Terry Drinkwine Outdoors!

Fly Fishing, Grouse Hunting and Fine Bird Dogs Spoken Here!

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It All Came Together

Don’t throw rocks at me – I know skiers, tubers and recreational boaters are bummed out – but what great weather for fishing. All along the downstream stretch from Graves Crossing to beyond Webster Bridge, Sam Lynch and I had the river all to ourselves. Cloudy skies, rain and cool temperatures made for a great day on the Jordan yesterday ….and produced nice fish.

It was Sam’s first trip to several of the spots we fished and I think the Jordan has another admirer.

Browns, rainbows and brookies cooperated and took several different patterns, the most productive being a Hare’s Ear pattern. A nice brown topped the catch.

In a weak moment, I decided to share my favorite spot with Sam and took him for a trek through bog and brush to a stretch that I think is one of the most beautiful stretches. (I made sure he didn’t have a compass.) I knew I succeeded in confusing him about the location when he said he was more concerned about breaking his rod on the walk in then in the river catching branches.

We got rained on and cold, but the good time throwing flies we tied put the inconvenience out of our minds. I knew it was going to go well when on the second cast with a Hare’s Ear, a 12 inch brown took it, jumped and tried to dive into a submerged logjam. The bamboo held tight and brought the brown back into the current and eventually to net. Beautiful fish.

The last spot before we called it a day also produced fish; browns and brookies cooperated and came to net, also to a Hare’s Ear.

It was good fishing in a place that makes you forget to look at your watch.

TD

 

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Time to Launch

I’ve been searching for a boat like this one ever since Rich Merlino and I first floated the “Big Water” of the Au Sable several year ago. These Bi-yak Float Boats are great to cast from and are virtually indestructible. They can float in 2 inches of water and handle very easily, one, two or three people at a time. 20140506_111637They aren’t made anymore and I had to wait for Rich to move to Florida to get my hands on this one.

If you see this ugly monstrosity with a fat guy sprouting a super grin, floating down the Au Sable, say hi. Chances are it’s me.

TD

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Contentment

Sunset over Lake Michigan

Sunset over Lake Michigan

There are things so soothing, you shouldn’t be driving a car when they take hold. Take the sweet aroma of honeysuckle, lilacs, mint, basil, rain, a river, wet dog or a hundred other things that magically take you back to another time and place.

It’s all a state of mind of course, but some things can be so overpowering they leave room for little else …at least for a fleeting moment.

When Seamus hunts in thick cover that brushes his coat, leaving briars, dead grass and twig pieces stuck in his matted fur that requires an hours work to get it out without causing him too much pain; neither Seamus nor I look forward to the ordeal – actually, Seamus, subconsciously, probably does. But that smell, that pungent odor that fills my nostrils, is like smelling pipe tobacco of a certain brand, reminding me of happy times spent with old men who tried to teach me to appreciate the outdoors. They are gone now, but the smell of Cherry Blend Pipe Tobacco brings them back, like the smell of a wet dog brings back happy times afield, sloshing through marsh and bogs in search of bonasa umbellus and woodcock.

Driving down a country road after a romp with Seamus and “She Who Must Be Obeyed” along the shore of Lake Michigan at sunset, I was so mellow and content that smells of cut grass, fresh plowed fields, flowering bushes along drainage ditches and even the pungent smell of a dairy farm set my mind adrift to another time and place. It was like being home – white socks pointing skyward as I recline in my leather recliner – drinking two fingers of bourbon from my favorite glass. Unfortunately, neither lasts very long.

TD

 

 

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At Camps End

Well, it’s over. The North Branch outing of the Royal Coachmen Society (not to be confused with the Ostrich Society ….though close) has come to an end for another year. It was not as productive as past camps as far as catching trout is concerned, but it was a rejuvenating experience between men who don’t see one another often. The common thread that weaves them together is a love of fly fishing for trout ….right here on this river, the North Branch.

The week began on the cool side with temperatures making the hardiest amongst them reach for a blanket on the first night, then warmed up to short sleeve weather to the delight of the overabundance of mosquitoes that lay-in-wait for bare flesh; some being immune to DEET.

Hatches were scarce …and sparse when they did occur. Brown Drakes appeared but for a short period and at different times on different days. On the last night of camp, they didn’t appear until after dark.

Still, fish were caught – some real, some not – and conspiracies promoted to do better. It was all good and leaves a yearning for next year.

TD

 

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Hatch Is On!

As camp draws closer to the end, the days are spent making sure no opportunity is missed to catch fish. New patterns are tried, old patterns are re-tried and opinions are shared as to the “why’s” and “how’s” of catching trout. And all that fresh air and thought translates into shorter mornings as piscators stay in their sleeping bags longer – to include the breakfast cook- meaning I have to wait for my first cup of coffee. (Aww!)

The good news about this stage in the trip, is that we’re getting savvier about anticipating how the trout react to which sporadic hatch and finally come to a mediocre understanding about the patterns acceptable to them.

The better news is, last night, late evening, Brown Drakes were coming off of the water and after just a short time on the surface, hover three to four feet above the water and head for the trees. Or so I’m told. By dark, I was contemplating the next day’s strategy over two fingers of bourbon with others of like mind.

The Brown Drake hatch is good news. It means things aren’t as far behind schedule as thought. Hopefully, before this week is over, they will dance on the water, triggering the urge for browns to feast. Then it will be a matter of using the right pattern to subtly land on the water amidst hatch.

I am ready; getting more ready and by tonight will have so many different ties that confusion could slow the test of wills between me and Mr. Brown tugging at the end of the traditional bamboo rod I use on this yearly occasion.

If it got any better than this, it would probably hurt.

TD

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Another Day on the North Branch

The fish are coming …not to me, but others of our group are doing well.

With little in the way of hatches, most of the fishing is done with wet flies, nymphs and emergers. Caddis are making an appearance on this stretch of the North Branch, but the Brown Drakes are found further north around the Sheep Ranch to Twin Bridges area.

Still, this is great, and there is always tomorrow.

This morning I fished at Dam Four Road Access. It’s a staple as far as places to fish on the North Branch and a prettier spot is hard to find. It’s close to the old Ford property that Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and other notables of that time fished in the twenties. Footings from the power plant Edison designed for their camp are still there. It’s on private property, but if you can get permission, you’ll find yourself standing in the shadow of history.

Lovell is the town associated with the North Branch of the Au Sable. It’s a crossroads kind of place with only a couple of buildings to include a tavern, hardware store and grocery store and the Douglas Hotel, now the home of the North Branch Outing Club otherwise known as Fullers Fly Shop and Guide Service. The Douglas Hotel is a landmark of over 100 years. It’s quaint and a must for our group to visit every year. Judy Fuller is the proprietor.

The only downside to this trip is the quality and quantity of food. Every person provides a meal and guys being guys, well suffice it to say, no one goes hungry and thank God for screens.

It’s my move in the chess game I’m playing with the trout in a spot upstream from the cabin. So far, he’s been taking my pieces fairly easily. Time to make my move. Stay tuned.

TD

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On The North Branch

If you remember the feeling you had waking up Christmas mornings when you were a kid you know how I felt waking on the second floor of the 100 plus year old Simons cabin sitting on a bluff overlooking a bend of the North Branch of the Au Sable.

With a cup of coffee – which, despite its generic brand, tastes wonderful and is followed by a second and third cup – my thoughts swirl from catching fish to the huge bee swarming around in the screened-in-porch overlooking the river where I’m enjoying the morning.

You’d think it would be quiet, and it is, sort of … but chirping birds, buzzing mosquitoes, the sound of the river and too, cars with people going to work on North Down River Road, though several miles away, comes in spurts, then stops and it’s back to the birds, the river and ….mosquitoes.

The weather has come full circle; from wet and cold to dry and hot. The nights are in the 60’s and it’s in the mid 80’s during the day. But despite the warm-up, hatches have been sporadic and sparse but Hendricksons are still around and with a hint of a spinner fall, a hope for normalcy should see Brown Drakes in the cue.

A piece of advice from someone who spent last week on the North Branch was that wet flies were the ticket. We’ll see.

Td

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“Brookies”

How can I begin to explain why brook trout lurk in shallow pools, under banks, between logs and in any crevice so long as the water is clear, cool and oxygenated? It doesn’t seem possible that brookies inhabit these places, dart from them to forage a meal and return in a blink of an eye, flash or splash.

Brookies are the Brittanies of the aquatic world. They are tenacious, beautiful, graceful and a delight to hold in your hand. They seem to have the stamina of much larger species and yet, maintain their own characteristics equal to nothing ….except maybe grayling.

Grayling of course, are the true natives; natives we’ve managed to remove from Michigan’s ecosystem. Our loss; more’s the pity.

Brookies exist in glacial lakes in the arctic, in mountain streams, lakes and in anyplace big enough for a mayfly to sit, a caddis to flutter on, a stonefly to crawl out of and a hopper to fall onto from the grassy knolls of a meadow bordering a stream.

Out of all the trout I’ve fished for and will continue to fish for, brookies are and remain my favorite and most prized query.

There is a place on the Au Sable not far from Cummins Flat where brookies haunt riffles in larger size than most. They taunt piscators, reward those with patience while frustrating those who take them for granted and their ability to choose between patterns.

Brook trout are the mustang of the trout world in Michigan: Browns are the bruisers, rainbows, the thoroughbreds, but brookies, they are the all American fish in my eyes.

TD

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I Just Want To Go Fishing

Fly fishing is a business. If you don’t believe that, check out the array and cost of fly rods, reels, lines, leaders and all that gets tied on from there. Too, ask what it costs to take a guided float trip on any of the fabled rivers in Michigan and around the country and get ready to change the intent of your Christmas savings account to your fishing account. Your kid’s college fund might have to take a hit too.

Whenever I question the cost of these things, I get inundated with the “T” and “E” words, “technology” and “expertise.” Case in point: fiberglass rods are making a resurgence. You remember fiberglass, that light, tough, whippy, cheap material that every fishing rod manufacturer branded as the best new technological advancement since Pasture told us to boil milk. Well, soon after there came graphite, then boron, then a composite and now fiberglass again …a technologically advanced fiberglass of course.

When this new fiberglass fad ushered in, I pulled out my old Pflueger Supreme fly rod I bought at Geak’s Sporting Goods Store on Woodward in Ferndale back in the 70’s. It was the first rod I bought that came in a case – a soft case with a zipper. Tim Geak sold it to me for $25. The price on the new ones is almost $400 and they go up from there.

I guess that everything is relative because graphite rods vary from under $100 to over $1000. And bamboo can set you back several thousand dollars. Of course, these costs are the result of our willingness to pay them.

I don’t begrudge guides from making a living. It’s hard work, rowing people down rivers, lakes and around the ocean. But is a boat ride worth $500? I guess it is if you get put on the fish of a lifetime fishing in some tropical or wilderness setting not easily gotten to. But what about a few miles from home?

It’s getting crowded on Michigan Rivers and streams. More and more drift boats rowed and poled by guides make their way from public access to access and some behave as though they own the water their floating on; going as far as having someone stake out their best producing holes. I’ve heard of people almost getting into fist fights over the practice.

Paint Creek, a premier trout stream in Oakland County, is the newest battleground. The Department of Natural Resources several years ago held Town Hall meetings to get input from fishermen about limits and restrictions that should be applied on the Paint. Several miles of river were designated as “Gear Restricted” as a result and for all practical purposes, that means flies only – though it really means no live bait.

Now some want to designate Paint Creek as “catch and release” only.

I just want to go fishing. I want to be able to eat what I catch on occasion and I want to do it without the fish costing me $200 per pound.

TD

 

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What do you mean the fish aren’t biting?

With six fly boxes in my vest, another dozen flies drying on the wool patch on the front of my vest and still more on the fleece band on my hat, I have enough flies and in as big an assortment that there has to be something a fish will eat – at least show an interest in. But as it turns out, the fish aren’t biting …and that’s what the fishing report said when I called the hotline.

Ever since trout season opened the last Saturday in April, fishing reports have been guarded; in fact, they’ve been downright abysmal. But someone has to make those reports and they have to be based on someone trying to catch fish. I’ve never heard or read a fishing report that said, “We’re told the fishing is poor.” If that was the case, why would anyone call the hotline to begin with? Yet most reports on the internet show a big fish held by a guide or client that would make any piscator salivate with envy all the while reading, “The fish aren’t biting.”

Fishermen aren’t known for being precise or even honest. I mean, every time a fish story is told and retold, the size of the fish increases by a couple of inches and it’s girth expands like my stomach after a bowl of chili. So when “the fish aren’t biting” and a monster brown is shown in the hands of a guide, take it with a grain of salt, smile and continue with your plans to go fishing.

The point is, there are ways to catch fish that vary from day to day, river to river and from one fisherman to another. It’s not that the fish aren’t biting, the crux of the matter is, the fish aren’t taking what they’re being offered or in the way it’s being offered. But our egos aren’t satisfied by truth, they’re soothed by asserting the lack of success is the fish’s fault, instead of ours.

I’ve been cold, wet, just plain miserable and tired standing in a river up to my bellybutton while wind and rain made it more miserable, but whether or not I caught fish, well… that’s always been up to me.

TD

 

 

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