Although I’m in Michigan having fun fishing with my friends and will soon get the privilege to see the Scientific Anglers fly line factory, I’m missing one of my favorite events in fishing, the opener of the Railroad Ranch at Harriman’s on the Henry’s Fork. This is a monumental fly fishing event which people come from around the world to experience and one I’ve not missed in probably twenty years. Last night was the famous Trout Hunter Ranch Opener party and today is the actual opening day of fishing.
But I made the best of things and returned right back to Lake Michigan by Traverse City. This time I was with Customer Service and Pro Guide Desk Manager of Scientific Anglers, Erick Johnson and West Coast representative Garry Sandstrom. Once again, we left Midland in a heavy downpour. Fishing conditions were looking worse than yesterdays. Luckily, as we traveled north the rain subsided and all we had to deal with was more fog.
Erick is local here in Michigan. I planned on getting some rest on the two hour drive but instead it was a full on tour of the state. Erick is full of interesting facts and furthermore, knows Traverse City from living there once. He picked us up lunch from a sneaky side street fish place. We got scrumptious packs of smoked whitefish and lake trout and spiced that up with a bag of Uncle Rays barbeque chips – honestly, these chips may have been the best I’ve ever had!
By the time we hit the water it was afternoon and conditions deteriorated. Like yesterday we had clouds overhead and couldn’t see fish well at all. Furthermore, I learned that this is a popular place among fly fishers, there were six others stalking the flats making it even harder.
Conditions and other angler traffic pushed me to the far edge of the flat and out from the shelter of a flooded island. At first rogue waves and wind seemed like too much to deal with but as I waded along slowly I spotted a carp. That one carp turned to several and in seconds I was ripping line of my Ross and smacking my fly straight into the wind.
The largest carp of the school ate my fly immediately. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked. I strip set then lifted and the carp shook his head but wasn’t yet scared enough to run. To my dismay my fly pulled out as fast as it went in and the school spooked off.
I was ticked but there were carp here. Despite shivering from the cold temperature of Lake Michigan I staked out a spot and patiently waited. About every five minutes a carp or two wandered in my casting range. Each time one looked until finally the “right” fish came. I dropped my fly right in ones lane and he sucked up the same crayfish fly I used on the drum yesterday and this guy took off.
I like my 6-weight Winston III X for carp but I was uneasy at first on this one. Fish fight differently at different locations and it made sense to me that a Lake Michigan carp would be the strongest. This one made a fierce run twenty feet into my backing but before it got too crazy, I put the strength of my 0X Flouro to work and clamped down my drag so hard I cartwheeled the golden colored fish. Five minutes later I had my first Great Lakes carp!
I landed that carp at around 5 PM. During the photo session the wind picked up and we couldn’t see anything anymore. Erick and I were also soaked because some waves came over the top of our waders while photographing. We headed for the truck and called it a day.
The drive home was as entertaining as the drive up. We started it with exotic coffees from a cool place in downtown Traverse City. Then we sampled some beer and headed back south. At dusk we visited the Mayfield Pond where the Adams fly was tested and passed through Kingsley where the inventor was from. A little fly fishing history can be a cool thing!