We got smart today up here in the Manistee River Country. One of the guys bought nine thick juicy steaks along with potatoes and veggies for our dinner tonight in case we get off the river late. Last night we limped through no open restaurants when we got off. There’s no way we hungry fishermen could do it again.
We launched the boats half way through the stretch we floated yesterday on the Manistee River and pulled out about three miles below where we pulled out last night. Though our fishing was by no means red hot yesterday, smallmouth are moody fish. I compare them to brown trout. Just because yesterday was a slow day doesn’t mean today will be.
One of the guys, Don, was so confident he tossed out a bet of $50 per boat for biggest and most fish. All species counted. After the shuttles were complete our three boats pushed off casting hard in hopes to win a little cash. Two hours in, we had the first meeting of the minds because no more than a few tiny smallmouth bass were landed.
Fishing was tough again. Perhaps it’s the beautiful weather. Maybe it’s the August doldrums. Slow fishing happens on every river in the world. Best plan of all is to keep right on a casting. That we did and I pulled in the first “chunker” smallie for our boat of 14”.
Our three boats hung together most of the morning. Andy, Jeff and Don were team Amish Trout. Amish Trout is actually Andy’s Fly Fishing Outfitting business based out of Indiana. Check out his website and you won’t believe some of the fishing he offers. These guys caught on fire and soon had eight fish to our four including a 14 incher to tie our big one.
Watching the Amish boys tear it up lit a fire under me. At first that didn’t help much. Somehow even fishing behind us they continued to rack up numbers. They got it up to ten fish to our four. That’s when I punted and put on one of my all-time favorite trout flies, the Red Winged Chernobyl. The first bank I twitched it down put this perfect specimen 16” smallie in the net.
Terry, Steve and I began to rack up some numbers of our own. While most the smallies we caught were only 10-13” – they counted – and honestly, on the topwater flies – any 10-13” fish are a ball no matter the species.
Soon our boat had 13 fish and numbers wise we were only a couple behind the Amish boys. Our third boat was far behind. But, each boat now had a 16” smallie so big fish title was up for grabs again. As evening set upon us Terry and Steve worked off the front of the boat with the biggest bass poppers they had in their box. I fished from the back of the boat with my standard two streamer rig. We were in search of that big fish.
My point streamer was a size 4 copper and gold flashy Kreelex. I had hopes that the flash might attract a hook up with a steelhead or salmon. I knew a 30” steelhead would win big fish with ease – if I could land it. But out of the weeds came a pike. With no steel leader landing this toothy fish seemed grim. But my 0X SA Flouro withstood the short battle. Instead of a glamorous salmonid, I posed with the ugliest pike in the world!
That long ugly pike won big fish. It was a laugher for sure. And we tied Amish boys with 17 fish in each boat. Big fish put us over and Terry, Steve and I took the money. The small wager among friends made for a fun day. We pulled the boats out at 9:30 PM and headed back to the D Loop cabins for an amazing dinner.
We ate steak and sipped good wine until 1 AM. When with friends, going to bed on time is always hard because it’s so fun hanging out. I got some exciting news tonight as well. Dave Barkman, owner of D Loop Outfitters offered to take Terry and I to a float down the Pine River. The Pine is a top trout river in Michigan. I’m looking forward to this amazing treat!