What can you say about Lake MI? In many ways, it is the hallowed ground for carp on the fly. The fish are big, the water clear, and they eat meat. I will forever be madly in love with the Columbia River, and my home resource has many large carp in it but the finicky nature of clam eating carp makes for an extremely technical carp fishery. You must get close, you must fish small flies with little to no motion...you must see the eat. Lake MI offers challenges, but they differ drastically from those of my home water, and in many ways the big lake is a little more user friendly. You fish bigger flies, and the carp (sometimes) chase them down and eat them. That said, I see a far greater number of "positive" fish on the big C. And therein lies the real challenge with Lake MI. You have to find fish that are in the mood. In a lake this size with thousands of miles of shoreline, that is no small challenge.
In addition to simple size and distance, weather is a huge factor. The sun comes and goes, the wind blows and the water temps change on a dime. One moment you are standing in a bathtub warm bay and two hours later you are wishing you had put on two pairs of socks and the carp are gone. Learning this water and where and when to go and be is not for the faint of heart. Just as an example, here are the rough "landed carp" numbers from our five Lake MI trips (generally between two anglers with 4 days on the water.)
2010--0 carp (we saw one in four days. Poor carp got smashed by a tumult of casts immediately.)
2011--85 carp (glorious trip)
2012--11 carp (we saw thousands, and failed miserably to catch them)
2013-- 135 carp (our top 20 fish all weighed more than 20 lbs...EPIC)
2014--57 carp (two great days, and some ass whoopings)
Five trips, five different results. 4/5 years we found the fish, but finding the fish doesn't mean you catch them. Lake MI fish aren't easy, they march to their own beat. Bottom line, you won't be "talking" these carp into eating...you have to find the players. Over the last few trips we learned that this often means walking away from hordes of fish. We often leave the bays and the numbers and head out onto rock points in search of single cruisers...we get less shots, but once you spot an eater on Lake MI, the odds are you will get an eat unless you do something really dumb. We do that too.
It is time well spent...afoot on a legendary lake with your best friend. We wander, we catch up, we peer against the grey glare in search of our quarry. We break rods (lamenting the loss of my beloved h2...soon to be repaired), we eat bad bar food, we laugh and cheer for each other to both miss fish and catch fish. We take photos, we sleep like dead men. One night on this trip we even attempted to get into the hot tub of the shit ass cheap hotel in which we were staying. The tub was slightly warmer than Lake MI. These trips MUST be about more than catching carp...because we don't always catch carp. We got blanked on day four, finally giving up around 430 and pounding on bass until it got dark. As Wendy would say...we go it on foot. And we are better for it.
Every year we take the time in this space, on this blog and Wendy's, with these words to thank each other and our families. You have likely read it all before and it remains true now and always. I am 39 now, years removed from the college where both Wendy and I met the most important people in our lives...Kelly and Emily understand us both and encourage us to maintain these bonds and these trips together. What an amazing thing we have here...a tradition started without intention, and driven not only by Wendy and I but by the ladies we love so much. I know I speak for my friend when I say thanks.
In closing Lake MI 5.0 I can't fail to thank my friend for his time and patience. Wendy is quite simply the best fishing companion one could ask for..smelly socks and all. As for the five people that read this blogworth noting is that none of this is done by magic. There is no trickery or unattainable ocean flat reality here. Wendy is a more skilled caster than I, but even at that we are at best, one step above total hacks with fly rods in hand. I hold no illusions to my technical proficiency on the rod or at the vice...I am a weekend fisherman with a family, a job and a life. I am thankful every day that fly fishing is part of that life. We do what we do and have done what we have done because we go, we try, we put in the effort and we make shit happen. Look back at the list written above...2010 happened. Four days of walking from 8-8 and we saw 1 carp...but in 2011 we came back for more, armed with the knowledge you only get from having your boots on the sand and limestone of Lake MI. Go and see...go and do. Good things happen when your boots are in the water.
Onward to the next chapter.