Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “May, 2023”

Last Winter

Too many movies, not enough mandolin.

Wrong Agenda

Some Grand Rapids, Michigan music history: In the late 70’s I played in a band called Preston Arendson with Scott Zystra, Jack Gant, and Abe Rhoorda. We played the local bars and achieved some local fame as a folk/rock/country band with 3-part harmonies. We all wrote original songs but Abe and I really worked hard at it. Scott and Jack were the music talent that took our raw songs and turned them into something special. We played local bars like the Intersection, Eastown Saloon, Olsen’s Rib Shack, and others. We broke up after two years. It just suddenly happened and I think all of us view the breakup from different perspectives but maybe the best answer is that it was time to move on. Jack and Scott went on to play in various bluegrass bands but it was the end of the road for myself and Abe, at least playing bars.

Long after the band breakup I still dreamed of writing a “concept album.” Popular bands like Jethro Tull, The Eagles, and others had done concept albums in the 70’s so as a songwriter it seemed like an interesting goal. Scott had purchased a farm up near Mesick, MI and built a recording studio in his barn so the timing was good (around 1996.) I was working two jobs, a day job as a technical Illustrator and part-time evening job as a patent draftsman. I used about half my evening job pay to run up to Scott’s studio on weekends and lay down tracks. I insisted on paying his studio rate but he did more work than he ever charged.

It was clear to me then and now that we were partners in the project. He is an accomplished musician/guitarist with the best music ear of anyone I’ve ever met, and creative, and the quality of our work rested on his talents. The “Without a Hitch” music CD is an great effort produced at the wrong time. I was raising daughters and he was raising sons. We both had too many responsibilities to actually play the music publicly which was further complicated by the one hundred mile drive between us. And Jack Grant, our bass player from Preston Arendson, was living in Colorado. He drove to Michigan to lay down tracks under tough conditions – learning new songs on-the-fly and playing flawlessly. I was amazed (and thankful!)

Yesterday I found a copy of early cover artwork which I proposed to Scott. But he would have none of it, insisting he was doing his job and that my name should be on the CD. We reached a compromise with the band name Wrong Agenda which actually was prophetic: A strange collaboration at the wrong time in our lives. No way to promote and sell it – people need to hear bands play live, and songs on the air, in order to get sales and recognition. I did send a copy to our local PBS radio station, WGVU, and heard one song, Thirty-Nine Steps, playing on my car radio while waiting in line at a bank. I couldn’t believe it!

I have a case of the CDs tucked in my basement. I tried selling them on this site but no orders. Music needs promotion!!

Spring Trout Camp 2023

Feral downstream from camp

We centered our trout camp on the first weekend of May which worked out well. We had the Pine River to ourselves. Jake, Feral, Natch and I met up at our remote spot on Thursday. Natch brought his new trailer, the first use for him, and he had set-up figured out like an old pro. It’s pretty large (compared to my Scamp) and has lots of new technology including solar panels, a TV with antenna, wireless booster, hide-a-bed, full bath, etc, things to sell a wife on it but not practical for the low tech camping experience we typically enjoy. We generally don’t spend time in campers – it’s all fishing and campfires. Except for breakfast which I took over when I bought the Scamp. I should mention Natch went from a 1964 Apache tent camper last year, a slightly new camper than Jake’s, to this. Natch is a technology wiz so in a sense this makes perfect sense. His tent camper went to one of his boys.

The fishing was good, no big trout but several 16-17 inchers. I cooked up a trout dinner on Friday night which was good since Jake and Feral, who rode together, mysteriously had to leave on Saturday. I’m still scratching my head about why they had to go considering they were both so anxious to camp. Jake brought the Apache Chief camper. They set it up on the edge of the hill. They had breakfast and Feral said something about his legs were sore and they packed up. The regular plan was head home Tuesday. A sad moment for Natch and I who were counting on their company.

Jake’s Apache Chief

Natch and I sometimes fish together but with so much river and good stretches to fish we sectioned off the river and went for it. Fishing alone is really the ultimate experience. Each bend and piece of cover, logs, holes, are a playing field to explore. Figuring out the best cast to a new piece of cover is a science. Where are trout likely positioned? Where to stand to make that cast? What type of cast will drop the lure in the right spot? Should I put on a bigger lure? (big lures for big trout) Frankly, you are too busy calculating to miss having company on the stream. Counterpoint: Sometimes it’s nice to have some dialog while fishing and see the other guy catch a nice trout. It’s all good.

Natch walking the stream back after fishing the first turnaround

The locals (at the Tustin Store) said no one was getting Morels. We had to try. Natch found a few and I found one. Maybe it was the weather. It was pretty cold at night and after the back and forth spring/winter weather this year the Morels may have come up early and froze or maybe they’ll show up this week. We did have one Morel to split four ways with the trout dinner. I dropped it into a puddle of butter next to the trout fillets.

A Morel Mushroom with
Waders Drying

Natch and I camped until Tuesday. Played some chess and scrabble. Had a great time fishing and Morel hunting. Some great campfires. Too much beer and brats (gained 3 pounds). Ready for this new year of fishing.

The Scamp and 4runner

State Forest Clear-Cutting

If you view the above photo you may be surprised to know that this was once a beautiful access spot to the Pine River in northern Lake County, Michigan. The stump in the middle of the photo was a beautiful mature tree. I parked under it last fall (and for the last 30 years). A nice shady spot. Just beyond the stump there was a faint two-track (not drive-able) under a canopy of mature trees that led to a spot next to a steep bank down to the river. I would scale the hill and fish upstream from there. I should mention that the Pine Rive is a blue-ribbon trout stream with a healthy population of trout: Browns, Rainbows, and Brooks. This spot is visited by trout fishermen from around the state. I have talked with many of them. It (was) a treasure.

I discovered this last Saturday on the opening weekend of trout fishing. Another appalled fisherman was there and we lamented the senseless destruction of what had been a beautiful spot. And a nice ‘”disperse”camping area. A large family group use to camp in the large clearing just north of the tree every year on opening weekend but stopped camping there after some clear cutting done in 2017. In 2017 the clear cutting stopped at the edge of the large clearing where they camped and was sickening to look at. So goodbye to that family. This year they clear cut up much closer to the river. Finished the job so to speak.

I don’t know who makes these decisions. A google search of clear cutting in Michigan brought up a story in Grayling, Michigan where residents tried to find answers and frankly the only answer is there is a bureaucracy in State Forest Management that is untouchable. They hold hearings that nobody is aware of and they say they always send a representative to an area before it is clear cut. And they follow guidelines set forth by other supreme bureaucracies. I can only say this: No human being in their right mind would have approved of this destruction if they understood the importance of this spot to so many Michigan fishermen.

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