Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

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…

Leverentz Flash Camp

I headed up to Leverentz Lake to meet Feral early Friday afternoon in order to beat the let’s get out of town Covid sucks crowd. It paid off because the campsite was almost full. This was the first weekend State Forest campgrounds opened in Michigan due to coronavirus concerns. Feral and I took our backpack tents (instead of the Apache tent campers) which allowed us to use campsite 2 which has no driveway. Number 2 sits on a hill near the general parking area. Sounds bad but this is a rustic campground and number 2 is more remote than any of the other spots. We had some clean-up work to do. The fire pit was full of dirt, coals, melted bottles, etc. and we had to rake the general area which had downed branches and layers of leaves. It turned out well. A comfortable camp. We bought some fudgie wood and had fires two nights.

The fishing was something else. The photo shows Feral holding up all of the fish we caught. Getting a big bass or pike didn’t seem so important. Main thing was being outdoors in cool weather. Helps recharge the soul.

Feral’s son Jake joined us on Saturday night. He brought a hammock and I should have taken a photo. His sleeping bag is designed to surround the hammock to provide better warmth (rather than lying a bag on the hammock). Jake’s a bicyclist/camper taking overnight journeys in the wilds up around Alpena so he’s into actual backpack camping and making the most in minimalist mode. Good to see him, it had been a couple years.

I brought my Ventura camp guitar, a small acoustic bass, and a mandolin thinking it would be fun to get Jake doing some music. One time, remote camping up near Vanderbilt, he brought a 3/4 size upright bass to camp. There’s a photo somewhere in the archives. Jake has some music chops on both guitar and bass. He wasn’t into jamming though, said he hadn’t played in a long time. So Feral and I traded songs back and forth hoping to prove there is absolutely no reason to be shy around us. We can veer left on some classic songs and keep right on playing. It turned out to be a fun night with stories and odd songs. Plus, free food. Some folks Feral knows from Baldwin invited us over for snacks, elephant ears, and ended up handing us tin foil dinners to warm over campfire. Thanks! People were friendly and talkative throughout the campground. Everyone has been under too much pressure with covid and bad politics.  I’m not surprised the campground filled up.

George Floyd

Last weekend I went camping with my buddies mainly to get away from all things Covid: the constant news, the restrictions, the hideous politics. I was aware of George Floyd’s death from the brief video showing the officer on his neck. I expected demonstrations. I returned to riots. I would like my readers to know I am appalled by what happened to George. Because we have a free press with real news I was able to learn about him as a person and then follow a time lime of his last fifteen minutes on earth. I went from thinking one of those other officers should have told that moron to get off his neck, to understanding the real horror of what happened. I thought back to gentle giants I knew in school. You remember them. Big guys that bullies would avoid. Wouldn’t hurt a flea. Then I watched the timeline. George was suspected of passing a counterfeit twenty. I wouldn’t recognize a counterfeit twenty and if I passed one it would be grounds for some questions, not an arrest. But George was guilty the minute the officers showed up. They assumed he knew he was passing counterfeit money because he was black. The videos are hard to watch. I am upset. I hope his family and the black community understand the vast majority of white America is grieving too.

The Chair

Natch, Feral and I own backpack tents in case of over-nighters. No sense dragging a tent camper for a fast trip. Dispersed camping, our first shot at camping under Covid-19 restrictions, was allowed on the last weekend of May so we organized a fast trip to a remote spot on big hill overlooking the Pine River in Lake County. We had camped there before but it had been a lot of years. We cleaned up the spot with rakes, a fore-thought. It rained on Friday so I bought a couple bundles of firewood in Tustin. Natch usually brings a chainsaw but he was traveling light.

We were interested in fishing but somehow just getting together to hang loose and drink beer was more important. I bought crawlers with that in mind. We are not bait fishermen but it is a recurring theme. An excuse really, not a theme, to set up chairs along the stream, drink a six, and joke about stuff. We launch crawlers into the river with no real expectation of success. If someone catches a trout, and it has happened, it is an incentive to send someone back to camp for more beer.

Our first bait fishing spot (see 1st photo) was on a big bend a half mile downstream from camp. (Yes, we actually toted chairs, coolers, bait and poles that far through tick infested woods.) A geologist might remark on the unusual topography of the river. Opposite us, on the other side, you can see a heavily eroded sheer wall with trees roots exposed. Also a white plastic lawn chair. After a few beers that chair started taking on a life of it’s own. First as a future painting with an unabashed women sitting in it, unaware of three fishermen below. From there it turned into a movie script with ramped up suspense and Natch directing. That’s the thing about getting together with these two characters. Conversation can go anywhere and often does.

Natch and Feral

We stumbled back into camp after dark ready for a campfire and hot meal. Natch brought a store-bought forked stick hot dog holder I initially laughed at but came to appreciate quickly because the next thing I knew I was gulping down a cheese brat on a bun and not bothering with the ketchup because that was too much work. Then we had a crisis where the fire was dying and darned if Natch didn’t magically transform the fire into a perfect piece of cubism art.

Generally speaking we accomplished everything we needed to accomplish over the weekend. Which is to say: nothing. Based on that I am tempted to call it trout camp but we’ve tentatively planned a trip in June after the State Forest campgrounds open. Might include guitars and a detour even further into the Twilight Zone.

Bridge-Out

When I suggested to Feral we meet up at the Pine River yesterday he said let’s meet at the bridge-out. I suspected he meant six-mile bridge but it has been so long since they put in the bridge I thought maybe he had another spot in mind like a washed away landowner bridge or something. No, “bridge out” is six mile bridge. We met there but drove to a more remote spot that tests a vehicle suspension and paint finish. The rut and rock strewn two-track narrows down to nothing with side-scraping branches before opening into a small clearing. I have never seen anyone else park there. As a bonus, it is a short walk to the stream and an easy walk back when you are done fishing.

The morning fog was still hanging over the stream.  I gestured for Feral to take the lead, a bad habit I picked up over the years. He was throwing a silver minnow, a yozuri, which was small but has nice action.  I lost a gold Rapala almost immediately on a sunken branch too deep to retrieve.  While I was retying Feral feral caught and released a small brown trout then moved up and had a larger one make several passes. It didn’t want his yozuri but took my small silver Rapala.  Things picked up from here. I won’t go into details but we were passing my net back and forth as we caught good trout. I had hoped for two dinner trout and Feral was thinking the same. Here are the two I kept. I just finished field dressing the larger one and was ready to add it to the stringer.

So we went back and forth taking the lead. Feral ended up with two browns of similar size. We hung the stringers on a tree while getting out of the waders. Doesn’t make a good photo but you can see four nice trout. Note: if you click on the photo it will upload larger, use your browser back button to return to the post.

From there we headed to our Morel mushroom area which turned out to be a failed attempt. We were certain the conditions were right but with the early spring and back and forth cold weather I can’t say if we missed them entirely or if they are going to be sprouting like dandelions in a day or two. I’ll have to wait for a report from Feral who doesn’t have such a long drive.

Feral at our Morel Spot

Covid alienation

I went into Meijer’s to pick up a few groceries and most everyone wore masks. I found myself noticing people, women mostly, wishing I could see their faces. I couldn’t tell if they were smiling, absorbed in their task, what they thought.. as if I could read thoughts. It made me sad. I wasn’t there for any social reason. I didn’t need to see or speak with anyone. I wasn’t trying to meet someone. Just found that I really miss faces. Sounds like a small loss but I suspect it may be the same for others. That sense of being close to people without a need to interact. To complicate matters, body language still works and you can tell how worried some folks are…like you are diseased and they are afraid to be around you.

I suspect this is going to take it’s toll. So if you are in Meijer’s or out and about here’s a thought… pretend everything is cool and smile with your eyes. Might help someone get through the day. Another thought: May help if I don’t use my covid fish skeleton mask.

and get a haircut.

Trout Season 2020

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Michigan has been hit hard by the Covid 19 virus and my heart goes out to all front line workers and especially doctors and nurses whose lives have been imperiled. I cannot imagine the hospital scenes played out on the media and what it must be like to walk into danger like so many brave people are doing. I am trying to do my part. I acknowledge I could be a carrier even without symptoms, wear a mask in public, and adhere to social distancing. The strict rules in place for Michigan are working.

The lifeline for me not going crazy is trout fishing. So far I have visited a couple flooded rivers without much luck. I like to wade the rivers fishing upstream and flooded rivers pose several problems including personal danger and difficult trout. Trout lay on the bottom, gorge on nightcrawlers, and never see lures swimming by. So yesterday, sun shining and rivers down close to normal, I drove up to the Pine River in Lake County and fished a short stretch that always seems to produce a trout. I started seeing trout right away. Two batted the lure without getting hooked. I switched to a small floating minnow and stopped seeing fish but decided to stay with it knowing it was a matter of time. It’s a lure I have great confidence in, a plain gold Rapala.

When wading for trout I cross the stream back and forth putting myself on the inside of bends and opposite whatever looks like trout cover. I caught the brown trout above by staying to the right side of a natural wing dam formed by down timber and branches. It wasn’t pretty. Branches were sticking up and forward making casting difficult. If you catch a limb you may wreck the hole wading in to retrieve the lure. To add to the drama casting a floating minnow is like throwing a curve ball – the wind can drag the lure out of it’s presumed path. Did I mention it was windy yesterday?

I made several cast in front of the structure inching closer each time to figure out the next best cast. I finally lobbed a cast up along the far bank and let it drift to the very front corner, then reeled like mad. The trout slammed it and was hooked good. Then I had the problem of dragging the trout away from the cover which involved leaning back with the rod and wading backwards. The trout cleared the mess fighting the entire time. I netted him mid-stream and found the closest spot to de-hook and field dress him. It’s about seventeen inches. He’s dinner tonight.

So next up is the annual Trout Opener with Feral and Natch. So far it is looking like dispersed camping may be allowed on May 15. We have our fingers crossed on that. I need to hang with the fishing buddies for a couple days as part two of not going crazy with the epidemic. Social distancing will apply.

Diana the Huntress

I purchased the above art nouveau calling card tray off ebay last week. The tray is sixteen inches long and made of bronze and has a relief image of Diana the Huntress, a Greek Goddess that parceled out good luck to hunters offering homage. I think that’s the way it worked. My pastime visiting estate sales has been put on hold due to Covid 19 so scouring the internet for interesting objects has been filling that void. Hard to find really great deals but this is an exception. I very much like how the artist has recreated Diana six times which may be a way of saying she can be in more than one place at a time.

Fishing for a Metaphor

Academics, fishermen, and other low-lifes enjoy hearing a good metaphor thrown into a conversation. If you are Bob Dylan or Emily Dickinson finding the right metaphor may be second nature. In my case I usually find a good metaphor five minutes after a conversation has veered in a different direction. When I blurt it out the gathering moves ten feet away while making sideways glances like I have an affliction. It occurs to me I need a universal metaphor I can always draw on that can be applied to any situation. That way I can stay “in the pocket” and not rely on folks with short memories to remember what we were talking about.

Last weekend I helped a family member move to a new apartment and we had to disassemble a bed frame so I tested this one: “That thing comes apart like a 3-piece Shakespeare fly rod.” My niece and nephews were struggling with it so I added, “Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean.” I could see the light bulb go on. That seemed to help them understand the relationship between a bed frame and a fly rod and was a good lesson for me also. If you add a qualifier followed by “if you know what I mean” it challenges the listener to think outside the boundaries and adds some assurance that you might know what you are talking about. The fly rod metaphor has some real possibilities but the true test of a universal metaphor is adaptability to a host of subject matter.

Personal Growth: His mind expanded like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (not great, but maybe)

Nature: The trout stream wandered like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (good visual but I wouldn’t fish there)

Trucks: The old Ford tracked like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (Not bad, the truck needs alignment)

Trains: I got nothing.

Dogs: The hound pointed at the pheasant like 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (something disturbing here)

Food: The spaghetti was like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (I’ve had spaghetti like that!)

There’s always a risk someone will say, “No, I don’t know what you mean.” If this happens, nod slowly, look them straight in the eye and say, ” I know you don’t.” For maximum effect, say it with sympathy. I expect this whole blog topic will be as confusing as a Number 9 Rapala in a bird’s nest. Wear gloves, if you know what I mean.

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!

 

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