Monday, June 13, 2011

Kayaking Down the Manistee

I got a call from my friends, Joe and Jim, about a float trip down the Manistee River.  We had mentioned it and now we were setting the date.  Joe wanted to meet at 7:00 am and I suggested we meet at Red Bridge parking lot at 8:00am.  The night before our trip we had thunder, lightning and rain.  I wondered if I was going to receive a "cancel " phone call but the rain stopped but it was in the low 60s.  Getting no phone call meant that I better get packed up.  I got a PB&J, some ice tea, a few granola bars and a apple and hitched up the small cargo trailer.  I was going to put all the float equipment in my trailer and have the guys leave their cars at Red Bridge. 

I got to the spot at 7:50 am and Jim and Joe were already there.  We loaded up our gear and headed off to Hodenpyle Dam.  It only takes about 15-20 minutes to drive up the 8-9 miles.

Parking right at the dam means you have to carry everything down the stairs to the water.

The kayaks only weight about 40 pounds but the pontoon boat was closer to 60-70 pounds.  We used two men to carry it down.

Joe was strapping on his life vest and it served as a good reminder for me to wear mine.  I usually just pack it in the kayak but today I wore the life vest.

We had river shoes and zip-off nylon pants.  I have an orange river bag with a towel and rain jacket.  I forgot my sunglasses and Jim didn't.  I am holding my lightweight, fiberglass paddle that I got last year.

Joe is wearing his hip boots so he can wade, Jim and I are going to wet wade.  Water temperature is in the high 50s!  Joe has the really nice pontoon boat and oars.  He can even put his electric trolling motor on it.

You can see Hodenpyle Dam in the background.

Joe was first off.  You sit up out of the water and are higher than in the kayak.  He could see more river details, hence he went first!

As I was taking the pictures, Jim was next off.  We each had our fishing rods with us.  The plan was to stop on the bends and fish from shore.  I was going to try fishing and paddling at the same time.  Kinda like rubbing your belly and patting your head!

I fount that if I put the paddle across my lap, I could cast my fly rod and then quickly adjust the float with my paddle.  It wasn't a very effective way to fish.  After a few tries, I decided to just fish from the shore.

The river was flowing nicely along. The water was a little dark from the run-off. You can see some shallow rapids up ahead. It isn't hard to paddle like the Pine, but it has several sets of faster water. These were the fun spots. We weren't just here to paddle, or fish, but also to enjoy the ride.

Time to stop and fish.

Finally a nice fish on.

Gee, I am happy to catch one but why didn't I smile?

Finally, Joe pulled over to fish.  We would stop together and fish along the bends.  Note that Joe has hip boats on but he doesn't have the strap snapped up to his belt.  More on that later.  A few minutes at each stop and on our way again.

Jim and I had similar kayaks.  Only about 9' long and easy to use.  In some of the rapids, the bow would dip down and water would come spraying over the top into the seat area.  Not a lot of water but I had a wet butt most of the day.

Jim was casting a small streamer and we were hoping for some brown or rainbow trout.

It was a nice hole and I waded out to try my luck.  Suddenly I hear Joe call from the bank.

We came upon this snapping turtle making a nest along the bank.

I said, "Joe, put your finger down in front of his face".   Guess what happened next.......

Nothing happened......Joe got out of there!  Note the storage area behind the seat and the rod holder.  What a way to float.  He never got wet in the rapids.

However, Joe did wade out a little too far for his hip boots several times.  It is hard to remember how deep you can go when you are paying attention to your fishing and not your wading.  Joe got a brown trout along here.

Jim is trying the fishing and kayaking t the same time.  I guess it is a guy thing, we have to keep trying to do what our mind tells us we can't!

Just before we hit Red Bridge, Joe has one on.  He is getting a good fight out of him.

Joe lands a killer Northern Pike!  I lost one fish and landed one rainbow.  The fishing was great, the catching was slow.

What a nice way to spend the day.  The sign says it is a 4 hour float and we made it is seven hours!

After the float, it was back up to the Dam to get my car and trailer.  We decided that we are going to float all the way to stages.  We have stage one and two done.  Next it will be High Bridge to Blacktail or Bear Creek.  Then we don't know what would make a good 6 hour float.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June Fly Rod Time on the Manistee

It was hot, the weather had been rainy and I was stuck inside for several days.  A break in the weather came and down to the Manistee River I went.  I decided to drive my new run-around car down to the parking lot.

The Chevy Aveo is a stick shift car that got 36 MPG the first time I checked it.  I want to take the miles off the Ford Explorer.  Anyway, down to the parking lot at Tippy Dam.  I walked down Cardiac Hill and had the water to myself.

No one was around and I decided to start at the dam and work my way downstream.  The water was dark from the spring runoff.  I started with my fly rod and yellow streamer.  I waded out a few steps and then tossed the stream out into the deeper water.  I let the fly sink down a little.  It has a bead head so it should be in the mid-depths.  I start stripping in.  Cast out, pause while it sinks, and strip in.  After three or four casts, I move downstream a few steps and start again.

I am on the south side of Tippy Dam and you can see that nobody is fishing.  The water is warming up and the water is low.  The fish are going to be closer to the dam (aerated water), in the seams and deeper water.  I will just move along and swing my streamer.

The first fish is a medium sized Brownie.  They usually hit in the middle of the swing, when I am stripping in the fly and it is coming across the stream in their visual path.  I am using my 4 weight fly rod so even these fish fight hard and bend my fishing rod.  I don't expect any steelhead or large browns during the morning.  People talk about fishing at night when the bigger fish prowl the water and it sounds fun.  I just don't think about it until it is late and I am tired.  I will have to try it at night soon.

I continue on and get a few more fish.  Some are like small torpedos.  They are steelhead smolts that haven't headed out to the big lake yet.  They are hungry and hit the fly hard. 

This is one of the streamers I have been tying.  I first started with cream and tan colors but have been making variations of darker colors recently.  I first slip on a bead on the size 6 or 8 streamer hook.  Then I wrap my tying thread down to the bend and add a bunch of dark brown maribou feathers for a tail.  Then, on this fly, I used some dark green chinelle for the body.  After I tye off the chinelle at the bead, I add a couple of rubber legs on some of the flies.  These darker flies are imitating crawfish or other aquatic insects.  I also like using the cream or tan maribou on some flies.  Many times I wrap the body with the rest of the maribou in place of the chinelle.  A simple but effective fly.

Back to more casting.  It is a rhythm that fly fisherman get into.  Cast out, retrieve, cast out, retrieve.  Your mind is thinking about fishing and watching the line for any subtle changes.  Every little stop or nick of the fly might be a fish.  Many times the hit is hard and the fish is hooked before the angler can set the hook.  Sometimes the fly pops out because you didn't set the hook.  I usually pinch down the hook barbs.  It makes it easier to release the fish and also it makes it easier to remove from your clothing or skin.

This brown hit the black streamer tied on above the brown streamer.  I guess they take it for a leech.

Speaking of leeches, I look down in the water and see two large, fat snake-like creatures at my feet.  More like short, fat snakes with a sucking style mouth with teeth. Lamprey are mating as I watch.  The report on lamprey ells are that each one can consume 40 # of fish a year.  They can attach on the sides of trout and suck out the life or severely reduce the weight of the host fish.  This week the DNR is putting in poison to kill the lamprey.  So far 2-3 days, most people halt their fishing.

I continue on casting and even catching a few as I proceed down river.

Here is a hungry brown that attacked my yellow and brown chinelle bodied streamer.  Chinelle comes in many different colors so I like to experiment.  I found a dark green chinelle style roll at a yard sale for fifty cents that I'll try next.  I always look in the sewing area for possible fly tying material.

The catching slows up as I go downstream.  A few here and there but I have to look for deeper water and edges to fish.  I find I can wade almost 3/4s of the way across the river in some spots.

Ok, it was a nice morning.  I only got one fish in the 14-15" range but I had a lot of fish that were fun to play with.  I released every fish back into the water.  You can only keep fish 15"+ in the Manistee and I just enjoy catching and releasing these smaller fish. 

OK, another pleasant morning on the river.  Next I am going to go kayak fishing down the river from Hodenplye to Red Bridge.  We will probably just stop on the bends and cast from shallow water.  We will be having our shorts and water shoes on so some kayaking and some fishing and some floating.  Stay tuned!