Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

The Zoppa Rig

Alvin, no relation to the chipmunk, provided a lot of entertainment at trout camp in the seventies but his influence on the world of fishing is only now becoming recognized. Maybe it was his supreme confidence about the sport in spite of his lack of the “latest greatest” equipment and lures that became must haves for lesser anglers. Alvin invented as he went along and I am convinced he would have been declared the winner of any Survivor show that included a place to fish. By winner, I don’t mean the guy that wins a million dollars, I mean the guy that makes the absolute best of where he is at, in effect, living off the land, in style. When the skinny survivors from suburbia get hauled back to the mainland, Al would decline the ride back and spend a few extra months enjoying the tropical paradise.

Luther and Al, late 70's

Luther and Al, late 70’s

As a fisherman, Al wrote new rules. His tackle box doubled as a tool box and carryall for odds and ends. When he opened it around other fishermen, there was a collective gasp as his peers tried to mind sort the congested mess of strange artifacts cobbled into a Rubik’s cube of pointy objects, rusted hooks, copper blades, smoking paraphernalia, and monofilament line bird’s nest. That’s where Al’s genius took over because in less time than it takes to read the bible Al would have a conglomeration of mostly fishing things half-hitched to the tackle end of a yard sale spinning rod he stopped to buy on the trip to camp.

There has been some speculation that the “Zoppa Rig” was invented strictly for Musky fishing on the Roger’s Dam reservoir, but now the word is out – The Zoppa rig can and has been used successfully for most every game fish in Michigan including all species of trout, catfish, bluegills, crappie, suckers and carp, as well as large and smallmouth bass. In the right hands (Al’s) the Zoppa Rig transcends species.  And that’s why it is so dangerous.

There are no known photographs of the Zoppa Rig but Feral Tweed did make a sketch based on memory. I concur on the accuracy but should point out that minnows or chicken intestines can be substituted for the two crawlers depicted in the sketch, though crawlers are the preferred generic for the widest assortment of game fish. Note also that the AC spark plug should have more rust and a silver key can be substituted for the gold key for rainbow trout.

Zoppa Rig

Al passed away several years ago but whenever Feral Tweed and I are hard pressed to figure out how to get a fish, when the fishing is shut down cold,  I will look over at Feral who will nod slowly and say “Yeah, it’s time for a Zoppa Rig.”

Guitars, Morels, Labatt’s and Trout

Morels & Brown Trout

Trout camp doesn’t get any better. We scored on trout, mushrooms, and northern pike.  And entertainment. I invited an exceptional guitar player to camp knowing he would fit in with our strange group.  Keith H played in various bands around GR in the seventies and eighties, including putting himself though college doing gigs. If you were around then you might remember “Einstein” which played venues across the state. He hasn’t lost his touch. Toward evening we pulled out the guitars and he opened up with Superstition (ala Stevie Ray Vaughn version of the Stevie Wonder song). The cat can play.

Keith trades in the Lead Paul for a Strat

Keith trades in the Lead Paul for a Strat

Feral provided vocals and made up lyrics on the fly for some songs, and the melody on others. Natch tried to remedy that by looking up lyrics on an ipad and holding them up for Feral to read. Feral was seeing double from the Labatts and staying in time with Keith’s perfect rhythm probably seemed foreign to him after jamming with me for so many years. I played an acoustic guitar on some songs while Keith played the Lead Paul (pronounced “led” – like the metal) through a Roland “Street” which is a battery powered guitar amp and PA rolled into one. (Remind me to jam with Keith before beer o’clock).

We camped at Big Leverentz and we had the campground to ourselves. It was almost spooky. If it was rainy I would understand but the weather doesn’t get any better in Michigan for camping – low seventies with a quiet breeze. Feral fried up some morel mushrooms on Saturday night – about 40 we found up by the Pine River. They lasted about five minutes because everyone was being polite. Icy Labatts and morel mushrooms. I don’t have to explain that to anyone.

Feral with the Mushroom bag

Feral with the mushroom bag

Big Leverentz gave up several nice Pike including one about 3 feet. Fishing for pike  always results in catching bass – they hit the same lures, so we caught and released a lot of bass including one about about 3-1/2 pounds. Natch caught bass almost non-stop on Culprit plastic worms, which is also a good pike bait. Trout fishing was also good. Feral and I went back up to the Pine to check again for mushrooms (found another 40) and took a couple of decent trout, two browns about 16 inches, which we cooked up on the last day. We lost other trout and saw a few that were in the twenty plus range.

Denny with Washburn

Mike and Denny came over from Bray Creek and we shared the fish and mushrooms with them as an evening snack. Denny had his Washburn acoustic guitar and played a song done by “The Band” and we all joined in. Can’t recall the name of the song but it was a nice way to cap off a great trip.

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