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3-04-05 - another icy morning on the harbor.
Randy is better prepared this time.
Capt. Mike breaks the skunk for the day with a nice brown.
Check out Randy's doubled-over fly rod.
Cochran with his first brown for the morning...
ON THE FLY!
WHOO HOO - I break my personal skunk with my first bluewater brown ON THE FLY!
Randy gets a great shot of my first fly-caught bluewater brown!
(Copyright 2005 Randy Cochran).

3-04-05 - BLUEWATER BROWN TROUT ON THE FLY!

Waters Fished: Lake Michigan
Fish Caught: 4/5 personally
Outing Date: 3-04-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: teens in the AM, rising to upper 30's / lower 40's
Water Temp: 32F - 44F
Water Level: normal
Water Color: blue and cloudy, visibility 1-2 feet
Fish Species: Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: Gummi Minnow, Clouser Minnow
Pattern Color: Chartreuse & White Clousers got ALL the hits today.
Fishing Quality: FIVE STAR FLY FISHIN'!

Thursday afternoon I'm checking my email in WI and I find a note from Capt. Mike - what am I doing tomorrow morning? Ordinarly, I'd be sleeping, but as I said just a couple weeks back, an invitation from Capt. Mike will NEVER be turned down if I have a say in it!

6:15 AM rolled around just as Randy and I pulled in. Capt. Mike was already waiting, boat just about ready for launch. A trio of friendly guys was already in the water and asked "So we hear you're going to be doing something different today....". Indeed. Capt. Mike's invite was spurred by earlier conversations. Today, we'd be FLY FISHING.

I had spent my Thursday afternoon in a mad dash to Bass Pro to pick up vital supplies. First, I'd need flies - no time or materials to tie with - I had to teach from 7:00 to 10:00. Most of my selections were made from the "saltwater" side of things - 3 2/0 Clouser Minnows, 2 large Gummi Minnows in Blue, and a couple deerhair patterns that had a LIP like a crankbait. Not to mention I would have liked to be fishing my spey rod for this, but it's still UNBUILT!

So for gear, I opted for the next best thing, my 10' 7wt. It's overlined with 8wt. WF Floating Line (I think) - I needed something that wasn't floating as we'd be fishing anywhere from 8 to 25 feet in depth. Not wanting to fork over $60 for a full sink line, I instead opted for a Cortland Sinking Head kit....around $10. I went with the fastest they had, 9" per second.

We shoved off only minutes after arrival and braced ourselves for the ride out. I rode the bow while leaving the harbor - once through the ice fields I came to the stern for the real hardship. Face down, staring at the deck of the boat, I closed my eyes as the engine kicked up and the wind started howling. It was only 16F or so to begin with - the windchill was easily below zero.

The ride seemed to take forever, but of course it was probably only a minute or two. If you can make it through the ride, you've got it made for the rest of the day. Mike's Lundh came to rest in flat water, shaded from the westernly breeze. Randy and I rigged up - he borrowed a chartreuse & white clouser and I borrowed some 14lb. flourocarbon. I rigged up a tandem fly offering, Gummi Minnow above and Clouser below.

Within minutes Mike boated 2 browns...his options for today included flatheads and crankbaits. Shortly thereafter Randy's rod doubled over from a vicious strike. His drag started to sing. FISH ON. When it was all said and done, Randy sealed the deal on exactly what we had come seeking - bluewater browns on the fly.

Mike landed another fish. We'd periodically notice a slap on the surface and head to that location, casting all the way. After what seamed like an eternity, I thought that maybe Randy's fish was a fluke. Well, we'd proved it could be done, even if just a lucky fish.

Then it happened. I was untangleing fly line, with my fly out past the stern, just dangling. My line went tight and started moving away from the boat. FISH ON! I had line puddled at my feet and was forced to apply pressure by letting it slip through the fingers on my right hand. Randy kept shouting "Get it on the reel!".

I don't remember WHO came to my aid to land this fish, but once it was done I too had sealed the deal. This was no fluke, it was really happening. With a bit of foresight, planning, and a lot of help from Capt. Mike with his intimate knowledge of Lake Michigan Browns, we had boated the 2nd fly caught brown of the morning. I think the grin on my face tells how how exhilerating this is.

After all this action things slowed down again. Randy was fishing straight floating line and had literally 10 or more splitshots on his tippet tag just to get down to the bottom. I was counting down 10-12 before even starting my strips. A strong shoreline current almost made the situation more like river fishing - we'd quarter UPSTREAM, let the flies sink. Then our lines would bow and the flies would zip through the current, swinging. As they came to rest, we'd strip retrieve.

Meanwhile we heard strange chirps off in the distance. Somewhat like seagulls, but definitely NOT seagulls. Mike was the first to point them out - Falcoms (or some other raptor) were going nuts on the shore. I took a pause in the fishing to shoot dozens of pictures...nothing quite good enough to figure out what type of bird they are but interesting all the same. As these last couple of days have proved, you can definitely get more out of fishing than just the fishing, even if the fishing is the main event!

They weren't seagulls - some type of raptor was really PO'd at the guy working on the exhaust towers. We all speculated on what this guy was up to... This is the best shot I could get - what kind of raptor do you think this is?

After we'd had our fill of birdwatching for the morning, Capt. Mike decided it was time for a tacticle manuever. We slid a few hundred feet south along the shore and again dropped anchor. The currents were slower here and mostly on the surface - we'd have a better chance at getting our fly lines deep enough to entice more strikes.

Of course, it worked like a charm. Occasionally a fish would surface in proximity of the boat. Whomever was closest would cast for the rise, hoping to connect with the aggressive fish that had just given up it's location. While it's an OK plan, it turns out that there was a bit of uncertainty regarding WHEN you'd get that next strike. Randy proved the point beautifully by hooking up while pulling his rod back for the next cast - instead of the fly popping out of the water and shooting past our heads, his line went tight, his rod throbbed, and another fish was on. Most likely due to a poor hookset (a result of the unexpected strike) Randy's next fish got away.

I didn't fair much better. While stripping in I was pretty much able to work up to the butt section of my sink tip; then I'd have to haul 20 feet of line high and hard to get a proper backcast. Well, on one such cast I watched my flies appear at the surface. Behind them, a MONSTER brown. As my flies shot out of the water the brown swirled and then disappeared back into the depths. My backcast lay out on the water behind me. My hands were shaking. I managed to eke out something like "HOLY SH*T - THIS IS BETTER THAN MUSKY FISHING!". Mike saw the telltale swirl still expanding on the water's surface and chuckled.

Once I had regained my composure (and my line) we again slid south along the shore. Here we were in truly shallow water - much of the bottom was covered in large rocks that reached up to snag our flies. After several hangups requiring a boat repositioning to free up, Mike suggested we try his secret spot. Our last time there had us all too happy to go.

So we get there. Randy and I flog water while Mike simpliy tears them up. What else can I say - I had what may have been 3 or 4 hookups, or may again have been snags on the bottom. Whatever the case, Mike KICKED OUR BUTTS going after these browns with fatheads, roaches, and lures. Randy and I pretty much played netboys!

Capt. Mike turned up the heat, determined to not be outfished, and went hog wild on 'dem browns! Another Brown for Mike! A nice beast for Mike!
Yup, Mike simply hammered the browns! Yes, still MORE BROWNS for Capt. Mike! Randy has tied into another pig.

After boating a good half dozen fish, Capt. Mike finally turned to us and said "well, what do you guys want to do?" I figured that Mike's spot was better left to presentations that could get 25+ feet down...we headed back towards shallow water. Within minutes, Cochran busted onto the scene with another hammering hookup. From it's antics, we initially speculated that thsi might be a steelhead!

This fish tailwalks, determined to get away from the boat. Look at the acrobatics this fish gave Randy! Randy proves to this brown why WE'RE in charge today!

Things just kept picking up. Not wanting to be outfished by my buddy, I focused on my presentation. The wind had switched and was coming from the south, making casting a bitch as we were sitting on the northern edge of the current. Mike admittedly spent much of the time keeping the boat in position while the fly rodders probed the water. Randy continued to tap and miss fish. You know the feeling - either your buddy is doing something you're not or he's just darn lucky.

Randy and I conversed with regards to where he was tapping fish. I made just a couple adjustments in my presentation, pretty much allowing for more time, up to a 20 count, to let my fly get down. Eventually I gave up the 2 fly rig and went for just the clouser...the more boyant patterns on the rig may have been keeping my flies up too high in the water column.

That was the move that truly paid off. After just a few casts, my line throbbed. Another fish came to the boat for me. Randy's not one to be outfished, and moments later, he too boated another chrome brown!

YEEEEEEE HA! Another flyrod bluewater brown for MP! Randy really put the heat on, check out this fish! Yes, that's Randy's 3rd brown for the morning!

3 to 2...and Randy is back at it again! By now, the only real difference in our presentation is Randy's psuedo Chuck & Duck rig vs. my sink tip presentation. Perhaps that's what's making the difference? Randy brings his total to 4 and I'm speachless. Then it happens, my lines starts peeling through my fingertips like I've hooked into a log drifting downstream! I rear back hard on my 10' rod and a fish explodes from the surface. It cartwheels, then tailwalks for what seems like 50 feet. My rod tip is keeping his head pointed skyward as he attempts to swim in the opposite direction. Drag is pulling now and the fish is STILL walking on the surface. Randy isn't exactly speachless. It's more like he's as awestruck as I am...everyone is shouting!

You'd think after such a display the fish would tire, but instead it swims under the boat. I have less than 10 feet out, my sink tip is stuck up in my guides. I can't pay line out like I'd like to, so instead my rod tip is pulled under the water. It's starting to look like I'm truly flyfishing saltwater style as I battle a fish that's probably 6 feet directly beneath me. Miraculously, somehow we manage to bring this fish to net.

Back-to-back browns for Randy, his fourth comes just a few casts later. Check out that hookset! I think I've found a new, highly addictive form of FLY FISHING! This brown simply went ballistic!
(Copyright 2005 Randy Cochran).

I am truly speachless....this has been a STUNNING morning of fly fishing. I turn to Mike and let him know that whenever he's ready to leave he won't here a word of complaint. 15 or so minutes later, the wind now howling from the south, and Mike pretty much battling the currents and wind just to stay in position, Mike says "It's that time".

I've already laid out a cast; I turn to Randy and say, "Last Cast, Make it a good one". Randy lays out another plunk into the current.

My clutch brown - Randy and I end the day with 4 a piece!

"YEEEOWHA" I scream as my line goes tight and the telltale headshakes make their way through my line, down the rod to the grips. Mike gives up fighting the wind long enough to net this truly CLUTCH fish, and then focuses on keeping us clear of the rocks. One more brown has been fooled into eating a fly.

If you're a likeminded individual, you NEED to try this. Give Capt. Mike a shout (Screaming Minnow Charters - captmike2003@prodigy.net). He'll get you where you need to be for some fantastic BLUEWATER BROWN TROUT ON THE FLY!

  MP 

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