Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

The Monster Brown by Feral Tweed

This fiction story by Feral Tweed (re-posted from the early archives) captures the excitement and drama of spin fishing for trout – a lone angler returns to a favorite stretch in hopes of catching a lunker he saw on his last trip. Feral’s metaphors are wonderful!  – Published by permission, copyright 2011 Feral Tweed.

The Monster Brown

by Feral Tweed

Dawn was still two hours away as I slipped my oId pickup into gear and turned my wipers on. The memory of my previous fishing trip was still fresh on my mind. Was that a brown trout I saw breaking the surface of that deep shining pool or was it a leftover steelhead? Though I knew there were a few remaining steelhead in the stream, I was convinced, then, that it had been a large brown, and this morning I hoped to find out. If only the rain would hold out, I thought, and if only the brown is still there.

I have always been a stream fisherman but I have never caught a brown trout larger than 18 inches. If I was right about the fish I had seen in the pool last weekend, I now had a chance at a brown that must be well over the magic twenty inch mark.

My headlights were getting dimmer and dimmer with each passing mud hole but I was alone on the road and could see well enough. My old metal tackle box was competing in a noisy contest with my broken exhaust pipe as I throttled my truck over the flooded two-track. I was heading to a spot on top of a large hill that overlooked a four hour stretch on the south branch of the Pine River in Alcona County. It’s still plenty dark I thought to myself as I jumped around like a circus performer trying to get into my chest waders- without putting either of my feet down on the rain soaked ground. Searching through the jumbled mass of hooks and lures that used to be my neat and orderly tackle box, I finally came up with my hand painted brook trout look-alike Rapala and couple of Mepps #2 bronze spinners. I stashed these in my breast pouch, picked up my rod and landing net, and headed down the dim leaf-covered path that led across the oak ridge and down through the cedar swamp to the stream.

The sound of the rain and my beating heart was all that I could hear as I made my way through the tangled mess of blown down cedars. I had to double back several times before I finally found an opening through the mess and made my way to the swift running stream. Halting there to catch my breath, I turned to listen to the mournful cry of a great horned owl somewhere out in the darkness. Hunting, for her, must be tough in this rain I thought, with all the mice and ground animals snug in a nest somewhere. She probably spent most of her night gliding silently from tree to tree searching for feathered prey roosting among the branches. She’d be giving up soon, I thought. I smiled. For me the hunt was just beginning. I lit my pipe and rigged up my rod.

This lure should do it, I thought as I tied a three inch Rapala securely to my new six pound test line. I don’t normally use lures this large on a brook trout stream but the spring rains should have brought the larger trout up from the main branch down below, and I was after larger trout on this trip. One trout above all, was the monster brown I had seen the week before.

Slipping down into the cold black water I could see that I was about one hundred yards below the deep pool that held the monster brown on my last visit. I tossed an under hand cast up and across the stream to the opposite bank. I watched with anticipation as my lure twitched seductively on the surface of the rain dappled water, then down into the current as it came past me. Taking up my line I tossed another cast upstream that fell just three feet from the bank. As I took up the slack in my line, my lure was smashed instantly by a nice brook trout that leaped several times into the air before I could get him under control and pull him downstream and away from the hole. The twelve inch brookie was a nice surprise. I slipped him carefully back into the water and moved slowly upstream towards the hole where I hoped to find the monster brown. I tried several more casts with no luck.

Stopping below the pool I worked out my strategy. Just in front of me were two half submerged cedars lying directly across the stream. Above the cedars lay the pool with the stream turning sharply off to the right. Over to the left where the cedars struck the bank the water was close to five feet deep and the current dug down fast and deep under the tangled mass of debris left there by the spring thaw. In order to get my lure down under the jam, where I expected the monster to be, I would have to make the long cast upstream and across. Then I would have to let my lure ride the surface down along the far bank and start working it back just as it hit the jam. Hopefully it would dig down under the cover and entice the large trout out of his seemingly impenetrable hiding place.

Luck was with me as I made the cast. My lure touched down easily just inches from the opposite bank, well upstream of the pool. I watched it silently as it slid downstream occasionally bumping into weeds that were hanging off the bank. A perfect cast is always rewarded, I thought to myself as I took up the slack line. Then I swung my rod out and down and watched as my lure dove beneath the surface of the water just inches in front of the log jam. I was rewarded instantly by the steady throbbing of the well tuned rapala as it shifted its course and dug down for the upstream run.

Was the monster down there watching? Was he hungry after a full night of constant rain? Where is he, I wondered, as my lure came out from under the log jam. I didn’t have to wonder long. There he was sliding through the cold water like a u-boat homing in on my rapala. A shudder went through my body the instant before he struck. Then, he was on!

I set the hooks hard driven by more shear panic than good judgment.  I couldn’t believe the size of the monster. He didn’t run with my lure – he just rolled sideways in the current and shook his mighty head back and fourth like a large dog shaking an unlucky cat. My heart was racing as I regained my senses and plunged the rod tip over the cedars and into the stream in a frenzied attempt to keep from breaking my line. Don’t go downstream, I hollered. Don’t go downstream.  The brown replied swiftly by making a mad dash back across to the security of the log jam. No, no, not there either, I hollered. I could imagine all kinds of things under there he could hang himself up on. I swung my rod tip upstream to hold him and managed to get one foot over the cedars before he made a spectacular leap and hit the water on a dead run straight upstream. Shoot. I was astraddle the two cedars with neither foot on the bottom and fighting for balance and I watched in desperation as the line peeled steadily off my reel sending a spray of mist with it. Somewhere upstream I heard the monster break the surface. Freeing myself from the cedars, I plunged into the pool, all thoughts of personal safety and plain human comfort behind me. With no more than two quarts of freezing trout stream down the front of my waders I made it through the pool.

Again I heard the fish leap. Cranking for all I was worth I made my way up to a straight-away that was covered over the top and two sides by thick brush.  Ducking through a low tunnel, I came up to a pool below a beaver dam. There was my monster brown finning easily on a gravel bar contemplating his next move. I was perhaps twenty feet behind him waiting nervously like a bird dog on a hot point. I could see my lure hanging from his long hooked lower jaw. A large male, I thought to myself, all of twenty five inches. My landing net was fastened to a loop on the back of my waders. I would have to reach around with my left hand for it and let go of my reel in the process. I decided to take up some slack in my line first and get a little closer to the fish.

That was my mistake. The moment I moved out of the opening to the deep stretch behind me the monster came to life. I half jumped out of the way as he turned and came down by me. Unable to keep a tight line on him, I watched in desperation as he went by me into the tunnel of swift moving water. For an instant I lost all contact with the fish. Fearing what I knew was going to happen, I raised my rod tip high over my head hoping I would be able to break his run without losing him.

Then he was there. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. First, my rod tip plunged down from overhead splashing against the water in front of me.  Then, down in the tunnel, I watched as the monster brown, framed by the overhead canopy of lush green vegetation, rose mightily from the surface against the straining line. For an instant the brown was clear of the water shaking back and forth like a John Deere at a tractor pull. Then my lure was sailing through the air and up into the brush. Instantly the monster was under the surface and gone. The stream swallowed him up as if he had never been there.

I stood silently, watching as my dreams and heart were swept away in the turbulent water. Then I noticed the rain falling and heard the birds singing their morning songs in the cedars around me. I turned to face upstream and realized that I still had a three hour stretch in front of me. Who could tell, there might even be another monster brown out there waiting for me.

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.

Parade

Parade by Bruce McCombs

A short while back, in a post about King Kong, I mentioned that I would like to donate a Bruce McCombs’ etching to the Kentwood Library. It took a bit of doing but thanks to some very helpful library staff it now hangs in the children’s area on the first floor, exactly where I had hoped it would go. This etching has something for everyone: kids, teens, adults and seniors. It depicts, in amazing detail, a downtown parade with giant cartoon character balloons. Photos do not do it justice. It must be seen in order to appreciate what the artist accomplished. Hopefully it will inspire kids and teens to take up art.

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.

King Kong

I purchased the etching The Making of King Kong by Bruce McCombs, a Michigan artist, at the Cascade Art Gallery going out of business sale. McCombs is famous for his etchings which hang in galleries and museums around the world (including the Smithsonian). King Kong and I go way back to 1960’s late night TV. When I saw the etching… I had to have it. The image is totally fabricated by McCombs imagination: a full size mechanical King Kong robot on a movie set. Clearly, this might be considered his most creative, whimsical etching.

It turns out there’s a book of the same name: The Making of King Kong, by Goldner and Turner. I checked on Amazon to see about buying it and there were several copies all going for 80 dollars. Price fixing? Seemed high for a used book. So I checked the Kent District Library on-line catalog hoping to find it. No Luck until I mentioned the book to the circulation manager at the Kentwood Library. She was able to find and order it through a system that scans outside of Kent County. (Thank you!) The book is filled with movie stills and anecdotes from the actors and the production team. A fascinating read if you are a fan of the original 1934 movie.

I purchased three other Bruce McComb etchings at the art sale including one called Parade that shows a downtown city parade with giant cartoon character balloons. It’s spectacular. I have been thinking about donating it to the library. It is artwork that kids, teens and adults would all find very interesting. Might inspire young people to pick up a pencil.

Reeds Lake, August Night

I fished another Reeds Lake bass tournament with Mid-Week Therapy GR group. It was a cool evening with wind blowing out of the east which made it tricky keeping the boat in place with the trolling motor. I caught the first bass with my the second cast at Rose’s Restaurant docks. So I knew I had to work the docks for a while even though I told myself to explore the lake. (Last tournament I couldn’t start the outboard because of a bad battery. This week I was ready.) Still, the docks have fish. There’s a nice drop-off in site of the docks near a small stream inlet but every time I looked over there there was a boat parked on it. So I didn’t fire up the outboard. I did OK though, four bass for 10.94 lbs. Another bass, large, may have helped but probably not enough – there are some seriously good fishermen in this group. Figure five fish / 18 lbs to finish in the money.

The moon was up for the 9:15 finish and weigh-in. I pulled in a couple minutes early so I could get a spot right next to the dock. Fishing alone has it’s challenges including loading the boat. Most teams have one guy back the trailer in while the other guy motors on which is quick and easy. I back the trailer in then need to wrangle the boat around the dock and onto the trailer. I hate to slow things down but if I can park right on the outside of the dock it works pretty smooth. My one complaint is the city turns off the flood light at the boat launch as soon as it is dark. We need that light to load up! It helps to see the docks when backing up. Maybe I can write to the city park commission about that. If they left it on till 10:00 it would be a great help to fishermen (and pleasure boaters). That said, it was a great night for fishing. What a fishery.

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