I fish a lot, and those frequent excursions take their toll on my waders.
They are usually damp. That combined with a few small holes and the summer heat create a perfect storm of olfactory horror. There are a few leaks in the neoprene seams at my feet, which means after a few hours of fishing my feet are in small puddles.
This causes the initial of stinky waders to snowball into the bigger issue of stinky fisherman.
If I could just stop fishing for a few days and let my waders dry completely, I might be able to avoid this unfortunate reality. The bad news is all the fishing I did this past week caused my waders (and feet) to get smellier and smellier. The good news I caught bunch of fish.
Tuesday evening I set out to do some exploring; I visited one of those small green lines on the Michigan DNR trout maps. It was one of the most pleasant fishing experiences I’ve ever had; the spring-fed water was shockingly cold (so cold my toes went numb after a an hour), the water was perfectly clear, and the fish were eager. The cold water on my legs was a refreshing reprieve from the 85°+ air temperature. Instead of pulling my wader straps over my shoulders, I simply let them hang down, my waders held up by my wading belt. My impression of hip waders.
I caught four fish that evening; 1 rainbow trout, 1 brown trout, and 2 creek chubs. I missed at least that many. If I was able to get my yellow #10 foam grasshopper to flow over any slightly deeper areas of the creek, a fish would rise up and attack my fly. This usually happened only twice for each spot. If I couldn’t hook the fish by the second rise, they stopped rising.
Although the fish were small, they were in perfect proportion to the stream, which was about as wide as a single lane road.
The fish were extremely un-photogenic, and jumped back into the water as soon as I pulled the fly from their mouths.
Early Friday morning I awoke in the dark, hopped in the car, and reached a different river at sunrise. After I waded in some deeper water without any fish, I moved upstream toward the dam. The water was too deep there too wade, so I roll-cast from shore.
As I picked up my first cast into a rocky eddy, I saw dark shadows following my fly to the surface. I switched to a muddler minnow, which I knew would sit near the surface due to its deer-hair body. That was the key, and soon I had a spunky rock bass in hand.
After a while I decided to try a different fly; a matuka-style fly I tied with a pair of polkadot guinea feathers.
As soon as the fly hit the water a fish grabbed it and the fight was on. The smallie jumped three times and put a very nice bend in my 5 weight rod. After a few runs the fish relented and I grabbed its lip. Not a huge fish, but plenty of fun on my fly rod.
Certainly beats sleeping.
I caught a bluegill and two baby smallies– one in the same spot, and another one in the pool above the dam.
Soon the offensive stench of my waders and the time convinced me to head to work, so I obliged. Is there anything better than starting a Friday wading for smallmouth bass?
That evening after some delicious Mexican food Claire and I took a drive in the country, taking a look at some houses Claire found online. We moved to Michigan, as I type this Claire is headed to her first day at her new job; the next step is to find a house.
While exploring the countryside southeast of Grand Rapids, we found ourselves driving along a river– a river I thought was too deep to wade through most of its course. Suddenly through the trees I saw the unmistakable glisten of riffles.
“Riffles!” I said, and we both looked out the window. I made a mental note of the spot and returned at sunrise the next morning.
This time I brought my spinning gear, and my first cast of a 3″ twister tail on a 1/16oz jig right into the riffles was slammed by the biggest smallmouth bass of the day.
Subsequent casts brought more fish to hand: a rock bass, then more smallies. I picked the riffle apart, then waded out into what turned out to be completely wadeable rocky flats.
After an hour of fishing, I’d caught five smallies and one rock bass. An olive tube jig also worked great on these fish. Pretty good numbers; I was extremely satisfied. But when I saw the flashes of fish I knew weren’t smallies, I was intrigued. What were they?
I thought they were skinny carp. They ignored all the spinning lures I sent their way, but thankfully they were slow to spook. The angle of the sun and my polarized glasses allowed me to see them fairly well; they seemed to be hanging out in the rocky flats, occasionally turning their bodies to grab something drifting in the current.
I walked back to my car, but instead of heading home I grabbed my fly rod and turned back to the water. I wanted to see if I could catch one of these mystery fish.
I threw nymphs and streamers under an indicator, but I couldn’t get the flies deep enough. These fish were holding right at the bottom, and I could see my offerings drift a few inches above the fish. I don’t know if they saw the flies and ignored them or they were just too interested in the bottom; either way, it wasn’t working.
After my indicator inexplicably flew off my line into parts unknown, I decided to try a different tactic. I pulled out the heaviest fly I had, a black marabou hourglass-eyed backstabber. I’d tied this for carp, but I wondered if it could do the trick here. I needed something to sit on the bottom and get the attention of these fish.
It took me a few casts to get the fly where I wanted it, but I did it; I lobbed it about 20 feet upstream of the feeding fish, and let it sink downstream directly in front of the fish.
I don’t know if I saw or felt the take, or if I even set the hook, but suddenly I had a fish on!
I felt the weight, but the fish didn’t seem to know it was hooked. It shook its head but didn’t run- it just sat there in the current. It was only when I pulled in more line that the fish reacted. It shot upstream, and then downstream in a quick run, and then stopped.
Now it knew it was hooked, and I knew it was a pretty big fish. I couldn’t see it anymore, but my rod was doubled over like a “U.”
Soon it fully understood its predicament and started running in earnest; not like a carp’s blistering runs, but short and powerful movements, as if it couldn’t be bothered to swim to far away. I held the throbbing rod in my quickly tiring hand as the fish swam all over the rocky flats.
I slowly waded toward the shallow water; I didn’t have a net, and even if I had brought one it would have been pitifully small for this fish. The only chance I had at landing this fish was tiring it and grabbing it in shallow water.
The problem with the shallow water close to the bank was the trees. Three or four times during the fight my rod and line got caught in the branches, but my fly stayed firmly in the fish. When it took a sudden run downstream, my line found its way into the trees and this time I couldn’t untangle it.
At this point the fish was tired; the only thing I could do was set my fly rod down in the water and hand line my tippet to bring in the fish!
As I did this it took one last run, the mono burning through my fingers– but the fish stayed on, and soon I was lipping a fish I’d never caught before.
In the shallow water I could see the bright red fins, and wondered if this could be a river redhorse sucker, a species that has been on my “to catch” list for quite a while.
After a long fight, it took a while to revive the big fish. As I held it in the water it slowly came to, and I snapped about a million pictures.
I thought it was one of the prettiest fish I’d ever caught! The blazing red fins and silve/gold/green scales were beautiful in the clear water.
As I watched the fish swim away, I was thinking about how great Michigan is when I was interrupted by the awful aroma of my waders. I headed back to the car, loaded up, and headed home.
I fish a lot, and those frequent excursions take their toll on my waders.