Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

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…

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.

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