This article by Steve Walker appeared in the Buckeye United Fly Fishers newsletter in August 2011.
Beaver Island Fishing, 2011 by Steve Walker
"Steve Walker, I hate to say this but you are going to have to change your shirt." Those were the first words I heard from our guide, Kevin Morlock of Indigo Guide Service, as Steve Horgan and I were picked up at our hotel to go carp fishing. He went on to say "if you have another color shirt you need to change because for some reason the fish don't bite when they see that color". So I went back to my room and changed out of my turquoise shirt into a bright yellow one. Who knew?
Because there were two Steves, which is a good thing no matter where you go, Kevin decided to always address me as Steve Walker and Steve Horgan as Steve Horgan, no matter if he was asking us something or telling us what to do. It was different but it kept down the confusion.
The trip involved us driving to Charlevoix, Michigan and taking a two hour ferry boat ride to Beaver Island, which only runs twice a day. Both Steve Horgan and I had each caught carp before but the appeal for me was the stalking and targeting them in the flats. It sounded fairly easy. Steve Horgan was really more interested in the smallmouth so we had decided to fish one day for carp and one day for smallmouth.
After breakfast, we motored out in Kevin's' boat to Hog Island, just north of Beaver Island. As a grand total for both days we must have seen at least a thousand carp. There would be one by itself, or two or three together cruising around. Or there would be a school of fifty sunning themselves in a circle with some coming and going here and there. Or there would be a couple on the bottom "mudding" (rooting on the bottom for something to eat). Each of these situations calls for a different approach, but the result was usually the same – refusal. Actually it's more than refusal, you only get one shot at them because they spook. And, if they see you or see the boat you're done with that fish, find another. Kevin had advised that we bring 10 weight rods. Steve Horgan and I each already owned 9 weight rods so that's what we brought. I had never had an occasion before to fish mine. Kevin put a five foot leader on with a twelve pound tippet and we were ready for business.
The water was as clear as tap water with visibility to 30 feet. The boat had a casting platform in the front and only one person could fish at a time. Steve Horgan and I started taking turns fishing, each getting fifteen minutes before we switched or caught a fish, whichever came first. That kind of arrangement can work just fine as long as you both agree to it ahead of time. Kevin was in the back of the boat, sometimes on the polling platform, spotting fish for us.
We started fishing for carp and learning the different methods to fish each situation. At some point I watched about a three foot long carp, two feet down in four feet of water, inhale my fly and spit it out just as quick. I then set the hook. Oh well. By the way, the fish are bigger than they appear in two or three feet of water, so that three footer may have really been three and a half feet long once you got her to the boat. (The females are bigger than the males) Finally, just before noon, Steve Horgan hooked and landed the first carp. It was quite a battle and had me excited about my turn. After Kevin released the fish he tied up the boat in one foot of water and we stood there and had lunch.
After we finished lunch, Kevin decided we should fish there while wading, so I moved off to the right about thirty feet from the boat. As I was getting ready to fish there were three carp coming from my right, about twenty feet out, so I just made a nonchalant cast just to kind of irritate them. Fish on! I think I was as surprised as the fish. It must have been the Dijon Mustard off of my sandwich.
We went on to land five carp total for the day, two for Steve Horgan and three for me. I don't remember taping any of the fish but we sure took pictures. Kevin estimated a couple at twenty plus pounds. If you are going to fish for carp, do some research to learn something about them because they are different from any other fish I've tried to catch.
The next day the focus was on smallmouth. This took another boat ride, this time to Garden Island. We never did fish at Beaver Island. We went into a cove that was about three football fields in diameter and stayed there all day. Again taking turns on the casting platform, we had each caught about three fish when I lost my streamer trying to land my fish (I think my biggest of the day). At that point, because I needed a new fl y anyway, Kevin said that we should try a popper even though he rarely fishes them and he wasn't sure how it was going to work.
Steve Horgan was up next, and after he caught his next fish, it was my turn again. We were casting to dark rock cropping anywhere from the size of a dinner plate to the size of a car. I cast my new popper to a dark spot and made two strips and my popper got slammed. Steve Horgan only had to see that once and he was tying on a popper, also. We got great action with the poppers. With the water being so clear and standing up high off of the water, we had a ball watching fish turn and run six to ten feet to go get that popper. Steve Horgan had one fish body slam his popper and miss it, wheel around and go for it again and miss, and then go for it a third time and somehow get off, all this in the span of five seconds. It was great fishing. The smallest smallmouth we caught was 15 inches long. The biggest for each of us didn't get taped because they got fumbled at the boat, but we did tape some at 20 inches. In all we caught 43 smallmouth that averaged about 18 inches. Steve Horgan said that he expected the smallmouth fishing to be good, but he didn't expect it to be as good as it was.
Kevin got us back to Beaver Island in time to catch the 5:30pm ferry back to Charlevoix where we spent the night before driving back home the next day. It was a long way to go from Cincinnati, but it was a great fishing adventure and I would happily do it again.