I sent a text to Natch Saturday morning asking if he would like one last hoo-rah on the Pigeon River up by Vanderbilt and suggested Burnt Clutch Camp for an over-nighter. It took him less than a minute to text back yes. I pulled into Vanderbilt about 1:00 and stopped at the party store to ask about the unfinished bridge over the Pigeon at the state campground. It would save us some extra driving. Natch pulled in while I was talking with the clerk. She said people have been driving over the incomplete bridge but the grade does not line up with the surface of the bridge so it’s not a done deal. We decided to look. We adjusted the grade with timber and large rocks that were strewn about. Natch took his Jeep over first, then I took the Lexus RX300. We saved about an hour’s drive. BCC camp is a remote, free site for camping so you do have to post the remote camping form to be legal. I keep a few in my car for such times.
Burnt Clutch Camp looked good. The last time I camped at BCC, Michael, my deceased older brother, burned up the clutch of his Subaru backing a pop-up camper up a small grade into the clearing. (for full story type “clutch” in the search tool) I still think about Michael often. The blue clutch smoke has finally cleared. BCC is a large clearing with a pine needle floor overlooking a pond that ties into Grass lake. There’s a rock pile fire-pit and plenty of space for tents and vehicles. I chose it for the location – it’s a short drive to a section of the Pigeon that is open year around for rainbow trout. Mainly it is brown trout water, at least until the deadly silt problem caused by the Song of the Morning dam, but we have caught some rainbows and brook trout there. I was skeptical about catching a rainbow but then Natch is the wild card when it comes to pulling out the unexpected fish.
Natch insisted I take the lead on the first section, a deep sandy bottom bend that has given up some very large browns. Right off I had something on I thought was a log on the bottom which then started moving off to the side. I felt it turn downstream and suddenly the lure came free. Hard to explain the disappointment I felt. I wanted a good photo for this post. I was pretty sure I blew it. I signaled for Natch to take the lead. He fished the remainder of the deep sandy section and had a nice brown follow his lure but no takers. I took the lead back and fished some of the flatter less likely cover before waving him to take the lead again. When I said Natch is the wild card it is from years of watching him perform. His rig consists of a small open face reel and a rod about 4 foot long. It is surprisingly flexible and he can side-arm cast small lures into tight cover with precision. The only failing is trying to lob giant lures, something he tried and gave up on quickly. We did some trick maneuvering retrieving a No. 18 rapala off a bush over a deep hole.
So Natch was back in the lead and we approached some blow-downs and dark cover on the right as we worked upstream. He tossed a small rapala into a spot just down from a buried log and all hell broke loose. We could see it was big and it bent his fly-swatter pole over into a U-shape. I was downstream about fifteen feet and moved up with my net. It is always risky netting a fish for someone else. Natch had his net but did not object to me trying. It took a couple swoops to get the net under the fish and we were both amazed when I lifted the net. A rainbow, which is rare, which measured 21-1/2 inches. He let the fish go.
So yeah, Natch the wildcard.
We fished the remainder of the stretch seeing some small browns. I had a keeper on that might have gone 16 inches but it tossed my lure. We got off the river about an hour before dark mainly because if we had kept fishing the walk out turns into a small nightmare. Thick saplings you can barely get through. And we had a good photo. And there was lots of beer and such back at camp. And a fire. It was cold. Time for long johns.
And a guitar – my steampunk electric with a built-in battery powered amp and speaker. Nobody to disturb for miles except Natch who I punished for catching the giant rainbow. There may be a ballad in his future..
The fire was great but what sticks in my mind was how the pond lit up at dusk. It was better than the fire. We made plans to do it all over again next year – pick a nice weekend in late October and chill at Burnt Clutch Camp.