Catch the Warm Water Bug!

Ok, for all of you rabid trout bums, it’s time to spread your wings and catch the warm water bug!  Yes it’s different.  Yes it’s a step or two outside of your comfort zone…. heck, you might even have to learn to double haul but I promise you it is all worth it!  If I sound just a bit excited that is because I am.  My buddy CW and I just got back from 3 days of fishing Presque Isle Bay up on Lake Erie and the trip was pretty darn epic.  The funny thing is that as I look back, it was far from easy.  The water temps were still fairly cold and the bite was not as aggressive as we had hoped.  But armed with a bit of creativity and patience we managed to cobble together some super cool experiences.

Before I get to the fish, let’s start with the gear.  I ended up bringing a 6,8, and 9 wt rod with me.  Truth be told, I could have got by with my 8 wt and left the rest at home but I like options.  Two reels, one with a floating line and one sinking or intermediate line would be all you would need.  A spool of 15 lb fc tippet is pretty much all you truly need as well.  Just about everything we threw to was not at all leader shy so there is no need for long tapered leaders.  The true comedy is that I packed an enormous waterproof guide box full of flies and I could have brought a single fly box with closer minnows, wooly buggers, and a few poppers and had everything I actually needed.  (minus one surprise which I will share with you in a moment!)  The one piece of gear that I would recommend that most of you probably don’t own is a good stripping basket.  When you are standing in waist to chest deep water the last thing you want is your line fouling around your legs, drifting in the current, or sinking to the bottom as you try to double haul it back up to carry a good loop.

Orvis Stripping Basket

Orvis Stripping Basket

So now that the ever burning gear question is out of the way, let’s talk about the fishing.  Like many warm water bodies of water, Presque Isle is home to a vast multitude of species that can be a total blast on the fly rod. So in 3 days we caught; sunfish, crappie, rock bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, gar, bowfin, perch, sucker and believe it or not steelhead.  That is 10 species all within a two hour drive of home and a cheap motel room.  No guide, no boat, no resort fees…. just a bunch of fun that anyone can have if you are creative.

A few of the fish were truly noteworthy if not for their size but for the circumstances under which they were caught.

CW with a Largemouth on the Fly

CW with a Largemouth on the Fly

Chunky Smallie

Chunky Smallie

So one of the things that we talked about on the ride home is the ability to be versatile and adapt as the conditions dictate.  Beating water is no fun and there is a fine line between being persistent and being stubborn.  When the bass bite shut down or the weather took a turn for the nasty, we kept fishing  but changed our location, tactics, or even primary quarry.  What it yielded was some very memorable moments for both of us.

CW stuck this great gar as it was cursing the shallows and it  inhaled his bass fly.

CW with a Sweet Gar!

CW with a Sweet Gar!

On our last full day, the winds kicked up big time so we took to the tribs in search of smallies.  Much to our surprise, we found some fallback steel head that had yet to “fall back” .  We each stuck a few first year fish and then CW spotted the prize hugging the edge of the channel.  To say all hell broke loose was an understatement.  I almost peed my pants watching CW try and chase this fish up stream as it took off like it was shot out of a cannon.  So here is where a bit of over preparedness came in handy.  I had nothing resembling a steelhead fly in my bag.  It wasn’t even on my radar to think about it.  LUCKILY, CW had a few in his and was a good buddy and shared.  Not to mention, I think it was the first and only time we will ever fish the Manchester Hole and have it all to ourselves!

Late Spring Steelhead

Late Spring Steelhead

So I am sure many of you are thinking, Wow… sure seems like CW caught all the big fish.   Well not so fast.  One of the things that has been on my bucket list for several years now has been to catch a bowfin on the fly.  After having to re-think some tactics and employ some serious stealth stalking moves it finally happened!  Yeah.. I was pumped, not going to lie.

Lee with a Bowfin on the Fly

Lee with a Bowfin on the Fly

The trip was rounded out with a few personal best smallies and some great beer and wings.

Lee with a hefty Walnut Smallie

Lee with a hefty Walnut Smallie

So if this does not get you thinking about letting those poor trout try and survive the rising water temps of the summer I don’t know what will.  Just remember, there are so many great species to chase with a fly rod and remember…. The only thing that can happen to you if you do is that you might become a better, more well rounded fly fisher and who knows… you just might find a new favorite species?