The Beginning of the End of Winter

 

Things have been rather slow around here this winter. Near record amounts of snow and abnormally cold temperatures have made fly fishing rather difficult. While the flowing water is nearly impossible to find this winter, the frozen kind is abundant.  Our good friend Bob made an ice rink in his yard this year.  Bob’s cousins, the Parke’s, a few other friends and I have been playing our version of hockey a few times a week. Ice fishing has been possible since mid December, and most spots I have fished this season have at least fifteen inches of ice. I also had my first child back in December. Anne and I named her Brooke Elizabeth and  we can’t wait to take her camping.

As it continues to snow outside, inside I am busy tying buggers for the Wisconsin trout season opener. We would all like the weather warm enough so that ice doesn’t form on the guides, yet cool enough so as to not melt too much snow and blow the stream out. One thing is for sure, there will be some cold yet content anglers scattered throughout Wisconsin come Saturday, March 1st. Summer will be here with mosquitoes, ticks, biting spiders, bees, and  poison ivy before you know it.

I am looking forward to another year of fishing with my friends. Cheers to 2014!

Steelhead Blues

Niall and Joe spent last weekend fishing in Michigan. I decided to eschew an invitation to join them and pretended to be a hunter. While I saw no deer, they saw lots of bent rods and screaming reels. It is too depressing to think about anymore, not that I have been spending much time dwelling on it or looking at their pictures while crying or anything. I am really happy for them.

A Trip Around Lake Michigan

A few weeks ago, Anne and I took a week-long drive around Lake Michigan. For any resident of the Great Lakes region, I would suggest this adventure, and hopefully I am able do it again, possibly on a lager scale (maybe around Lake Superior or all five great lakes). We are quite lucky here in Chicago as all four of the designated National Shorelines are within an eight hour drive. Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are both on the southern edge of Lake Superior, while Indiana Dunes and Sleeping Bear Dunes are both on the eastern side of Lake Michigan. Apostle is the only one that I have not been to, but is on my list of places to go fish ,explore, and reside in for a few days.

While at Pictured Rocks, there were a few informational placards delving into the world of the coaster brook tout. These signs provided basic information on rehabilitation efforts and current ranges. My thoughts immediately turned to late fall, 30 mile per hour north winds, sleet, snow, and huge native brook trout. There didn’t seem to be any around on the  few warm summer days that I tried the dark tannic, coffee-color stained creeks.

On a whim, we decided to make a day trip to Whitefish Point, Michigan and see the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.  For me, places like this seem to embody the feel and amazing history of the Great Lakes. It’s refreshing to be reminded of those that used these waterways before us. It’s even better that we remember them by honoring their memory and learning what the lakes meant to them. It is a trek to get out to whitefish point but you can see Canada and get some awesome smoked whitefish from Brown Fisheries.

I never calculated all the miles but it was well worth the trip. I still have a lot to learn as far as catching fish in the UP, as I got skunked all week. A few rises to my trico and a pike biting me off were the only fishy encounters.

Gate’s Second Annual Night Derby

For Aaron and I, this was the second time that we were able to participate in this great event put on by Gates Lodge. All proceeds from this year’s event are being donated to the Black River in northern Michigan. The donations will be used for habitat restoration in the form of sweepers and large woody debris. The fishing was cold but very productive. Some heavy traffic on the river coaxed us to leave our spot a bit early, but in the end it paid off as we were all able to land fish. One of the added perks of this year’s derby was the meteor shower that was peppering the sky above. I often found myself getting lost looking up, shuffling my feet, slowly working myself down stream hoping for a take and a shooting star simultaneously. It’s dark, so there is really no other place to look but up.  Good food, good friends, good fish, and free fireworks courtesy of outer space.

Spring Browns in Winter (Still)

We followed the warm(ish) forecast up to Grayling last weekend to encounter temperatures much colder than advertised. The fish fortunately wanted to play a little bit on Saturday but Sunday was especially brutal as it was below freezing all day and the only thing biting was a strong east wind.

This weekend looks like it may hold real, actual, spring weather across the Midwest. And maybe one of these days it will stay.

Au Sable Browns

The winter weather is fighting the calendar so with rain, clouds, high 30s air temperatures, and the big Michigan fly fishing show in the forecast, Joe and I thought the conditions were good enough to spend last weekend on the Au Sable. It turned out to be the right decision. We had the river to ourselves, and after getting spanked Saturday morning, we picked up Jordan from Gates Lodge for the afternoon portion of our float and he almost immediately showed us how to get things done.

A Glimpse of Spring in the Middle of Winter

A week previously, we were drilling holes in frozen lakes and having fried bluegill for dinner. A week later, we looked at the weather, called Josh at Gates Lodge to confirm that the mid-winter heat wave wasn’t an illusion, and drove up to the Au Sable. Now, Josh and his guys will fish all winter, but they may be of a heartier breed than me. It gets very cold and very snowy in northern Michigan, and typically the weather doesn’t allow for much open water fishing until March.

What a difference a week makes...

But we aren’t the only people able to decipher a weather forecast, because when we arrived at the boat ramp at first light one boat had already launched and gone, one was launching, and one was waiting to launch. Eventually we got on the water, found some solitude, and thoroughly enjoyed the warm sun and 50 degree air temps. In the middle of January. In northern Michigan. The smell of spring in the Northwoods was on the air. It was enough to forget that it was the middle of January, in northern Michigan. Until we woke up Sunday morning to freezing rain and sub-freezing temps. And then stepped out of the car that evening back in Chicago to 18 degrees. Winter is still here.

The glimpse of warm spring was an unexpected reprieve from the cold winter, and it will make the next couple of weeks at least a little more bearable. The Wisconsin trout opener will be here in about six weeks, and although the weather then may just as easily be cold and snowy as warm and sunny we will know that spring is here, with another winter behind us.

 

Spey Variations

I am heading up to Michigan this next weekend and will have both the single and two handed rod in tow. The weather as of now looks to be bright and sunny with low water conditions. With that in mind I tied up a few smaller size spey patterns to have a  larger bag of tricks to throw if necessary. Both flies are body wrapped with krystal flash and wire, the collars are black strung neck hackle and the wings are stacked  deer hair.