Iron County's Blue Ribbon Trout Streams
The Fascinating World Of Fly Fishing School...
July 01, 2011It was the last Saturday in a century of chilly Aprils and the opening of trout fishing in da U.P. I thought I would try some brook trout fishing, at least until the regular general fishing season opened on May 15. Armed with an ultra-light spinning rod and reel and a small container of worms, off I went. Soon I found out that streams and waders were harder to handle than lakes and boats. I went to the presently pristine Iron River in Iron River. The scenic beauty of the U.P. was interrupted by a bridge, a pizza palace, and the Riverside Bowling Alley (it burned down two nights ago - true story).
The Iron River was a good place to start. First, I knew where the river was and second, I found an access spot. It was a steep bank which continued to get steep right into the river. I slid down some slippery grass on my butt and discovered my first trout pool. Then I slid down some rocks and the big hole at the top of my waders filled up. I felt like a frozen Baby Huey doll, made of lead. I managed to hold onto an overhanging branch and crept home. I don't think anybody saw me. It was only 6:30 am. End of trout fishing for several years.
At the age of 70 I decided to try stream fishing again, with a fly rod. Some research and an education from two accomplished and knowledgeable trout fishermen have renewed my interest in trout fishing.
Three things helped me to become a better fly fisherman and hopefully, this article will help a few readers learn more about the fascinating world of brook and brown trout and how to catch them.
First, learn a few fundamentals about casting a seemingly weightless fly.
Second, pay close attention to veteran fly fishermen as they teach you about reading water and currant in streams and rivers.
Third, and most interesting of all, is learning about what trout eat, where they eat, and then adapting to all the changing water conditions and hatches that nature brings us. The old adage - match the hatch - is easier said than.
The Artistry Of Fly Casting
The first part, fly casting, came to me easy enough. Accurate fly casting is another thing. The most important technique I learned is to let the weight of the line do the work. Don't force the cast. You can use the 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock method and not bend your wrist but I prefer to bend it on long casts. The best thing to do is to get some instruction and then practice casting to a ring or hula hoop-type object in your yard. Practice makes perfect and confidence in the act of fly fishing is important.
Second, watching the artistry and proficiency of an experienced trout fisherman cast and read water is a thing of beauty. If you love to watch athletes demonstrate their skills, performing before thousands of people and creating the resulting action-packed pressure, then you will really appreciate the singular act of casting a light fly. And if you are a fish-brain and love to learn about the habits, habitat, and intricacies of all fish the singular act of accurate casting, here is where, in my opinion, a skilled angler shines. I may not aspire to be an entomologist, although I know that God is in the details, understanding current, funnels, tail-outs, seams, pools etc. separates the worm soakers like me from skilled fly fishermen like the father and son team - the Kauffman's of Crystal Falls. One day while steelheading Mark Kauffman said, "Hey Dock, see those big bubbles - cast right there."
"Yikes," I said, "now I'll be studying bubbles."
It seems that paying attention to bubbles in rise form, for example, will tell you to put an emerging nymph fly on your line. The wise 'ol father, Ray Kauffman, the consummate thinker about all things alive or dead, a fine tyer of flies, and an excellent artist and carver, said this about bubbles, "Say what you want - she's an excellent dancer. OK - just kiddin'. Let's talk Caddis flies! They emit gases. The gases emit bubbles which rise to the surface. Inside these bubbles, mind you, the Caddis lose their husks or Walla - they fly away. Mother Nature is a grand magician.
Ray mentioned to me that big brookies like to stay in funnels. Seems that they are the "Vs" formed by overhanging branches or rocks. I actually saw a funnel, casted there but to no avail. OK! But I was paying attention.
Seems that seams are important topics of conversation on streams. I overheard two steelheaders talking and discussing the rushing water below a rapids we were fishing. One fella was pointing and talking about the white water but telling the other angler to cast just where the border of the current was occurring or where the water was calmer, forming a seam or a place where a trout could ambush anything rushing over the rapids. The angler began casting to that seam countless times but soon he was rewarded with a bone-jarring strike. Once again, I was amazed at how that trout was, well, actually there.
Tail-outs are merely places where rushing water calms down, places where trout expend less energy while hunting their prey. Of course, there are productive tail-outs and less productive ones and that, my friends, is why we have to "learn" the water. "Sorry about the lawn, dear, I have to go to the piscatorial library to study the water. See you at dinner."
Pools, especially deep pools, are kind of self-explanatory. However, I know that some of the better ones develop on bends or oxbows of rivers and streams. Here the water changes direction, heads into banks and digs the shoreline deeper and deeper over time. Time, the geological wonder that keeps everything from happening at once. Insects, however, seem to have a schedule a phenomenon worth checking out.
Quit Buggin' Me Or...
The Pertinent Entomology
Of Insect Emergence
Maybe I should stick to worm soaking. This is what I thought after I started looking into this fly fishing business. After following Ray Kaufman down the south branch of the Paint River for about a half a mile, watching him catch brookie after brookie and me lagging behind trying to make an accurate cast or two, I could plainly deduct that this fly fishing could actually produce more and bigger trout that I had ever imagined from a spot where my wife owns a streamside cabin.
So he was whipping accurate cast after cast and putting something in his creel/tackle shop. I caught up with him and he showed me a limit of brookies for the table and then told me about the flies he was using and that now-a-days The Sport Shop in Iron River (Don Ciochetto, owner 906-265-3851), has a booklet called a "Compilation Of Insect Emergence For Iron County, MI." Turns out a neighbor by the name of Don J. McDonald wrote this fine booklet and the Content of this booklet is the property of Trout Unlimited of Iron County.
Fishermen have told me that the chart inside the booklet is very accurate and if you follow its suggestions you should be more successful, not only on U.P. waters but also on streams in Northern Michigan. The chart names the fly, the genus and species, the emergence period, body color, number of tails and hook size.
Blue Ribbon Trout
Streams In Iron County
Since this is a July article and some of you may wish to fish some of the Blue Ribbon Trout
Streams in Iron County like South Branch of the Paint River, the Iron River, Cooks Run, and sections of the Fence River. For more detailed information and help with directions on Iron County trout streams call the National Forest Service in Iron River at: 906-265-5139.
Finally, the Slate Gray Drake (second hatch), the Michigan Mayfly (hex), and the Trico (also recommended by Ray Kauffman) are good July flies to try. Ray says the Trico should be tied with a smaller hook than the one mentioned. A #18 to #26 hook works better in U.P. streams. The Mahogany Spinner is also productive in July.
Kauffman told me while wading the Fence that a Big Golden would bring strikes in July and that there is a Stone fly hatch in or around early July on U.P. rivers. Ray starts fishing with a streamer just to see what's going on. "Cast a big Royal Coachman, one that represents many different mayflies, to trigger the fish, because after all is said and done, big flies and confidence go hand in hand. Go get-em!'n