Twice a year I get together with friends and relatives for several days of hard core trout fishing, wilderness camping, mushroom hunting, guitar jams, and hanging out. The faces have changed over the years with exception of Feral Tweed and me. Everyone else seems to be looking older. Ha! What I mean to say is people have dropped in an out of the annual gathering, but Feral and I seem to be the constant denominator, not to mention the constant dominator on the streams. Ha again?
It is the start of a new year. The trout opener in Michigan falls on the last Saturday of April and for those of us ingrained to trout fishing, for all purposes this is our New Year. Never mind January 1 Times Square frenzy, for us it happens on a remote camping spot along a favored trout stream. There was a time we would stay up to midnight and head down to the stream with bait and a bottle of something to open the season at the first minute. We always caught trout, even though we were not bait experts. After a couple hours we would stumble back to camp and wake late morning. The morning conversation, often over breakfast at 2 star restaurant, was a strategic and tactical effort to “Call” the best stretch of stream before anyone else called it. Of course, once we got to our stretches they were already picked over by the guys that didn’t stay up till Two AM and then go out for breakfast. If you fish the Michigan opener, prepare to share. After the opener weekend, the streams are miraculously cleared of anglers and you can fish long stretches without seeing another soul.
The trout “Closer” falls on the last day of September. Lately, meaning for the last ten years, we have camped up in the Pigeon River State Game area which has three stellar trout streams, the Pigeon, the Sturgeon, and the Black. We often wilderness camp with a free permit – available at the local ranger station. If we plan on jamming with electric guitars and portable battery powered amps we know we won’t be disturbing the quiet crowds in the many campgrounds enjoying the portable generators. (We don’t always jam, and if yes, it’s usually with acoustic instruments.)
The trout closer usually provides the best fishing and worst weather, which go hand in hand. The final night includes a mess of Cajun spiced fried trout, the last of our supply of Labatt’s Blue, and the unspoken dread of another long Michigan winter waiting for the opener.