Last week my wife Sandy and I went on a fishing trip to Michigan for Chinook Salmon. It was our second trip up there so we kind of had an idea of where we wanted to fish and a pretty good idea of how we wanted to fish. This year was a little earlier than our last trip, so the leaves were not as brilliant, but we did get over to Lake Michigan for some fishing in the surf and at the mouth of the Big Sable River. If you have ever fished along the shores of lake Michigan, you will know what I am talking about when I mention WIND. Casting flies with the wind coming off of the lake is an enormous task, and a whole lot of work. But the scenery was fantastic, and we managed to pick up a couple of fish.
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The the smallest Chinook we caught on this trip was about 12-14 pounds. I caught a larger one earlier that morning, but I was by myself and didn't get a picture of it. This is a picture of our dog, Augie enjoying the beach. I caught another Chinook that evening when Sandy dropped me off at the river for a couple of hours.
We fished the river the second day, even though it was dingy from the rains the week before, I managed to land one that morning and two that afternoon. Fishing, for me, in dingy dark water is not my preferred method of catching Salmon. I like to see the fish I am trying to catch. With the number of fish in the river, there is too much of a chance of foul hooking fish when you cannot see where they are.
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This was the smallest catch of the trip These fish were caught in the afternoon of the second day when I was fishing with my wife.
This fish was the largest fish of the trip. This big ole boy was 40 inches long and had a 24 inch girth. Estimated weight (using a formula for estimating the weight of trout was 28 3/4 pounds. All of the fish were released. I probably broke off a good dozen or more fish that were foul hooked. Lost 7 to the brush or broke me off. I landed 11 fish in four days, 10 males and 1 female. 3 on the first day, 3 on the second day, got skunked on the third day, (bad location) and 5 on the last day. I found a terrific spot in the afternoon of the last day, but the current was swift and the water was about thigh to waist high in most of the run, except over the gravel. That run was where I lost the most fish. Some of them I couldn't stop at all and they got me in the brush or just broke off. I was into my backing a half dozen times, The last fish I hooked on this trip took me about 60 feet into my backing. I didn't land that one, she was headed for Lake Michigan with 3 foot of my tippet hanging out of her mouth. Next year I will have to take some heavier tippet for that section of the river. I was also by myself, and it is tough landing them by yourself when they get over 20 pounds.
The river was very dingy from earlier rains, but was clearing enough to see your fly by the fourth day. I sight fish for them, so being able to see my fly is very important. I also have to find them in less than two foot of water for me to be able to fair hook them. If I get into water deeper than that I end up foul hooking too many fish. I target the large dominant males that are on the beds. They are more aggressive and seem to take flies better, not so much to eat them, but to kill them.
You never want to take the fly out of their mouth with your fingers. They have some nasty teeth, especially the males.
It is a hoot to catch fish this large with a fly rod. I learn a little more each year and each outing. One of the best ways to learn where to go and how to fish for them is to talk to some of the older fly fishermen you meet on the river. It is very difficult to land them by yourself, especially when they get over 20 pounds. Fishing with a partner is so much easier and recommended. Last year I broke a rod trying to get one of these monsters in my landing net by myself. We are already looking forward to returning to Michigan next year to tackle the big boys once again.