Day 3 – June 21st
As with any fishing trip or vacation, sleeping in is a pretty tough task to accomplish. We all woke up right around 7:30am to a cool, sunny morning on the lawn of The Fisherman’s House. Four bodies in an 8-person tent was perfect, it kept the tent warm while also giving everyone enough space for the night. The air was crisp and the day had already started to shape up to be perfect. We all changed and threw on some warmer clothes before walking down the street to the deli for breakfast. We soon found out we were in for a treat from that point on when it came to eating food at or from the deli. A cup of coffee and a breakfast fit for a king was all it took for us to get ready for a day of fishing and exploration on foot around the island.
When we got back to the house, the outgoing anglers we just finishing packing up and loading up the trucks to head to the airport. One angler, Tom, stayed for the final half day of the guided trip and I believe the others left due to work obligations. Tom was from Colorado and had some great stories to tell of his experiences in Tenkara and fly fishing his way around the “Centennial State”. He was relatively new to the sport and fell in love pretty quickly. It was great hearing how fishing Beaver Island gave him even more of a drive to go out and fish abroad more, including a plan to fish some salt later this year down south.
Tom loaded up to head out for his final half day and we decided to throw together our gear and walk down the street to the opening of the harbor known as Gulls Point or Gulls Harbor. Kevin and Evan had given us some advice for fishing the flats by foot and pointed us in the right direction. We checked gear and doubled checked equipment before making the 1/4 mile walk down the street. Along the way we couldn’t help but stop and snap a few photos of the amazing offerings of Beaver Island.
A few of us were stopped by locals who were super stoked to see fisherman on the island and especially fly anglers. Everyone on Beaver knows the Indigo guides and what they do. Carp are no strangers to the locals as they see them cruise the flats and work the grasses right behind their houses often. The Indigo guides have been guiding Beaver for over a decade now. Kevin was the first shortly followed by Steve. Austin signed on about three years ago and was able to learn the ropes pretty quickly having already been a seasoned guide down in Chicago, IL for smallmouth, carp, pike and other great lake species. During a conversation later in the week with Kevin, he had brought up an amazing statistic he had been told by someone from the Chamber of Commerce on Beaver…that Indigo’s operation was responsible for bringing almost $200,000 in revenue to the island. That right there was amazing. Not only the large amount of money, but that a few guys, doing something they love, can help a place they love thrive. It was an awesome circle that made Beaver Island all that much more special knowing we could give back thanks to what the great guys at Indigo were doing.
After having a few photos snapped by locals on both cell phones and snap and shoots for the local paper…we headed down into the water. The sights of Beaver Island consume you, from its natural beauty to the overall culture of the island. Beaver Island Head Light stands at the end of the road, right at the opening to the harbor as a beacon for ships coming into one of the deepest harbors an island on Lake MI has to offer. Standing in its shadow, overlooking the flats of Gulls Point was one of my most memorable moments of the trip for me.
As we headed into Lake Michigan’s waters for the first time of the trip, we decided to stay in pairs. Austin stayed with Mario near the point and Luis and I ventured down the beach a few hundred yards. It didn’t take long to find fish cruising the flats as they came in waves. We parked near the big white rock that sticks out of the water which made for a great vantage point for one angler to spot for the other. Countless fish came in and cruised by, none willing to eat. It took me quite some time to adjust to casting far ahead of the fish and intercepting them with my fly, a great piece of information passed on to me by the Beaver Island veteran of our trip, Luis. I would go on to find this was essentially the most effective way to get an eat out of these Lake MI carp.
Luis and I traded off turns casting at fish while the other sighted them. At one point, while Luis was on the rock and was spotting a pod of incoming fish for me, I looked down and had a 12-15lb carp incoming at around 15ft from my right foot. I stood as still as a statue and watched as the amazing fish cruised right on in and out of the flat in front of me, coming within 8ft of me as if I wasn’t even there. All it took was for me to slightly move my foot, less than an inch, to spook him out of sight.
As more and more fish came in and out of casting range without a single hookup, we decided to move down the flat and get more chances at new fish. One thing we noticed was that the carp would cruise the edges of 1-2′ of water and 4-6′ of water, right along the shelf/dropoff. The would come in as single fish all the way up to pods of 8 with most being pairs. With a lot of variables coming into play on Lake MI, from light currents to wind to sun position and more, there is a lot that factors in to making the right cast at the right distance to get your fly in front of the fish at the right time…something I struggled with for the first hour or so.
With multiple fly changes as well as casting strokes, we didn’t have a single hookup…despite somewhere around 50 shots. Luis decided to venture further down the beach while I waved for Mario to come join me. Austin had headed back to the house to change as the waders he was using had a decent leak. That didn’t stop him from capturing shots of town and getting some video footage.
Mario and I picked up where Luis and I had left off and traded off spotting and casting. With great vantage points from large boulders in the water, we continued to spot countless fish coming into our casting range but again, without success. As we moved from spot to spot, we found it was hard to find an area without fish as long as you find those parts of the flats with good edges into deeper water. With clouds of midges buzzing behind us, making it seem as if the shoreline was smoking from the giant columns of bugs, we decided to finally throw in our hat and head back to the house. But, not before a few more casts at incoming fish. As I gave Mario clock directions for the fish, they came out of the glare and into his casting distance. With a phenomenal cast, he lined up his fly for success. Within a few strips, he striped one last time and raised his rod tip. As quickly as his rod doubled over, it had straightened back out… We both looked at each other with the same amount of disappointment but couldn’t help but laugh and high five before heading back down the flat to the light house.
As we walked back towards the house talking about life and fly fishing, we noticed Austin in shorts waist-high, fishing the flats within the harbor. These flats were different than the rocky-bottomed flats around the island. Sand had deposited itself along the southern shoreline along some grass beds making for a gin clear, white sand flat. The water Austin was in was about 2′ deep and he was motioning to us, as we walked towards the water, to slow down and be quiet. He was stalking fish within the grasses, some right at his feet, off the shoreline where homeowners had given us permission to fish. I unfortunately did not see his motions and spooked a few 15-20lb carp out of the grass. Luis shortly joined us and we chatted about Mario’s unbuttoned carp and the fish on the flats around Austin. We paired up again and Luis and I continued to talk and began to plan out the evening. Mid-conversation, I see a dark figure behind Luis and turn. As I look down, a massive carp was cruising within 3′ of Luis’ foot. We both froze, individually trying to figure out what to do. Just as we both motioned to cast, the fish fled into deeper water.
It’s amazing how these fish sneak up on you, it happened numerous times throughout the week. And their senses are absolutely amazing. All it takes is one small step, the ratting of a rock, or the drop of a GoPro on a boat…ah hem, to spook these fish. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me they had farted and a nearby fish spooked.
We decided to wrap up the fishing around 3pm and head back to the house. Luis had headed back while Mario and I were fishing on the flats and picked up dinner for the night. Since it was technically Day 1 of the hosted portion of the trip, there would be a “meet and greet” cookout at The Fisherman’s House with all of the anglers and guides. We decided on a grill-session with brats, burgers, and dogs along with brews and bourbon to bring everyone together. While we waited the two other anglers (Joel and Cheryl), headed in on the 5pm ferry, we showered up and reminisced the day on the deck…of course with a lot of bug spray and a little bit of beer.
The Indigo crew showed up, shortly followed by our other two anglers. I fired up the grill and cooked away as Luis and Evan prepped some brats in beer and onions on the stove. After they were properly marinated, we threw them on the grill with all the other fix ins. Dave and Andrew (whom were on their own Beaver Island solo trip) showed up and pulled in with Andrew’s Towee behind his truck after a long day on the water. As the night went on, we were all able to formally meet and chat about Beaver Island, fly fishing, Tennessee, gear, life and more…all bringing something different to the table. It was a blast, one of those moments that made this trip unforgettable…brotherhood bringing a bunch of people from different walks of life together with one common interest/love.
As the night wound down, Dave and Andrew headed off to their motel as they were departing the next day. The guides headed back to their place after setting up a tentative plan with Luis and I for the morning…Day 1 of guided fishing. All in all, despite not catching any fish, it was an amazing day. We had spent quality time together and overall had been able to relax, enjoy our mini-vacation and first full day on the island. Life was good, and the dawn Day 4 of the trip was hours away…it was time for some quality shut-eye in preparation for yet another amazing day.