Sunday, September 29, 2002

Back to the old reliable well before sunrise. Plenty of fish to be found, so I worked myself up to the bend where I knew fish would hang out all day. It wasn't as hot as I had hoped early on, but I was still hooking into fish often. Many were good chop shots. Landed one male jack and hooked lots more. Strangely at 3pm everyone left. I was able to fish the run easily. With the clear water, it was like fishing in barrel. I targeted the biggest fish in the run and got him on the line twice. The second time he cleared the water at eye level and broke the tip of my rod. That's paying the price.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Used a comp day to fish the middle part of the week. For a change I went to Green Cottage. No crowds, right? Wrong. Still, the early bird got the worm and a good hole. It only took a few casts to get my first salmon on the line. By the time the sun rose, I already had a really good day. By the time I left around 3pm, this stretch looked like the 6th St. dam. Between 9 and 11, the fish got really aggressive and would hit just about anything. It's much easier fighting the fish in this stretch because the water is lower and the current isn't as strong. I ended the day landing 3 and hooking into lots.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The early birds were getting the worm today. Jim and I set up a gauntlet along one of our favorite spots and hit about 10 salmon. Jim even landed two, I landed none. That's okay. Great weather. Water was low and clear, despite coming up a couple inches from the recent rain.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Back before sunrise to beat the crowds. Finally got a good spot. This time the salmon weren't as cooperative. Got three on the line over about three hours. Also got a really nice brown, much like the one last year. It took a yellow glo bug under an indy rig. Many, many people out.

Sunday, September 8, 2002

With no rain, and low, clear water, the fish were stuck in the hole. If you were lucky enough to be in a deep, dark hole, you were in luck. If you were like me, you walked around for several hours looking for one of these open holes. Later in the evening a couple holes opened and I was able to get six on the line. The fish were very fresh and active. Not sure why others weren't getting many during the day.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

I heard a few rumors of salmon and thought I'd check it out. A few were around. They seemed to be pretty scattered because of the recent high water. It was a bit dark and a bit high, but really not all that bad. It was good fishing. Didn't catch anything, but the fishing was good. Nice weather too. Hit up Maple Leaf and Sulak.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

One of the best days of fishing I've had in a long time. I left home well before sunrise and got to Sulak just as daylight broke. I headed back to a few of the spots I had found in January. My memory wasn't as good as I thought, because I walked for a half hour before I got to the bend I wanted to be at. The river was just a touch high and dark tea colored. I couldn't see into the water far and no gravel could be seen. Nevertheless a few steelhead exposed themselves by leaping out of the water and thrashing around. Using an indy rig, I position myself slightly above the runs so my flies would just graze along the bottom. The hottest fly was a nuclear-type egg. In the center was a very small red/orange yarn ball. Tied just above were wisps of creme yarn. In the water the wisps would create a halo around the yarn ball. I landed several trout on this and a few larger fish hit it as well. The other good flies were black stones and green caddis. I had three steelhead on the line, and only one was remotely close to being landed. I did land five trout, some small, some nice. A couple of big trout got off the line. One was a big, big brown on the nuclear egg. Best of all, I didn't see a single other angler all day. A group of four canoers/kayakers passed by, and that was it. It was farily cool and blustery today. The past few days were very nice and sunny.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Yesterday's weather was so amazingly nice, I think every steelheader in the area hit the stream. Today, the weater was still nice, but the fish were hiding. I took a good part of the afternoon to hike and fish from Sulak downstream almost to the Upper Branch Bridge. I got one nice rainbow where a small creek enters the river, but nothing else. Used the indy rig with a variety of flies. Tried to get it all deep.

Sunday, December 9, 2001

Since the weather was holding out so well this year, I gave the steelhead my best shot. Unfortunately they didn't seem to want to show their faces to me. Today I went down to Green Cottage and got reaquainted with some of the holes I haven't been to in a long, long time. Earlier I spent some time at Maple Leaf and that was just frustrating. I started using an new indicator rig, leaving my C&D on the shelf. At Maple Leaf I couldn't seem to get the roll cast out to where I wanted. The water was just a bit too deep. At Green Cottage, with the water much lower overall, I could easily get my casts where I wanted. It seems like I was getting the nymphs and eggs down near the bottom, but nothing would hit.

Sunday, September 15, 2001

Hit the river again at dawn. Actually well before dawn. It was so dark I had to wait about 20 minutes before I could see well enough to cast. When the light finally broke, I could see the salmon swarming onto the gravel and into the holes. I had a few quick hook-ups, but all were fairly short. After losing enough flies, I switched to a peach egg. Two casts later I watched a big brown swallow it hard. A quick measure put it close to 20 inches -- my biggest brown in Michigan. Within a few hours a family decided my hole looked too good to pass up and joined me. While this guy snagged and took home two fish, he wondered why I wasn't hooking into more. The action would heat up and die down hour by hour. In the early afternoon, it got really hot. I could see about five males courting a female deep in a hole. I methodically hooked several of the males until going for the female. (Overall went 1 for 9.) She was the one fish I landed that day. Had to chase it way downstream, into deep water and under logs. This is the payoff.


Sunday, September 9, 2001

Back at the break of dawn. I got myself settled into a good spot and got a few quick hits early. Rain came and went all day long. Midway through the day I got a super solid take in a deep run. That fresh chrome salmon ran upstream, lept twice, turned backstream, lept three times in quick succession like a dolphin on the bow of a ship, headed under a log, and jumped one more time breaking off the line. I think this all happened in about 20 seconds. Amazing!

Monday, September 3, 2001

As the Labor Day crowds headed south, I headed back to the PM. It was obvious a lot of people had hit the river pretty hard. I think the fish were scared out of there wits. I knew they were in there but only saw one fish in hours of looking into holes. I had a few brief hits, nothing solid.


Sunday, August 26, 2001

Hmmm, another empty parking lot. That's either a great sign or a terrible sign. In this case it was as bad as the no camping signs. Saw two or three wakes/splashes over the course of two hours. Fished all the holes deep and dark. I packed up and headed to Sulak, where there were a few more fish. Problem was, other guys were in the holes where the fish were. I waited my turn and finally got in a good hole with a half hour of daylight left. I think I felt a salmon or two, but nothing got on the line.

Sunday, August 18, 2001

Suprise, suprise, suprise. The National Forest Service has been busy closing off camping, parking and driving access to one of my favorite areas. I suppose this will cut down on the overcrowded camping conditions, but it is a big letdown.

The fishing was also a bit of a letdown. We saw some salmon here and there and even saw two guys hook into some fresh fish. We got zilch. Not a hit. The fish that were in this area were in a couple select holes and hiding deep.

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Last month was the rainiest May on record in Grand Rapids. More than 10 inches of rain. Obviously, the rivers around town were high and murky. Some even said the Muskegon and Rogue were unwadeable. Well, with a free weekend, no better place than to go north.

I arrived at the Clay Banks to find absolutely no one. The PM was in good shape. Full to its banks with a slight stain to the water. The only problem was the off and on rain showers.

I fished for most for the afternoon until the rain just wouldn't let up. Not seeing any hatches, I swung streamers and worked my way downstream. I got a few hits from small fish, otherwise not a thing.

Hmmm, maybe the parking lot was empty for a reason.


Sunday, April 1, 2001

Greg and I made a surgical strike into Maple Leaf for what would be my last shot at steelhead for the year. We got there with the sun up high and bright, and left with it up high and bright. On top of that, the river was high but dark. Crap. Maybe it was just a bad run for the year. I've heard a few guides say it was slow. No one's said it was great. At any rate, we fished hard all day long. Greg got a couple browns on "trout chow" and I got nothing. We hit all the good reliable holes. I can't say that I even saw a sign of steel.

Saturday, March 24, 2001

With a little action last week, I headed back to the same spot. This time the weather was around the freezing mark and the the snow was flying off and on all day. The snow on the ground had almost entirely melted. Hardly any anglers were out. I didn't see any wading and only a couple boats went by. No luck with the steelhead. Did get one nice fat brown on an egg sucking leech. Later in the day I had enough off frozen guides and frozen fingers. Left as the sun began to creep behind the trees.

Saturday, March 17, 2001

My first steelhead trip of the season. It was a warm day, and that brought out quite a few anglers. I should have gotten to Maple Leaf sooner although it didn't look like many people were having any luck. With the water up and slightly stained I fished a few of my favorite holes. It helps to know what the structure is like. Still, I lost an awful lot of flies to the logs. I did get one steelhead on, but the hook came loose quickly. There was about six inches of snow on the ground and I definitely needed the 4Runner to get back here.


Saturday, October 7, 2000

On another great fall day, Jim and I made a surgical strike to Maple Leaf. The fish were still there, and the crowds were gone being midweek. We both latched onto plenty of nice salmon, but Jim was the only one to land a big ugly. The run was definitely starting to dwindle. Many beat-up fish were still swimming. Very few were fresh. All were going for the gravel.


Sunday, October 1, 2000

With salmon fresh in my mind, another trip to the PM was needed. This time I left in the afternoon and stayed until nearly sunset at Maple Leaf.

I couldn't help keep track again and ended up hooking into 9 and landing one. The one was the freshest salmon I could see and I was targeting it. The buck swam sideways to grab my black wooly bugger. I could see its jaws open and its head shake before I could even feel the line tug. When I landed him after 10 minutes, the fly actually pierced the bone in the corner of it's jaw. It was hooked about as solid as you can hook a salmon. When I finally got the hook out, it was bent in three directions and I had a bloody finger. What a great feeling.

Suprisingly little pressure today, but the freshest fish were not in this area. Perhaps they are further upstream.

Sunday, September 26, 2000

Since Jim and I struck out on the Muskegon over the weekend, my appetite for salmon wasn't satisfied, so I made the drive up to the PM by myself early in the morning. I arrived at my favorite hole at Maple Leaf with the sun coming up at 7:00 am. What a cure for salmon fever.

A few campers were around, but I had the river to myself. Just me and a hole ton of salmon. Today was a no-brainer. Fish were everywhere and they were fairly fresh and aggressive.

Although I don't normally keep track of how many fish I hook into, today was an exception. I ended the day with a long battle against my 20th hook-up. It would have been the 4th salmon I landed that day.

The biggest salmon of the day was a 30-35 pound monster. Even though I had foul-hooked it, it was such an impressive fish that I fought like hell to land it as quickly as possible. When it finally came to the net (thanks Bob and brother) I couldn't even lift the thing without putting it in a bear-hug. It's tail was too large to get half-way around with one hand and it's belly was so fat I couldn't balance it with my other hand. Myself and an older guy admired it for a few minutes while I revived it and let it go to continue spawning. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but I left my camera way upstream.

The other two fish that I landed included an 8 pound jack and a normal 20 pound salmon.

A fabulous day with fabulous weather came to an end as I headed home in mid-afternoon.



Saturday, September 9, 2000

Jim and I went back to the PM after getting a taste of some decent salmon fishing last weekend. First, we tried a new hole above the Sulak landing. It looked awesome and gave us some nice casting runs. Unfortunately we didn't see a single salmon in 4 hours of fishing. We finally got the hint after a long-timer floated by. He said he had fished the hell out of this hole last fall and never caught a single thing. He agreed it was an ideal hole and couldn't understand why fish didn't like it.

As evening approaced we drove down to a old reliable hole in Maple Leaf. Sure enough, there were the salmon. Along with about 100 guys camped out wherever they could. The fishing heated up quickly but for the life of us we couldn't get a strike. I don't know what was wrong. We tried our best, and nothing. It's too bad we didn't head here sooner because we just ran out of light and time.



Monday, September 4, 2000

Yesterday's rain and last night's cool temps had the salmon on the run. While they were lethargic yesterday, they were running wild today. We couldn't get them to slow down long enough to get good drifts at them. Nevertheless, I hooked into one that was making his way under the logs. This time I put the brakes on him in hopes that it would keep him out of the woods. Unfortunately the line broke. The best flies for us were purple woolly buggers and and chartruse woolly buggers.

Sunday, September 3, 2000

Jim and I fished from a cabin we and the women rented for this Labor Day weekend, The Trout Post. The day before we scoped out the area during a float from Bowman's Bridge to Sulak. We spied a few salmon here and there and the folks we talked to didn't speak of great success.

The holes that we found near The Trout Post had good numbers of salmon deep in them, but also good numbers of downed logs. We fished the river from both sides, trying to find the best way to get good drifts at the chinooks. I had two on the line while Jim had one. Since I was up high on the back, I had to go swimming to chase my salmon upstream. Everytime the salmon would wrap the line around the logs and break free.

Sunday, August 20, 2000

Hearing that the salmon were in the river, Jim and I drove up on this suny afternoon. We scouted around Sulak for a while until we found an old reliable hole that held a few salmon. Despite our best efforts, we couldn't get them to bite. I think there were only two or three in the hole, as we could only see them from time-to-time when they came out of the river. The water level was maybe a bit low but very nice for fishing.

Sunday, March 5, 2000

I was getting the itch to get on the river again, and reports of steelhead on the way were motivation enough. I fished mainly at a favorite hole in the Sulak access. Problem was that I didn't hook into, or even see, a single steelhead. A few trout were rising to little black stoneflies. Water was coming down from the snowmelt. I could see about two feet down. All the snow is gone, and today it got up to about 60 degrees with barely a cloud in the sky.

I also stopped by Upper Branch Bridge access, where the water was a bit murkier. Didn't fish though. Then headed to Gleason's Landing for a quick try there. Water was much clearer here, but I didn't have much time to scout out a good hole.



Saturday, September 25, 1999PM Salmon

With the salmon run in full swing, so was the migration of people fishing for them. Jim, Paul and I pulled into my favorite stretch of Maple Leaf around 9 a.m. and couldn't find a place to park the truck let alone find a campsite. There must have been 20-30 cars and 10 campsites. I've never seen anything like it.

Nevertheless, we found a place to call home for the night and proceeded to fish. The water was a little cloudy and up a little bit although it was still low overall. We hooked into salmon in every hole we fished but couldn't land any. As we walked around we saw several holes that had lots and lots of salmon, but also lots and lots of people fishing. Between us all, I think we went 0-9.

Sunday, September 26, 1999

We wanted to get a good hole to start out the day, so we got up at 6 a.m. and made our way to the river in the dark. The exact spot we wanted was taken but a promising spot was nearby. Right away we started hooking salmon. Mostly on green sparkle caddis. I helped Paul land our only fish of the trip. A male of about 15 pounds. We left at noon feeling good about the quality of the fishing.



Sunday, September 12, 1999

Back to the Maple Leaf access, this time Jim came along to help target the salmon. We fished two different holes and hooked into slamon in both holes. Between the two of us, we had five good hookups, but couldn't land anything. Close, but no cigar.

The water was still low. Maybe the two hours of rain that we stood in will help out. The salmon didn't seem to be bedding down quite yet. They mostly hung out in the deep pools.

Purple spey flies were the best bet today. Last week it was green caddis.



Monday, September 6, 1999

Time to put my new-found techniques to the test. I drove out to the Maple Leaf area as the hordes of campers drove away. When I arrived, a lot of people were still around but the took off as the day progressed.

The first thing was to find a good hole. It took about an hour of scouting around to find the deep, dark hole I needed. From high up on the opposite bank I could see at least five salmon near the head of the pool and there was no telling how many were under the logs at the tail.

After working the hole a short while I started getting solid hits. The first one that was really on the line chased my PM Wiggler out of the pool at the end of my drift. That salmon lept several times and finally my knot gave way.

As evening began to fall I got my first keeper of the year. She hit my green caddis way down deep in the middle of the drift. I had to follow her 50 yards upstream, under logs, over logs, from bank to bank, and finally 50 yards back downstream. It was a fight to the death. She weighed 21 pounds and was 38 inches long. I wish it wasn't a female, but it's the only one I'll keep. For the day, I had six solid hook-ups.

PM Salmon

My other close encounter with the wildlife came as I was quietly and intently casting into the pool. From atop of the bluff across from me a doe walked down to the river and began drinking from it. Behind the doe came two fawns. First a female, and then slowly, a male. All three drank from the water, watched me without a worry, and then began munching on grass and aquatic vegetation. For 15 minutes they worked their way along the bank eating, drinking, and staring at me. At first I didn't want to cast, thinking that it would frighten them. But then my urge to catch salmon won. The splash of my casts didn't bother them at all. Eventually they just walked off as casually as they had appeared.



Sunday, August 29, 1999

I took a salmon class this weekend with six other guys and three guides from Thornapple Orvis. We fished in the Sulak access from 6am until 4pm. It was a great trip. Between all the anglers, we couldn't keep track of how many hookups we had. The group landed 15 to 20 salmon. More than half were legal catches and we let them all swim away. Personally I landed two, although one came with much assistance from our great guides.

All of the salmon we fished for were hiding in deep, dark holes. None of them were trying to spawn yet. They were actually fighting for dominate positions in their pods. Some of the fish would aggresively strike our flies, although most were small bumps felt on the rod. Many of the chinooks we hooked into jumped four feet out of the water.

We used the chuck 'n duck method with spey flies, hex patterns, green caddis and wooly buggers. No yarn balls, because no spawning was taking place.

The water was a little low and very clear.



Sunday, August 15, 1999

No fishing today. I just stopped at Maple Leaf access on my way back from a trout fishing trip on the Boardman River. I was looking for the salmon that I've heard got into the river system earlier this week. The only way I would have seen them is if they'd jump out of the river and land on the bank. The river was at least a foot high and very discolored. Only in a couple of spots next to the bank could I see the river bottom.

I took the dogs on an exploratory trip upstream from my normal spot. We stopped at the house for sale that sits between the two main parking access areas. There's a lot of river and a lot of holes worth exploring here. Much more than I imagined. A quick way to get around is to bypass the trail right next to the river, and stay up high on the ridge. That means you'll miss some of the spots in the horseshoe bends, but you'll get to a whole new stretch of water in just a few minutes. And some of these spots are really remote. I doubt that few people who park around here will walk in as far as I did.

Back at the truck I sat on the cement overlook for a few hours enjoying the sunshine, a good book and a couple beers.



Saturday, July 10, 1999

On the way to the Little Manistee, I stopped by the Forks access before the canoe hatch got underway precisely at 9:30. Unfortunately not much else was hatching.

The water was a bit stained, but seemed to be at a normal level. A few micro trout surfaced and splashed at the river's edge as I worked my way downstream to the bridge. I saw some BWO floating in the breeze and tried using one on top with a bead head nymph below. In retrospect I probably should have sunk my nymphs or streamers way down deep.



Friday, March 4, 1999

What a gorgeous day to be on the river. It indeed was Good Friday. Clear, calm and warm.

I was down at Maple Leaf access and didn't see too many anglers. A few here and there. Nobody was bragging of success, but everybody was raving about the weather.

I spotted a few steelhead swimming upstream and one female working a redd. I casted around her for an hour, hoping to find a male in the deep holes next to her, but nothing doing.

All I hooked were two really big suckers. At least they got the blood pumping, and I almost went in for a swim trying to land one of them.



Sunday, February 21, 1999

Took my first steelhead trip of the new year in hopes of locating some good holes when the fresh fish come in from the lake. From what I've been reading, some guys are catching fresh fish. But from what I saw - or didn't see - all the steelhead were hiding deep in their holes. Bright sunshine and below freezing temps seemed to keep the steelhead stuck in place.

I walked in to parts of Sulak and Green Cottage. Wading was pretty good, and the water level looked normal. At Green Cottage the water was nearly clear, but further down at Sulak it was somewhat cloudy.

Fished with black stoneflies, green caddis, hex nymphs and yellow glo-bugs. The downed timber liked them a lot more than the fish.

In talking with other guys who were fishing the same area, three of us got skunked and hadn't been out much lately. One guy went one for four and had been out nearly every week since December. You know the moral of this story.

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