Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Pigeon River Country Closer

Feral works a bend on the upper Sturgeon

Feral works a bend on the upper Sturgeon

The trout season came and went and I was fortunate enough to have several memorable camping/fishing trips this year with buddies that really bring something to the table – not the least a desire for adventure. For our trout season closer, Feral and I were joined by Natch first and Keith later up at Pickerel Lake which is centrally located in the Pigeon River State Game Area.

Natch is a trout camp regular having put up with Feral and I for something like a dozen years – so this year we told him he has graduated to “Honorary Member 2” not the least because he outfished Feral. I have asked Natch to write a first hand account of his trip to the Sturgeon River on the day we set up camp where he will hopefully mention those anglers whom he admires so much and have provided so much inspiration. It would be embarrassing, but not out of the question, for me to have to edit that kind of information in to his post. As a teaser, here’s a picture of the smallest of three fish, a twenty incher, he caught on a single pass at the river.

Natch's smaller brown trout

Natch’s smaller brown trout

The thing about Natch and Feral is they are both game for adventure and this year it was put to a test. I won’t go into a lot of detail here – look for a post later about Dog Lake Flooding, a pike haven of some repute. If the trip in to the flooding doesn’t destroy your truck, and you don’t fall through the floating bog mass, and the whitewater and freezing rain don’t exhaust your stamina, you might catch a… OK, I have said too much already. I’ll do a post with photos.

We also took the kayaks out on Pickerel Lake which was fun but not to productive. We caught a handful of bass and a couple perch but we had to work for those.

Luther and Feral at the boat landing

Luther and Feral at the boat landing

Natch on Pickeral with Feral in the distance

Natch on Pickerel with Feral in the distance

Natch pulled out Sunday night and then it was up to me and Feral to prove we could still catch a trout and fortunately The Pigeon River, recently decimated by a silt fish kill by the Song of the Morning dam, still holds trout if you know where to look and when to fish. In the fall, large brown trout move upstream into the decimated area and you might believe the fish kill never happened. Feral and I took a couple big trout – but we were amazed that Feral also caught two brook trout about 10 inches. I don’t know what that means but it could be the brook trout were hardier than the browns when the dam was opened.

Trout camp would not be trout camp if we didn’t play some guitar and knock down some beers over a campfire. Keith, another adventurer, came up Monday for one night – which is a good four hours drive both directions for one night of camping. Somebody conk me in the head with my guitar as I didn’t get a campfire photo of Keith playing. Keith is good enough to sit in with any world-class band and add killer lead guitar and he wasn’t about to pass on the chance to play with “Rock Bottom and the Out of Tuners” which is a name unfairly placed on Feral and I by jealous contemporaries who may not realize we own an electronic tuner.

We played some of our standards, like Buenos Tardes Amigo by Ween, but Keith really cooked when I started jamming the old JJ Cale song “Call me the Breeze.” Keith has some blues rock mojo and that took over. He played my old Les Paul Studio through a battery powered Roland Street Cube and rocked the campground. The other highlight was listening to him play my Martin acoustic including doing some of his own jams. A cold beer, an acoustic guitar played by a master, a warm fire… no further explanation needed.

Feral lights a fire with extra virgin cooking oil.

Feral lights a fire with extra virgin cooking oil.

Feral and Keith, morning coffee

Feral and Keith, morning coffee

I woke up a little before them, poured a coffee, and went down to the lake and took a few photos. Another reason why camping gets in your blood. I heard an elk bugle out past the lake through the fog.

Morning coffee, Pickeral Lake

Morning coffee, Pickerel Lake

So look for some more posts on the fall camping trip to Pigeon River State Game Area: Dog Lake Flooding; Natch’s account of 3 monster browns out of the Sturgeon, and some video Feral and I took on the Pigeon with big browns.

Ghost Anglers

I was sitting on the edge of my bed strumming an unplugged electric guitar when my deceased Uncle Boyce walked in. He was wearing waders. I debated whether I should point out he had passed away and decided not to say anything. Instead I got off the bed and went to him and he was very tall which made me realize I must be size of a child since he was not a tall man. I asked, “how was the fishing” and he said, “not good.” As I looked at his face it started to vanish. I woke up right away and lay there wondering how Boyce could just pop into a dream from nowhere.

Boyce was my mother’s older brother. Most of my memories of him are from early childhood when our family moved in with my grandparents to get away from my father. What I most remember about Boyce is his warmth as a person. He was always happy to see us and when he was around everything was more special. He was a high school teacher which must have been the perfect job for him – surrounded by young minds that would appreciate his warmth and energy.

Boyce and grandpa were fishing buddies and would camp together. More so than I probably realized. I have told this story a couple times but not on the website. Feral’s boy, Jake, named after grandpa, and I fished a stretch together on the Sturgeon River up by Vanderbilt and after we got back to the car we found an older guy just hanging out there. He was in waders so we got to talking about fishing and he mentioned he was a teacher in Montague. Boyce, who had passed away a few years before that, taught in Whitehall, which is the neighboring town, so I asked if he knew Boyce.

The question almost startled him. He took a deep breath and said, “Boyce was my best friend.” I told him Boyce was my uncle and he started reminiscing, telling us about how he and Boyce would camp with Jake (Grandpa) and after a few beers Jake would pull out an old bait casting rod and tie a rubber ball to the line. Jake would cast/pitch the ball to Boyce and his tipsy buddies who would be at the plate with a bat. If you can imagine this.. Jake, who did trick casting demonstrations on Michigan Outdoors TV show in the 60’s, would pitch the ball using an underhand flip cast, his specialty, and would control the ball as it moved toward the batter. He had a variety of casts including a diabolical curve ball, a fast ball that would slow way down as it reached the plate, you get the idea. It was hard to hit a Jake Lucas pitch. When you did connect Jake would stop the fly ball by thumbing the level wind spool, reel in the ball, then cast and hit you as you ran toward first base. So if he didn’t strike you out, he tagged you on the way to first.

So that was an eye-opener for me, not the “casting rod” baseball, I knew about that because Grandpa played that with us kids in the backyard. The eye-opener was uncle Boyce getting tipsy on beer with his buddies. It had never occurred to me that my respectable uncle had a fun adult life with regular buddies. Until that moment I always had the same vision of him as a kind, happy family man. A dedicated, fun teacher.  I would give anything for a time machine to go back and have a beer with that group. And watch grandpa cast that ball.

Uncle Boyce with brown trout

Boyce Lucas with a nice brown trout

Somehow I lost his name, but I’ll thank whomever I met up by the Sturgeon for readjusting my point of view because now I can’t help but smile when I think of Boyce… hanging out with some fishing buddies and knocking down a couple cold beers. Doesn’t hurt that Grandpa is in the picture. Those two would be fun at any trout camp.

Boyce, no more dream visits though, please, that was too spooky.

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