I put up on the website a quick update last week on my recent trip to the Muskegon River. I thought I would add in a little more info regarding this fishery and our visit.
We arrived Thursday about 12:00pm at River Valley House, a nice B&B in Newaygo where we stayed. If you are ever thinking of fishing this area I highly recommend River Valley House. Miles better than any hotel. The accommodations are great and the proprietors even better. After getting things unpacked and grabbing a bite we headed down to the river. The Muskegon is big water and much of it is only effectively fished from a boat. There are areas that you can wade and many people do. Fortunately for us, right in front of River Valley House is a great place to wade and fish.
Understand, our primary goal on this trip was to swing streamers and put in time with our two handed rods. Sure, a fish or two (or ten) would be great but becoming more proficient at various spey casts was what we really wanted. So with that in mind, we headed down to river with our long rods, spread out a good distance and proceeded to start slinging some line. On this particular day we were only in the water for a couple of hours and I would have to say by the time we were done we were hitting about 50% on our casts. Meaning we were picking up line, setting our anchor, getting our "D" loop and making a good cast. We even managed to shoot a little line a time or two.
Evening activities consisted of watching a couple of spey casting DVDs (Spey to Z and RIO Modern Spey Switch Casting) and picking them apart to see what we were doing wrong and right. They were both very informative in learning the different "spey" styles and why you would and would not use each. Afterwards we both had a clearer understanding of just what we had and how to make it work, or so we thought anyway.
Friday morning greeted us with thick fog and air temps dropping to 29 degrees. The day before we measured the water at about 50 degrees. We launched at about 8:30am from the Pine Street launch. Drifting down about a half mile we setup on the left (South) side of the river and proceeded to cast across stream and swing streamers. The river was still very dark due to the fog. The sun was just brightening up the tops of the trees. After about 20 minutes our one and only steelhead struck. It just about pulled my rod out of my hand. I had heard from others that when swinging streamers the fish pretty much hook themselves and found out just how true that is. Before I actually had the line free from my right hand so the fish could run and the butt of the rod tucked in my hip the steelhead had already jumped three times. He did not really pull much backing out but certainly did jet from one side of the river to the other and back in a heartbeat. After a couple of runs when he got site of the boat we finally had him in the net. A beautify buck full of color.
By the time we recovered and started fishing again the river was beginning to brighten up. We fished this area for about another 30 minutes and then moved down stream. We were looking for water about six to ten feet deep, dark, with a good flow of water breaking up the surface. Keep in mind this is what we were looking for, it does not mean what we were looking for is what we should have been looking for. By 10:30am the river was very bright and in most places the light was penetrating all the easy to the bottom. Since we did not catch any more fish I will not try to impart a sense of "a more fulfilled life" for just having floated a beautiful river on a beautiful fall day. Keep in mind the main goal was to get time in with the two handed rods and that is what we were doing. The rest of the day found us leap frogging a few guides and other drift boats, fishing "fishy" water and working on our double spey, snap T and circle spey casts. The water was gin clear and the sky just as clear and bright. Saturday was pretty much the same. All of the boats we spoke with were not catching anything. Even the chuck N' duckers and spawn sack guys came up empty Friday. I felt very fortunate in deed.
We launched at Thronapple (were we took out the previous evening) Saturday and did see a few people getting into some fish early, when it was still dark and foggy [again], but after the sun hit the water everything sort of shut down. I spoke with some of the guides from Riverquest on the water and they had some luck in the morning but "real tuff" in the afternoon. Kevin Feenstra passed along in an email after I got back that Saturday was a real hard day and they had to really work for the one or two fish they got. We worked real hard and did not get even a bump. We were off the water at about 6:00pm at Henning. At least on Saturday our car spotter remembered to move our car, unlike Friday. Adventures in fishing!
The fish was a nice bonus but we accomplished out mission. By Saturday afternoon we were both trying different casts and concluded that about 90 of our casts were doing what we wanted and effectively drifting the water we wanted to fish. I actually started shooting some line but Scott apparently picked up this ability much quicker. I often heard from about mid-afternoon Friday through the rest of the weekend after listening to the crisp snap of line slapping against Scotts fly rod,"hey look… I ran out of line". That pretty much sums it up. We wanted to get on some big water with the two handed rods and learn to control our casts and shoot out some line. Not the best weather for steelhead fishing but great weather for casting and being on the water. Much better than the freezing rain and snow on previous trips. And yes, life is much better and more fulfilled now that I can cast a two handed rod. Not to mention putting in some good water time with a friend.