Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fish of 2012

I had a great year of fishing in 2012 so I thought I'd share my most memorable fish of the year. Here they are:

Black drum caught on Horn Island while blind casting. Hours of fishing with one huge fish to show for it.

24 inch redfish sight-fished from the kayak on one of my first good days of redfishing.  It was a big one for me at the time, and the overall outing was simply amazing.

A week after my buddy landed a big red underneath the birds, I played copy cat and caught this 29 inch redfish under the birds in the Mississippi Sound from my kayak.

A fat, 29 inch redfish caught on a popper on the revelatory day when I discovered topwater redfishing.

Another good redfish caught the very next day on a gurgler tied the night before.

My one and only Yellowstone cutthroat trout. I was oh so close to landing my biggest trout ever later in the afternoon.

First fish to reach the backing!

As you can see, I developed a slight obsession for redfish over the past year, and this obsession pretty much blocked out all other kinds of fishing. This was the year I finally figured out how to catch them on a regular basis, and I can’t remember the last time I made plans to target a different species. I do think the obsession is dying down as lately I've been having some impure thoughts, that is, thoughts of other fish...

Another thing I notice when reviewing these pictures is a distinct lack of the Mich aspect of MICH-issippi. I did not even wet a line in Michigan in 2012. This makes me sad, and I hope it never happens again.

Goals for 2013? Catch a BIG redfish. I’ve caught lots of nice redfish, but no truly big ones. I’d also like to catch some new species besides redfish, maybe false albacore, pompano, jack crevalle, or tripletail. Nothing against redfish - I still love them - but after a year of redfishing, its time to try something different.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Worst Hunter Ever

All I could think about as I looked at the small, empty hole in my shotgun was, 'Wow, I must be the worst hunter ever.' The hole was the former location of a pin that holds the trigger mechanism in place. It had been loose in the past, but I thought I had fixed the problem several months ago. Something must have shifted when I fired the gun.

Which brings me back to my original point. Worst hunter ever. The missing pin was the end of a morning of failure. I arrived early to camp and decided to go on a brief hunt before my friend Nick arrived. Following the instructions of the only neighbor in the area, I headed down a snowy two-track to a certain patch of woods where he had flushed grouse on a recent walk. It was cold, and I briefly put my trigger hand in my pocket. I swear grouse can sense when you are not ready. As if on cue, a grouse flushed from my left, crossing over the open space of the two track into the woods on the right.  I belatedly fired through the trees after the bird and predictably missed. What a golden opportunity! Quickly another grouse flushed, this time on the right, and flew through the trees without giving me a chance to shoot. Why am I always surprised by a second flush? I constantly remind myself that grouse flush in groups, but somehow I am never ready. Finally, a third grouse flushed from my left and flew down the two track behind me. This time I had a clear shot, but in the time it took for me to turn around and aim the bird had put considerable distance between us, and I missed again.

Wow. Not 100 yds down the trail and I had already flushed three grouse, shooting at and missing two of them. I hadn't even realized I was hunting yet until the first bird flew. Frustrated but encouraged, I found some grouse tracks and followed them to no avail before returning to camp as Nick and his father and brother arrived.

After regaling them with my story, getting the wood stove going, and generally setting up camp, we set off in a line through the woods. Wouldn't you know we never saw or heard any trace of a grouse for the rest of the day despite spending almost every daylight hour on the hunt - a far cry from the abundant activity of previous years when we heard flushes every 15 minutes, and grouse tracks were so numerous there was no point in following them.

To sum up: three grouse flushed and missed in the first five minutes, hours of walking through brush without even a trace of a grouse, and one broken gun. Sounds like a miserable day, but somehow I thoroughly enjoyed it. The northern Michigan woods is a beautiful landscape - one that I don't get the chance to experience much these days. Grouse hunting is really just hiking with a purpose. And I like hiking even without a purpose, particularly with friends. One day maybe I'll take hunting a little more seriously, but for now I'm satisfied with being the worst hunter ever. Besides, I managed to fix my gun for a whopping $7.

A big thanks to Nick and his family for inviting me to their camp again. I can honestly say that the camp and surrounding woods is one of my favorite places in the world.