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Manistee River - August 26th, 2006
supplied by: Tight Loops Flyfishing
RECORDED:    75 °   FISHING: Excellent
August 26, 2006


  It’s FINALLY hopper time! At least, as far as the brown trout and brookies are concerned. Up until now, they’ve been ignoring these tasty morsels.

  Actually, this has been an unusual summer all around.

  First, we had a screwy Hex season in late June when air temps were dropping to 35 degrees at the Magic Hour (dusk) and ruining the spinner falls.

  Then July was the hottest on record and water temps zoomed to the high 60s and even the lower 70s, which made fishing difficult if not downright impossible.

  And through it all, those grasshoppers were getting fatter and fatter but the trout wouldn’t look at an artificial even during the hot days of early and mid August.

  But NOW, the game’s afoot, Watson!

  Just ask John Jekema, who drove his camper and hauled his lake boat all the way from Craig, CO, to fish for salmon and trout in his home state of Michigan.

  We floated the Manistee below M72 last Thursday, and he had a field day raising and hooking fish on various parachute hopper patterns. Finally, a few bends above Yellowtrees Landing, John pitched his fly into a streamside logjam and was rewarded with an enormous swirl.

  Fortunately, the opposite bank was pretty shallow, so I shoved the boat over, set the anchor chain, and hopped out with the landing net. John played the fish perfectly, and in just a couple of minutes I had it in the net.

  After a few quick photos, we released that very fat, hook-jawed male back into the water. This brown trout measured 18 inches, but it’s girth and bulk was such that it really should have measured out around 21 inches.

  “That’s the biggest brown trout I ever caught,” John said. I gave him the fly he’d used to catch it, and promised to send info on a taxidermist I know who does excellent reproduction mounts from photos. “I’ll be back next year,” John said, “along with my son.”

  The previous day, Marta Ogle also had a “homecoming” of sorts. She and her new husband, Don (both were widowed and just got married a year ago), came up to the Manistee where Marta had fished with her Dad many years ago.

  She and Don live just north of Cincinnati, and decided to make the trip north at Marta’s insistence that Don “simply had to see how beautiful it is in northern Michigan.” Since they were staying at Whispering Pines on the Manistee at County Road 612, and Don’s not a fly angler, we launched my Au Sable longboat there at the campground and floated to Long’s Canoe Livery.

  That stretch of the Manistee isn’t fly-only, but it has some extremely trouty spots. Marta was pretty rusty after a long absence from the fly rod, but she raised quite a few fish and also landed a nice brook and brown on hoppers.

  Oh, yes. I’ve gotta report that Jack Hise finally started landing some of the many fish he raised on the second day that we floated. He and Mike Flannagan, you might recall, had consistently lost or missed dozens of fish when we floated the Au Sable below Mio last week during the FAOL Michigan Fish-In.

  The next day, on the Manistee below M72, Jack and Jim Flamming continued the “streak” for about two hours. Then they both started bringing browns and brookies to the boat. WHEW! Talk about the guide feeling relieved!

  They were so impressed with that stretch of river—which I personally believe is the best “big-fish” water anywhere in the United States—that’s they’ve already booked a night next June during the Hex hatch.

  I had been telling them about the incredible opportunities to hook several brown trout upwards of 25 or 26 inches during the Hex, and after seeing the water, they were drooling to try. See ya in June, fellas!

  Surprisingly enough—or maybe not, considering the weather

we’ve had this summer—there aren’t any salmon in the lower Manistee River below Tippy Dam, nor are there any in the Pere Marquette River.

  We usually have excellent Chinook fishing in the rivers by now. I understand the salmon are on the move in Lake Michigan, however, so it shouldn’t be too long before they start showing up in the rivers.


  Kevin Cooke, shop manager at Casey Key Anglers & Outfitters in Nokomis, just north of Venice, tells me the fishing has been very good lately.

  There have been red tide episodes around Sanibel, and a mass of sea leeches were killed and washed ashore (ugggh!) at Anna Maria Island, but it’s been very spotty.

  Baby tarpon action has been decent at times, and the snook and redfish have been kind to anglers in the early morning hours.


  Everything’s at its peak right now. So, if you have a hankering to head West, get with Capt. John and he’ll run you down the Madison River until your arm falls off from casting!

  Tight Loops,

Capt. Tony


Manistee River - August 17th, 2006
supplied by: Tight Loops Flyfishing
RECORDED:    80 °   FISHING: Good
August 17, 2006


  It’s been exactly a month since my mom’s heart attack, and it still seems mighty strange to think I’ll never talk with her again! But, in a way, it already seems like a very long time since I was down in Ohio making all of the arrangements and getting her apartment cleaned out.

  I suppose that’s because I’ve been staying so busy guiding and running Ghost every day since I’ve been back. Which is a good thing!

  Ghost found a new “Honeyhole” for woodcock on yesterday’s scouting mission. Five points in less than 30 minutes. And it’s a brand new spot that we’ve never hunted. To make it even better, the covert is pretty close to my house!

  She’s running hard and minding my commands really well. As Kate just mentioned, “let’s hope it stays that way once she starts getting feathers in her mouth.”

  Speaking of which, our second shoot-to-retrieve hunt test is going to take place Saturday morning at Montney Farm, 6380 Cornwell Ave., just a few miles from Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare. She’ll taste some feathers then, for sure.

  Rex Farver sent me a beautiful Browning Citori 28ga two weeks ago. It’s about 15 years old, and never has been fired! I had hoped to try it out on skeet last Sunday, but the Grayling Gun Club was hosting a Registered Trap Shoot, so both skeet ranges were closed!

  The Citori has fixed chokes that at modified and improved cylinder. I normally shoot skeet and cylinder in my Beretta for grouse and woodcock because the cover is so thick up here, so I wanted to see how these tubes work for me. To be on the safe side, I’ll shoot the Beretta Saturday. Ghost would never forgive me if I missed.


  Fishing has been average to pretty good. MC (Mary Claire) Garges popped a 4X tippet on one Manistee River brownie that was in the 20-inch class last week. Middle of the day, using a greenish Manistee Special (no, you cannot have the pattern—this one really IS Special!) in a spot that rarely gets fished.

  Rex pointed out this dandy little hide when we fished together one day last summer, and I can see why a couple of hogs live there—99 percent of the anglers would simply float by because it looks inaccessible. But there is a way in, Watson!  And the rewards definitely justify the means.

  Anyway, MC dropped the fly in there after I’d done some careful maneuvering, and she was immediately rewarded with a huge swirl. She set the hook, but held on a bit too tight and that bruiser parted the fluorocarbon like it was a spider web.

  She and dad, Jim, had a great day and raised plenty of fish. Same for John Shiller and son Kurt. We floated the Manistee from CR612 down to Long’s Canoe Livery and had a strange day.

  John’s got a cabin on Manistee Lake, about six miles west of the river, so he wants to learn the upper Manistee. It was raining on and off, with the threat of thunderstorms, but Kurt was flying home to Dallas the next day, so we didn’t have a choice on postponing the trip.

  That stretch of river has sanded in quite a lot. In fact, we all had to get out and walk the longboat over the sand in several spots. Fortunately, we all were wearing waders as protection from the rain. But there still are plenty of places that hold nice trout—as Kurt found out.

  This was the first time they’d fished from an Au Sable longboat, though, and line-management was an issue that Kurt couldn’t quite master. So, the many rises went unfulfilled, so to speak.

  Yesterday, I took Jack Hise, of Evert, MI, and Mike Flannagan, of Canton, OH, down below Mio on the Au Sable. We were hoping to hit E. leukon, but the temperature started dropping in the evening and I only saw one white dun on the water.

  Jack hooked several fish using a size 16 yellow stonefly that I tie, but the hook kept pulling loose and we never did bring any to the boat. Maybe today. I’m taking Jack out again. This time with Carla Anderson, and we’re heading to the Manistee.

  And, yes, we WILL be pitching The Manistee Special. And NO, I still won’t reveal the pattern. You’d never believe me, anyway!


  Kevin Cooke tells me the fishing has been very good in recent weeks despite splotchy patches of red tide popping up here and there.

  The area around Sanibel got hit hardest by the red tide, but seems to have mostly recovered. Upper Charlotte Harbor is fishing very well. Same for Terra Ciea Bay up around Anna Maria Island and Bradenton. Lots of fish of every description are being boated.

  The really good news is that Sarasota Bay has come back after being hammered by last year’s 11-month siege from red tide.


  Capt. John reports the Madison is fishing very well. “No really big fish,” he said, “but lots of fish about 14 inches. We get a 20-incher now and then.”

  Just remember to take some warm clothing, and plan on doing the “Montana Strip.” Night have been down to 25 degrees!

  Tight Loops,

Capt. Tony


Manistee River - July 24th, 2006
supplied by: Tight Loops Flyfishing
RECORDED:    85 °   FISHING: Good
JULY 24, 2006




Sorry it’s been so long since my last Report, but first I was guiding nearly every day, then my mother passed away at the age of 84. As you can imagine, that rather consumed all of my time while dealing with myriad details.


Now it’s time to get back on the water. Those of you who’ve had to deal with this sort of thing understand what I mean. Lawyers. Funeral homes. Details, details, details. I need beautiful brook trout and maybe the resounding “slurp” of a hook-jaw brownie eating one of my hopper imitations!


I also need to get Ghost into top shape for the upcoming bird season. She had to miss our Inaugural Shoot-To-Retrieve hunt test sponsored by North American Dog Sports and Registry because of my mom’s passing.


But, it’s now legal for bird dogs to run loose because the grouse and woodcock chicks have fledged, so tonight we put the bell and beeper on her neck and turned her loose in front of the house. Ghost was perfectly content to crash through the fiddlehead ferns and slosh around in the cold, cold water of the Manistee River.


It wasn’t a very long run, but she was thrilled being free in the woods again. Same for Kate and me!




The weather has been very unsettled around here during the past month. First, during Hex, nighttime temps dropped into the 40s and even mid-30s. Naturally, that shut down the hatch, and made this Hex Season the worst in recent memory. We caught a few decent fish, maybe 20 inches, but never any of the really big guys.


Then the mercury zoomed into the 90s, bringing rain that has made the lower Au Sable below Mio unfishable for the past week. In fact, four inches of rain fell in three hours on July 17 (the day of my mother’s heart attack) and the river rose to heights never before seen by local residents of the Mio/McKinley area.  The river down there still is the color of chocolate milk—or latte for the Starbucked among us!


Conditions on the Holy Water are good, and the Manistee is in excellent condition. I did a “buddy check” today, and learned that gray drakes are popping on the Manistee below M72. Hoppers are doing their thing, too—which means Kate’s favorite fishing “hatch” will keep her (and the rest of us) smiling for the next couple of months.


Let’s see. Since my last Report I had the pleasure of fishing Blue Lakes Ranch with Dave Smethurst. He and his wife were caretakers there for 13 years, and I subsequently bought much of the beautiful tongue-and-groove pine and Douglas fir that I used to finish the addition to my house up here. I laughingly tell Dave and his wife that “I’m living in your old house.”


Dave “made” me do most of the fishing, and I had a blast landing a bunch of those big catch-and-release bluegills. A three-pound bass was a pleasant bonus.


Rex Farver floated the Manistee with me the next day, and it was a very tough one indeed. The fish simply wouldn’t co-operate. Sure, Rex caught some fish—he always does—but it was surprisingly slow going.


And the next night was worse. We were in a favorite spot waiting for Hex, and they never showed. Meanwhile, a few miles upstream, Doc Powers had several “bowling balls” feeding in front of him. Ah, the luck of the draw!


Tracy and Joe Ignash floated Stephan-to-Wakely with me a few days later and they each caught several fish. It was their maiden “float”—in fact, they’re pretty new to this fly-flinging business. So I was especially happy they got into some brookies and browns.


The following day I took Dave Poland, of Grand Rapids, and Brent Goldon, of Knoxville, on what was primarily a photographic mission. Brent does infrared imaging that is really amazing. His shots give the image a frosty-Alaskan-winter look. And most of the pictures he made centered on my Au Sable Longboat. He promised to send one of the prints to me (HINT, HINT, HINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).


Oh, yes. They caught some fish, too. Lots of small ones, but Dave nailed a 15-inch brown that sorta “saved” the day.


Diane Barker joined me for a half-day instructional trip two days later, and we spent a lot of time on the upper Manistee working on casting, reading the water, and wading. Next time we’ll work on releasing fish. Right, Diane? At least she felt some wiggles on the black caddis emerger before the “longline release.”


After that it was bingo-bango trips with Paul Coussens, Walt and Xa Johnson from Indiana, Bill Henry, from Colorado, and 10-year-old Cole Paul, from Petoskey.


I’d LIKE to say that they all had the “trip of a lifetime,” But that only was true with the Brothers Johnson. THAT day it was “Isonychiaville” all the way. They had a double-hookup three minutes into the trip, and that’s the way it was on the rest of our float down though the

Mio-to-Cumins float. Truly a “career” day. Both are relatively new to fly fishing. And both agreed “we’ve never caught this many fish in our lives.” It simply was that kind of day!


At least with young Cole, we managed to keep him dry and safe. His casting improved markedly as the wade trip progressed, and he even hooked some fish as a bonus. Next time, Cole. Next time.




The reports are encouraging. Sarasota Bay is starting to fish—well, better. Some spotted sea trout, but nothing large. And Admiral Parker boated a 28-inch redfish near the Ringling Flats a couple of days ago. That’s the good news.


The BAD news is that red tide has drifted into lower Pine Island Sound around San Carlos, Redfish Pass and Captiva Pass. While fishing has slowed there, action is good further up the Harbor around Gasparilla.


Lots of snook are off the beach around Casey Key. Some lingering tarpon, too. Kevin Cooke, shop manager at Casey Key Anglers & Outfitters, hooked up a few days ago but just seems to have “snake eyes” tattooed across his forehead. He keeps losing his “First Ever.” Don’t worry, Kevin—all of us finally has “It” happen!


Tight Loops,

Capt. Tony


Manistee River - June 16th, 2006
supplied by: Tight Loops Flyfishing
RECORDED:    84 °   FISHING: Excellent
June 16, 2006




I’m back in Michigan. Kate and Ghost weren’t sure who was getting out of the truck at first, since I came home with a face full of fuzzy whiskers for the first time in my life.


“All I need is an eyepatch and I’ll look like a salty old pirate,” I told Kate. I won’t tell you what she told me. Ghost sniffed apprehensively for a nanosecond, then did the Fosbury Flop onto my shoulders.


Happy to see me? Naw. Ghost ALWAYS leaps six feet into the air when I come home.


We’re all settled in now. Kate even told me the beard and ‘stash “doesn’t look all that bad.” I asked if she wanted me to shave it off, since I don’t really have a philosophical attachment to it.  She eyeballed my face for a few seconds and then replied, “keep it.”


So, I have. For now, anyway.




I did a full day float on the Manistee with Harry Blessing on Tuesday, and he had a ball. Harry previously fished with me in Florida when Joseph Meyer, owner of One More Cast, in suburban Chicago, brought a group of tarpon anglers to Venice.


So, Harry decided to call me for a float while he and six other friends were staying near Grayling. “I’ve never fished the Manistee in all the 25 years we’ve been coming up here,” Harry said. “Could we go there?” We could, and did.


“This is absolutely beautiful,” Harry repeated time after time during our float. “It’s wild. There aren’t many cabins, so it really is scenic and peaceful.” And full of fish.


Harry must have raised 50 fish during our float. He caught some, lost some and missed plenty. But he boated his “Personal Best” Michigan fish during our trip when I netted a fat 17-inch brown trout just below the Chimney Burn Athletic Club.


Yes, we got photographs. And, yes, Harry kept the fly that caught that fish—The Manistee Special.


I’ve been busy the past two days getting my office in shape. Now that I’ve sold my rep territory, the mortgage(s) are getting paid through guiding and writing, so I’ve been busy contacting various publications around the country.


Speaking of which, take a look at the July issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine. I have an article of vast importance to everyone who fishes the Manistee and Au Sable rivers—and everyone who simply cares about avoiding a potential disaster.


Hydrocarbons leaking into the aquifer threaten to destroy both of these world-class trout streams. Carefully read the article and then

e-me with questions, comments, and suggestions. I’ll have more on this subject soon, since the matter has gone to Circuit Court.


Back to fishing!


Cold temps have temporarily stalled the Hex hatch, but the big bugs should start popping in the next few days. It’s warm but windy today. Good thing I decided to catch up on query letters and fishing reports. Casting would be tough, and shoving the Longboat around would be a nightmare.


I’ll be attending the Federation of Fly Fishers’ Great Lakes Council conclave tomorrow, where I’ll present a Temple Fork Outfitters’ rod and reel to the Federator of the Year. It’ll also be a time to visit with old friends from the GLC—which is always fun. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since I got involved with that gang.


Then I’ll be back on the water next week. There’s a catch-and-release bluegill lake that I’m going to hit on Monday. It’s got ‘gills in the 13-inch class. Big, fat monsters that really take you for a ride.


Then it’s back to Hex on the Manistee. Ain’t Life grand?!?




Alberto, that impish little devil that went from Tropical Storm to Hurricane and back to Tropical Storm, certainly played Hob with the tarpon activity.


Of course, the full moon last Sunday was the Trigger Point for them to head to spawning grounds in the Gulf’s deep water. We’ll have to see how many make their way back toward Venice.


I had a great time with John Freeland, one of my regular clients, just before I headed back to Michigan. We fished off Venice the first day and he hooked up on his first tarpon ever.


“Agggggghhhhh!” He yelled as the hook popped free. “I forgot this is a circle hook and I tried to strip-strike!!!!!” He and fishing partner Lee Strauch literally saw hundreds of tarpon during the two days we fished together. And they had dozens of shots—some mere feet from the boat.


“Next time,” John intoned, “I LAND one!”


The big snook are cruising the beaches now, so that’s something to target. And everything else will continue to fish well until the temps get so blazing hot that it just isn’t any fun being out on the water much past nine in the morning.


I’ll keep you posted!


Tight Loops,

Capt. Tony


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