Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Between Trout Seasons

I found a first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway last summer but put off reading it until now. I have read some of his short stories, in particular, the Nick Adams stories including the one about hopping off a train in the middle of nowhere and collecting black grasshoppers which had adapted to a burn over area and using them for trout fishing. And eating an onion sandwich. Hemingway is a very visual writer. I didn’t know what to expect with this novel but so far, about a third of the way through, I can say it is about as much fun as The Grapes of Wrath. Hemingway’s ability to write visually includes graphic descriptions of man’s inhumanity toward man in the fascist war in Spain that roughly coincided with WW2. The suspense may be my undoing. I am under the spell of two characters falling in love faced with task of blowing up a bridge. The odds of success are slowly dwindling while their fate, if captured, is torture.

In November I entered a short story in a contest held by our local Library. I labored with a very long short story for about a week before deciding file that one away. The story I entered may be considered “flash” fiction. Kind of a new phenomena. One page stories. I didn’t set out to write flash fiction. It just happened. I have no idea how the story may be viewed by the judges and know that it is always hit or miss whether a story finds an audience with the right judge. But it’s fun to enter and see what happens. Results are posted in February so it’s enter and find something else to do.

Pigeon River Late Fall

When I drove up to see Jake and Feral, last post, I had a second agenda which was swing over to the Pigeon River State Game Area and fish a section of the Pigeon that stays open all year. You can keep rainbow trout, but that’s it. I have caught rainbows on the stretch but mainly brown trout which move upstream in the late fall to spawn. It’s a chance to catch a monster, take a couple pictures, and put it back in the river which I normally do anyway, preferring to keep small pan fryers if I want a trout dinner.

It was a long day starting at 5:00 AM driving to Alpena for my visits and then west over to Gaylord and north to the river. I was on the river shortly after 3:00 PM and finished the stretch by 5:00. I packed a tent and sleeping bag figuring to camp but it sounded like an lonely outing so I drove back to Grand Rapids. I figure I spent about ten and a half hours driving and it made for a long, tiring day. Did I get a photo?

This one came out of a deep sandy section upstream of a large island. I lost another brown that was a bit larger – right at the net. It came out of a piece of cover that didn’t look like much. It jumped a couple times so I could see it was big. I should have been concentrating on keeping it from jumping by holding the end of the pole in the river. He threw the hook coming out of the water. So it was an eventful trip but must report the large migratory brown trout were not up there yet. You know when they get there because they are everywhere and usually hungry.

Jake

The hand forged copper and steel bicycle sculpture above was designed and built by blacksmith Jacob Moss Idema (Jake to fichigan readers). It is located on a bicycle path in the town of Alpena, a sleepy artist community in northeast Michigan. Jake followed Feral’s footsteps with jewelry design and repair at Bolenz Jewelry then branched off into metal working and sculpture. When the town’s art’s commission saw his amazing work they commissioned two more sculptures including a pair of bicycle racks (see below) and a large sculpture representing the town and the historical importance of the Thunder Bay River, his next big project. In order to fully appreciate his work it helps to know all metal parts are bent and fabricated using a forge including hot rivet assembly. Nothing is bolted. Jake often calls on Feral to help with fabrication and assembly of his art projects. Feral has some chops in metalwork himself including hand fabrication of black powder blowgun firearms, which he invented and sells privately.

Feral (left) and Jake leaning on Jake’s spectacular hand forged bicycle rack.

Jake also sells unique one-of-a-kind collectibles including knives, pendants, belt buckles and other items at Chippewa Valley Leather in Alpena. If you are looking for unique gifts for any occasion the store also specializes in hand-tooled leather goods. The store front is just behind Feral in the photo. 210 N 2nd Ave.

Henry James Soulen

Girl with Victrola – H. J. Soulen   (18 in x 26 in)

A day before heading up to fall trout camp I checked local estate sales online and found a photo of the above artwork. The author’s name was listed so I checked online for his bio and found he is a noted magazine illustrator from the early 20th century. I went to see the artwork and they were asking in the range of two thousand, more than I could feel comfortable spending. I made a low offer on day two of the sale and managed a good deal. The title is “Girl with Victrola.” I am sure at auction the artwork would sell for substantially more for several reasons. It is a slice of Americana, the subject girl is beautiful, and there is great interest in American illustrators.

I am especially fascinated by the artwork because I spent most of my life as a technical illustrator drawing machines …wondering if I could beak out of that into more interesting work like this. When I see the skill needed to compose such a magnificent piece as this, I am humbled. 

 

Mosquito Art and Lager Fest 2020

If you read the earlier posts about Mosquito Art starting back at spring trout camp it would help explain the artwork we set up last weekend at Pickerel Lake. We had the summer to work on entries. I did three paintings but two were purely for the entertainment of my fishing buddies. Feral and Natch each brought artwork. One of Jake’s friends had him bring a tiny chair piece but my photo turned out blurry. So not a lot of art but we did have a lot of fun.

Without further ado here was my main entry, called M-80s. We used to hear fireworks go off down on the bend of the river where we first spotted the white chair. I speculated about what might be just beyond the hill.  There is some glare from the plexiglass but you can see the composition. That’s a tiny box of M80’s on the white table.

Feral’s entry, below, was political. He tried to explain it to us but he gets pretty abstract in his ideas and even more abstract in his execution. I may need a written explanation for this post.

Natch’s entry, below, was a two-piece sculpture including a chair and store manikin. If the purpose of art is to challenge viewers to reflect on the world they live in, then Natch is the clear winner. His entry was a topic of conversation throughout the weekend – from humor to concern.  He’s a very talented graphic artist so I was expecting something quite different.

On the second night I brought out my second artwork which was framed “book cover” art and a pocket book I produced on Lulu publishing. The book contains some mildly ribald, funny short stories about the adventures of Feral, Natch and Luther. And some other short stories including horror and science fiction. I put the artwork up in the campfire light and read the new Feral, Natch and Luther stories as part of the art experience. My cohorts were pretty entertained. I brought copies of the book for everyone that showed up. I am tempted to donate a couple to the Kent District Library but I am not sure how they would be received. I’m afraid the book would be judged by the “pulp fiction” cover, not by the writing.

I should mention that Denny joined us. He didn’t bring an art entry ( I was disappointed – he’s a professional photographer) but he did bring a guitar he built  himself. A Martin D-28 kit. It sounded incredible and I wish we would have spent more time jamming. I brought a small bass guitar to camp because Natch showed some interest in trying bass. He is left-handed so it was awkward until he turned it upside down, which made my questionable instruction a bit tricky. He was knocking out some basic bass to some of our best jams so I hope he considers pursuing it.

We did go fishing. It was fall trout camp. Rivers were low and clear, no large migratory brown trout. Somehow Natch caught a lunker. I swear Feral and I need to rethink our big fish strategies if we hope to compete. Seems like every year, no matter how tough the fishing, Natch takes a nice brown. This one measured 20 and 1/2 inches.

With Covid still in play we cooked all of our meals at camp. I bought a Blackstone propane griddle that we used for breakfast and supper which turned out to be pretty handy. You can cook just about anything on them and clean-up was easy.

So we’ll do this again, another Mosquito Art Fest, probably based on some obscure observation at spring trout camp.

A Trout too Far

Feral with a respectable stringer

I posted this a month ago but took it down the next day. Hard to explain why other than the story left me spooked. It is an honest post. And maybe a lesson.

I called up Feral this week ( early August) to see if he wanted to go trout fishing and mentioned keeping a couple for dinner. He groaned when he heard that. That’s a sure way to jinx a trout trip. But he was game so we headed up to the Pine on an overcast morning. Feral had left all of his trout lures up at his second home so when we reached the river I opened my two small totes of lures and told him to pick out whatever he liked. He picked an old standby that I had used earlier this year and did well with, a small floating minnow. I picked a similar but larger lure and we fished for about an hour with Feral catching one keeper. The fishing was slow and the wading tough so I opted to head back to the car for a break and to rethink the fishing. We decided to try another stream and when we arrived there we had a beer and sandwich on a high bluff overlooking the stream. We took a path downstream and got in at a bend and right away Feral started catching trout. He was placing the lure into tight spots up under overhangs and dropping it right next to the bank. I can’t remember him casting so darn good and the lure could have been made for that stream because his precision casts were rewarded again and again. It was so fun watching that I was content to follow, though I did take the lead here and there. My larger lure had a couple follows but nowhere near the constant action of Feral’s smaller floating minnow.

So this is where it gets interesting. We had enough trout for our dinners. Feral was dragging a good stringer which divided nicely. Then he caught a trout about sixteen inches and standing there watching him hold the trout I asked if he was going to release that one.. we had plenty. The gears were grinding and finally he said he was going to keep it. There was no reason he couldn’t. He could always keep it for a second meal or freeze it. But in my mind it was one fish too many. He cleaned the fish and added it to the stringer. I took the lead but we were both thinking we would call it quits soon and there was a logical get out spot up around a bend or two. We came to an interesting piece of trout cover on our left that was divided into three separate castable areas and I managed to see a flash in the first area but didn’t catch him. I moved up to the second castable spot and Feral moved up to the first. From my vantage point I could see down into the water where he was casting. Suddenly he had a fish on and it broke off the lure, the lure that was responsible for catching our dinners. He apologized for losing the lure but frankly I was going to give it too him anyway, for providing the entertainment and dinner. No problem. I gave him a second lure and he made the same cast with me looking right down into the water where he cast. I saw a flash which in my mind was a rainbow trout, silvery and more rounded shape than the brown trout we were catching. Feral made the exact same cast and this time the fish was on but did managed to get off. Feral said it was a pike. He saw it close up before it threw the lure. No doubt, a pike. That of course would explain how the first lure was lost. Pike have sharp teeth known for cutting fishing line. The pike never felt the hooks on the first lure and cut the line. So he was not shy about chasing a second lure.

We headed back to the car shortly after that. On the way Feral commented on how Jake Lucas, our mentor, would have been proud of us heading to the river and bringing home supper. But in my slightly off center universe I was thinking about the large trout on the stringer. Did keeping that trout set off a chain of events leading to a lost lure to a northern pike on a trout stream? What was the pike doing there? I had never heard of or seen a pike on that stream. If Feral had tossed back the big trout earlier, a trout to far, how else might have the fishing played out? Was there a lesson?

Shallow Water Trout

I tried fishing my remote nameless creek twice this year but both times it was flooded and over the banks with the water opaque like a milkshake. I fished fifty yards each time and left because the fish could not see my lure and I couldn’t see the log structure. Yesterday I put new line on my reel, ice in my cooler, and headed there again hoping to finally find it fishable. I stopped where the creek crosses under a gravel road in big tubes to get a look and it didn’t look good: super low water level and very clear. I debated heading north to the Pine River but it was already mid-afternoon so I put on my waders and walked downstream.
When I reached my normal entry spot I was thankful I put new line on the reel – it makes it much easier to cast right next to the bank or under branches and into tight dark areas. I knew the shallow water was going to be a challenge but to my amazement the trout were hungry and very aggressive. A sort cast in front of a messy blowdown brought the trout below out into the open into sandy shallows where it grabbed the lure and put up a good scrap. It was a shade over twenty inches. I let him go. I like to keep smaller trout for dinner.

I fished for about an hour and a half and caught four good dinner trout. I also tossed two back and one broke off a brand new lure – so it was a pretty remarkable day. Trout dinner for Memorial Day!

 

Silver Lake Bass Fishing

I wasn’t sure what to expect up at Silver Lake, Mears, Michigan because rumor had it that local efforts to control the exploding weed growth were working – which had an adverse effect on the fishing. Silver Lake is a swimming and recreation lake first, fishing takes a back seat because most homeowners want sand, not weeds. I didn’t bother bringing a fishing pole on a family visit to see Bill and Karen DeJong who have a beautiful home opposite the dunes.

It turns out Bill was up for a challenge. We had access to a nice deep-V fishing boat and motor so we rose early and headed to the one spot in the lake that had reed beds thinking it might provide some bass structure. I was skeptical, Bill was focused. We had a strong wind out of the east, not good, so we anchored just outside of the reeds and went to work. Bill bought some crawlers and tried those with bobbers and/or just tossed them overboard with sinkers while I poured through his tub of artificial baits. I would like to say my finesse with plastic worms payed off but instead watched Bill find a workable pattern, bobbers with half-crawlers, just inside the reeds. He took three nice bass inside an area of about six square feet. It was surreal.

This was humbling. About the time we were ready to leave he took one of his poles and handed it to me – hoping I might catch something. A second later the bobber went down and I pulled in a bass that might have gone five inches. That is stretching it.

Morning Trout

Temperatures have soared around Michigan this summer with small breaks for thunderstorms. When conditions look good, during or after a storm, I check with Feral to see if he is up for some trout fishing. I picked him up last Wednesday and headed up to the Pine River to fish a stretch we normally avoid. The stretch has a lot of boulders and gravel broken up here and there with remote sandy areas and deep holes. The wading is tough and it’s impossible to walk the shore back to the vehicle so you have to turn around and walk back downstream to get out. The stretch doesn’t get fished much by other fishermen.

We went up the morning after a storm hoping the stream would be carrying some mud or at least be stained. It wasn’t. Seemed like bad luck. Feral dropped the first keeper trout after de-hooking it, then another trout fell through a surprise hole in my net. It seemed like some sort of omen and we said as much. If we lost the next trout we would be questioning whether forces were working against us. I concluded long ago the world is not the linear picture show we take for granted. Feral has his own ideas based on early readings of Carlos Castaneda parsed with his advanced IQ. Another less interesting way to look at the loss of two fish is sloppy fishing. Feral should have had a death grip on the first trout and I should have known there was a hole in my net. Thankfully, we caught the next trout and didn’t have to second guess world order or sloppy fishing.

The day warmed up fast and we got out early. I had another mission in mind. We have an art contest coming up based on a white plastic chair we saw earlier on a different stretch of the Pine. I had google earthed the bend in the river with the chair and saw it would be possible to reach the area. My thought was maybe we could camp there sometime. When we found the chair my second thought was it would be dangerous to camp there. The drop to the river is straight down fifty feet. Maybe not such a good place for guys that like to tip a few beers in the evening. But what a view…

Mosquito Art

Advance notice: To liven things up at our fall trout camp (late September) we’re holding the first annual Mosquito Art & Lager Fest. Trout Camp buddies will bring one or more original pieces of artwork to hang from trees in the campsite. This includes paintings of any style or media, drawings, collage, photos, photoshop art, sculpture, any form of art. There is one stipulation – it must include a white plastic chair like the one in the earlier post “The Chair.” Judging to take place after an evening of typical trout camp behavior (reduced mental capacity). Maybe there is a prize for best entry, maybe not. Feral suggested a can of bug spray. Entries will be posted in a fichigan blog sometime after the close of trout season. Expect some interesting art…

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