Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

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. So what will Lillian be?

A Zoo on the Moon (or Lil Storm’s Adventure)

I will buy a jumbo jet
I need lots of room
I plan to build the very first
Zoo upon the moon
I will bring a hippo
And alligators too
A pair of dandy lions
and a couple kangaroo
When I soar above the clouds
I’ll wave and say ta-ta
I love animals like mama
And airplanes like my pa

I’ll land my plane in moon dust
I plan to be the first
I’ll plant grasses for the baby cows
And apples for dessert
I’ll have water for the starfish
But no cages in my zoo
The animals will come and go
Just like people do
I’ll wave back at planet Earth
And hear them yell Hoo-rah
I love animals like my mama
And airplanes like my pa

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.

Estate Sale Pottery Art

I know, not trout fishing, but I thought a few readers might be interested in the strange piece of art I picked up last week. It’s about the size of a volleyball and hollow. I have been trying to research the artist online, Meg Scott, hoping for some information. I found two other examples of the artists work: A vase with a raised flower with the exact same signature. A second piece, a blue ceramic plate with a raised orchid with no signature visible but attributed to Meg Scott. Both pretty tame compared to this haunting, apocalyptic piece. I am sure my daughters will be fighting over this.. Not.

Baldwin River

A week ago Feral called to report the Baldwin River was not just over the banks, but over the roads. They had ten inches of rain which put a real damper on the Trout-o-rama festival including blocked roads into and out of town. But that was a little over a week ago. I had the morning off so I drove up there with the idea of fishing the Baldwin if it was wadable. The weather report said possible rain and that was actually a bonus, not to raise the river more, but to get the trout actively feeding. Add rain, double your trout.

It rained but five minutes so it didn’t help. I caught one nice trout, about 17 inches, on the stretch below Bray Creek Campground. There’s a poorly marked walking trail which follows the hillside and drops down to the river in two places. I went as far downstream as I could figuring that would have the least overall fishing traffic. I would post a photo of the trout except the lens of my camera phone must have been wet so I have three fuzzy photos of a large blob surrounded by green stuff.

I didn’t see many trout. The stretch is mostly gravel and shallow. Casting the cover takes some patience and skill because the river is more like a creek, overgrown with lots of blowdowns. Still, if you can zing the lure into tight spots it can produce trout.

Feral and I have been threatening to go camping and trout fishing since the opener but this is the year where bad weather (clear skies and 90 degree temps) or various commitments keep sidetracking plans. I’m afraid to blink: the trout season closer will be upon us.

I am a Scientist

New, original song added to the songs page (see songs tab above). Folk rock science fiction ballad? Hard to categorize.

Short background: I emailed Scott Zylstra of Frontier Recording, Copemish, Michigan, an mpeg video of me performing the new song in my living room and asked him to lay down a guitar and bass track. Then I added a vocal track in the studio and asked him to get creative. Scott is an extremely accomplished guitar player. He toured nationally with the bluegrass band Detour but his realm of music interests and amazing ability transcends bluegrass into art rock and places I can’t know. So this is a collaboration, songwriter leans on a great musician to see what happens. Enjoy!

Escape from G.R.

I took the old highway north, M-37, because it’s more relaxing. One lane was shut down in two spots but it was a small delay. I swung by Feral’s, up in Baldwin, to see if he was home. Thought he might want to go with me up the Pine River but his truck was gone. That was fine. It was one of those days where you suspect you may not be good company for anyone. A day to clear your head, not make conversation. Trout fishing is a good remedy for a lot of things. Sort of like driving. You put it on autopilot. Your mind can go places while you keep busy.

There’s a nice spot on the upper Pine I used to fish quite a bit. Smaller water. You take a gravel road until it ends and a two track continues. No public access signs. The two track splits and you veer left and finally stop at a turnaround. Fishermen that have been around for a while know the spot. It’s in Oceola County, not Lake. So that was my destination. The water was high and muddy but wadable. Right off I lost a nice brown trout about seventeen or eighteen inches. Lost him while fumbling for my net. Time to get my head into fishing. No auto-pilot. Catch fish, including two for dinner. I caught a small one and tossed him back figuring I had just started and more would come. Famous last words. A couple bends later I caught one about sixteen inches then wished I had kept the small one. That would have been perfect.

From there I saw a few trout make passes at my lure but no luck hooking them. I pushed my way further and further upstream, often in chest deep water against strong current. I started feeling it in my lower back but really wanted another fish. After fishing a deep pool I climbed out of the river and walked the bank back downstream. I had a sandwich at the car and decided to fish another stretch, one I had some confidence in but didn’t require a lot of walking.

If I thought the river was deep upstream, I should have expected tougher wading further downstream. Still, I climbed in the river and headed up against the current. I had to feel my way along with my feet. It’s easy to trip on hidden boulders or get caught on logs. So I moved forward one step at a time sideways to the current to minimize drag. I finally caught that second dinner fish. Pure luck, really. It’s hard for the fish to see the lure in muddy water, never mind catch it. It was about the same size as the one I tossed back earlier. Maybe twelve inches or so. Good for the skillet. I headed back to the car.

A week ago I was watching a news segment on CBS where they asked local newsmen what their perfect fathers day would be like. One guy said “put me in a dark room and close the door.” I have been laughing about that ever since. Not sure I could go with his idea but do understand what he was talking about. He should take up trout fishing.

Art Projects

In addition to blogging I like to torture myself with art projects including painting, writing fiction, and songwriting. In the span of two months I worked on three such projects, the first being a short story, Alphabetical Order, which I entered in the Write Michigan short story contest sponsored by the local library system. The story was about first love in the ninth grade (her name was changed) and was based on my own experience. Writing it was cathartic and surprising – I remembered small details that had been buried for decades. The odds of getting selected as a finalist were pretty slim, over a thousand entries. Sorry to report my story was not selected. Something I thought would help my chances is that the story has it’s own authenticity, i.e. the young boy, me, comes off as an idiot. And the story has humor. Past contest winning stories published in yearly anthologies are not generally happy stories, instead focusing on difficult subjects like death and cancer, the two things most people want to avoid thinking about.  But there are some real gems… stories that show a side of life you never imagined. My favorite story, from a couple years back, was about a young girl’s marching band experience. After reading her story I developed great respect for any student that joins their school marching band.

Art project 2, I saw a notice for art entries for the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts 2019. I had not picked up a paint brush in years but decided do an acrylic painting. The big question was what to paint. My thought was paint a night time cityscape with two women in an alley. I used a photo of young women off a yoga clothing website.  I do technical illustration for a living so composing the picture went quickly but when it came time to paint the picture I couldn’t capture what was in my imagination. The two women turned out well but the night scene ended up being a strange surreal composition which I worked and reworked until it had nothing to do with my original idea, but was interesting in it’s own sake. I entered it in the festival but sorry to say it was not selected. I’ve repainted it twice now. May call it finished.

Art project 3, I wrote/recorded a new song called “I am a Scientist.” It’s a ballad about a scientist that goes to a salvage yard and builds a rocket car from a 1960 Plymouth. He meets an alien in outer space that resembles Marilyn Monroe (except for the extra eye) and the two get married on Planet 9. They have a daughter they name Frankenstein whom they encourage to become a doctor or a nurse (and one day heal this universe). Frankie has other ideas: she wants to be scientist. I am collaborating on the song with my buddy Scott, producer, accomplished guitarist, and owner of Frontier Recording sound studio in Copemish, Michigan. When the song is finished I’ll post an mp3 in the songs page/ tab of this blog.

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