Scrub Water

12-13-15 Scrub Water

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If you follow this blog you have probably recognized we spend a little time streamer fishing.  Most of our efforts for trout, bass, pike, even steelhead are pursued with sinking lines and large bugs on the move.  There’s a million theories on where fish rest and where they hunt.  I’m not going to get into that and will leave it to others to hash it out.  I do have my own beliefs.

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One point though I think we can all agree on is it’s rare to get blasted out of super deep water…also known as scrub water among our group.   Seems like most active hunting fish are in 6″ to a couple feet of water, sitting on a seam waiting for “something” to make a mistake and get caught in the current.  Most people will agree pulling bugs over 10 feet of water is useless.  That being the case when things get slow and people start losing interest I’ve always dropped a subtle reminder to “just keep your bugs in the water, move them around and see what happens”.  If your flies aren’t in the river nothing is ever going to happen.

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That brings us to the current day.  Bob and I floated a bigger river in West Michigan we spend a lot of time on.  We went through the first 2 half hour shifts of really good water and turned a few smaller fish.  The third shift is less than ideal trout hunting type water; slow and deep…good old scrub water.  I started casting a little lazy and was reminded of my own saying, “keep them in the water…move them around…”.  So I did and we were both surprised when a my bug was sharked in about 10 feet of water.  It’s slow and clear and I had a lot of time (too much time) to watch this fish from straight below at mach 10 to destroy the bug.  I did everything I could to not set too early.  Fish ate, I had a little slack, I saw it take off and sure enough it was locked in.  So much for scrub water.

Crab Cakes and Pork Chops

12-12-15 Crab Cakes and Pork Chops

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Considering the steelhead fishing had picked up last week we decided to head back to the same haunt.  With the temperatures forecast to be moderate we opted for an early departure.  It wasn’t easy though.  I went to The Chop House with Ann the night before and indulged in food and drink.  Even so it’s always easier to get up early to fish as opposed to going to the office.  We drove up in the dark and had the boat in the river shortly after sunrise.

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Even if would have got shut out today it wouldn’t be loss.  One, because I wasn’t in the office and two, I brought left over Chop House for lunch. Crab Cakes, Berkshire pork chops with sides of mac n’ cheese and garlic mash make for a pretty solid day on the river.

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We beat up alot of water indicator and streamer fishing.  We hooked a handful of good fish but couldn’t keep them pinned.  We did land a couple one of which was an upper teen killer looking brown with unbelievable red spots.  It’s hard to beat the arrangement of colors on a winter brown.

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Steelheadless Fall?

12-5-15 Steelheadless Fall?

Up to this point in the year steelhead have been practically non existent in some of the waters I spend time.  I haven’t fished a lot of the lower stretches but had heard “things” that there were some fish down there.  Hearing that, I had a feeling that if we just received some water those fish would mostly likely shoot up river.  Well, they did.

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It wasn’t the wild action we experienced in 2013 but it was a great improvement over the current Fall.  Steelhead fishing had been tough enough this Fall that I opted to bird hunt more.  So I have a built in excuse that I hadn’t caught any fish because “I haven’t really been out…”.  Whatever makes you feel better, right.

I met up with Bob and Joe for a float with some steelhead gear.  The plan was to indicator fish every nook and cranny until we came up with some chrome.   First stop it didn’t take much time.  Bob made quick work at a location I think most people pass over.  Even though it’s November this steelhead was full over October energy.  A good hard fought battle and Bob won.

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We moved to the next spot and I was hooked up pretty quick.  All of sudden it felt like good old steelhead fishing again and less what looked like what was quickly becoming a steelheadless Fall.

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White Blanket

11-21-15 White Blanket

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It’s been a fall\winter without snow to this point.  At least not any amount of snow so it was strange waking up to everything being covered in white.  Rivers take on another look when there’s snow on the ground.  They always look much darker, like ink.  I’d guess it has to do with the contrast and light.

I met up with Bob and Dan to float a well know West Michigan stream close to home.  The plan was to pull streamers.  We figured by this time of year these fish should be in the neighborhood or pre-spawn and on the hunt for a large meal before, well..you know.  We hit it hard all day.  We rolled a few solid fish and put hooks in a few…very few.  I was lucky enough to come away with one.

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Upland Donati Votex

11-14-15 Upland Donati Vortex

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Over the past couple winters we’ve had terribly cold weather that was referred to as a Polar Vortex.  It was a sereies of relentless cold fronts that showed no mercy.  This was no different than the all out assault my buddy Joe Donati  but on steelhead that fall.  It was a streak of multiple steelhead every time we were out.  He was the Vortex

Well…we now have an upland version of the Donati Vortex.  We decided to meet that morning for a few hours and burn some boot leather in an upper west side cover that you can almost spend an entire day in.  We worked toward the front of this cover about a 45 minutes in to our day.  There’s  small ridge covered with witch hazel.  The food source had been poor up to this point in the season.  With the lack of food in prior weeks and witch hazel starting to blossom I thought we stood a good chance at jumping a bird here.  I’ve shot a fair amount of grouse in this spot in the past and told Joe to be at the ready.  I took a hard line without much of a shot looking to possibly pinch one off an edge.  Joe went right through the center of this cut.  As we move in I hear a handful of birds get up, “BIRD!!”.  I hear one shot go off and shout the usual “did you get him?”.  The response wasn’t what I expected.  It’s usually “nooo…”.  He yells, “yeah I got him…I think I got 2”.  Sure enough one was shot dead and the other winged and made a short run.  Some good dog work out his Piper and there it was, 2 birds one shot.  He also got one more about 30 minutes later on a short 10 yard shot that the bird held until we were just about on top of it.

An Upland Donati Vortex.  111415-2