Friday, July 4, 2014

TLTFF Beaver Island '14 - Day 4


Days 1 & 2

Day 3

We decided to do this post slightly different. Austin Green of The Uncommon Angler decided to write up his perspective so we could merge the two together (mine and his), two separate perspectives from two different boats. Hopefully this works, let us know what you think. Austin's words will be in bold lettering...

Day 4 - June 22nd

Morgan's Perspective -

It was nice to sleep in a bed for the first time on Beaver Island. The day started out around 7:30 when not only my internal alarm clock thought it was time to get the day going, but my excitement had built to an uncontrollable level. You know those mornings when you wake up and your ready to take on the world from 0-60 faster than you can sneeze? Yea, it was one of those mornings. That seemed to be the theme throughout the house.

Breakfast -

We all woke up around the same time and headed downstairs in preparation to head down the street to McDonough's Deli for breakfast with the guides and anglers. The menu at McDonough's is enough to make Guy Fieri drool, seriously, best meals EVER (thats coming from the son of a professional caterer). After a plate of deliciousness and cup of joe, we were ready to kickoff day one of guided fishing and get on the boats.

We headed back to the house and prepped our gear. The six of us paired up to meet with our guides. Luis and I would be fishing together today, Austin with Mario, and Joel with Cheryl. All the gear came together quickly, except for Austin's waders. He had busted out his Simms a few days prior to the trip so I brought my backup pair for him to use...unfortunately those leaked just as bad as his. Evan M of Feather-Craft, as I said before, is a stand-up guy. He lent Austin his new Patagonia waders despite him (Evan) leaving that day to head back home to St. Louis. After sorting everything out, the guides pulled up to The Fisherman's House around 9am and we tossed our gear into the backs of their trucks.

Fishing - 

We dropped the boats in at the local ramp, my heart was pumping. I hadn't been on many guided trips in my life, only about three before this trip. Being someone who loves the sport and considers them self decently versed in it, I was worried as to how I would take on the task of not only being seriously guided by the best carp guides in the world for one day...but three. But it was that fact, that I was being guided by the best, that allowed things to fall into place and make this the ultimate learning experience. Luis and I were going to spend the day with Steve Martinez on his boat "Carp Diem".

Carp Diem is a 16.5' aluminum fly fishing machine. It was built with the flats and techniques of Beaver Island. It was Kevin Morlock's boat until a few years ago when he upgraded and Steve decided to keep the boat in the Indigo family. Steve, a seasoned guide through and through, has been with Indigo for about 7 years now, brought on only 3 years after Kevin started to guide Beaver Island.  As Steve parked his truck and we shoved off, we went over the typical emergency procedures list that was followed by the ultimate pump up..."now lets go catch some fish". It was that simple phrase that raised the level of stoke in the boat and got me shaking with excitement.

It was a great day, slightly overcast with minimal wind. The wind kicked up some small 1-2' choppers making the shot across from Beaver Island to Hog Island a little bumpy but easily bearable. The air temp was around 55F in the morning which quickly warmed up to around 75F during the day. We made it to Hog after cruising past the three "Bird Islands" (they are literally covered in birds and smell like it too). Steve parked us up on the backside of Hog Island's "Pig Tail" that holds a nice little pond (not literally a pond, more of an area that is open to the lake but more enclosed than open) that I believe is called "The Butthole".

As we grabbed our gear and crept up on the pond ninja style, we passed a small area of grasses that was flooded out, something that would look promising to any carp or redfish targeting fly fisherman. There weren't any fish to be seen so we moved on to the backside of the pond across a narrow and skinny watered reef about 3" deep. We immediately started to spot pairs of fish coming into the pond and running the shelf before exciting the pond. I began to cast to fish with Steve guidance without success as the fish would either be out of casting range or simply did not want to eat. Targeting cruising fish was still a challenge for me as "cruisers" around BI move much faster than the ones I'm used to seeing at home. Timing your cast and distance is paramount and finding your cadence with strips is just as important. As I continued to cast at fish coming into the pond, Luis and Steve moved down the reef to the entrance of the pond where the water was slightly deeper. There was a solid 10 minute lull when I didn't see a single fish so I began to watch the other two down the reef to see if they were casting at fish. I figured, "if they're casting at fish, the fish are most likely coming my way."

After watching the water in front of me for a few more minutes I looked back down at Luis and noticed his rod doubled over. I reeled in my line and slowly made my way down towards them so I wouldn't spook any fish along the way. One thing thats pretty unique about BI carp is that if you do indeed spook them, which is pretty easy to do, and you immediately leave them alone, they will go back to feeding or go off alert status pretty quickly.

As I crept up behind Steve and Luis, they had a few cruisers moving out of the pond. Luis had landed and released a nice 4-5lb smallie that essentially took his fly while targeting a feeding carp. Steve had an awesome term for it but unfortunately its a bit R-rated to say on here but its basically "Smallie F---ed" (for the purpose of the posts, we'll refer to this as being "SFed", hilarious. This wouldn't be the first time this (amazing) by catch would do this to us. We decided to head back down the reef around the pond to check out another spot. It was amazing watching Steve as he bent down often to feel the water with his fingers and with that, he knew if the water temp was right..."The Butthole" was a bit too cold for feeders, especially since the mid-day sun was a few hours away from warming it up. As we headed back to the boat, we came across the flooded grasses again near the end of the pond. We stopped and noticed the grasses on the far side moving differently than the breeze was making the others. There were carp in the grass.

We slowed down and got low. My first cast got me hung up...classic, way to blow it Morgan. I simply laid my rod down and squatted down as Luis stepped up to the plate and began casting over me. We noticed a small in the 3lb range patrolling the grasses, essentially making it impossible to cast at the carp coming in and out of the grasses into the small clearing. As one carp came out to eat, it gave Luis a great follow. It followed the fly to within about 15' of us when it spotted us and shot out of the clearing back into the pond and deeper water. The water in the clearing of the grasses and through the grasses was about 1-2' deep, perfect for spotting fish and easy presentations. Luis handed over the rod and I began to cast. As I threw a cast down the clearing, towards the smallie, a dark figure bolted out of the grass and ate my fly. I had been SFed. A quick little fight brought the 3lb to hand not only getting the monkey off my back, but also giving me the urge to feel a reel tug from a big golden bone.

The smallmouth around BI are amazing, they fight like a freight train and never seem to want to give up. They eat with a level of aggression I've only seen from bluefish and really know how to steal a fly away from a hungry carp. As I released the fish, I decided to try and get my rod back by breaking off my hung up fly but the fly eventually came loose and we were back in business just in time for more carp to make their way out of the grasses and into the clearing. We made one false move and boom, fish were spooked.

We decided to continue our trek through the grasses and back to the boat. As we began to move through the tall reeds, carp began to shoot out of them all around us. Steve looked back and said, "be careful, these fish will take your feet right out from under you". Just as soon as he said it, a few bounced off my boots and Luis said, "one just went between my legs, you weren't kidding." Those were some big fish, theres no doubt about it, and up to this point in the trip, that was the closest we had been to a Lake MI was an amazing experience.

We got back to Carp Diem and jetted over to the next spot. We pulled up on a gorgeous reef just as the wind laid down and sun came out. As we pulled up to a reef I could only describe as carribean-esque, I hopped up on the bow and we immediately spotted fish. I took a few casts, having some of the fish come right next to the boat, but again, denied. Steve dropped anchor as he beached the boat and it was time for lunch.

We had picked out our lunches that morning prior to leaving the deli after breakfast per the inclusion of the trip. As we wolfed down our amazing McDonough Deli sandwiches, we prepped for going back on foot on an area FULL of smallies and carp throughout a vast reef and pool system along the flat. I walked ahead and immediately found fish...of the wrong species...smalljaws. There was a pack of about 5 of them patrolling what looked like a textbook shelf for carp to cruise on.

While I was thinking that very thought, a pair of fish made their way into the pool over the far reef (about 50yds in front of me). They followed the contour line of the pool, slowly heading my way. I stripped line off my reel and looked back at Steve and Luis about 20yds behind me. They were watching while talking and I looked back as if I were a kid walking to the bus on his own on his first day of school nervously looking back for approval from his parent. Steve gave me the thumbs up, motioning me to move a little closer to the lip of the pool. I took two steps before firing off my fly. With a simple look and turn of the head, the fish was onto my fly. It followed my fly almost to my feet before realizing something was wrong and moving on to catch up to its uninterested partner. I let me head hang as I was on the verge of a heart attack. You want to talk about adrenaline rush, put yourself in my shoes in that moment.

I began to think it was my fly that needed changing but before I would think of throwing something else on, there were more carp moving in on the flat. I fired off one cast and all five of the smallies began to follow. I quickly stripped in my fly to get it out of their way and into my hand in preparation for firing off another haul. The carp never came close enough for a cast so I began to cast at the smallies figuring if I catch one it may spook the other goons off. I looked at one of the big rocks submerged in the middle of the mostly sandy bottomed pool in front of me and spotted the biggest bass I have ever seen. With a perfect cast and one strip, he was onto my fly. Boom, fish on. I fought him for about15 seconds before my rod straightened out. He had broken me off. I pulled in my line and found the line around where it snapped was pretty torn up, most likely from getting hung up back in the reeds on The Pigtail.

It was almost as if divine intervention had taken place for if I had hooked up on a carp with that line, I would have lost it at the first motion of hook set. I changed out my 12lb RIO flour tippet and threw on a new fly, this time a Water's Edge Fly Co. Dirt Merchant, one of the flies donated to us by Jason Haddix of Water's Edge. I tied it on with a trusty mono loop just in time for three carp that had made their way into the pool over the reef.

They, just like their predecessors, followed the contour line of the pool towards me from the left. I again looked back at Steve and he again looked and motioned for me to get ready. I threw one or two false casts before laying down my line, far overshooting the fish, about 10 yards in front of them. I stripped the fly to where I thought they would be in a few more feet and as it passed under the front fishes nose, he turned 90 degree towards me and the stripping fly. I immediately began to shake and with one hard kick of the tail, he sucked in the Dirt Merchant. As if I was Will Ferrell in Old School, I blacked out and set the hook. The eat was about 10' in front of me and clear as day. I looked back at Steve and Luis with a doubled over rod, just in time for Luis to look at me and point, saying something to Steve. Steve turned his head and both began to make their way towards me. At first, the fish sat there, not really going anywhere and I thought to myself, "I thought Luis said these fish take a lot of backing?". I turned to Steve, who at this point was right over my right shoulder, and said "now what?" His response was simple and on point, "hold on tight." Before I could comprehend what he had said, the fish took off, like a bat out of hell. I felt the backing knot slip through my guides with lightning speed and before I knew it, about 100yds of backing was out and my line was way out of sight.

The last time I say backing was in October up in Pulaski, NY on my first Steelhead. This didn't feel like a Steelhead, it took that much line out no problem without current...and had no intention of letting me bring any of it back on my spool. I was using my 9' 8wt Redington Vapen Red and Allen Fly Fishing Kraken in size 4. Both were put to the test by this fish. As the fish slowed down, I began to crank it back in. It had taken a solid first run out of the pool and over the reef to my right into deeper water. I began to gain line just as fast as it had taken it thinking the fight was over, the fish had given, I was way wrong. The fish had turned and was heading back at me, I couldn't pick line up fast enough. As I finally got into a rhythm of picking up line, it started to sing back off the reel. Giggling the entire time, I moved onto the reef in an attempt to fight the fish better and find a spot to land it per Steve's guidance. A 5 minute fight slowly came to an end as the fish made its way back to me by pumping and cranking in line until I head my backing knot come back through the guides. Steve was a phenomenal coach, helping me fight the fish in and get it into position for landing. Steve stepped up and there she was, in his hands, not only my first Beaver Island carp, but the largest freshwater fish I had ever fought and landed.

After the initial shock was over with, Steve handed me my fish, an absolutely amazing carp that probably weighed in around 20lbs. I couldn't believe it, my first Beaver Island carp. We snapped a few photos before releasing the fish. As soon as it hit the water, it bolted off for deeper water, it as thankful to be released as I was to have the opportunity to catch it.

Luis and Steve decided to move down the reef to another pool while I stayed to continue to fish the one in front of me. I had a few more shots at fish, but nothing impressive. All I could think about was the one I had just landed, replaying it over and over in my head. I don't think the smile left my face the rest of the day.

Just as a few more fish moved on to the flat, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Curious as to whom it could be from I decided to take the risk and check it. It was Austin, Mario had hooked himself while casting. He had passed out and they were in the Beaver Island ER. Austin will tell the story better than I but from my perspective, being out on a flat far away from Beaver, I was slightly anxious. Even being a paramedic, I was worried for my good friend and fellow angler. Austin explained what had happened via text as the cell service was all that great (a common theme all around Beaver and the islands). Mario was doing well, he had only fainted briefly. They had removed the hook from his head and were discharging him shortly. A few minutes later I received a final text from Austin saying they were heading back out so all was well.

As I put my phone back into my pocket, I noticed that the wind began to pick up a little more and a slight current kicked up over the reef making things a little difficult. After about another hour of fishing, we headed back to the boat to move on to the next spot, right down the island we were on onto the bigger flat in a small bay.

Apparently this one was known for the amount of Pike that hold to the bottom earlier in the morning. Although we didn't see any, that didn't mean someone else on the trip wouldn't on one of the other days. Steve rowed us into the flat and we continued to see fish. Luis and I traded off turns on the bow, casting at fish after fish while getting a history lesson of the islands between opportunities from Steve. The history and heritage of the Beaver Island archipelago is amazing, reminiscent of that of Nantucket and New England...full of stories of Native Americans and fishing villages.

The water had warmed up with the mid-day sun and carp were moving higher up onto the flat. We moved from spot to spot in an attempt to find more fish in larger numbers. We eventually found a back bay littered with flooded out patches of grass that held smallie after smallie. I took a few shots at them but they spooked pretty easily from the boat. As we tucked into skinnier water, we began to notice some darker figures way up in the grasses and skinny water. As we began to drift up to get a good shot, we noticed smallies pouring out of the area, we probably saw somewhere between 50-100 over the course of 10 minutes. This was going to make it way more difficult to present to these fish.


As Luis took the bow and began to lay out some casts, just as we thought, he hooked up on a nice smallmouth. He quickly landed the fish and released it. As he casted again at countless carp coming down the bank, they all seemed to have other intentions other than eating. Steve thought they may have been prepping for their spawn as fish in different locations throughout the archipelago spawn at different times over the course of about a month. It was time to swap out bow time again and I stepped up. I began to fire out cast after cast at cruising fish with denial after denial. Finally, with one cast and strip I had a fish turn. The carp began to follow my fly and slowly chased it for about 15yds. When it finally looked like it was ready to eat, a shadow appeared out of the grasses and inhaled my fly, I had been SFed. Here's a little video of the moment leading up to that smallie spooking off the carp...

We all had the same reaction, as if someone had completely taken the air out of our sails. Its hilarious how we found ourselves getting so upset with the smallmouth when they take our fly. Its almost like presenting a dry fly to a rising trout and having it gulped in by a river chub...its just not the species your there to catch. The smallmouth in this area, throughout the archipelago, are big, really big. By most fisherman's standards, almost all of them would be trophies...and we carp fisherman look down on them (seems odd, but also feels right when your on a Carp Trip).

Back to the Dock -

Luis and I continued our routine of trading off the bow spot while the other filmed with one of the GoPros. Shot after shot was denied until the clock struck 5pm, time to wrap up and head in. We packed up the gear and jetted back to Beaver Island harbor. As we headed back in, Luis and I chatted and reminisced on the day. Although only one carp had been landed, we got more out of the day than simply catching fish. The techniques, tricks, camaraderie, and more taken from the day was priceless. Steve was an amazing guide, by-far the best I had been with. He taught me more about the species than I could have imagined coming into the trip. He was more than a guide, he had become a good friend. I looked up to him and what he does, its pretty amazing. We had a blast heading in, chatting about life and fishing, keeping the smiles on our faces even as we pulled the boat up on the trailer and headed back to the house.

The other two boats had come in and dropped the other anglers off at the house. My first thought was to check on Mario but when I saw him on the deck throwing back a beer, I knew all was well. We shed off our gear and laid it out to dry. Everyone that was already back had showered in preparation for dinner so Luis and I followed suit. We all hung out on the deck, throwing back some brews and reminiscing about the day (and heckling Mario a bit in good fun). Joel and Cheryl came out and joined us, both with giant grins on their faces. They began to tell us about there day, both with more enthusiasm than I can describe. Cheryl had landed four carp on the day, all with good size and Joel had success with multiple large smallies. Everyone was smiling, sharing pictures and stories when the guides pulled up. We loaded into the trucks and drove down the street to the Shamrock.


As we walked in, everyone knew the guides, chatting with everyone, especially those who asked, "how was the fishing?" We sat down and had an absolutely amazing dinner, again sharing stories, all over some pints. Austin and I decided to play a few games of pool in the back while Mario and Luis caught up at the bar. We headed back to the house after an hour or so to continue the merriment as the island crowd had begun to move in on the Shamrock. We busted out the gear and flies and began to organize our new Meat Locker fly boxes courtesy of Feather-Craft fly fishing and Evan.

Austin's Perspective

I tucked myself into my wading jacket as we made our way towards the first fishing spot of the morning. Cloudy skies dominated the horizon and a choppy wind swell threw around Captain Austin Adduci’s boat as we motored away from shore. “Can that thing get wet?” Austin asked, referring to my camera. “Nope” I responded, “but the bag is water tight.” “This boat is definitely the most comfortable boat between the guides, but It will also get you the most wet,” Captain Aducci warned me. Mario rode beside me as we made our way towards Fisherman’s Point to take our first shots at Beaver Island carp—sunny skies finally appearing in the distance as wear neared our destination.

I was up first; wielding a TFO Axiom 10wt, 3-TAND’s T-90 fly reel and a 10wt Rio Outbound fly line. Although the water was slightly nervous, one could still see straight to the bottom of the Beaver Island’s freshwater flats. The bright sunlight fell across the islands, flats and reefs, illuminating shades of aqua and blue—you could practically navigate exclusively by color. And navigation was of the highest necessity! The flats and reefs were littered with massive boulders, carried around by the winter’s ice. The most impressive boulder was one that appeared to weight at least a few tons. A trench marked it miraculous journey for hundreds upon hundreds of yards. The thousands of shadowy rocks, densely spread across these flats, nearly resembled a graveyard—headstones marking the turning over of the lake, the birth, death and rebirth of the ecosystem throughout the seasons. As we rounded the point, the shadowy rocks began to move. This was not an illusion. This was carp! “Well I’ve done my job,” Captain Adduci noted, “now it’s all up to you!”

            “Am I leading them correctly? Is there something wrong with my presentation? What’s going on?” I don’t know why it was so hard for me to understand that fish occasionally are just not hungry—after all, I never turn down a meal. After some persistent, hard fishing I finally managed to get a follow. It was a hard look, my presentation had sparked some attention. The carp followed my fly for five or ten yards and then… a flicker of orange lips. Hook set… shit! I felt the fly momentarily set into flesh and then pull out of the carp’s mouth. I was heartbroken.

I turned over the fly rod to Mario, hoping he would do better and get a fish into the boat. I was confident he would succeed; the guy just looks fishy. We were testing 3-TAND’s T-90 reel and I was anxious to see how the reel would hold up against these carp. Mario began working some cruising fish, making a few casts at some happy lookers. Finally, Captain Adduci and Mario spotted the fish we had been looking for and Mario made the cast. Suddenly, the wind picked up in a surge and sent the fly line straight at the boat—Mario had just hooked himself in the head. It went straight through his hat, and after a moment of clarification, we knew that the hook was barbed and very stuck in his scalp. Captain Adduci didn’t seem too keen on removing hooks from scalps, so I offered to do the job.

“Ill take it out Mario, but it’s going to hurt and you have to promise not to hit me,” I said jokingly. “I’m going to faint,” he replied as his body went limp, Captain Adduci and I guiding him into a seat. Unresponsive, with eyes rolling into his forehead, Mario had experienced an adrenalin response to the hook touching a nerve. We had no choice but to call for help and run him inshore. Mario came to shortly after Captain Adduci started the engine, and I held his jacket as the motor revved to nearly full throttle. Full plane across an area that was born to eat boat props, Austin said, “I’m going for it.” It was pretty badass.

After a short visit to the Emergency room, we decided to go back out and continue fishing. The island’s medical staff certainly made the most of their only patient of that week, and we soon learned that our adventure would be the talk of the island within the hour. This scary situation turned out to be quite funny. And although we didn’t land any carp that afternoon, Mario earned himself one freakishly large smallmouth and a bald spot above his left ear!

As the night wound down, we continued to talk about what an amazing day we had all had, merging all of our stories into one epic chapter of the trip. Looking forward to what tomorrow would hold, with weather looking even better and the fishing being just right, we all went to bed with giant smiles on our faces. Day two of guided fishing and the fifth day of the trip was only hours was time to get some shut eye so our bodies would be rested for what was setting up to be the best day of the trip yet.


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