Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Denny’s Jam Sessions

Denny, a trout camp irregular, has a pole barn in the hollow of his back yard which doubles as a photography studio and a place for his monthly music jam sessions. Denny and I go way back. To cut the story short: after a brief session of motorcycle racing in the 70’s (motocross and trials) which left me banged up and Denny in a cast we sold off the bikes to buy Martin guitars. D-35s. A couple Mel Bay chord books and we were off and running. The seventies provided a lot of inspiration in the form of acoustic guitar music inspired by current events like war, black oppression and riots, assassinations, political corruption, Jim Crow laws… a host of things our generation attempted to fix.

So you might think a jam session at Denny’s would be a real downer. A bunch of old guys rehashing bad news. But no. We do play some Dylan and John Prine but even those heavy message songs are a celebration of life. That may be the real power of protest music: acknowledging what is wrong reaffirms what is right. We play diverse songs ranging from bluegrass to rock. Nothing is out of bounds at Denny’s and something new is always welcome.

Denny and some of the jam session regulars (Michele, Don and Paul) formed a bluegrass band called Down Yonder. I recorded them with my Zoom Q2n-4K camcorder.  This video of Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan is recorded at an old folks home in Cedar Springs where they provided free entertainment. The crowd loved them!

 

Winter Reading 2020

With seven months between the regular trout season I catch up on reading. Here are a few recommendations.

Anatomy of a Murder – Robert Traver. I found a first edition, first printing of this at an estate sale. If you are a trout fisherman you may have read the book Trout Madness, a collection of funny stories about fly fishing in the U.P. by Traver. This novel tells the story of a man accused of murder and his plea of temporary insanity, based on an actual case in the U.P. After reading the book look up the movie starring Jimmy Stewart. Both excellent, but read the book first!

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens. I kept hoping to find this book on the New Books shelf at the Kentwood Library and after months of waiting placed a hold on it. I was number thirty on waiting list so it took another 2 months. Worth the wait. I can’t remember ever being so invested in the well being and safety of a character, in this case, a little girl left to fend for herself in a swamp. She thrives in her closed world. The suspense builds like a time bomb when she’s accused of murder by the white folks that shunned her and never lifted a finger to help.

The Chess Machine – Robert Löhr. The Mechanical Turk, a chess playing automaton built by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in the 1770’s defeats all opponents while touring Europe’s royal courts. Except the automaton is not quite what it seems. Historical fiction based on a true story. Fascinating read for engineers, inventors, or anyone dying for a strange story.

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. I mentioned a short passage of this book in an earlier post. A wealthy gentleman is placed under house arrest in a Moscow hotel for having expressed opinions, in his youth, that don’t align with the current state politics. Being a true gentleman keeps him engaged as a human being when his life is taken away. A book that makes you proud to be human.

The WLAV Raft Race

For about five years starting around 1968 Grand Rapids hosted one of the biggest parties in the country. Hundreds of home-made rafts and thousands of contestants ran a timed trip/race down a section of the Grand River on the north side of town.  Live rock bands at Riverside Park blasted the pretty much drunk and stoned out crowd. There was police presence but they were cool. They weren’t there to bust pot smokers, they were there to make sure the crowd was orderly. I know it may be hard to believe but in the late sixties and early seventies pot was not considered a big crime unless you happen to get in the crosshairs of a fanatic cop. We would never have guessed it would take fifty years for pot to be legalized in Michigan. Really, it was just a social thing, probably like drinking during prohibition. Back to the raft race.

Robbin Crawford, of local metal sculpture fame, worked as a welder for a local machine builder. I worked there a couple summers at the same shop. Robbin designed and built a couple rafts for the raft race and I was fortunate to be invited to participate. He somehow hooked up with Ficeli’s Party Store and Budweiser to build a custom raft, essentially a pontoon boat supporting a platform with Miss Budweiser, a local beauty. To propel the raft forward we had hinged boards bolted to the bottom of our shoes in a way that there was no resistance moving our foot forward, but when drawing back, like rowing, the hinged boards opened like an umbrella to scoop water. Didn’t work at all so we floated down the river in style. Robbin built a second raft whereby a couple were married on the river. Don’t recall their names, but that was a year or two after this race.

That’s Robbin sitting in front, then me standing, then standing at the back is Ken Phillips, my step-dad, a machinist working for the same machine shop. He managed to get me in the shop as a paid intern.  Here’s two more photos. If you google WLAV raft race you will find some photos that show the size and scope of these events. Sadly the event was cancelled after serious accidents on the river. I understand the city attorneys were worried about lawsuits.  Not sure how you weigh that against such a great time for so many people.

 

Beatles Postcards

I have been wandering through antique malls and estate sales to fill time between trout seasons.  I picked up the book “Warman’s Antiques and Collectibles 2019” at the library figuring it may help to know a treasure if I see one. The book devoted a small section to Beatles collectibles and I recognized a photo I had seen recently at an antique mall downtown so I figured it was worth my time to go back and see if it was still there.

The photo at the antique mall turned out to be a postcard of the same image with Paul McCartney’s brother Mike’s signature on the back. Mike picked up a camera about the same time Paul picked up guitar so he was in a unique position to follow the band in the very early years. In the pre-Beatles photo above George Harrison is only fifteen years old.
There were five postcards for sale, four of them with Mike’s signature.

The postcard with the signature on the front side shows John and Paul rehearsing “I saw her standing there” according to Mike’s note about the photo. Of special interest is the guitar John Lennon is playing, his Gibson J-160E which later sold at auction for $2,410,000.

I have no idea of the value of the five postcards but they seem to be rare and Mike McCartney’s signature adds a bit. I remember watching the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan. Black and white.  You couldn’t hear much music for the screaming. Frantic girls passing out. Crowd control. I started wearing my hair longer. They changed the world like no band has done since.

Preston Arendson

I mentioned Preston Arendson a few times in earlier posts and on the Songs/tab page. This article by Pete Hector was great publicity. The Sawmill Saloon in Big Rapids was a great place to play to a college crowd in the 70’s. A really fun time.

October on the Pigeon

There’s a section of the Pigeon River up near Vanderbilt that stays open year round but with some restrictions for keeping trout. The Pigeon winds through some very remote country with a a great mix of gravel bottom and sand bottom areas. In the late fall large brown trout move upstream to spawn and it is a chance to catch (and release in my case) a trophy fish. I rose early Monday morning and made the four hour drive.

I could see from weather reports and the DNR daily report on stream conditions (right hand column) that the river was going to be high. I thought by the time I was up there the stream water level would drop. Instead, the river was very high and carrying a lot of mud making it resemble a moving, watery vanilla milkshake. I had never seen a river look quite like this.

When I dipped my lure in the water it totally disappeared six inches down. So, not good. It would be nearly impossible for fish to see the lure. I put on my biggest, flashiest #13 silver minnow and started casting. There’s a good sandy stretch that Feral, Natch and I have all caught good fish and that was my destination.

I managed to get into the stream just above a beaver dam but crossing to the other side where I could place a few critical casts was impossible and dangerous. If I was not alone I might have chanced it.  So I backtracked out and went up to a spot upstream where I knew I could makes some casts along the bank. I managed to get into the stream and fish a good bend. Long story short – I never saw a fish, not even a strike. But that’s OK. Just needed to get away for a day. Take one more shot. It’s a long time before trout season comes around again.

Coincidence

I often wake in the middle of the night and invariably check the clock. Two nights ago I woke at 3:21. I have been harboring a suspicion for years that numbers may solve the riddle of the universe and was curious enough about 321 to ponder it at 3:21AM. For starters, was it a prime number? (a number only divisible by itself and 1) I quickly saw that it is the sum of 3×107. Not prime. So then I thought how about 432, the next set of descending numbers. No, not prime, it is the sum of 4×108. The relationship of 3×107 and 4×108 compared to 321 and 432 was interesting. So of course I thought about 543, the next sequence.  That broke the strange new rule. Not to be dissuaded I thought of the next descending sequence, 654 and saw it was the sum of 6×109. So that was interesting again. Not sure if there is any truth to prime numbers pointing to a theory of the universe but that is the kind of question I may ponder in the middle of a sleepless night.

The coincidence occurred the next day while reading “A Gentleman In Moscow” by Amor Towles. The main character, Count Rostov, has made the acquaintance of a young girl, Nina, working on mathematics for school. She has taken it on herself to figure out all of the prime numbers. There is a stack of papers next to her filled with numbers, some circled. The count picks up a sheet and tells her this one is not a prime number. She looks at the number (1,173) and asks how does he know? He replies, “If a number’s individual digits sum to a number that is divisible by 3, then it too is divisible by 3. Nina says, “Better hand me that stack of papers.” Don’t let this small description of a passage turn you off to the book. The book is really a delight capturing the human spirit.

Next time I wake at 3:21 my plan is to roll over and go back to sleep. With Einsteins help I did attempt to solve the big mystery in an earlier post: The Fisherman’s Theory of Relativity. If that sounds interesting type Einstein in the search engine in the right hand column…

2019 Fall Trout Camp

Pickerel lake Campground

I met Natch and Feral up at Pickerel lake, Pigeon River State Game Area. We had our vintage Apache and JC Higgins campers so camp was comfortable. Natch cut a load of beech firewood which sustained us for four nights. It was chilly but too early for fall colors. When the sun came out it felt ten degrees warmer.

Fishing was good the first two days. The the rivers were dirty and high. Natch caught a 22 inch brown trout on the Sturgeon and I pulled a couple out of the Pigeon, 20 and 21.5 inches. I fished a stretch on the upper Sturgeon with Feral. He had a huge brown making passes and suggested I tossed my lure from the other side of the river. I hooked him for a moment but that’s the last we saw of him. We did catch some small keepers including on the Pigeon so it seems like the Pigeon is making a comeback after the disastrous dam overflow/silt problem a few years back.

Natch’s 22 incher from the Sturgeon

Luther’s 21.5 from the Pigeon

We had an interesting jam the first night, Feral on mandolin, Natch on bongos, and me on electric, then acoustic guitar. Think Jethro Tull/Locomotive Breath and Pink Floyd/Welcome to the Machine. Not our normal folly. I ran out of words quickly on the Floyd song but when I looked over at Feral and Natch they were focused on jamming so I kept playing. There were no witnesses so I can safely say we sounded good.


I fished a stretch of the lower Pigeon with Natch on the last day. I had seen a monster brown there earlier and when we approached the spot Natch insisted I make the same cast. I tossed a variety of lures while he waited patiently. It was getting embarrassing by the time I finally gave up and told him to go for it. That giant fish was probably deep into the undercut bank and never saw a lure. Maybe he heard us in spite of our efforts to be quiet. So.. Maybe next year I will see that fish again. It may have pushed 30 inches.

“Lil” Storm

My youngest daughter Lisa and her husband Brantley were blessed with a daughter eight weeks ago. Lillian is happy, healthy and and beautiful. Her middle name is Storm. Her mom and dad are world travelers and adventurers and Lillian will be right in the middle of it all. Lisa is an outdoor biology teacher turned yoga instructor turned mom, and Brant is a Navy pilot turned dad. The entire family on both sides are so happy and excited. As a first time grandpa I am so proud.

 

Twenty Four Inchers

So a spin fisherman sees a fly fishermen at a good bend in the river and asks how he is doing. The fly fisherman is excited. “Twenty Four Inchers.”
Spin fisherman: “That’s funny, I caught four twenty inchers.”
– Feral Tweed humor.

I should point out that Feral is an expert fly fisherman also, not just spinning gear.

So Feral and I decided to go trout fishing when no sane trout fisherman bothers. No rain for a week. Low clear river. Around 11:00 in the morning to make sure the trout were deep into cover. Sun was out and bright. We ate a giant breakfast in Tustin with too much coffee. We fished one of the most popular stretches of the Pine River in Lake County. We tried to stack the odds against us but it didn’t work. We caught trout anyway. Feral kept three for dinner. Good pan fryers. I would like to say we really killed it but we didn’t see any lunkers and fishing was spotty. Good casting saved the day – zinging lures into tight cover and really doing the dying minnow action with floating minnows. We had to drop the lures right on their noses to get them to strike.

Feral field dressing trout.

We fished a couple hours, changed lead a dozen times, talked about the trout closer in September. Hoping for bad weather and giant brown trout.  Twenty-four inchers.

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