Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

River Kayaks

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You have to love Michigan. The kayakers and canoeists, almost every one, apologized for interrupting our fishing. After a while Feral started telling kayakers we were the ones interrupting so don’t apologize! It soon became clear that they were having more fun than us and catching just as many trout. This was up on the Pine River, Lake County last weekend. Every ten minutes or so another group would come by.

It was my lame idea to go trout fishing on the hottest day of the year with the stream low and clear. So the mid-day sun was bearing down on two brain fried fishermen saturated with bug spray on top of sunscreen but Feral was sharp enough to mention how thirsty we were to a a couple guys that were leading one small group kayakers. They asked if we would like a beer and we knew our luck was about to change for the better. A cold bud  (thanks!) brought us back to reality or so we thought.

Around the next bend three guys were lined up on shallow gravel and appeared to be panning for gold. Feral mentioned the Pine was panned out back in the 1800s and it turns out they were just looking for something that fell out of a kayak. From there the talk degenerated to trout fishing. Their mildly amused wives and girlfriends did not want to stick around for fishing talk even though Feral was wearing a muscle shirt that displayed his crouching tiger arm tatoo.
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One of the guys, first photo, owns a place somewhere on the river downstream of Edgetts bridge. I felt a tinge of jealousy because the stars are aligned for him. He need only launch a kayak from his yard and he has a lazy trip down one of the most picturesque trout streams in all of Michigan. And when it rains, go fishing!


The Truth about Trout

Anyone with a stick, six feet of monofilament, a hook and a worm can catch a trout. I did, age 9, fishing the Baldwin River at Bray Creek campground. I lowered the worm down in front of a log so it swept underneath and was rewarded by a 12 inch brown trout. It was a thrill that kept me at it the rest of my life. If I remember right that was also the trip where I fell into the river and had only a single pair of pants so I had to sit at the campfire in a blanket while the pants dried out. The pants fell off a stick perch into the fire but were rescued more or less.

We were camping with my grandpa and grandma, Jake and Gladys Lucas and maybe because my brothers and I were such a handful Jake would send us on foot races though the walking trail at dusk to tire us out and thereby get a chance at some peace and quiet. He’d time us with a pocket watch and in my mind’s eye we ran those trails at about 30 miles per hour. One time I passed a deer fleeing wolves and was fortunate it didn’t follow because Grandma would have shot the deer and Grandpa would have had to wrestle it from the wolf pack.

Jake and Gladys Lucas

Jake and Gladys Lucas

Jake taught us how to appreciate the outdoors and even more important – how to earn money with honest work (mowing his lawn, weeding Grandma’s vegetable garden, shoveling the driveway in the winter). There was no free ride. We would go fishing on our camping trips but we had to cut our own fishing poles from saplings and dig our own worms. Jake was good for a hook and a little monofilament. It was one great adventure and the lessons we learned you don’t find in books or school.

Back to trout and truth. If an obnoxious nine year old can outwit a trout so can you! And you don’t need expensive equipment. My current rig consists of a 25 dollar Zebco underspin reel and a Gander Mountain cork handle spinning rod that cost about forty. My only real expense is lightweight Hodgeman waders which run about a hundred and now have so many patches that I am patching the patches with Seamgrip at five dollars a tube. There is one other major expense – fishing lures and count me in if anyone wants to march on Washington in protest. Or Finland.

If you decide to try trout fishing for the first time you could do worse than fishing the Baldwin River. Check DNR maps for access spots – but you can get in at Bray Creek campground and fish upstream or walk the trail downstream and fish back up. Catch it on a rainy day when the river is rising. Wade slowly upstream and throw a few casts at the tail end of each log or stump. Try to place a cast in front of cover at a 45 degree angle. Use small spinners if you want to catch a lot of fish. Use floating minnow baits and reel like mad if you want to catch bigger fish. Bring some bug spray for mosquitoes. Wear Polaroid sunglasses (make sure they are polaroid). They cut the glare on the water and that saves lures since you can see where you are casting. Then also enable you to see trout that follow the lure. If he doesn’t take your lure, count to twenty and cast again at the same spot.

I don’t think I’m up to saplings and worms anymore. Wading and casting cover for trout is a lifetime adventure with it’s own challenge: you need to become proficient at casting small lures next to the bank under overhanging branches at 30 feet. I suspect the satisfaction is not unlike a golfer that makes a 30 foot putt. Except I get fresh trout for dinner.

Hauling Kayaks

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Feral and I decided to attack the kayak hauling problem last weekend and went though several “floor engineering” solutions ranging from PVC pipe to galvanized pipe to a couple treated lumber designs and finally cobbled together the construct in the above photo. We may have overengineered the final product but then we won’t be worried about the kayaks falling off and the upside is we can use it to store the kayaks off the ground in his garage this winter. Drop the tailgate and it slides right out of the back. The whole project took us a couple hours and of course we had to try it out so we ran over to Big Leverentz.

I heard thunder as I was setting up my tent and ten minutes later the rain came down in sheets so we killed about and hour back at Feral’s while it blew through and sure enough the sun reappeared like magic and the temperature went from 80s to 70’s and it doesn’t get any better than that for camping. The lake was calm as glass and I know from experience a summer rain can turn on the fishing so we launched the kayaks and proceeded in opposite directions around the lake and met midway to compare fish stories as we didn’t have actual fish to compare. By the time we reached the dock we had 3 bass total and decided to sell the kayaks and go back to trout fishing. Not really, but we should have gone trout fishing.

Jim and Eric at Leverentz

We met a couple interesting guys on the dock that were casting for bass. Eric and Jim were up from Indiana for the weekend. Jim has some property over by Wolf Lake and they had spent the day checking out smaller lakes and happen to end up at Leverentz. Jim showed us his top bass lure, a Heddon Baby Torpedo which is a floater with propellers at the front and back that churn the water. He said he caught one bass off the dock and we were inclined to believe him in spite of the fisherman’s code.

Back at our campsite a young guy stopped by and asked us if we had change for a twenty so he could pay the camping fee ($13). He mention he was from St Joesph, MI and we mentioned a nephew who’s a photographer that lives in St Joe and he came back with Josh Nowiki? and we said: That’s him!  So Josh is getting famous. I mentioned the photo he took of the Chicago skyline from across Lake Michigan and the young camper said he had seen that one also and knew Josh’s work. So we need to mention that to Josh next time we see him.

Feral had his mandolin and I had my guitar so we jammed out some Tom Waits and even a couple original songs before calling it a good night.

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