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

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