We are having a great season of smallmouth bass fishing! Katie Blizzard and I have been tearing of the smallies since late-April and we are continuing to catch them extremely consistently. A lot of the bass are on the smaller side, but we are also landing some hogs! The bass are extremely eager to take black wholly buggers, bucktail minnows, and Pat Cohen’s Fat Head Deceivers. While fishing deeper holes, a good sinking line is a must. Otherwise, fat-shooting head bass floating lines are the way to go. A good, short 6 weight is our go-to. We use FlyStik’s and CLAs from Ross–paired with Sage or Airflo Bass Taper fly lines.
6 o’clock Monday morning wake-ups are only okay if fishing is involved. This trip would be a bit more technical as we planned to bring my five year-old son, Nolan, as he is still on school break. I am nearing pro-status taking Nolan trout, bluegill and bass fishing. My formula for success is a hydrated body, a caffeinated head and a backpack full of Nolan ammo (aka snacks), but let’s be real—fishing for musky in a small Gheenoe in frigid December slinging 10 weights with flies as big as Baltimore rats IS A DARING IDEAL! Austin, Nolan and I stuck to our plans and loaded the truck and boat and headed out. Chugging coffee and chicken salad sandwiches (odd, yes) we cruised and got our boat launched with the perfect amount of daylight. Nolan was warmly and smartly dressed, and thankfully excited for the day! First run down the river I was fishing first, casting and casting and more casting. 40 minutes in I managed to get the gigantic streamer wedged between two unforgiving rocks, I assume. I have my fair share of snags but this was making my blood boil…can’t cut the line, can’t swim under…stuck. Twenty minutes of trying to get the dang thing free was killing the mood to say the least. I am still curious how it happened but a metal clip holding the fly loosened enough to save the line. We had a small memorial service for that beautiful fly but it was time to move on.
Now it was Austin’s turn to get his fix on and I back-paddled and maneuvered our boat so he had the perfect angle to cast—all while trying to entertain Nolan with quiz type questions, knock-knock jokes, and feeding him gummy snacks (and sweetly explaining for the 7th time why he can’t just sit on my lap when I’m rowing). During the next hour or so Austin had looked back at me for a split second and then I hear him say, “MUSKYMUSKYMUSKYMUSKY!” All while figure 8-ing so hard and viciously. He was a split second late and had stopped stripping thus the monster frightened and darted away. Tough break. The day got more interesting as we pull over to stretch our legs and warm up. We put together a lame fire as Austin is unusually concerned with how numb his feet are. I suddenly became a mom of TWO boys and resorted to warming up gnarly man feet with my hands and under my jacket to bring them back to life.
I needed to get another shot, so again, we motored back up the river and I got myself refocused and stripped a bunch of line out and casted until my forearm started to slightly throb. The boat was gravitating towards the bank a bit too much, but I didn’t care and I just kept casting. Watching the gorgeous fly decked out with chartreuse and flashy colors slither and float in the water was encouraging. We have all had the thought, “Okay, if I was a ____ I would totally eat that, it looks so good!” As I’m mixing up my strips with some quick blasts a whitish beast soars up from under the boat and wrecks my fly! All I know is that I’ll have a stroke if she gets away so I strip set that hook so hard and it feels like I have it in deep. Mother musky is just as surprised as I am and is thrashing around and going under the boat and the phrase “Take away her will” was my only mantra I remember gleaning from a musky video. I muscled her up to be extra sure that hook was in! Nolan was cheering me on in the boat and Austin was absolutely stoked. He was saying many things all at once but the only thing I can remember in retrospect was him exclaiming, “You are such a babe!” when I hooked into the fish. It made me crack up laughing, and when I brought it up later he said, “Hey, Nolan was in the boat and I was going to say much fancier things if little ears weren’t around!” Oh, boy.
He helped net the mad monster and paddle the short distance to the rocky bank. My adrenaline was pumping and a hot sweat broke out all over me. When we safely had her in the water near the shore I just kept screaming we FINALLY caught a musky! It was all so surreal to me and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. We photographed the beautiful creature we had worked so hard to find and every minute was feeling more and more gratifying. After momma musky had gotten a photo shoot I released her, unharmed, back into the murky depths from which she came.
We headed back to the loading dock and my muscles in my face were aching from smiling so much. I sat up front looking all around at the water and sky and then back to my son because I was overjoyed he had come along to experience why mommy is so crazy about these elusive fish. The only feeling I can compare when we had finally caught the musky was the moments after which I had finally birthed my almost 10lb son. I was in labor for many gruesome hours with him and between anxiety and adrenaline I was a mess. As soon as he was officially delivered I made this happy crying weepy sound that I had never felt or heard come out of me before. He was here! I did it! It may sound like a ridiculous comparison to some but that experience was quite similar-outrageously stoked, relieved and amazed! Totally awesome late Christmas present! When we had gotten back to the truck I was getting Nolan in comfy clothes and then he said, “You know, Mommy, I am REALLY proud of you!” Now, that was the best!
By Katie Blizzard
Check out the new face of www.theuncommonangler.com – We have “The Blog” and “The Films” pages up and running… “The Gear” and “The Guides” are coming soon! Yes that’s right! We are working to begin offering hats, t-shirts, stickers, and more! The Uncommon Angler is also preparing to offer endorsed guide services in the Mid-Atlantic region on the Gunpowder River and beyond (Yes…carp trips!). Our New Hampshire guide will be up and running in the coming months and Colorado is in our near future! –www.theuncommonangler.com – All photos shown here are available as custom prints through The Uncommon Angler and Austin Green Photography! A big thanks to Robby L, Jim F, Jon Z, Ruby M, Mike T, Jaybo Art, and George Hill Art for showing interest in my work thus far!
Possibly one of the most photographed days, one that none of us will ever forget not only from the insanely amazing fishing, but by the way it was documented.
After finishing up breakfast, we picked out lunch and tossed it into our guides coolers before heading back to the house and gearing up. Getting prepped for the day took slightly longer as putting on sunscreen was paramount due to the days forecast. Anglers are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of sun protection from the level of sunscreen application to clothing selection. I love my 12wt WORKwt gloves, they give great protection not only from the sun but the thousands of strips I make a day while on the water. Every day of the trip I wore long sleeve 45+ SPF shirts and a Buff and hat. Since waders always covered our lower halves, everyone was protected there.
I was equipped with my 8wt Redington Vapen Red and Allen Fly Fishing Kraken in size 4. Austin geared up with Austin Adduci’s 9wt TFO Axiom and the 3-TAND T-90 reel. Kevin pulled up to the house and we loaded up the boat before heading down the street to drop the boat in at the local ramp. For once, the weather man was right, it was a bluebird day with zero wind…the Lake was glassy and the water was crystal clear (partially thanks to the invasive zebra mussels that constantly filter it). As we began to motor out, it was a little cooler (as was typical for the mornings throughout the trip) and called for wading jackets. We were about 100yds from the ramp and Kevin realized he had forgotten his jacket in the truck so we turned around to grab it giving us the perfect opportunity to ride out with Steve, Luis, and Kevin on our port side and an awesome photo op…
After shooting some photo and video, we went our separate ways…Steve, Luis, and Mario off to fish some of the bays North of the island while we took the short shot East towards the Three Bird Islands. A little about the bed islands…a lot of birds chill there and therefore they are loud and smell terrible. As Kevin put it, “stepping foot on that island would be absolute hell.” Austin and I agreed…at points it was hard to hear the other people talk as we got closer. The flats surrounding bird island can only be described as something you would see in the keys. They were a bit deeper and had rocky bottoms but they surrounded the entire island giving us the opportunity to pole 360 degrees around for a few laps.
We powered down and Kevin hopped up on the platform. Austin was up on the bow first. Within 10 minutes we started to see carp, and not just any carp, mudding carp. We didn’t have to opportunity to see mudding carp with Steve, especially not this close. The depth of the water ranged from 3-10′ with a majority of the fish feeding around 6-8′. Knowing sink rates of flies was paramount and heavier flies were tied on. Kevin tied on some phenomenal ties that I can only describe as large damsel nymphs. We first tried an olive and yellow pattern that would prove to be extremely productive. The large dumbbell eyes of the tie helped get the fly down along with the longer leaders Kevin tied on.
As we poled up on the first round of carp, Austin stripped out some line. With a mudding carp in the cross-hairs, he began to fire off a cast and let his fly drop with precision right in front of and ahead of the carp. Kevin’s instructions were exact, I think all of us would agree that if you were blindfolded on his bow, he could paint a picture for you good enough to get you hooked up. He is constantly talking to you and isn’t afraid to be honest, especially when you botch a cast. With Austin in front of me, the carp off to our left, and Kevin behind me giving instructions, I had a front row seat. “Great cast, now let it sink, now strip strip strip strip stop. He sees it….(long pause)…strip…he’s got it.” I look away from the fish as my view wasn’t as good and I didn’t see the eat…boom, Austin strips and lifts his stick…FISH ON!
We had been powered down and poling for about 15 minutes and with Austin’s first set of casts, he was hooked up. It was amazing, it set the tempo for the rest of the day. As Austin lifted his stick, the carp didn’t hesitate making a solid run straight off the bow. I snagged Austin’s camera at some pint during the fight to take some video and photos. The carp was a heavy fighter and Austin couldn’t believe the power behind the fish. My heart was racing as fast as his as I watched knowing I was up next, and there were carp all around us, all over the flat. After a 10 minute fight, Austin “gulped” the fish and it was in the boat. Photos were taken, fish was released healthy, and high-fives were had…and it was my turn to take the bow.
With more carp ahead, I threw another cast at a cruising fish and began to strip. The fly wasn’t anywhere near the 6′ bottom but that was because the carp was cursing at about 3′ under the surface. I continued to strip per Kevin’s instructions and the fish kicked its tail just like the smallie. It came at my fly double time and aggressive. The eat was amazing, almost right on the surface and it inhaled my fly. I set the hook and had yet another amazing fight full of backing and great runs. The fish was in and released completely healthy. Austin was up, he picked up the rod and I picked up the camera, we switched roles perfectly. One thing we noticed about the carp cursing at us was they were getting bigger and bigger. My fish was massive, my biggest of the trip to that point and Austin would go on to get his as well, literally in his first cast at his first fish after taking the bow. With another solid fight, just as amazing as the previous ones, we knew we had gotten into the big fish.
As the bite slowed down again, Kevin decided to make the 30-45 minute run out to two islands he hadn’t fished yet this year. The islands literally looked like something you would see in a Caribbean traveler magazine (minus the bugs). They were white sand covered, surrounded by turquoise waters and amazing flats. The bugs around the islands were by-far the worst but we would soon find out, those didn’t matter. With glassy water making the run possible, we powered down and began to work the flat. Throughout the day we had changed flies a few times but they were the same pattern and size with the only variation being color.
We had hooked up on black/white, olive/yellow, and olive/pink.. Austin took the bow first and after a solid 20 minutes, we were onto feeding fish. Austin fired off a cast and was hooked up, a common theme of the day. After a few minutes of fighting, the fish came off. We checked the hook and line and all looked well. Austin had numerous mudding fish around him and yet again, per Kevin’s on-point instructions, was on. This fish fought much longer…but unbuttoned again.
After a fly change for Austin, it was my turn to take the bow again. With a few big refusals and denials of fish pursuing and peeling off before the bite, I started to watch the clock knowing the day was coming to an end. Kevin spotted a massive fish that I was able to get to feed and within seconds it came off. This time it was not a mystery as to why it had happened, I was broken off. With a new leader and fly tied on, this time the same pattern as all of our previous fish but in a Halloween color combo of black/orange, I began to fire off casts. After multiple denials in a row, Kevin told me to cut off 50% of the tail of the fly. While snipping the tail, Kevin said, “Morgan, get ready.” I looked up and dropped my fly in the water.
What I looked up to see was a fish with shoulders on it that I had never seen before, absolutely massive. My first thought was, “holy smokes…I only have on 10lb tippet.” My second thought was interrupted by Kevin saying, “Thats a really big fish…Morgan, don’t F*** this up.” Real confidence booster huh? I fired off a cast, way behind the fish as it was cruising from 11 o’clock to 10. I let out another cast and this time it was on point as the fish followed it down during the sink. I could feel the adrenaline kick in like an Epinephrine shot to the heart and as everyone on the boat gasped, the fish ate. I set the hook and before I could blink, all I could hear was my backing knot zinging through my guides. I looked down to turn on my chest-mounted GoPro and realized it was already on. Yes. This fish fought like no other, and multiple times it made me think, “my rods definitely going to snap.” With 4 heavy heavy runs, I finally was able to put the wood to this fish and get it to gulp next to the boat. With every run, I had gone deeper into my backing and a solid 12 minute fight was over. Kevin netted the fish and simply said, “wow.” I looked over, with shaking legs, and my jaw hit the ground. Austin nearly dropped his camera as we all sat in awe of the fish my 8wt with 10lb tippet had just landed. I had tied my tippet onto my newCutthroat “Carp” Furled Leader that we had been given for the trip, it had performed flawlessly. I imagine the reason I did land that fish was because of the give that leader had…I was impressed.
Kevin let me sit down after acting like a child and giving out at least half a dozen high-fives and fist bumps and he asked, “are you ready?” I replied with a huge “YES” and he pulled the fish onto the boat. We again yelled and high-fived before I picked up the fish and put it in my lap. I looked at Kevin and said, “this fish weighs more than my daughter.” For those of you who don’t know, my daughter Lilly is 2…she weighs about 32lbs. After snapping an unbelievable amount of photos and grabbing some video, it was time to put my girl back in the net to weigh with Kevin’s calibrated scale. I was right, 34lbs, she did weigh more than Lilly. But here’s where the amazing part comes in. Kevin took a good look at the fish and informed us that she was a spent female, meaning she had already released all of her eggs and that a few weeks prior, she could have been 10-15lbs heavier while carrying that cargo…wow. After a more-than-healthy release, I had to sit back down. I was shaking like I had seen a ghost. That fish was by-far the largest freshwater fish I had caught and easily the largest fish I have ever caught on the fly.
As I trekked through the clouds of midges and took in the beauty of the island all by myself, I felt my phone go off. I had missed Steve’s boat coming in and everyone was back at the house. I hurried back just in time to shower before dinner. I came out as the guides pulled up to a brew from Mario and Luis and a whole lot of stoke. Mario and Luis had also had a banner day full of pike, smallmouth, carp and an amazing double up where both put 20lb fish in the boat at the same time.
Mario and Luis had put multiple pike in the boat, including this massive fish by Mario, his largest to date.
We headed off to yet another amazing dinner at Stoney Acre Grill & Pub on the other side of the island. Figuring out what to order was one of the toughest things as everything on the menu sounded like a home run. I ended up ordering what almost everyone else did, the Wet Burrito. That name will forever be remembered by us all as we figured out where the “Wet” part of the name came from the next day…it was totally worth it, I’d do it again.
By Morgan Kupfer – Originally Posted On His Blog TLTFF
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.