“There’s one… 80-90 feet out, into the wind toward the reef… see it? Can you make the shot?” asked Steve Martinez of Indigo Guide Service as I stood perched on the front of his blue battle worn aluminum boat the “Carp Diem” a few miles offshore on a reef of Beaver Island, Michigan.
“Sure can” I replied.
We were less than an hour into the trip and still in the “dating” phase of our guided adventure. Those precious early moments of the day when your fly fishing guide is feeling out whether they’ve got a capable angler or a complete dumpster fire on the bow of their boat, and you’re doing your best to seem cool and collected after stripping more working line onto the deck than you’ve ever successfully thrown in your life… It’s like a Mexican standoff between reality and expectations. It never ends well.
I performed two perfectly executed hauls before piling all of my line 40 feet in front of the boat, the remaining tangerine orange line wrapping in loops around the bow mounted trolling motor. The flat came alive as the crash of my line spooked fish out of the shallows directly in front of me.
We were off to a great start.
“Well, you’re off balance from me rocking the boat… I’ll get us more stable for the next shot” said Steve graciously as he rowed us further down the small rocky outcropping towards a fresh group of tailing carp.
“You’re a good dude for trying to give my ego a break, but you’re as full of bullshit as that cast” I replied. We laughed for a few moments before staging up on a new school of huge golden fish.
With my high-speed jitters out of the way and no pride left to lose, Steve oriented me for another shot at a laid up fish. I redeemed myself with a great cast and a few short quick strips to position the fly on an intercept course. I was rewarded with a massive carp pursuing and inhaling the blood leech imitation. A sharp strip set and my reel began screaming in terror as a monster golden fish did its best to punish me for embedding a hook into his rubber lips. I laughed out loud... I think Steve was as excited as I was.
For those not “in the know” Beaver Island is the largest archipelago in Lake Michigan. Situated 30 miles Northwest of Charlevoix, Michigan, it can only be described as a fresh water Caribbean. Gin clear waters circle a small outcropping of islands surrounded with shallow flats for miles. Record sized carp and massive smallmouth cruise these reefs looking for easy prey in the warm, clear shallows from late spring through early Fall.
“It’s a place I never get tired of looking at” mentioned Steve several times over the course of the day, and it’s an easy statement to agree with. This little island is like its own world although it’s just a 2 hour ferry ride away from mainland Michigan. It’s the kind of place that you FEEL like you’ve gone somewhere once you get there. The journey is truly part of the charm of Beaver Island.
As the day poured on, we landed several massive carp. I tend to underestimate the fish we catch so as to never be accused of telling fish stories, but the largest of our day’s successes had to tip the scales at over 20 pounds. Steve later shared stories of pre-spawn fish in the 40 pound class. Had I not seen fish definitively larger than the ones I brought to hand out on the flats, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I know they must be there. His pictures tell the tale.
We can't say enough good things about Beaver Island. It’s truly a gem in the middle of Lake Michigan, and with it's laid back atmosphere and world class fishery, it's easy to find a reason to go back. In full transparency, even if the fishing was complete and utter shit, we’d go back just to do some more “Boodling”, but that’s a story for another day.