Operation Michigan Tropical – day 2

Day 2 dawned cloudy, rainy and with winds gusting over 30mph. Awesome. Though every one involved in OMT were complete professionals, getting 9 people up, out to the Shamrock for breakfast, into the Harbor Market for lunch supplies, back the lodge to suit up and then successfully into boats with hundreds of pounds of camera gear and rods and bottles of water and sandwiches is like herding cats. Cats that had a perfectly responsible number of adult beverages the previous evening.

I say this all to explain why we didn’t get on the water until noon on Saturday. But no big deal. Carp don’t care and it’s cold in the morning anyway.

It was JP and Kirk’s turn to drive the island and walk in with me. We drove to the north east point of the island and immediately saw several fish milling about in 18 inches of gin clear water. They were not carp, but they seemed to be too big for smallmouth. I figured they were drum. But in that super clear water you just had to have the right angle on them to see that indeed, they were all very large smallmouth.

Both Kirk and JP made a couple shots at them but those fish were the most selective smallmouth you’ve ever heard of. After being harassed for a few minutes the fish would melt off into deeper water. We walked about a 100 yard stretch of gravel beach, trying to identify the fish, a dark smudge in the blue water, moving imperceptibly.

The wind was howling out of the west at our back, strong enough that you had to lean back into it to keep from falling over when it gusted. The rain would come in minute-long explosions and rip sideways at your jacket. Then the sky would clear and the sun would come down hard and light up the flats in a glimmering show of aquamarine and pale sand and gravel, revealing every fish within 200 feet. But the thick gray clouds were flowing across the sky like an avalanche and that window to the sun closed as soon as it opened.

But no matter. We’re professionals. So I take a shot at a couple of smallies as they cruise back into view. I put the fly directly on the bottom and crawl it as slow as I can. One of the bigger fish peels off from the pack and follows the little crayfish pattern. I stop it. She stops. I crawl it again so slowly it’s painful to watch. She follows it. I stop it. She stops. I start to put some pressure on the line to start crawling it again and she tips up and sucks the fly down and I have a fish on.

I actually had to put this smallmouth on the reel. On an 8wt. She made a couple short 10-15 foot runs but they were strong runs. She tried to jump a couple times but she was so fat she just got about halfway out of the water and shook her head. Took about three minutes to get her in.

We stopped at the Harbor Market to grab a six pack of Oberon on our way to the next spot. The wind was still screaming but the clouds had mostly cleared. We stood around the truck drinking beers and pretending the wind wasn’t making us crazy. We walked in to Little Sand Bay but found no fish so we went back to the Shamrock to drink some adult beverages and watch the harbor for Kevin and Steve. Those guys arrived after a rough and very wet run back to the harbor, but both boats had caught carp that day, including a pile of smallmouth. Bill got some awesome photos of Will holding and releasing some of these fish. Bill is submitting them to some magazines so he doesn’t want us putting them up here, but as soon as they’re published you’ll hear about it.

Our first mistake may have been going to the bar at 4:30pm. Or maybe it was the 6 pack of Oberon. Either way, by the time the rest of the guys showed up around 7pm, we were doing pretty good. It didn’t help that one of our esteemed colleagues bought a couple rounds of Patron, or that dinner that night consisted of 6 dozen wings and a couple pizzas, or that we passed a bottle of Bushmills around at the Lodge, or that some of us stayed up until 2am drinking more adult beverages on the porch. Or that one of us ended up losing his cell phone and sleeping in a random yard somewhere between the Shamrock and the Lodge.

Either way, the only mistake we made regarding responsible consumption of adult beverages was made Saturday night. At some point.

Some of the pictures below are Tim Romano’s. You can probably tell which ones. They’re the good ones. Also, Kirk put up a bit about the trip over at Field and Stream’s Fly Talk.

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