Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

If you teach a Girl to Fish

Someday they may bring you a fish and that would be great. Nothing like a fresh fish for the grill or skillet. I wish I would have spent more time fishing with my daughters but maybe the important thing is not the amount of time we spent fishing, but the fact that we did fish. Now, when they get the opportunity, it is not some foreign thing. There is fun to be had. My youngest daughter sent me this photo last summer when visiting her Uncle Bill. Her cousin Brent rented a charter on Lake Michigan and Lisa was game.
Lisa with Salmon

Lisa teaches outdoor biology and is our family’s world traveler including trips to exotic lands to catalog wild amphibians and reptiles. Handling fish? No problem.

I wish my oldest daughter had been there too – I would have loved another photo!  As kids the two of them were competitive about catching bluegills out of Big Star lake and I expect Sara would have been in the hunt right along with Lisa.

Feral has a daughter also whom he taught to fish – not just boat fishing but wading trout streams. Patti has stopped by at trout camp a couple times and once asked to fish with me. We went to a mosquito infested spot on the upper sturgeon that can be described as difficult to wade and cast but that did not slow her down – she took a nice trout out of a hard to cast pool. Wow.

Patti with Brown Trout

So here is the message: If you are a young man with daughters please share your outdoor experiences. Don’t stereotype your young daughters as too feminine to enjoys the things you enjoy. Someday they may bring you a fish, and memories to last a lifetime.

Bank Fishing for Brown Trout

Natch and Feral asking for advice

Natch and Feral hanging on my every word.

Bank fishing is a very enjoyable way to fish for trout because it combines sitting in a chair with the illusion of doing something productive. Maybe you can relate to that. Here are some tips to make the experience memorable and with a lot of luck, catch a trout.

You’ll need at least two buddies who are more serious about bank fishing than you because someone needs to catch a fish, otherwise what’s the point? Study the faces above and try to find guys that look different. Maybe that nerd from work. Or that guy that drinks Pepsi all day?

The important details: If possible, cut your forked stick before you head down to the stream because that will allow you to set up in the best spot while your buddies are cutting their sticks. The best spot will be the one that is upstream of the big pool so when you cast your line it drifts to the middle of the pool so your buddies have to get their lines out of the way. If your line does cross theirs, shake your head and make a face to let them know you’re not used to fishing with amateurs.

If you get a bite (rare) or hook a trout (more rare) deliberately move downstream so they have to get out of the way. Add some excitement by flailing the rod so they understand they could get an eye poked out. Then let the the trout zig zag the whole pool so your buddies are relegated to strictly watching. This is your moment – put on a show! Caution: This can backfire. If the trout is under ten inches try to release it discretely before they get a look.

Between bites most anglers like to lie about the huge trout they caught in the very same pool. Believability goes up in direct proportion to the amount of beer in the cooler so if you are prone to reminiscing make sure someone, preferably one of your buddies, bought the right brand of beer and ideally carried the cooler down to the stream by himself. Make sure you do a few jerky spasms and mention your bad back well ahead of time, ideally back at camp when it’s time to gather firewood. If it still falls on you to bring the beer – make sure it’s not twist tops and that you have the only opener. Someone needs to regulate consumption. It’s for their own good.

A comfortable chair is a must. If you have a leather recliner that will fit in the back of your pickup and will roll down the hill to the stream – that is ideal. (If you have a winch you can use to get it back up the hill – even better). Barring that, try to avoid those confounded collapsable camp chairs that sit crooked on level ground. You know the type. You have to be a yoga expert to get out of them.

Tackle: Don’t use your good stuff. The chance of getting hung up on a log on the bottom of the stream is 100%. Breaking the tip off your pricey Fenwick rod is a loss no angler can afford. Now’s the time to haul out the garage sale surf rod with wrought iron core. Something with backbone. Grab a reel with light line – chances are you’ll only catch tiny trout anyway and light line has some advantages that go right to strategy.

Stream Strategy: When you get hung up on a log pretend it is a lunker and break your line quickly. It’s the big one that got away and your status as a bank fisherman jumps ten points.


John with Feral (holding the trophy knife)

John with Feral (holding the trophy knife)

Camped on a hilltop overlooking the Pine River in northern Lake County we heard the unmistakable growl of a big motorcycle coming up the sandy 2-track. It was a surprise visit from Feral’s brother-in-law John. Taking a 1000 pound Honda Goldwing trail riding is not a sport many men would attempt but John wrote his own rules. This was before helmet laws came and went. If I remember right he was wearing a cowboy hat right out of a spaghetti western.

John came bearing gifts. John was a craftsman. He had made a fish filet knife with a bone handle and a bone sheath. He proposed it belonged to whomever caught the biggest trout on the opening weekend of trout season, the reason for our gathering. It turned out to be a traveling trophy for the group. For the next 15 years whomever caught the biggest trout won the knife for a year and right to carve their initials, and year, in the bone sheath. After 15 years there was very little space to carve anything. I think Feral has the retired knife.

Back then, in my early days of guitar, with Feral on mandolin, we would bang out some popular folk songs aka Bob Dylan, CSN&Y, 70’s stuff that was defining our messed up generation. Strangely, John took campfire music to be just that – songs that resonated around campfires a generation before us. Think “Frog went a Courting”. Songs I vaguely remembered from grammar school music class. And it was all fun, particularly if we were knocking down a few cold ones before scaling the big hill down to the river for some night fishing.

It’s been about ten years since I saw John last. I got word this winter that he passed away. Cancer got him. I’ll say this about him – he was a lot of fun back in our early camping days and when he smiled, which was all the time, you couldn’t help but smile right along with him.


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