This weekend, Jon Zukowski experienced the most exhilarating day of Landlocked Salmon he could have ever dreamed of. After landing numerous fish alongside his father, he hooked into an absolute beast of a hen. Jon commented, “I ran downstream as it tore line off my real, I fell on very slippery rocks, and the fish was tailed 20 minutes later.” One of our followers noted, “So big it looks like a full-blown Atlantic!” The fish is extraordinarily beautiful and we have included an album of photos below for your viewing pleasure.
By Austin Green
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
So days one and two were pretty much travel days so I figured they’d be easiest to just pair together. I have to preface this strain of posts that will be coming out over the next few days to journal our trip with this…this was one of the best experiences of my life. Period. I don’t write well, by any means, but I hope these posts help give you a taste of what we experienced on this trip, giving you an appetite for experiencing it for yourself one day.
A big thanks goes out to those of you who followed along via our social media outlets and through the hashtag #tltffbeaverisland14 we used to timeline and manifest the trip. An even bigger thanks goes out to Evan from Feather-Craft and CarpTrip.com for helping us get our ducks in a row and guiding us through the hosting process and Kevin Morlock, Steve Martinez, and Austin Adduci of Indigo Guide Service for giving us all a trip to remember forever and pass on stories of to our grandchildren. Thank you Bill and Tammy for opening up The Fisherman’s House to us pilgrims and for making it so special, something that ties the entire trip together. Thank you to the people of Beaver Island for being so welcoming to us fisherman’s antics and appreciating our overall love for what your home has to offer. Last but not least, thank you Austin Green for photographing and filming the trip, without you this trip would have been missing a certain little something…I hope all of our readers enjoy your images as much as we enjoyed your company.
Luis and I started to plan this hosted trip right after Luis returned from his trip last year and Evan from Feather-Craft and CarpTrip.com asked him if he would be interested in hosting a trip himself. After a few conversations and debates, the decision was made and it was time to put together logistics. Luis handled about 90% of it and deserves a large pat on the back for his planning genius (he does doit for a living though so there really was no better man for the job). Mario Garza, a long-time follower of the blog and one of our favorite fly tiers, was our first angler. It was all coming together. Two more anglers, Joel and Cheryl signed on filling two more spots and leaving one more to fill. We got into the 30 day countdown and there was still one spot left to fill and a lot of fine-tuning to do.
Austin Green of Austin Green Photography and The Uncommon Angler hopped on board as our last angler and a big weight was lifted off our shoulders. Over the course of a few more meetings and phone calls, planning was complete. June 19th couldn’t have come soon enough as a long week of work seemed to be stuck on slow-mo speed. Launch day finally came and the car was packed.
Day 1 – June 19th
I picked up Luis around 10am and we headed up to Baltimore to pick up Austin. We quickly loaded up the car at Austin’s place and started the 7 hour trek to Lorain, OH (right outside of Cleveland) where we would split the trip in half and spend the night with Luis’ family. The trip up to Ohio flew by. With only two stops, one for gas and food and one to stretch…um, pee. We arrived in Lorain around 6pm and were greeted by the best Puerto Rican food you could imagine (ask Austin, he had like 7 helpings). With bedrooms arranged and micro-brews in hand, it was time to sit back, talk fishing, and catch up with Luis’ family. We had a blast hanging out, relaxing, and thinking about what would be in store for the remainder of the trip. There was a big hex hatch going off while we were in Lorain, coming off of Lake Erie which was only a mile or so away from where we were staying. Of course us fly fisherman had to take a look and practice a little bit of beer-influenced entomology.
One thing we kept our eye on was weather. Since Great Lakes weather is so unpredictable, it was a crap shoot judging what would happen but the 7 day forecast for Beaver Island basically said 68 deg F with 5kts of wind and partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms every day…not ideal. We had our hopes up and looked forward with a great attitude. Overall, it was a pretty easy day with a great ending full of good food, good beer, and family.
Day 2 – June 20th
We woke up early with smiles on our faces knowing today would be the day we step foot on Beaver Island. Luis punched out some work early before we hit the road, dismissing some stress prior to the second leg of our trip to Beaver Island, another 7 hours. We hit the road and headed to Ann Arbor, MI to meet up with Mario. The 2.5 hours to Ann Arbor flew by, yet again. Mario was smiling ear toy ear as were we. We hit up the Walmart down the street to pick up odds and ends and some lunch. Thanks to Luis, I experienced my first White Castle burger and all I have to say is, why in the world aren’t there any of those around here in Maryland?!
Austin jumped in to Mario’s car to give him someone to chat with for the next couple of hours and to allow them to get to know each other a little more. With only a few stops, minor traffic, and a gnarly rainstorm…Charlevoix (where the airport was to get over to BI) was in sight…an super easy drive and second leg of the trek (sense a theme here?). The clouds parted as we drove into Charlevoix. We stopped one last time to grab some cash out of the ATM (since the one at Walmart was busted) and bug spray (which would prove to be a crucial addition to the packing list, ask Mario).
We rolled up to Fresh Air around 4pm, just in time for our 4:30pm flight. Cody checked us in and loaded up our bags. I unfortunately had the heaviest load (I also had a 22lb tent with us) and we were all over the 30lb limit. The load being so heavy, we had to send a few bags to go with the later plane.
The flight was an easy 15 minute jump over to Beaver Island and the flight in was amazing. The clouds had opened up and gave us an amazing look at what can only be described as the Caribbean in the middle of Lake MI. Prior to landing, we spotted somewhere around 20 carp cruising the flats on the East side of the island…just what we wanted to see. Flying over Beaver you can’t help but notice the vast amount of woods and swamp land. There are a few ponds on Beaver Island that are said to be loaded with pike. And yes, there are a lot of beavers on Beaver Island…
We unloaded the plane and immediately realized we needed to find the bug spray. The mosquitos were the size of the carp we were planning on catching…triple the size of the ones we had at home. But their size was against them as they flew as slow as molasses. The later plane landed and we grabbed our other bags. We loaded up the island shuttle, a short 5-10 minute ride in to town and to The Fisherman’s House was full of excitement and was the cheapest taxi ride ever…$1.50.
We drove into town as two of the Indigo boats were flying into the harbor…the perfect setup for excitement and anticipation of what was to come. We popped out of the shuttle and unloaded in a light rain. We put everything on the front porch as the Indigo guidespulled up with their outgoing clients. After introductions and a brief exchange of stories with the outgoing clients, it was time to do search out some brews to pop in the fridge and find some dinner. The deli and market, both owned by the McDonoughs, are steps away from the house and have everything one would need from groceries to gifts.
We walked about a half mile down the main road around the harbor to the Shamrock, a local bar/restaurant known for its awesome taxidermy wall decorations, amazing food, and irish influence (in case the name didn’t tip you off). There we no complaints about dinner, as most of us were almost licking our plates. We put away a few drinks before walking back to the house to setup the tent (we were a day early so, with permission, we setup camp in the side yard of The Fisherman’s House) and continue the merriment. On our way back we were able to stop and take in a few of the sights and sounds BI had to offer.
Once we got back to the house, the tent went up quick and gear was put together to checkout. As the night rolled on and the beer cans piled, we caught up with Evan fromFeather-Craft and exchanged stories. Evan is a great guy, one of the nicest I’ve ever met. He is the brains behind organizing hosted trips and has been great friends with the gentlemen of Indigo for quite a few years. As you will later find out, like I said, Evan is a stand-up guy, through and through.
Mario and I had been chatting a bit with Dave Hosler aka @pilecast (on Instagram). We found out a day or two before we left for the trip that he and Andrew Bosway of Scientific Anglers were hauling Andrew’s Towee up to BI for a few days of DIY fishing. Mario and I headed back down to Shamrocks to meet Dave and Andrew. It was great to finally meet Dave after following him on IG for a year or two now and to meet Andrew. We threw some stories around and made plans to have the guys come over for our meet and greet dinner tomorrow night.
As the merriment settled down and the realization of us waking up early for a full day tomorrow settled in and it was time to hit the hay. What we had in store was a great breakfast at the deli and a full day of DIY flats fishing together on foot…a chilly night was ahead, good thing we had a little bit of alcohol in our blood and mummy bags to keep us warm.