Back in June I had the chance to take a family vacation up in Michigan, spending a few days on Lake Macatawa (off of Lake Michigan) before heading east to spend a few days in the Ann Arbor area on the Huron River. A few weeks before we left, I contacted the guys at Schultz Outfitters to ask about some recommended patterns for fishing the lakes (we were already scheduled for a guided trip with them when we were on the Huron). They were incredibly helpful, and I ended up filling a Fishpond Sushi Roll with some baitfish, sculpin, crayfish, and leech patterns.
The sun didn’t set until around 9:30pm, so there was time to fish every night once the kids were in bed. Luckily, fishing was a short walk away from where we were staying – it was great! After trying the fishing pier for an evening and blanking, I ended up going to another area on the second night and saw some baitfish jumping out of the water, followed by a boil (which happened throughout the evening). This time I had better luck, resulting in a breakoff without even feeling whatever heavy fish took the fly (a tan S3 Sculpin). The evening glare on the water made it hard to see any underwater structure as it was getting dark, so we took a walk the next morning to look in the water.
The next evening, I was joined by my daughter for a special daddy/daughter date before bedtime – we tried some “fishing” with both kids earlier in the day, and she wanted to take a special outing later. It was similar to the night before, seeing baitfish followed by a boil in the water. I threw on a black Red Eye Leech and was pretty quickly into a nice largemouth bass that threw the hook when it jumped. After a few more minutes with no hits, I decided to change flies and had my daughter help (she chose a purple woolly bugger that I she had helped me to tie). When I threw a cast straight out into the lake, I gave it a few seconds to sink then began to strip it in erratically. Suddenly there was a big tug and I was into… something that felt big, and then it broke off my 12-pound fluorocarbon. I picked out a size 1/0 version of my favorite black/olive/grizzly woolly bugger and cast into the same spot. Very quickly I again hooked into something that was putting up a good fight, and when it jumped I realized it wasn’t a bass, but a bowfin – my first! My daughter handed me the net, and we got a good look at the fish, which she found just as fascinating as I did. Being able to share that experience with her is something I won’t forget!
We walked back to the house, then I went back out after she was in bed. I tied on a chartreuse/white Feather Game Changer and caught two more largemouth bass (one was a new personal best for me at 17 inches). Great night overall.
Over the next two days most of Michigan got a few inches of rain, causing flooding in some areas and hugely helping stream flow levels on the Huron River, which had been running very low. There are a number of Metro Parks providing access along the river, and we fished from one that was right across the road from where we stayed. The fishing was tough, but both Dad and I got fish (including his first pike on the fly!).
If you’re looking for a trip for smallmouth, check out Schultz Outfitters for a great shop (both fly and conventional gear) and guides. They’ll help you get dialed in!