Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

No. I’m not a Fly Fisherman.

When I think of the many fly fishing books on the market aimed at budding trout fisherman I have to laugh. Somehow or another the idea of trout fishing got hijacked by the guys with fly rods standing outside the Orvis Shop next to their Escalade SUV’s sipping wine coolers. It’s a scientific crowd made up entirely of corporate engineers and the guys that write fly fishing books.

I am thrilled that’s my competition on a trout stream. They catch a lot of the eight to ten inch trout and are satisfied to do it. I can applaud that. They must be having fun and there’s nothing wrong with a ten inch trout… great eating, beautiful to look at, and some marginal sport.

Fly fishing involves pre-game activity which I will liken to the guys on TV right before the Superbowl. Serious men debating the virtues of a particular fly at the exact moment the actual hatch will erupt at a given time on a given stream and the likelihood of actually being there when it happens resulting in a fish that alas, might be fourteen inches. It is a friendly argument with no one really making a statement that will be contradicted later – they have their reputations to think about.

In another world there are the worm fishermen. A plastic tub of Walt’s Crawlers floats alongside bottles of Bud in a Styrofoam cooler in the back of an almost classic pick-up truck on the way to the same spot that held a trout the last opener. (I occasionally see a worm fisherman on the trout opener (last Saturday in April for Michigan) but seldom see another one the rest of the season).

For the record, I would much rather see a fly fisherman in front of me than a worm fisherman. Worm fisherman can clean up if they know what they are doing, and many do.

I belong to neither group. I was raised as a spin fisherman. We wade patiently upstream and cast lures and spinners at the cover and reel the lure back at a furious pace in order to impart action to the lure, and, for our efforts, we take the trout that the fly fishermen dream of and the worm fishermen don’t tell about. Depending on stream conditions and the time of year, that means brown trout in the two foot class. Hook jawed males with spots like leopards and fat, round females that fill nets.

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5 thoughts on “No. I’m not a Fly Fisherman.

  1. What a snob!

    Flying fishing is much more difficult than spin fishing. How often do spin fishermen get snagged up in bushes behind them? Delicate delivery of a fly to a surface feeding brown is much harder than throwing a chunk of metal up the middle of the stream.

    It isn’t the amount of meat you gather, it’s the experience of gathering it.

    It may be a rare event, but you haven’t lived until you catch a large brown on a fly rod. Nothing at all like hooking something with a spoon and just dragging it out on to the bank.

    Fly fishing is the method for intelligent, discerning people of distinction.

    You are just a proletarian.

    You probably drive an 8 year old Ford pickup, instead of a real SUV. I bet you wouldn’t know a good merlot from a Boone’s Farm Wild Cherry. I wouldn’t be surprised if you eat pork and beans with your trout, instead of something civilized like lemon-dill risotto with pine nuts, and fresh sauteed asparagus with capers.

  2. I didn’t know my post would force a fishing buddy to “come out” so to speak.

    A little story about Mike. Picture the Pine River in upper Lake County late fall on a gloomy day, a good day for finding big trout with spinning gear. Mike didn’t bring waders – and said no problem – he’s wade without. He had shorts or cut-offs. Half way up the stretch the rain starts and we have a rising river with falling temperatures. We start seeing big trout. The weather is getting nasty. I am worried about Mike as the river is very cold and we are soaked. I offer to call it quits more than once but he won’t have any of it. We push ahead and see more large trout, over twenty inches, maybe the most we’ve ever seen on the Pine. We catch a couple nice fish. It finally starts getting dark and we have a long trek back following the bank. We triangulate our position and decide to cut across country and end up going through all manner of prickers and mud bogs. I am cold and shivering. It feels like winter setting in. Mike is busting though the brush with bare legs. I did not hear one complaint.

    Maybe that’s when Mike decided to become a closet fly fisherman. I wouldn’t blame him. On the other hand, he was the guy that wouldn’t quit. He knows how to catch big trout on spinning gear.


  3. As I recall, I did say “ouch” several times while going through the brambles.

    Luther previously talked about fancy waders, and now he as outed me for fishing in shorts and tennis shoes instead. For those inclined toward fishing without waders, let me say that you must avoid the Middle Branch in Lake County, at the confluence of the Little South Branch. While you can ignore the pricks of brambles and the sting of nettles, the poison ivy there will really come back to haunt you.

  4. I stumbled across this blog and have really enjoyed it. It’s great seeing such nice fish caught in small water and in sections of river that don’t get a lot of press. Some seriously impressive fish in this blog.

    I will say I think this particular entry is very unfair to fly fishers. I started fishing young with a spinning rod and worms, then to rapalas, and from the age of 13 to now (I’m 31) I have been exclusively a fly fisherman. I simply enjoy it more…I don’t do it because I think I’m better than anyone else. I also have never looked down at anyone for the way they choose to fish…it’s all about having fun and different people have fun in different ways. As long as it’s legal I have no problem from the worm dunker to dry fly purist.

    That said..not everyone fly fisherman is some rich weenie with million dollar tackle catching tiny trout and reading the Wall Street journal on the tailgate of their Hummer. There are plenty of us hardcore guys who fish 3 days a week, year round, catching the hell out of fish. And big fish. I have plenty of fish in my own blog caught on streamers every bit as big as the fish in yours…not that I’m comparing.

    To each his own. Maybe I’ll run into you on the pine someday, I fish the 6 mile bridge section frequently. I’ll be the regular old fly fisherman with holes in my boots, patches in my waders, drinking a PBR.



  5. Rich – fair enough. I know big fish can be caught on flies and may try it myself. Night fishing for browns… sounds like an interesting challenge. I guess the point of the blog was it seems like fly fishermen have hijacked trout fishing (if library shelves are any indication). Us hardware guys are an unsung minority. Maybe catch you up on the Pine someday – take care, – Luth

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