Thursday, July 10, 2014

TLTFF Beaver Island '14 - Days 6 & 7


Days 1 & 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

An absolutely awesome final day on the island that transitioned over to an easy final day full of travel. A lot was in store for the next two days despite only having a half day of fishing left.

Day 6 - June 24th

No alarms again today, the excitement of knowing we still had a half day of guided fishing ahead of us was enough to have everyone up early around 7am. The house buzzed with cleaning and packing to prepare everything for the cleaning service so we wouldn't have to rush and stress while we were fishing and later, once we got off the boats.

We packed our bags and threw everything on the day room/porch before heading through the overcast morning weather towards McDonough's Deli for our final breakfast on the island. After polishing off a delicious plate of grub and a cup of joe, we headed back to the house and prep our gear. Since today was a half day we only brought the bare bone necessities for the flats. Today, I was paired up with Luis again on Austin Adduci's boat. Mario and Austin were on Kevin Morlock's boat and Joel and Cheryl were on Steve Martinez's boat. 

As the guides pulled up and we loaded the gear, it began to sprinkle a little. The breeze was pretty steady with slight gusts of wind that probably topped out at 5kts. That wasn't going to stop us or keep us off the Lake. As Luis and I loaded up Austin's truck, we were both pretty excited to (hopefully) finish off the last guided day with a bang.

Austin owns and operates Grab You Fly Charters based out of Chicago, IL...home to Austin while he's not guiding for Indigo in Beaver Island for the months of June and July. Austin and Grab Your Fly specialize in warm water bass and carp fishing on Lake Michigan (near Chicago) and the Kankakee River, so he knows carp.

As we motored out in Austin's fully decked out Alumacraft, the waves were a bit choppy and a slight spit of rain fell, but that didn't keep smiles off Luis and my faces. We motored out to one of the flats on the northern part of Hog Island, in what I believe was called Fisherman Bay. We powered down and immediately found carp. Luis took the bow first, equipped with Steve's Solitude 4 and 9wt ECHO Ion. Luis and I decided since it was a half day of guided fishing that we would swap bow time every fish or every 30 minutes. Austin hopped up on the poling platform, again walking us through every step and pointing out fish as we let the wind drift us down the shoreline along the flat.

The glare was tough in the morning as the overcast skies and slight wind cut the surface of the water down to almost zero visibility. We were basically looking for moving purple shapes that were contrasting to the green and blue bottoms...carp. Countless fish moved into and down the flat as Austin perfectly guided us onto fish, fish that didn't want to cooperate. Luis and I swapped back and forth with the bow time until about the second round of swapping when Luis and I decided to make the call to go chase pike and smallies.

Austin insisted we move down to Baltimore Bay, south of Fisherman Bay on Hog Island, towards "The Pigtail". As we jetted into the next bay, we again began to see fish as the sun broke through the clouds and wind laid down a bit. I took the bow again just in time to move in on some mudding fish. With one cast and great follow, the bell rung and it was Luis' turn on the bow. I loved this method of swapping spots, it added a slight competitive level to the day while also giving one of us time to cheer on the other.

As Luis took the bow I hopped up on the poling platform while Austin rowed us along the flat from the top of his YETI Tundra 35. I was able to get a phenomenal vantage point not only to shoot with the GoPro, but to also spot the carp Austin was guiding Luis onto. As we continued to work the bay's shoreline and flat, we wound up near "The Pigtail".

It was time to move on...for more toothy and aggressive fish. We powered over to another bay, this one on Beaver Island, where pike had been caught and spotted over the course of the last two days. We powered down and Austin grabbed the oars again to move us along a cut where the bay's 3-4' flat transitioned down to 6-8'. As some of you know (I didn't know until this trip), pike are ambush predators and love to sit near edges where they can attack unexacting prey moving off the flat or along the cut. Austin simply said to watch for large, long "log-like" figures holding the bottom if we were trying to spot pike and smaller, mobile, dark spots cruising the edges if we were looking for smallies. Luis decided to make a game out of fishing for these predatory fish by selecting some of our own flies out of our boxes and see who catches the most fish on their own flies...I was totally in.

I hopped up on the bow right after tying on my first selection, a Water's Edge Fly Co. "Bottom Dweller"...not a fish in sight. I started to blind-cast at the edge and strip in, hoping to see some movement come off the edge or bottom. Nothing. Just as my time was coming to an end in the casting spot, I saw a pike, somewhere around 24", holding to the bottom. I began to cast and just as I finished my first strip, the fish came up and I was able to see my first pike eat. Just as it has been described, its amazing. There is so much power behind those fish and when those gills flare, its enough to get any fisherman's adrenaline going. As I set the hook, I was able to feel the pull of the fish for about a second before it broke me off. Wow. It was a bittersweet moment, technically I hooked my first pike, but also lost it. I was stoked, and that fish gave me the Esox bug.

It was Luis' turn again to take the bow. Like some magical powers were involved, the fish showed their faces. Austin said, "Luis, pike, 11 o'clock." As I looked down over my left shoulder, sure enough, fish. He wasn't kidding when he said "log-like" figure holding to the bottom, it was doing just that. With a few casts, the fish began to move. It pursued the fly for a few feet before peeling off and moving down the cut until we could no longer see it. Just as the pike disappeared, a gang of three smallies began to cruise in front of Luis. With a couple of casts, they were yet again out of range and uninterested.

Luis turned around and began to reel in his line, indicating it was my turn for some bow time. As Luis was reeling in his fly line and turned around talking to me, I saw something move in the waters out of the corner of my eye. Before I could register what it was, Luis' line went tight and he yelled, "fish on!" I turned on the GoPro and began rolling as we realized the fish that was on, was a pike. After a hardy battle, the fish was in the boat and I was able to see my first pike up close and personal. As some of you may know, we catch a lot of Chain Pickerel around here, amazing fish, but when it comes to size, they have nothing on their Esox cousins. What a gorgeous fish, absolutely amazing. After a few photos and a healthy release. I was on the bow.

We spotted another small pike and a few smallies but nothing would bite. As the guided day came to a close, we loaded up the gear and powered up the engine towards Beaver Island's harbor. Cruising in past the point, past the lighthouse one last time was unbelievably memorable. The sun was out, the air temperature was perfect, and the water was crystal clear. I couldn't help but take mental pictures, some that I see every time I close my eyes and think about what a magical place BI is.

As we got to the dock, we popped the boat up on the trailer and headed back to the house. Everything was waiting for us on the porch as we all peeled off our gear and loaded it up for the haul home. The other anglers began to show up right after us, all going through the same drill. Nobody had caught a carp on the final day, but some had some great follows and all were able to take a final look at the beauty of Beaver Island...for this trip. We all chatted about the day and reminisced on the past few as we walked into town to check out a few shops and grab some lunch at the deli. I picked up a few souvenirs for the family, the most important of the trip (which I forgot to mention in the Day 4 post) was the small lake rock I picked up for my 2 year old, Lilly. She collects "baby rocks" and I thought the beautiful, dark, smooth stone I found on my first guided day was did she.

We walked into the deli and grabbed a quick lunch before settling up the tabs and saying final goodbyes to Joel and Cheryl. Luis was up settling with Kevin, Steve, and Austin in the guides apartment and I was able to stop up and say hi. The place was awesome, a perfect guide pad. It was laid out with the main living room as a tying area. One of the bedrooms was a gear storage area while the other was of course for sleeping. It was a true "man cave" and I have to admit I was pretty jealous I don't have rooms that cool.

Austin Adduci and I headed back to the house to load up his truck with the trash to run to the dump and some of our heavier luggage to run to the airport to try and get on the earlier flight so we wouldn't be weight restricted and could have the gear waiting for us when we landed. When we got back to the house we all chilled for a bit before loading up Steve's truck with all of our other gear. The guides met us at the house for final goodbyes. It was pretty amazing how well Indigo runs their service, an experience I will never forget...and I'm sure all of us plan on using again. I know this is cliche, but there weren't really any "goodbyes", they were more like "see you soon"s. As we thanked everyone for the trip and shook hands, I couldn't help but think about being 100% in on hosting a trip in 2015.

We all loaded up and headed to the airport for our 4:00pm flight. As we arrived, we took the above  last shot as a group on Beaver Island. We unloaded our bags into the small "terminal" and noticed the previous flights passengers were still waiting to get to Charlevoix. We found out there was bad weather on the mainland and the earlier flight had been delayed. The clock ticked on until about 5:00pm when the pilot decided they were clear.

We waited until about 6:00pm when the flight returned but this time the second plane had landed as well. Austin, Luis, and I loaded up onto plane one and Mario onto plane two. We took off back to back and landed in Charlevoix 15 minutes later in the same way. When we landed, our cars were parked next to the runway waiting for us (thank you Fresh Air for awesome customer service)! We loaded up the cars and said our final goodbyes to Mario before starting our trek to Lorain, OH to stay with Luis' family again (to split the 14 hour drive home).

We hit the road at around 6:30pm and began our 7 hour drive. On the way to Ohio we ran into some serious thunderstorms that brought the entire 70mph speed limit highway down to about 20mph thanks to zero visibility and flash flooding. We went in and out of thunderstorms as we listened to tunes and shared stories. Within an hour or so of the drive, we decided to stop and grab some dinner. Luis and I both share a love for eating food from local the beaten path. We found just that after traveling about 5 miles off the highway with The Peach Pit Restaurant in St. Helen, MI. We all sat down and crushed some homestyle cooking...including a slice of pie! All of it was amazing and we did our best to stay out of a food coma since there was still about 5-6 hours left in the drive.

We trekked on and finally arrived in Lorain at around 1am. It was raining pretty hard so we all grabbed the necessities and ran into the house. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we were all snoring before our heads hit the pillow. It was perfect as alarms were set for 7:30am and we had another solid 7 hours of travel ahead of us the following day...

Day 7 - June 25th

For the first time on the trip, I slept right on up to my alarm sounding and if it wasn't charging across the room, I'm sure I would have hit snooze. We loaded up the car and hit the road around 8am after saying goodbye and thank you to Luis' family. All hungry for some breakfast, we stopped at the 7-Eleven down the street to grab some coffee and donuts. Luis and I decided to test our luck and each grab a $20 scratch-off. Great way to start the trip home, by winning $40. I don't usually play the lottery or gamble so that put me in a pretty good mood.

We had an uneventful trip home, stopping for gas and a few bathroom breaks. We traveled back through the amazing mountains of PA and western MD before finally arriving at Austin's house. After unloading his gear and brief goodbyes, knowing we would see him again soon, Luis and I left and stopped at a local market down the street for some more grub.

The 45 minute drive down the beltway towards Annapolis seemed to last forever. That final leg of the trip always does. At around 4pm we arrived at Luis' house and unloaded his gear. I had a quiet 20 minute drive home. I took it slow, knowing I was traveling back to normal life, full of work, my amazing family, and the everyday hustle and bustle of the world. I pulled up and sat in the car, taking in everything that had happened over the course of the last 7 days. I caught myself smiling, from ear to ear when I finally snapped out of my fishing stupor. I unloaded my gear and threw everything in the washing machine. I hopped in to a quick shower before heading downstairs to relax on the couch. I fell into that "wow it feels good to be home" mode and before I knew it, I was asleep. I woke up to my wife and daughter walking in the door, both as excited to see me as I them. It was the perfect ending to the perfect trip.


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