Jun 30, 2015

Fishing in the U.P.

Carp'n on the Flats of Lake Michigan

Although my trip was centered around smallmouth bass on the fly, when in Rome, (Michigan) one must spend some quality time pursuing freshwater bonefish, (Carp).

Back to Bassin'

If you know anything about me you know I chase Bass! I've spent half a lifetime pursuing these freshwater pugnacious species in any body of water from farm ponds to great lakes, from creeks to rivers and every puddle in between. It's in my blood and I make no apologies for it!

In the last few years while living in trout country I've slowly slipped away from the bronze family. Trout angling has been good for me. It has broadened my skills and allowed me to build a solid respect for the coldwater species.

On a cold winter day while sifting through the hundreds of Columbia River bass photos obtained throughout the years of guiding and fishing the big water an overwhelming need to get back to the bronze kind had finally surfaced. I felt this day coming long ago. It was just a matter of time until the right opportunity surfaced.

Good Company, Good Times
I found that opportunity in an email. Schultz Outfitters' newsletter hit my inbox and while scanning the highlights there it was, the SO annual Upper Peninsula (U.P.)  Smallmouth trip and by the time I called Schultzy there was one spot remaining. You know that spot was meant for me!

I've always wanted to fish in the U.P. I don't know why I never did. I've fished all around it into Ontario and the great lakes but for some reason the U.P. was never a destination. I think the reason is, in that region, there is so much water that it takes a lifetime to explore.

The trip was everything you look for in a group event. Great fishing, scenery, lodging, guides, friends and food. Plenty of everything and best of all plenty of smallmouth. Early one morning I watched a black bear swim across the river right outside the lodge that overlooks the river. Plenty of wildlife and of course plenty of mosquitoes too! Bring your deet!

Like Topwater?

About 99% of the fishing is topwater divers, poppers and assorted foam bugs fished from drift boats with non stop casting to every undercut, tree root, boulder and grass line looking for that classic bass attack. I've got to tell you there is nothing that stirs the adrenaline like watching the water move when your bug hits the surface.

No shortage of quality fish


20" Brute

James Cook  20" Smallie
My Sage Bass II Series of rods did the bulk of the work for me. The Largemouth size handles the big hair bugs with ease and the shorter length really helps the accuracy of putting those big bugs under the trees. My Smallmouth size was pure magic with the popping bugs and foam critters. I also used a Sage Method 890-4 for some of the subsurface minnow work. This rod can really deliver the distance. Reels are not a huge deal in this game. Once hooked up you need to be concerned with pulling the fish away from entanglement and not worry about getting it on the reel. The line of choice throughout the group is the S/A Mastery Textured Titan Taper. The Titan has a powerful head for big bug delivery and also has a long rear taper to make easy work of picking up a lot of line for a the next cast. To explain better, most presentations involve hitting a target and after settling, making 1-2 moves before recasting to a new spot. The long taper of this line all but eliminates the need to strip back to a casting point common with short head lines.

The fish here are quality. Sure you could find more trophies in the big lakes but they couldn't match the experience of these river dwellers. A 20" or over here will get strong recognition. I was fortunate to catch one of the two caught this week. Too many to count 19's" came to hand and I didn't hear a single complaint about too many dinks.

About that Carp photo at the start of this article...

As if a great week of smallie fishing with a great crew of anglers and guides in a great lodge with great food and drink and yada, yada, yada wasn't enough...the next stop just a couple hours away is the flats of lake Michigan. I've always wanted to wade in this great lake and hunt these submarine size monsters. It was everything I'd ever dreamed about. The first thing I kept marveling over is the fact that I am wading in Lake Michigan with miles of flats one can walk with crystal clear water all around. Next was learning to spot the fish which is in fact the easy part. Just look for giant dark shadows that are moving. Bring out your best cast, these critters are smart. I had many refusals before I played it cool enough to have one commit. Be sure to have a good disc drag reel. My old Nautilus FW (which I can proudly say has caught more fish than most fly reels will ever see) was just fine for the bass we were hauling in but I was a bit concerned when I locked the drag down as tight as it would go and this fish was still running deep into backing until I only had maybe 20 yards to spare when I finally got it to turn. It is my advice that if you find yourself in the great lakes region don't pass up this opportunity and if you have it penciled in on your bucket list go ahead and ink it. You won't be disappointed.

A Giant THANK YOU goes out to my friends out Schultz Outfitters. These guys eat sleep and live all the great fly fishing in this area of the country. Also want to thank the guides from Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company. These guys know their water, know their fish and work hard to ensure you a great day of fishing. And a special Thanks to Schultzy for sharing a little bit of his Great Lakes carp wisdom.

This trip won't be forgotten anytime soon and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again.


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

Review: Sage Bass II Series Rods

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