It’s a snowy gun hunting season for deer in Michigan. After the first two days of the rifle season the number of hunters thins appreciably and you only remember that it’s still rifle season when you pass a sedan with a dead deer bungeed to the roof rack. I’ve spent only a little time in the deer woods, preferring instead the grouse/bow season of earlier fall, and the upcoming skiing/winter fly-fishing dead-of-winter zen season. But the deer economy has some benefits, and we acquired a number of prime early season deer hides which we are processing for dyeing, grading, and distribution. It was a snowy, cold job involving a power washer and A LOT of gross deer tallow getting flung up into the woods where it has since frozen into a sparkling array of macabre ornaments. Currently the forest smells a bit like a barnyard of deer. This will undoubtedly delight the winter stray cat that has taken up residence on the grounds. This same cat, by the way, has developed the startling habit of sneaking into and getting trapped in our dumpster, hiding silently, and then springing from the dumpster when it is opened, scaring the piss out of the innocents merely putting in the garbage.
But this deer hair looks damn good.
Next we roll and brine and bleach and dye. Stretch, dry, cut, grade and…we’ll have a whole bunch of great deer hair. Isonychia spinner, purple daze, dun (for wings), Iso dun (battleship green), drakes (dirty yellow) and hex (creamy yellow, heavy on the cream). We are also separating the good natural, with big long belly strips for parachutes. As faithful northern Michigan tyers know, just about everything in the mayfly world can be copied with the Robert’s Yellow Drake with just some color changes. The use of deer hair for the bodies of our flies is relatively unique to our area, and deer hair itself is one of the pillars of Michigan fly-tying. We should have the first batch done within the next couple of weeks.
I was able to get out fishing a few times this past week before rifle season opened and it was pretty great egg fishing for rainbows. It’s not poetic, and we’ll never, thankfully, be famous for it…but the river was empty and the trout were eager and hard-fighting. At the time, the brown trout were pretty spawn-y, so rainbow fishing was all we had.
But now the brown trout are pretty much done spawning and dropping back to their post-spawn spots on the outside of the current, behind log jams (or under slow water log jams), or in deeper runs (especially in the tail-outs). I tend to favor big streamers for these post-spawn fish, usually in black and brown (though we’ve caught them on all sorts of colors), and fished with a methodical jig and strip retrieve. On the upper river I prefer a floating line though we’ve had great luck with the SA Titan Sink Tip Type 6.
We’re getting a smattering of accumulating snow in Grayling, though the Traverse City area is getting dumped on right now. By the end of this unseasonably cold weekend we’re going to have about 6-8 inches on the ground though I think much of the snow will melt during next week’s warm up (and some trout will probably be caught as well). If you’re up fishing and are planning on walking into a river stretch, wear orange and just be somewhat wary of other people. If you’re not up fishing, it’s time to start doing some fly-tying. Snow flies, I tie. I started right in on a good hendrickson spinner that I prototyped last year and made a video of it. An easy and good fly to start the season, but we have a lot more to come.
Used Rods and Reels:
Hardy Zenith Sintrix 9′ 5wt – $400
Hardy Pro Axis Sintrix 9′ 7wt – $400
Orvis Helios 8’6″ 5wt Mid Flex – $350
Sage Xi2 9′ 9wt – $400
Sage Xi2 9′ 8wt – $500
Orvis Superfine 7’6″ 3wt – $300 (Newer Style)
Orvis Hydros 9′ 6wt Midflex – $250
Tibor Everglades with 1 extra spool (Black) – $700
Abel Super 8 (Black) – $450
Ross Evolution 3 (original style) with 2 extra spools, gunmetal blue– $500
Ross Evolution 2 (original style) with 1 extra spool, black – $400
Sage 3400D with 2 extra spools, black – $350
Sage 3400D with 1 extra spool, Black and silver – – $300
Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor II with 1 extra spool – $200
Winter Hours: We are open every day from 9 am – 2 pm except for 11/15, 11/24, and 12/24, 12/25, 12/31, and 1/1. We also have open rooms through the winter.