 80s, but most of the time was at the desk.  The flies just kept rolling off the vise and I almost finished up the whole order, leaving only a couple dozen to finish up tonight before boxing them up.  Keep an eye out for the picture later on this evening.

The next month things will continue to be busy, both with flies as well as some travel and water time.  Next weekend is the blowout extravaganza at Schultz Outfitters, in Ypsilanti Michigan, called Demo Days.  It is a two day celebration of fly fishing at the shop and the park across the street, that happens to have the Huron River flowing right through it.  Mike has a very talented group of people coming in for the weekend to give seminars, both on river and off river, as well as industry reps with the latest and greatest gear.  Afterwards I am going to head north and chasse some trout with my brother for a day, and then maybe smallies and carp the next day.   Just a month out now is the yearly trip out to Wyoming and I'd be lying if I said that trip hasn't been dominating my daydreaming for some time now already.  This year Greg and I are heading out a few days early to hit some new and remote waters before meeting our clients for three days of hopper goodness.  It's going to be awesome.

-mike schmidt