First and foremost… We hope you all are fairing well in this crazy time. Things are getting a bit weird out there, but as mentioned by our leaders, the outdoors are still open to those practicing the social distancing techniques; however as guides we cannot take you fishing till otherwise notified! We as fly fisherman are constantly pursuing the social distancing in our practices of fishing alone as best we can, so this should come easy for us as individual attempts at angling continue. Adapt and overcome, is what you should all be thinking with a river so lonely as it has been since this COVID crisis. Flies Only Section may be tricky to engage without seeing some amount of people; but in a boat, throughout the middle and lower sections of the PM… One can truly have it all too themselves right now. Encouraging all of you to stay safe first, and consider only going fishing if you don’t fear bringing any bugs home with you right now. We are sympathetic to all those we have had to turn away, or for those whom just couldn’t make it with the restrictions in place, or even lodges shutting down for all the right reasons. Surely there will be a tremendous rebound in the outdoors and recess following this very disruptive period in history, and I for one am really looking forward to that day, and will not take for granted all these remedies for cabin fever I’ve only since missed!!! Be safe, and try and be active during this lockdown… This, much like the spring steelhead mouth hockey season, will pass… Thankfully!
It’s been a great streamer start up, or should I say it just never really shut down with that nice mild winter we are finishing up, real easy like too, save the Covid of course! Water temps faired well, and most of the accesses stayed open all year this winter. Rivers slushed up a few times, but never iced up, and the fish are still living down the 20 month high water feeding binder that has them all needing Jenny Craig subscriptions; which is a great thing for this watershed to boast such a comeback tour to any and all buttery browns looking to keep the calories in the black. Streamer season this passing fall and winter will go down as a good one, but not great. Strip bite for chrome was good, but not as good as I would have liked, only because we spent so much time fishing the higher, but clearing waters with swing gear and simply trashed them good on that tech. Only ran a few bob trips this passed year for steelhead, which is fricken cool; so thanks for that folks, as I, like you, like knowing they didn’t just take a fly, but instead, ended it!!! Between the swing and the strip, the rods stayed busy and the browns always kept us in the game in between those chrome collisions. Streamer fishing on single hand rods only improves for the next couple months before we start looking for more surface options to tickle those fair weather itches. As far as the swing game goes from here on out… I’m DONE! The swing bite is more apparent in the fall and winter when the fish are stationed and still feeding. When the spawn starts up, the feeding backs down and the fish begin to mingle and loose the desire to forage versus socialize and get laid! Following the spawn, the drop backs are very aggressive, and will in fact take a swung fly when you find one actually holding in water you would target with said gear… Problem is, they aren’t there with the same frequency this time of year, and even when they are, they are motivated to get some nookie instead of a cookie. When the smoke clears, the best biting steelhead of the spring isn’t the new hen looking to spawn and leave the river inside of a week or two, so much as the older drop backs on the verge of death looking to regain some calories any which way they can as the river flushes their weary versions back out to the lake. When all this occurs, covering water with a strip fly trumps the swung present to a single area of holding… Essentially, the drop back could be anywhere, so targeting as many casts in NEW water begs a better resolve! Love two handed casting myself, and look forward to it every fall when they lock up in those pools and are running out of food, but this time of year, my two hand rods are already put away till October!
Nymphing has been tremendous as it always is early on in the season with the browns. Arguably the finest nymphing of the season occurs before the second week of May when the hatches come on strong. Better tippets, bigger nymphs, the random egg early on, and a strong stone fly bite that is the only time of the year the bugs trump the caviar with frequency! Love me the 9.5’ variations of 4-6wt rods for roll casting and quality mending practiced. And NO, I don’t EURO… As I think it’s basically “Diet Chuck & Duck”, and you all know how much I love that garbage copout the local guides use a crutch in their lack of instructional skills! Running proper rigs, with the Thill Ice & Fly, (or comparable float), for proper hemisphere awareness, along with the mending and casting skills needed in good fly fishing practice, will yield some really quality dividends this time of year, and to some, surprising large trout on the lighter gear does happen around now… WHICH IS JUST COOL! Fishing pressure for trout during this period, with nymphing gear is almost nonexistent, save some of the eastern rivers like the Ausable where they are up to speed. PM nymphs as sweet as honey, and save some EURO short-cutters, there isn’t really anybody tapping that shit. This approach would be a great way to social distance in your ability to fish alone, and keep your distance while angling, and remain quite productive. For the next month or so, without being able to properly gather our streamer buddies and boats, nymphing will take center stage for all of you looking to tap this early game. But there is another option as the water drops here soon for the wading streamer angler… THE FRY HATCH!!!
Salmon Fry Hatch is already here… They have been in the eddies for over a month or so now, and as the water warms, the browns are gonna start getting mean and turn to the minnow sized salmon as the mainstay forage. Often mistaken for a dry fly take, the browns will coral, then engage the bait ball at will, exploding right on the surface as the prey is chased right to the brink. It’s not random, and more even, expected this time of year as the PM Brown Trout is a predator by all intents, but will forage when the water is cool, or the abundance of the rolling protein, such as eggs or stones, is so prolific that it cannot be ignored. Fry, early on, are as dumb as the rocks they are holding over, and don’t know how to dodge or evade the predators, so they are sniped almost on the minute within their groups. As they age/wise up, and the water clears, the fry will be considered more so after dark around the same time the hatches start up; but the ease of the kill is more now than May, and the trout know that so they key up hard early on. Noticing a fry take, and angler, using the right patterns and placement, can almost call out the take while wading the down the river and casting to these secluded spins… Almost like fishing too white bait explosions in New Zealand in many ways… Except every trout here in MI isn’t 24”…hahahaha. Even fishing upstream like hoppers is an option when the water is low enough. And for the first time in a long time, the PM looks like it actually might drop enough to fish on foot a might better than the last year and a half or so! Remember folks, the passing 20 months on the PM have been the highest they’ve ever been in recorded history, and though we are dropping, it’s doing so at a snails pace because the lake is so very high and limiting the waters exodus from the river corridor.
Big streamer trips, which are my mainstay this time of year, have been since put on hold with the current regulations on guiding at this point. Come the later part of April, we will, with any luck, be back online and be able to still gather a good piece of the streamer season, which lasts till mid May typically. Any and all of you that I had dates with the next month or so, have been contacted and we have made other arrangements, but do keep in mind, that we could use any help you can between now and then to make those ends meet. Be it a Gift Certificate, or just paying a cancelation fee, it’s all going to help… This only if you can! We thank you for being so thoughtful around this time, but we don’t get to work from home, save tying some flies, and that’s tough with the new house we just moved into. Again, we apologize for not being able to get you out this next month, but as I’m sure you’ve realized, it’s getting weird, and safety comes first! We will resume trips once the Forestry/State have given us the OK to do so… Till then, I’m going tie flies and take the boys fishing and try and get some stuff done at the new place… Even going to start doing some writing one of these days, as the man cave is established officially. Be sure and try and stay ahead of this bug, as I’ve heard it’s not nice in any way. Even if the affect is low on your person, you could give it too someone that could simply die from it. People are dropping like flies, and our only, and best recourse is to simply stay put and keep this from spreading too quickly. So be safe and keep that family close, and stay home if at all possible! There isn’t a fishing trip anywhere I know of that’s worth someone you love getting sick, or yourself for that matter!
Again, not terribly bummed out about loosing this next month of work… I’ve got plenty to do, but on the bright side, the steelhead numbers are going to enhance with this interval of recess on a spring season, and we will see that improvement, following this epic spawn about to take place, in about 4 or 5 years! It’ll be a great year to make sure you have your fall and early winter dates booked Waaaaaaaaay ahead! So many fish will spawn with ease and without being stressed out this year, which is more typical and what was going on a clean month before most of it got shut down. Places like wadels are not places to find any biting steelhead, contrary to whatever line of shit your guide or buddy is trying to guarantee his rebooking or trust with you! It’s a place, like many others “bump” fishermen like to run down to early in the morning, snag/line as many fish as they can, and as soon as the traffic starts coming down, drop out for a few random gravels and a lunch, and before you know it, the boats back on the trailer! If he’s trying to show you how to line fish of the beds with a floating line and indicator, well at least he’s teaching you a little about casting and mending while you do the nasty, but if he just slaps a chuck & dork rod in your hands and points at the fish on the bed… Congratulations, you’ve just hired one of the beer drinking unions finest guides…hahaha What’s even funnier to me, is when these same guides are posting how they think it’s cheesy to see people already fishing gravel, and the very next day, the same guide is snagging fish off the beds in wadels with his clients under the myth that the fish are biting because the “guide says so”…ahhahahahhahah What a fricken joke, so much so there were two other boats within casting distance from the same guy, from the same shop, all anchored up… ALL WHALING ON THE SAME DOZEN FISH! You can endorse them, honor them for being stewards, and even give them deals on every piece of gear in the industry… BUT THEY ARE STILL JUST SNAGGING FISH OFF BEDS! They know it’s wrong, but are willing to sell the lie just to be sure their rebookings are up to snuff… So, like many years before this, each and every since I came to my senses and called these acts out for what they actually are, even after I’ve taken money doing the same… THERE’S THE TRUTH FOLKS, AND IT’S FREE OF CHARGE, but it’s not up for debate!
Reflecting on how few people will be fishing this spring spawning of steelhead, this 2020 season, is a cause to rejoice in that so many more fish will be allowed to spawn without the harassments of the in and out of state gravel fisherman/local guides daily pillage of the river’s wild stock; and even further more, all the out of state folks that simply make the migration north to our rivers whenever fish are spawning and can be seen, lined, flossed, bumped, or just outright snagged will be limited in their attempts this year! Yes, yes I say… And if there was one season to be shut down due to a national pandemic, as terrible as it may be; it could not have happened at a better time when considering the seasonal carnage that would otherwise be taking place right now and all the way into the month of May!!! Not this year… Nope, all those fish, save a few diehards, (which in the current state might very well be), that are willing to brave the bug to get their slide and lock on; but instead those same steelhead will be left to their procreation deeds without ever having to dodge a split shot, or hear and angler exclaim, “Is He In The Mouth?” as it’s being towed back upstream rectally! And let’s face it, whether the fish is hooked in the mouth, or it’s ass, if it was hooked off the bed, IT NEVER ATE YOUR FLY! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it…
Sorry for that folks, but it wouldn’t be spring without my seasonal rant on all the monies taken at the expense of our fishery… Moving on! Arkansas wasn’t as cool as it typically is, and we scored plenty of fish on the streamers and even made away with some dandies after dark, but the conditions this year were not that conducive for the night bite at all. Water levels were between 20-22K the whole time we were there, and this year, with the new house, we only when for 5 days instead of a month… This and my dog died the second day I was there. Coho is gone, and he is very missed; to be honest I think I cried a better part of a week, as it was quite sudden. He was an older dog, and we should be so lucky to get almost 14 years out of such a super puppy, I just wish I could have said goodbye to my fishing buddy of so many years, and maybe even spoiled him a solid month before passing, but we just didn’t see it coming. Never actually felt that kind of loss, and those of you that grow so attached to your puppies know right where I’m coming from… Like loosing a member of the family I tell ya. He’s buried close to my tying bench so we can chat with frequency, but how I will miss fishing and hanging out with my pup. Those of you that have fished the PM for any amount of time have certainly bumped into Coho at some point or another, and those banks will sure miss that migrating Husky. Again, it was a bit rough trying to fish knowing the dog was gone, and I even managed a couple 24” fish, but I never even took a photo this year, as smiling wasn’t an option on this run! We are taking steps to get Unicorn Hunt 2021 up and running, and the dates we went this year seem like the right ones based on the weather and the tech we want to implement. If you think you have the skills for the night & day game down there… Do be in touch so we can get you on step for the next visit to The White River in Arkansas! Our programs are current too above the curve, and our crew fishes the conditions and not the streamers at all costs, which is to say there is some strong nocturnal agendas on this crew. Hoping next year they don’t run a drop of water through Bull Shoals, as the gear and the lines have all been since realized and now proven, so that when they do or don’t run water, we have a program that suits well. Spey fishermen will come very well received on this crew for the after hours practice, but any all big meat slingers looking to up their game should be considering this as a 5 day clinic of how to bring a big fly to a big brown with more efficiency and for that matter, with some forecastability!
For the next month or so I would encourage you folks, as hard as it might be, to remain active and engaging in the outdoors whenever you can… SAFELY! Tying like a madman, I’ll leave up some good tying porn for you to sift through in that boredem. Cabin Fever is going to take on a whole new meaning in the months to come while we try and dodge this viscous bug. Stay close to home, no big trips till the smoke clears, and don’t push your luck if you have been lax in your acceptance of just how fricken weird it potentially can get, and for that matter, is getting. Stay home, stay clean, meet with nobody new and hug your family as tight as you can because we are not all going to make it through this, and whenever you take the chance, whether it hits you hard, or you give it to someone that it does… There is no fishing trip in the book worth another person’s life, and this is coming from an Irishman that has more love for the trout in the river than most of the current pool of people in and around. Practice the social distancing, and don’t hesitate to get out now, as there is the potential they will insist you can’t even do that at some point. This bug is shutting down the whole world; and when the cards are down, the only thing that matters is family and friends… And maybe brown trout a distant 3rd! As soon as it looks like we are coming out of the woods I’ll post again whenever that season may be… But it looks like summer is in our scopes the way they are talking, maybe some later spring if we are lucky. Get your Gray Drake, Hex & Mouse Dates Booked, cause when the curtain lifts following this happening, there’s going to be a larger number of people busting out of their homes to scratch that itch. Wouldn’t even be a bad idea to book ahead on your fall steelhead dates this year a couple months earlier than normal. Even though I’m going to loose a month, I’m guessing allot of people are going to want to get out following this pandemic, and have the books looking good before the New Year. Folks, again, we thank you so very much for keeping us busy when we need to be, and thanks again for keeping the lights on with some of the fly tying orders. I’ll be posting a few more of those in the next post as I’m trying to stay clear of the population per the lockdown, and for my family which I never take chances with! This will be a tougher year when the chips fall, but I’m just betting you folks will help me rebound on the back of this to keep the lights on and my boys & babe fed… Which is all we ever really need up here in the North! Hug those families’ good folks… See Ya Soon!
Be safe… And come out shiny…