Monday, July 7, 2014

TLTFF Beaver Island '14 - Day 5


Days 1 & 2

Day 3

Day 4

Possibly one of the most photographed days, one that none of us will ever forget not only from the insanely amazing fishing, but by the way it was documented.

Day 5 - June 23rd

Our alarms were set for about 7:30am so we could be up and ready for an 8am breakfast at the deli...but I don't think a single one of those alarms went off. Most of us were up around 7am as we all knew from checking out weather reports the previous night, it was bound to be a great day. The winds were due to stay down to almost nothing all day and the clouds were going to burn off early giving us open sun for almost the entire day. This not only meant that conditions would be ideal for fishing, but the water would be warming up, bringing the carp in skinnier for a meal. 

As we made our way down towards McDonough's Deli, everyone had a good pep in their step courtesy of a 1 knot steady wind, 65 F air temp, and picturesque morning. We met up with Kevin, Steve, and Austin at the deli and had yet another amazing breakfast. We paired up and setup fishing partners for the day...Luis and Mario, Joel and Cheryl, and Austin and I. Luis and Mario would be fishing with Steve, Joel and Cheryl would be fishing with Austin, and Austin and I would be fishing with Kevin. 

After finishing up breakfast, we picked out lunch and tossed it into our guides coolers before heading back to the house and gearing up. Getting prepped for the day took slightly longer as putting on sunscreen was paramount due to the days forecast. Anglers are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of sun protection from the level of sunscreen application to clothing selection. I love my 12wt WORKwt gloves, they give great protection not only from the sun but the thousands of strips I make a day while on the water. Every day of the trip I wore long sleeve 45+ SPF shirts and a Buff and hat. Since waders always covered our lower halves, everyone was protected there.

I was equipped with my 8wt Redington Vapen Red and Allen Fly Fishing Kraken in size 4. Austin geared up with Austin Adduci's 9wt TFO Axiom and the 3-TAND T-90 reel. Kevin pulled up to the house and we loaded up the boat before heading down the street to drop the boat in at the local ramp. For once, the weather man was right, it was a bluebird day with zero wind...the Lake was glassy and the water was crystal clear (partially thanks to the invasive zebra mussels that constantly filter it). As we began to motor out, it was a little cooler (as was typical for the mornings throughout the trip) and called for wading jackets. We were about 100yds from the ramp and Kevin realized he had forgotten his jacket in the truck so we turned around to grab it giving us the perfect opportunity to ride out with Steve, Luis, and Kevin on our port side and an awesome photo op...

After shooting some photo and video, we went our separate ways...Steve, Luis, and Mario off to fish some of the bays North of the island while we took the short shot East towards the Three Bird Islands. A little about the bed islands...a lot of birds chill there and therefore they are loud and smell terrible. As Kevin put it, "stepping foot on that island would be absolute hell." Austin and I points it was hard to hear the other people talk as we got closer. Surrounding the one bird island we first pulled up to were flats that can only be described as something you would see in the keys. They were a bit deeper and had rocky bottoms but they surrounded the entire island giving us the opportunity to pole 360 degrees around for a few laps.

We powered down and Kevin hopped up on the platform. Austin was up on the bow first. Within 10 minutes we started to see carp, and not just any carp, mudding carp. We didn't have to opportunity to see mudding carp with Steve, especially not this close. The depth of the water ranged from 3-10' with a majority of the fish feeding around 6-8'. Knowing sink rates of flies was paramount and heavier flies were tied on. Kevin tied on some phenomenal ties that I can only describe as large damsel nymphs. We first tried an olive and yellow pattern that would prove to be extremely productive. The large dumbbell eyes of the tie helped get the fly down along with the longer leaders Kevin tied on. 

As we poled up on the first round of carp, Austin stripped out some line. With a mudding carp in the cross-hairs, he began to fire off a cast and let his fly drop with precision right in front of and ahead of the carp. Kevin's instructions were exact, I think all of us would agree that if you were blindfolded on his bow, he could paint a picture for you good enough to get you hooked up. He is constantly talking to you and isn't afraid to be honest, especially when you botch a cast. With Austin in front of me, the carp off to our left, and Kevin behind me giving instructions, I had a front row seat. "Great cast, now let it sink, now strip strip strip strip stop. He sees it....(long pause)...strip...he's got it." I look away from the fish as my view wasn't as good and I didn't see the eat...boom, Austin strips and lifts his stick...FISH ON!

We had been powered down and poling for about 15 minutes and with Austin's first set of casts, he was hooked up. It was amazing, it set the tempo for the rest of the day. As Austin lifted his stick, the carp didn't hesitate making a solid run straight off the bow. I snagged Austin's camera at some pint during the fight to take some video and photos. The carp was a heavy fighter and Austin couldn't believe the power behind the fish. My heart was racing as fast as his as I watched knowing I was up next, and there were carp all around us, all over the flat. After a 10 minute fight, Austin "gulped" the fish and it was in the boat. Photos were taken, fish was released healthy, and high-fives were had...and it was my turn to take the bow.

Kevin continued to pole us along the flat, around the island and within 5 minutes, I had two mudding carp at my 1 o'clock. Kevin picked them out and instructed me perfectly onto the fish. My first cast was completely behind them, my second way in front of them. During the first day, with Steve, my casting was flawless and that was with some wind...these last two casts got in my head. My third cast spooked the fish, time to find more. A few minutes later we found a few more mudding fish, bypassing constant waves of cruisers. With my last blow shot fresh in my head, I threw a cast, not bad but definitely not good. I let my fly sink and watched one of the mudders turn its head and start to chase my fly. From my great perspective on the bow, I watched the carp chase the fly a solid 5-8' until the fly was sucked in, I immediately set the hook (yes I trout set) and saw my fly again. I had pulled the fly out of the fishes mouth before it was able to close its mouth...I completely jumped the gun. Everyone on the boat deflated as we all saw what had happened. 

Kevin immediately let me know what I had done wrong and then said, "lets find another fish." My mind was everywhere, I had blown my first and second shots at fish, two hungry fish and I blew it. Damn it. We made a lap around bird island and didn't see any fish for the whole north, rockier side of the island. We got around the point of the island and found a cruiser coming across the boulder laden flat soI threw a cast. The carp followed, third time is the charm right? No, as if the fish had been talking, I pulled the fly out of its mouth again. I was pissed. 

I took a moment, thought about giving up the bow and decided to give these fish one more shot. We poled around the southern part of bird island again and after we passed over a small reef to get back onto the flats, we found more mudders. I had about 5 fish around me, from 9 to 3 o'clock. Confused as to which fish to go for, Kevin did the leg work for me and targeted a fish. With two false casts, I let one rip and it was perfect. I had slightly overshot the fish on purpose and began to strip back. I pulled the fly right under the feeding carps nose and he began to follow. In a perfectly cinematic fashion, the boat got entirely quiet and I watched the fish eat. I waited a second and watched the mouth close this time, I had learned my lesson (twice). I strip set and boom, FISH ON! A huge weight came off my shoulders and Kevin started to laugh, I think saying something along the lines of "finally".

After an awesome run I noticed the line slowed down and then stopped coming off the reel. I began to reel in my backing and noticed there wasn't much resistance. All I cold think was that the fish had come unbuttoned...nope, it was making a run back at the boat. I found later in the day this was a common occurrence, Kevin basically said "the fish run away, realize that doesn't get the pain out of their lip, so they try something different and make a run back to the source." Made perfect sense as the fish came to the boat, did a fly by, and began to run off the stern. So Kevin turned the boat and I fought the fish in. We "gulped" it and repeated the motions we had gone through with Austin's fish. I was stoked, the monkey was off both of our backs and we were only about an hour into the day. 

Over the course of the next two hours, we continued to fish the bird island flats and Austin and I each put another fish into the boat. As the bite on that flat slowed down and we saw less and less mudders, Kevin asked us "do you guys want to keep finding fish or go cow hunting?" Austin and I were content with either and said we were done for whatever, essentially leaving the decision up to cow hunting it was.

We powered up and headed over to Hog Island. We started at the end of "The Pigtail" and anchored up for lunch. After reminiscing about the multiple fish we had already put in the boat and taking a look at some of the shots Austin had taken we began chowing down on some amazing McDonough's Deli sandwiches. Kevin had the weather radio on during lunch, waiting for the central lake forecast. This was a common thing for the guides to do during lunch as having the radios on while fishing typically spooks out fish. Lunch was finished almost as quickly as it had started and Kevin hopped back up on the platform. We poled our way down the bank, about 20yds off the island and in 4-6' of water (some drop-offs went down to 10' but we didn't see mudders in that water, just cruisers). 

We immediately started to see fish cruising parallel to the shore. Some were skinnier, others right in line with the boat. As fish came down to us, we fired off shot after shot, generally with fish paying no attention to us. I was on the bow and we were coming up on a large boulder that had a dark figure behind it cruising to us fast. Kevin said, "Morgan, carp at 11 o'clock coming in fast." and I immediately spotted it. My first cast landed a few feet in front of it and the fish kicked its fin towards the fly hard. It wasn't until I had set the hook that we all realized it was a smallmouth, a big smallmouth. I fought the fish in quick as we had more carp approaching off the bow and we snapped a few photos before releasing it. The smallie was the biggest I had ever caught, weighing in at a guestimate of about 5.5lbs and it had a pretty awesome tag on its lip. Kevin told us that the smallmouth in the great lakes are among the most studied in the world and the tagging programs are amazing. 

With more carp ahead, I threw another cast at a cruising fish and began to strip. The fly wasn't anywhere near the 6' bottom but that was because the carp was cursing at about 3' under the surface. I continued to strip per Kevin's instructions and the fish kicked its tail just like the smallie. It came at my fly double time and aggressive. The eat was amazing, almost right on the surface and it inhaled my fly. I set the hook and had yet another amazing fight full of backing and great runs. The fish was in and released completely healthy. Austin was up, he picked up the rod and I picked up the camera, we switched roles perfectly. One thing we noticed about the carp cursing at us was they were getting bigger and bigger. My fish was massive, my biggest of the trip to that point and Austin would go on to get his as well, literally in his first cast at his first fish after taking the bow. With another solid fight, just as amazing as the previous ones, we knew we had gotten into the big fish.

I stepped up on the bow just as we began to pole past a flooded out reed area on the island. Austin and I had heard a splash up near the reeds and we all assumed it was on the other side of the small strip of land (The Pigtail). We had seen carp breeching all around us all day so we thought it was safe to assume that fish were doing the same all around the island. As I took a closer look at the reeds, Austin and I noticed some of them were moving in different directions than the small little spits of breeze were pushing the others. We convinced Kevin to pole in close for a better look and as we crept in, sure enough, a nice 20lber came cursing out of the reeds. With a few shots fired at it, the fish spooked but we were all left baffled as Kevin said he hadn't seen that behavior. It was neat for all of us to see and I explained to Kevin how redfish are known to do the same during flood tides to find food. 

After poling back out away from the island a bit, I had taken the bow again. I was continuing to watch the water for my next shot when Kevin said, "Morgan, theres your third species." It took me a minute to figure out what he had meant. I looked down off my right side and there sat a massive Sheepshead, a freshwater drum. I had the chance to hook and land a fish that would give me a "slam". It was feeding around a boulder in about 10' of water. I cast and let my fly sink right off the right side of the fish. It turned and examined the fly for a few seconds before slowly swimming off into deeper water. Although getting a slam would have been a cool feather to pop into my hat, it didn't happen. But what an experience to see another species. 

As the bite slowed down again, Kevin decided to make the 30-45 minute run out to two islands he hadn't fished yet this year. The islands literally looked like something you would see in a Caribbean traveler magazine (minus the bugs). They were white sand covered, surrounded by turquoise waters and amazing flats. The bugs around the islands were by-far the worst but we would soon find out, those didn't matter. With glassy water making the run possible, we powered down and began to work the flat. Throughout the day we had changed flies a few times but they were the same pattern and size with the only variation being color. 

We had hooked up on black/white, olive/yellow, and olive/pink.. Austin took the bow first and after a solid 20 minutes, we were onto feeding fish. Austin fired off a cast and was hooked up, a common theme of the day. After a few minutes of fighting, the fish came off. We checked the hook and line and all looked well. Austin had numerous mudding fish around him and yet again, per Kevin's on-point instructions, was on. This fish fought much longer...but unbuttoned again. 

After a fly change for Austin, it was my turn to take the bow again. With a few big refusals and denials of fish pursuing and peeling off before the bite, I started to watch the clock knowing the day was coming to an end. Kevin spotted a massive fish that I was able to have eat and within seconds it came off. This time it was not a mystery as to why it had happened, I was broken off. With a new leader and fly tied on, this time the same pattern as all of our previous fish but in a Halloween color combo of black/orange, I began to fire off casts. After multiple denials in a row, Kevin told me to cut off 50% of the tail of the fly. While snipping the tail, Kevin said, "Morgan, get ready." I looked up and dropped my fly in the water.

What I looked up to see was a fish with shoulders on it that I had never seen before, absolutely massive. My first thought was, "holy smokes...I only have on 10lb tippet." My second thought was interrupted by Kevin saying, "Thats a really big fish...Morgan, don't F*** this up." Real confidence booster huh? I fired off a cast, way behind the fish as it was cruising from 11 o'clock to 10. I let out another cast and this time it was on point as the fish followed it down during the sink. I could feel the adrenaline kick in like an Epinephrine shot to the heart and as everyone on the boat gasped, the fish ate. I set the hook and before I could blink, all I could hear was my backing knot zinging through my guides. I looked down to turn on my chest-mounted GoPro and realized it was already on. Yes. This fish fought like no other, and multiple times it made me think, "my rods definitely going to snap." With 4 heavy heavy runs, I finally was able to put the wood to this fish and get it to gulp next to the boat. With every run, I had gone deeper into my backing and a solid 12 minute fight was over. Kevin netted the fish and simply said, "wow." I looked over, with shaking legs, and my jaw hit the ground. Austin nearly dropped his camera as we all sat in awe of the fish my 8wt with 10lb tippet had just landed. I had tied my tippet onto my new Cutthroat "Carp" Furled Leader that we had been given for the trip, it had performed flawlessly. I imagine the reason I did land that fish was because of the give that leader had...I was impressed.

Kevin let me sit down after acting like a child and giving out at least half a dozen high-fives and fist bumps and he asked, "are you ready?" I replied with a huge "YES" and he pulled the fish onto the boat. We again yelled and high-fived before I picked up the fish and put it in my lap. I looked at Kevin and said, "this fish weighs more than my daughter." For those of you who don't know, my daughter Lilly is 2...she weighs about 32lbs. After snapping an unbelievable amount of photos and grabbing some video, it was time to put my girl back in the net to weigh with Kevin's calibrated scale. I was right, 34lbs, she did weigh more than Lilly. But here's where the amazing part comes in. Kevin took a good look at the fish and informed us that she was a spent female, meaning she had already released all of her eggs and that a few weeks prior, she could have been 10-15lbs heavier while carrying that After a more-than-healthy release, I had to sit back down. I was shaking like I had seen a ghost. That fish was by-far the largest freshwater fish I had caught and easily the largest fish I have ever caught on the fly.

We all sat back with smiles as big as our faces. The bell had rung and that fish had come just in time before we had to make the long run back in. The water was glassy as we ran back over deep holes and shallow flats, spooking all types of species and all I could think about was what had just happened. I looked at Austin and we both gave each other a pat on the back knowing we had both just had the best fishing day of our lives. I reached down, reminiscing about that last fish and had to pinch was real.

We got back in to the ramp right after Austin and trailered his boat. Joel and Cheryl had another great day, landing multiple smallmouth and having some great carp follows (unfortunately no eats). after getting back to the house, Austin and I still had the bug and decided to walk down to the harbor flat for a few casts as we waited for Steve, Luis, and Mario to come in. As we got into the water we spooked about a dozen 20lbers out of the flooded grasses. As we walked down and rounded the point into Gulls Harbor Austin decided to head back and shower and I decided to trek the shoreline alone back towards the rocks we had fished the first day on the island when we waded. As I crept down the shoreline, I spotted somewhere around a hundred fish laid up in the grasses and skinny water as shallow as 1'. I took shots at almost every one I saw without a single fish showing interest. Later I found out from the guides they were taking advantage of the weather and temps and sunbathing. I got down to the rocks and had pod after pod of fish come in without interest until a pair cruised in closer than the others and stopped to eat.

I threw one cast to the front fish and he saw right over it. The trailing fish turned and ate with full aggression. Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, I was hooked up again. I landed the fish, a nice 12-15lber and released it on the flat. As I watched it swim off, I noticed another pair coming in from the opposite direction. I popped back up on the rock and threw out another cast. This one I believe false-hooked the fish so I popped it off quickly so I wouldn't risk injuring the fish. That was enough for me...6 fish total, way more than I imagined I would have landed in one day based off of stories others had told from weeks and years past.

As I trekked through the clouds of midges and took in the beauty of the island all by myself, I felt my phone go off. I had missed Steve's boat coming in and everyone was back at the house. I hurried back just in time to shower before dinner. I came out as the guides pulled up to a brew from Mario and Luis and a whole lot of stoke. Mario and Luis had also had a banner day full of pike, smallmouth, carp and an amazing double up where both put 20lb fish in the boat at the same time. 

Mario and Luis had put multiple pike in the boat, including this massive fish by Mario, his largest to date.

We headed off to yet another amazing dinner at Stoney Acre Grill & Pub on the other side of the island. Figuring out what to order was one of the toughest things as everything on the menu sounded like a home run. I ended up ordering what almost everyone else did, the Wet Burrito. That name will forever be remembered by us all as we figured out where the "Wet" part of the name came from the next was totally worth it, I'd do it again.

As we headed back to the house, we all felt better and better about what the day had in store as every story made us laugh and smile. We truly were on vacation, relaxed as we should have been and teeming with excitement knowing the trip wasn't over yet. We still had one more half day of fishing ahead of us and it was shaping up to finish off the trip with some final memories to reminisce about during the 14 hour drive back home we had in store after our last day of fishing.

Photo credit goes to Luis and Mario for the photos above that are posted right after their paragraph, awesome shots!