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> > My Return to Northern Michigan

Report at a Glance

General RegionNorthern Michigan
Specific LocationGrayling Area

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WillyJune 25th, 2015, 1:38 pm
Chicago, IL

Posts: 47
When my wife and I decided to move to Oregon from Chicago, my biggest objection was that I'd be so far from Grayling, MI. Last year I made six trips up North to fish and bird hunt. This year it will probably only be one (and I now have to travel South to get to Gates Lodge, which feels really weird), so I was extremely excited about the annual trip with my Dad to celebrate Father's Day on the Au Sable. Here's a quick day by day report.

6/13 - Arrived at Traverse City and met my Dad at the airport. Went carp fishing on the peninsula. Saw about 15 fish, and had some good shots. Got one to eat and couldn't set the hook. Sighting conditions weren't very good, so I was pretty happy with the outcome.

Here's Dad on the flats.



Fished the Manistee with my Dad and a buddy from my Chicago TU chapter. Nothing happened. We went back to the Holy Water where my friend was staying and nothing was going on there either.

6/14 - We fished the Holy Water. Not much happened. Saw some Brown Drakes, but it was pretty disappointing.



6/15 - We floated with Matt Verlac. We made the call to streamer fish in June (blasphemy to some) because the water was so high and off color. Within 10 minutes of putting in, my Dad hooked a huge fish on a streamer. We saw a flash of gold and were ready to celebrate the biggest Au Sable trout than any of us had ever seen in person, but alas it was a walleye... a huge walleye. Matt never thought he'd catch so much flack for releasing a fish on the Au Sable, but that's exactly what happened. Everybody who heard about the catch said we should have kept it and fried it.





I didn't move a fish most of the day (that's what happens when you put Dad in the front of the drift boat), but we had some action.



Luckily the evening was kinder to me and I hit an 18" and a 19" on the streamer. Dad moved a few that were much bigger, but only connected with one mid-teener trout in addition to the walleye.









We hoped for some dry fly fishing that night, but it just didn't happen.



6/16 - We saw our first Hex, but they were up at Walloon Lake on my Dad's cousin's cabin.



We hit the Holy Water again and had a good flight of Brown Drakes, but they never really came down. Caught a few smaller fish between the two of us.

6/17 - Another streamer float with Verlac. My Dad got a good one early in the day, and we both moved a few good fish throughout the day.



I finally connected as evening approached and landed a 21 incher.





Actually, I connected earlier with a hammer handle of a Pike that absolutely destroyed my streamer. It was one of the best eats I've ever seen.



The dry fly action was a tiny bit better. We got on one good fish, but must have put him down because he stopped eating pretty quickly. We heard a few more risers, but couldn't get on them because they were all one and dones.

We did run into a bunch of Hex duns on the pond as we paddled out, but there were no fish feeding on them.

6/18 - We finally hit the South Branch. There was a very light Hex spinner fall, and I had one good fish up. He bumped my fly but I didn't get him. That was pretty much it.

6/19 - We finally got in the river boat for a true dry fly float. We blind fished stoneflies and isos. I had one huge boil under my stonefly, but it was just as I was about to pick up the fly and it seemed like a refusal.





We got on some iso spinners in the early evening and I got one fish that I thought was really good. Made four really great casts and got him. A 10 inch rainbow rocketed out of the water as soon as I set the hook. I was expecting a fish twice the size. It got cold and the spinners fell too early for the big fish it seemed. We had another nice fish rise right in front of the boat just as we were going over it. That was about all of the action.



We ran into a light Hex hatch later that night, but on fish were eating them and they shut off pretty soon after they started. It was 42 when we got to the boat ramp, so we pretty much froze our butts of as we paddled out.

This guy was on the boat slide when we got there.



6/20 - I messes around in front of the lodge during the day with a streamer.



We went back to the South Branch for the evening. We had a very good Hex spinner fall (just the right amount of bugs), but no big fish up. Caught a few smaller ones. Dad had a few one and dones. This guy set up a trap for me when I went back to the car.



6/21 - Dad left. I went carp fishing. I saw 100-200 fish, and made at least 50 great presentations with a variety of flies. I had one maybe follow, and that's it. I hate carp.

Back to the South Branch again. Had a pretty good Hex spinner fall, but no fish up at my spot. Went downstream and found two risers around a dark corner. Hooked one, lost it. Hooked the other, lost it. They came back and caught both of them. 15" and 16". Not bad.



6/22 - Storms were supposed to get us, but we dodged them. Good thing because any more water would have really messed things up. Tried a brand new spot on the South Branch. Almost no Hex spinner fall, but we got a short emergence. I nailed a 22 incher, and my buddy had a shot at a fish that must have been as big, but got refused a few times. I got refused as well. It shut off pretty quick.



6/23 - Last night for me. I ran around chasing bugs and couldn't find them on the South and Main. It got cold and killed pretty much any spinner fall that was going to happen. Some people had good fishing that night, but I didn't.



----------

I also did a little R&D on a new way to fish the Hex hatch. I won't say much more, but I hooked a fish every time I tried it. Unfortunately, I also lost a fish every time that I tried it. One was lost to bent hook--and it was a large streamer hook!

Dad and I had a blast. As of now we won't be back to Gates Lodge until next June, but I'll be fighting to change that. I'm hoping for October.

Here's my "morning after" bent hook picture.



Josh has done an amazing thing with Gates Lodge. He took something that seemed perfect and keeps making it better. I even caught the fabled sign as it was being changed... and then they changed it again as one of the shop guys came up with an even better idea.





They really tie some good bugs at Gates.





Here's the view as I was about to land back "home" at PDX.



-----------

And one more story for Spence, because I know he'll get a kick out of it. One of the shop kids celebrated his 20th birthday by going fishing. He caught a whopper and absolutely had to make sure he had the right measurement on it, so he held one end of the fish at his fingertips and marked his bicep by cutting himself. Yes! Cutting himself.



I started collecting pledges from the shop regulars to buy this kid a measure net for his birthday. Then he told me that he already had one... and that he used it on this fish. He just wanted to make sure it was accurate. Kids these days.
Check out my fishing pictures on Instagram.
OldredbarnJune 25th, 2015, 7:40 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
Great Stories Willy! Nice trip.

Pop looks like he was digging Father's Day..."Bare-Footin'" and all!

Didn't know we were adding Walleye and Pike to the trifecta up there! I can't wait to hassle Matt. :)

I'm mousing in July up near Petosty with Phil Croff of Croff's Crafts. Have you seen his boats?

Stuck at home...workermen re-building my deck and drive...Last time I bought a rod it was the kitchen...:)

Good to see you had some action...That's a long trip to get skunked! :)

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123June 25th, 2015, 9:16 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2398
WOW, great trip, great photos and some really big beautiful fishies! Well done! Nice fishing with your Dad too.

Jonathon

P.S. I suppose if big fish are involved, cutting one's self on purpose does not constitute mental illness...??
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
OldredbarnJune 27th, 2015, 9:18 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
And one more story for Spence, because I know he'll get a kick out of it. One of the shop kids celebrated his 20th birthday by going fishing. He caught a whopper and absolutely had to make sure he had the right measurement on it, so he held one end of the fish at his fingertips and marked his bicep by cutting himself. Yes! Cutting himself.


Willy...I was going to stay away from this, but...:)

When someone is over the top into a hobby, or religion, or political lean, obsession is part of the deal. Being "rational" becomes relative to this obsession. When the "shop-rat" was explaining this episode he probably thought it completely sane under the circumstances of his obsession. Anyone, sane or otherwise, who questions it, just don't understand, just doesn't "get it".

We have all been there. I can write a book simply about all the females I obsessed over throughout junior high and high school, but lets just keep this about fishing. :)

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." The Boxer-Paul Simon

If we put it out there to all the Troutnuts who frequent this blog we will get a million different stories.

1995. Madison River...Downstream of Three Dollar Bridge. I literally spent hours working a particular trout and went through just about every fly I had in my possession. I had to be somewhere and somehow, I still don't know how, I was able to pull myself away from the river...

It was getting dark and once I made the trail I bent over and picked up a small rock and the only thing I had on me was a ball point pen. I inscribed an arrow on this small rock pointing to where I needed to leave the trail to get back to this trout in a few days.

I needed to sleep since I was supposed to get up early and drive from Ennis to Paradise Valley to fish Armstrong's. I was there the next morning between 6;00 & 6:30am.

When I got back to my room in Ennis the night after I left the fish I drew it all out on paper over a couple cold beers and finally figured out what I had done wrong...I still have this diagram. I keep it as a reminder of the fragility of my mind. :)

Being a guy that spent way too much time as a kid with his head in books by philosophers, and holding doubt as an important first step in any inquiry, even I screw up from time-to-time and lose my grip. Obsession, compulsive behavior, is ingrained deep somewhere inside of us humans, no differently than that lowly trout we pursue. Residue from some ancient ancestor who either learned from his mistakes or perished never to become our ancient ancestor.

Early 90's. North Branch. Au Sable River. Trespassing somewhere on the Nash Camp property...That's all I'll tell you Willy. :) I actually have a picture of the sign telling me to keep my ass off their property taken from the river. :) Back in those days they had a caretaker patrolling the place on the weekends. This was a week night. :)

The river is fairly skinny up that way. Not an easy place to fish really. Closed in a bit. I watched as a large stonefly flew over my head from my side of the river to the other and landed there to deposit its cargo of eggs. It disappeared in a rather sweet swirl.

Try as I did, I was having a hard time getting the cast I wanted over this fish from where I was standing. The river between us was too deep to wade to get closer. There was deep forest and swamp behind me...This was how I got there. I decided to climb up on one of those "trout-hotels", as Rusty use to say, and rifle one over there.

As it was getting darker, I had long stopped worrying about finding my way back to the car in dark woods I'd never been in before, I climbed on top of the wood structure and was waving my rod around and watching the loop and marveling over my skill. As I was just about to let it go my foot slipped and went through the middle of all this crap. I instantly slid right down to
my "stuff"!

I was rather happy, for a second, that I hadn't hurt myself. I was probably the only guy on the river for miles and the chances of someone happening by were slim. It was now dark, dark.

I just had a small flash as I was writing this, that all of you are sworn to secrecy concerning night fishing husbands, alone, ignoring risk, to tempt a trout to his fly. Knowing fair well that wife has forbid it.

Back to the embarrassing position Spence found himself in...I could not free myself. Strong hockey legs not withstanding I couldn't stand back up. My right leg was jammed up in an uncomfortable bend and the left one was down wedged in among all that wood. Yes. I found it a tad humorous. I did look around hoping no one was watching from the swamp.

I reeled my line up and put the fly in the hook keep. I tossed the rod towards the bank into some soft looking grass and tried to get myself out. It wasn't easy. It wasn't, in any way, graceful...Hell! It may have been more dangerous than I knew...But I pulled it off!

Ok Willy. You were right. I love your story...Probably know the kid in question. But I'll stop here...You probably know I have a million of these, but what can I say? I guess I'm obsessed! :)

Spence

PS: Oh the rock I inscribed on the Madison in 95 I never found again. I did look. I looked all over too from the river and all those boulders in the Madison all looked the same...That trout kicked my ass! But I'm smiling ear-to-ear as I write this...


"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
WillyJuly 1st, 2015, 11:39 am
Chicago, IL

Posts: 47
We have all been there.


Yes we have! I have fond memories of climbing through some of the gorges in Ithaca looking for wild trout. At one point I was hanging from a sapling about 20 feet up on a cliff trying to get over the next waterfall.

My biggest "lesson learned" moment was with that same guide Matt. We were just up from Guide's Rest on the Holy Waters and a small storm came right down the river valley. It hit us dead on, so we tucked the river boat up under some trees along the bank. It rained, then it rained harder, then it rained even harder. Then it hailed. As we thought it couldn't get more miserable.... BANG! A bolt of lightning hit the water about three feet to my right. We thought we were being the sane ones by pulling to the side (Jimmy said the storm made the fish eat that day). Now we know to get out of the boat and hide in the woods... or better yet find a cabin to hide out in.

I barely want to fish if lightning is in the forecast now.
Check out my fishing pictures on Instagram.
OldredbarnJuly 1st, 2015, 9:59 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
:)

Many years ago Jim and I were heading out to float the South. It was cold...Really cold. Jim looked at me and asked, are you sure? "There's no turning around Spence once we leave."

We got down a ways and it started to hail on us. We tucked up under some ceders and waited it out...No flies all day, save the tiny Baetis that they used to be called B cingulatus...a #24 or smaller...

Ice in the well never melted...:)

I fished last year on the Yellowstone at Buffalo Ford...Nearly drown trying to cross the river to get a better cast over some large feeding fish, and turned to see my friends standing on the shore yelling at me to leave the river...

I gave them the "one more cast" and looked up to see some strange looking low riding clouds and hail...I was about to cast one more time when lightening hit on the bank across from me...I headed for shore. :)

Then there was Penn's Creek in PA with Eric...

It goes on and on...We are flat out crazy when it comes to fish, and think we are beyond the craziness, but we are in it up to our chins! :)

I have known Matt a very long time...He claims back to the days when he was hanging around the Lodge on his 20" bike...I can't really remember that far back. :) Now remember...for some strange reason I could probably give you a play-by-play of every good fish I've caught back to the 60's...A young whipper-snapper on a small bike...He's probably lucky I didn't accidentally back over him racing to the river. :)

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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