Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the category “Survival”

Leverentz Flash Camp

I headed up to Leverentz Lake to meet Feral early Friday afternoon in order to beat the let’s get out of town Covid sucks crowd. It paid off because the campsite was almost full. This was the first weekend State Forest campgrounds opened in Michigan due to coronavirus concerns. Feral and I took our backpack tents (instead of the Apache tent campers) which allowed us to use campsite 2 which has no driveway. Number 2 sits on a hill near the general parking area. Sounds bad but this is a rustic campground and number 2 is more remote than any of the other spots. We had some clean-up work to do. The fire pit was full of dirt, coals, melted bottles, etc. and we had to rake the general area which had downed branches and layers of leaves. It turned out well. A comfortable camp. We bought some fudgie wood and had fires two nights.

The fishing was something else. The photo shows Feral holding up all of the fish we caught. Getting a big bass or pike didn’t seem so important. Main thing was being outdoors in cool weather. Helps recharge the soul.

Feral’s son Jake joined us on Saturday night. He brought a hammock and I should have taken a photo. His sleeping bag is designed to surround the hammock to provide better warmth (rather than lying a bag on the hammock). Jake’s a bicyclist/camper taking overnight journeys in the wilds up around Alpena so he’s into actual backpack camping and making the most in minimalist mode. Good to see him, it had been a couple years.

I brought my Ventura camp guitar, a small acoustic bass, and a mandolin thinking it would be fun to get Jake doing some music. One time, remote camping up near Vanderbilt, he brought a 3/4 size upright bass to camp. There’s a photo somewhere in the archives. Jake has some music chops on both guitar and bass. He wasn’t into jamming though, said he hadn’t played in a long time. So Feral and I traded songs back and forth hoping to prove there is absolutely no reason to be shy around us. We can veer left on some classic songs and keep right on playing. It turned out to be a fun night with stories and odd songs. Plus, free food. Some folks Feral knows from Baldwin invited us over for snacks, elephant ears, and ended up handing us tin foil dinners to warm over campfire. Thanks! People were friendly and talkative throughout the campground. Everyone has been under too much pressure with covid and bad politics.  I’m not surprised the campground filled up.

Covid alienation

I went into Meijer’s to pick up a few groceries and most everyone wore masks. I found myself noticing people, women mostly, wishing I could see their faces. I couldn’t tell if they were smiling, absorbed in their task, what they thought.. as if I could read thoughts. It made me sad. I wasn’t there for any social reason. I didn’t need to see or speak with anyone. I wasn’t trying to meet someone. Just found that I really miss faces. Sounds like a small loss but I suspect it may be the same for others. That sense of being close to people without a need to interact. To complicate matters, body language still works and you can tell how worried some folks are…like you are diseased and they are afraid to be around you.

I suspect this is going to take it’s toll. So if you are in Meijer’s or out and about here’s a thought… pretend everything is cool and smile with your eyes. Might help someone get through the day. Another thought: May help if I don’t use my covid fish skeleton mask.

and get a haircut.

Diana the Huntress

I purchased the above art nouveau calling card tray off ebay last week. The tray is sixteen inches long and made of bronze and has a relief image of Diana the Huntress, a Greek Goddess that parceled out good luck to hunters offering homage. I think that’s the way it worked. My pastime visiting estate sales has been put on hold due to Covid 19 so scouring the internet for interesting objects has been filling that void. Hard to find really great deals but this is an exception. I very much like how the artist has recreated Diana six times which may be a way of saying she can be in more than one place at a time.

Fishing for a Metaphor

Academics, fishermen, and other low-lifes enjoy hearing a good metaphor thrown into a conversation. If you are Bob Dylan or Emily Dickinson finding the right metaphor may be second nature. In my case I usually find a good metaphor five minutes after a conversation has veered in a different direction. When I blurt it out the gathering moves ten feet away while making sideways glances like I have an affliction. It occurs to me I need a universal metaphor I can always draw on that can be applied to any situation. That way I can stay “in the pocket” and not rely on folks with short memories to remember what we were talking about.

Last weekend I helped a family member move to a new apartment and we had to disassemble a bed frame so I tested this one: “That thing comes apart like a 3-piece Shakespeare fly rod.” My niece and nephews were struggling with it so I added, “Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean.” I could see the light bulb go on. That seemed to help them understand the relationship between a bed frame and a fly rod and was a good lesson for me also. If you add a qualifier followed by “if you know what I mean” it challenges the listener to think outside the boundaries and adds some assurance that you might know what you are talking about. The fly rod metaphor has some real possibilities but the true test of a universal metaphor is adaptability to a host of subject matter.

Personal Growth: His mind expanded like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (not great, but maybe)

Nature: The trout stream wandered like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (good visual but I wouldn’t fish there)

Trucks: The old Ford tracked like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (Not bad, the truck needs alignment)

Trains: I got nothing.

Dogs: The hound pointed at the pheasant like 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (something disturbing here)

Food: The spaghetti was like a 3-piece Shakespeare Fly Rod. Someone should have greased the ferrules, if you know what I mean. (I’ve had spaghetti like that!)

There’s always a risk someone will say, “No, I don’t know what you mean.” If this happens, nod slowly, look them straight in the eye and say, ” I know you don’t.” For maximum effect, say it with sympathy. I expect this whole blog topic will be as confusing as a Number 9 Rapala in a bird’s nest. Wear gloves, if you know what I mean.

Winter Reading 2020

With seven months between the regular trout season I catch up on reading. Here are a few recommendations.

Anatomy of a Murder – Robert Traver. I found a first edition, first printing of this at an estate sale. If you are a trout fisherman you may have read the book Trout Madness, a collection of funny stories about fly fishing in the U.P. by Traver. This novel tells the story of a man accused of murder and his plea of temporary insanity, based on an actual case in the U.P. After reading the book look up the movie starring Jimmy Stewart. Both excellent, but read the book first!

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens. I kept hoping to find this book on the New Books shelf at the Kentwood Library and after months of waiting placed a hold on it. I was number thirty on waiting list so it took another 2 months. Worth the wait. I can’t remember ever being so invested in the well being and safety of a character, in this case, a little girl left to fend for herself in a swamp. She thrives in her closed world. The suspense builds like a time bomb when she’s accused of murder by the white folks that shunned her and never lifted a finger to help.

The Chess Machine – Robert Löhr. The Mechanical Turk, a chess playing automaton built by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in the 1770’s defeats all opponents while touring Europe’s royal courts. Except the automaton is not quite what it seems. Historical fiction based on a true story. Fascinating read for engineers, inventors, or anyone dying for a strange story.

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. I mentioned a short passage of this book in an earlier post. A wealthy gentleman is placed under house arrest in a Moscow hotel for having expressed opinions, in his youth, that don’t align with the current state politics. Being a true gentleman keeps him engaged as a human being when his life is taken away. A book that makes you proud to be human.

Coincidence

I often wake in the middle of the night and invariably check the clock. Two nights ago I woke at 3:21. I have been harboring a suspicion for years that numbers may solve the riddle of the universe and was curious enough about 321 to ponder it at 3:21AM. For starters, was it a prime number? (a number only divisible by itself and 1) I quickly saw that it is the sum of 3×107. Not prime. So then I thought how about 432, the next set of descending numbers. No, not prime, it is the sum of 4×108. The relationship of 3×107 and 4×108 compared to 321 and 432 was interesting. So of course I thought about 543, the next sequence.  That broke the strange new rule. Not to be dissuaded I thought of the next descending sequence, 654 and saw it was the sum of 6×109. So that was interesting again. Not sure if there is any truth to prime numbers pointing to a theory of the universe but that is the kind of question I may ponder in the middle of a sleepless night.

The coincidence occurred the next day while reading “A Gentleman In Moscow” by Amor Towles. The main character, Count Rostov, has made the acquaintance of a young girl, Nina, working on mathematics for school. She has taken it on herself to figure out all of the prime numbers. There is a stack of papers next to her filled with numbers, some circled. The count picks up a sheet and tells her this one is not a prime number. She looks at the number (1,173) and asks how does he know? He replies, “If a number’s individual digits sum to a number that is divisible by 3, then it too is divisible by 3. Nina says, “Better hand me that stack of papers.” Don’t let this small description of a passage turn you off to the book. The book is really a delight capturing the human spirit.

Next time I wake at 3:21 my plan is to roll over and go back to sleep. With Einsteins help I did attempt to solve the big mystery in an earlier post: The Fisherman’s Theory of Relativity. If that sounds interesting type Einstein in the search engine in the right hand column…

Winter Reading

One way to get through winter (waiting for the next trout season) is catch up on reading. Here’s a few suggestions…

If you long for the days when American’s thought the British had a monopoly on crass self-important, egotistical men with power you should read Larry McMurtry’s Barrybender series starting with Sin Killer. A pompous English Lord drags his family and servants on a hunting trip to the old west at a time when the American Indians were not buying Manifest Destiny. Lord Barrybender gets chiseled down to size. At times hilarious, at times horrifying, an amazing read.

Not sure why it took so long for me to read Frank Herbert’s Dune. Considered the greatest science fiction ever written it is a very accessible human story in a world of spectacular imagination. Like a lot of science fiction publishers wanted nothing to do with it. First published by Chilton, the folks that bring you car repair manuals. It is my goal to find a Chilton copy of the novel at a garage or estate sale.. A true prize. Then read it all over again.

There is a new category of fiction that blends science fiction and fiction with in your face humanity. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead should be required reading for all high school students. It follows a African American girl as she flees slavery. The depiction of slavery is one thing, how whites use her in a live museum diorama to show how the trip to America on a slave ship was a pleasant experience is quite another. You will learn, make that feel, more about black history. All in the confines of masterful storytelling.

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami is another work of fiction/science fiction that left me stunned. A young boy in middle school picks an outcast, unathletic girl to be on his team when no one else wants her. Their lives become entwined in a parallel world where no deed goes unanswered. One of those books that makes you rethink what we are doing here.

A book I kept putting off for a lifetime: The Diary of Anne Frank. I was afraid to read it knowing it was a true story with a tragic ending, a basis for nightmares. Instead it was uplifting to watch how a young girl could put aside the constant terror of hiding from Nazis and continue her studies and writing. When the diary stops you realize the true horror of the holocaust isn’t the tragic image of the death camp survivors, but rather the loss of of people that could have made a real difference in the world.

Mail Order Rockets

If you’ve ever scoped the back pages of a comic book from the sixties you’ve seen ads for products that appeal to young boys:  X-ray specs, 1001 insults for everyday use, two-headed nickles, Joe Atlas body building so you can kick the butt of the bully that stole your girlfriend. The list is extensive and there was something for every boy. Including my little brother.

Feral was the engineer and physicist of the family by age ten. If paper route money wasn’t going for comic books it was used to test the laws of physics and good sense. Explosives were of great interest including cannons and rifles. Small combustion engines. By age ten he had a better understanding of how most things work than most men I know at age sixty. When an ad for rocket engines showed up in the back of a Batman comic he was on it like John Glen.

We had just moved into a small upstairs apartment in a very old neighborhood. The houses sat right next to each other except where a driveway might flow to a garage behind a house. A house fire on the block would likely take the whole block in an hour. Not urban planning at its best. My divorced mother was raising three boys and a daughter while completing her education. We were often left alone to find our own excitement.

Feral watched the mailbox like a hawk until his package arrived. The rocket engines, two included, looked like CO2 cartridges used in high powered BB guns. A flash pan was suspended below the cartridge by a wire frame. The rocket scientist needed to fill the pan with lighter fluid or some other flammable substance and light it to ignite the rocket engine. Once the cartridge reached a certain temperature the rocket engine ignited which would then propel anything it was attached to forward. The rocket could not be pointed vertically to the stars, but rather horizontal to the earth else the flash pan fluid would spill out.

We were suspicious about whether they really worked. Feral asked a neighbor boy, Buddy, if we could clamp a rocket in a vice in his dad’s garage. The garage was about fifty years old and made of wood that was dry as paper. The vice was bolted to a bench a few feet from the double swing-out door. On a side note, I had made the mistake of mentioning the rocket project to my mother, and she was concerned, but not enough to kill the project.

We clamped the rocket in the vice and filled the flash pan with gasoline and touched her off. And waited. Flames licked the rocket cylinder for maybe a minute while we shook our heads, sure it was a hoax. Then magic – a slow roar as flames shot out of the rocket cylinder about 4 feet stopping just inches from the tinderbox garage door. Our enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by the realization we could burn down the garage. Buddy freaked out of course. I opened the garage door so it wouldn’t catch fire and we waited for the flames to die out. There is no way to turn off the rocket. It lasted several minutes and Feral was satisfied with the test.

Afterwards I went back home, next door, to our upstairs apartment and found my mother in the living room where she was crouched down refinishing a piece of wood furniture. As a practical but somewhat thoughtless joke I pretended I burned my hand. My mother jumped up, grabbed my hands, turned them over, turned them over again, and looked in my eyes. Then she slapped me so hard I may have seen stars. I received the “don’t cry wolf ” lecture after she cooled off, about a year later. (This is the only know instance of my mom hitting one of her kids.)  In my defense, my sad humor may have been caused by the nervous underlying realization we could have burned down the whole neighborhood.

Feral still had the second rocket engine. He related this story to me years later. He mounted the rocket on the top of a plastic model car. One with axles and wheels that rolled well. He and a friend took it out in the street, lit the engine, and watched it take off at rocket speed right down the middle of the street. Then it veered to the right and slid under someone’s parked car where it lodged against the curb with the rocket engine still burning. This rocket was identical to the first so flames were shooting out four feet. I understand there was some panic involved this time also since automobile gas tanks and rocket flames do not co-exist well.

Again, there was not much Feral could do. No off switch on a rocket engine. I would need to confirm this but I believe he and his buddy didn’t wait around to see what happened next. They were, of course, just kids.

Burnt Clutch Camp

Section 4 lake

For a while there Feral Tweed, Natch and I set up remote camps in the Pigeon River State Game area which had the advantage of avoiding campground fees of 15 dollars a night, which adds up quickly into real money if we camped for several days. I mean, that could be beer money. We found some great spots to camp off old two tracks including one on Grass Lake Road near Section 4 Lake, an off the beaten path round bowl of a lake that in theory holds fish. The camp spot was open and large enough for several tents and room to park a couple vehicles.

Every year I sent out emails, with a map, to people I thought might come up and this always included Mike and Denny. Mike had a pop-up tent camper, an early model with the two slide out beds and a hand crank system to lift the roof. Leveling the camper was always a chore. Mike carried some special boards to put under the jacks to make things easier but no matter where he set up true level was a fleeting idea. Mike and Denny usually camped at a state forest campground, often at the Pigeon River campground on the main blacktop coming in from Vanderbilt. So we were surprised to see Mike’s Subaru wagon hauling his pop-up camper to our remote spot.

The camp area is elevated above the road grade a few feet so the entrance had a small hill. Mike surveyed the camp and decided to back the pop-up trailer in which made sense since it would allow him to guide the trailer into a somewhat level spot and be able to pull out easily. Mike pulled up past the entrance, cut the wheel and we all watched as the trailer made the appropriate angle into the entrance and edge up the small hill. Then stop. We could hear the engine revving so stopping made no sense. Pretty soon smoke started pouring out from under the car. Mike was riding the clutch unaware of what was happening. We observers started exchanging glances and I think it was Feral that shouted for Mike to hold it. Meanwhile Mike had done a pretty good job of fogging the camp area for mosquitoes.

To us onlookers it was surreal. Mike had a long history of driving stick-shifts. It seemed like he was content to burn up the clutch. He had to know he wasn’t moving. When he finally cut the engine the damage had been done. Not to the car, to Mike. A man can’t make a spectacle at trout camp and go unpunished. The jokes about driving and naming the camp spot after the event were almost routine starting at beer o’clock. I wish I could say Mike was gracious and self-deprecating about the affair but instead he blamed Feral and I which made it even funnier. I mean, how was it our fault? To our disbelief he said we picked the spot knowing he would burn up his clutch.

When we saw he was so touchy about it we backed off. Honest. If it was anyone else, me for instance, it would still be on the table. Out of respect for Mike we buried the thing quickly. As a footnote, Mike and Denny didn’t camp near us for years after that. I don’t know if this played a part in their decision but from then on we always made a special point of driving over to “their camp” to say hi and hang out a bit. I am not sure why I am writing this post but if anything bad happens to me in the next few days in may involve a curse from the grave. For the record, if I ever burn out a clutch at trout camp you won’t read about it here.

Hess Lake

The other guys

Feral made a pitch to ice fish on Hess Lake last Sunday and I blame myself. If I hadn’t foolishly mentioned ice fishing in the previous post I could have done something more constructive like planting corn early. The mere mention of Hess Lake brought back memories from 20 years ago and slaying crappies – one after another. Can a lake change in twenty years?

Feral set the meeting time for 8:00 AM and I had to imagine his other fishing buddy, Chuck, a lake expert, shaking his head. Crappies, if I remember right, bite at night, in the dark. On the other hand, if we could find them, and drop minnows into their midst, it could be workable. My job was to pick up some pike minnows for tip-ups, Chuck and Feral would get wax worms and crappie minnows. I found a bait shop open in downtown Newago at 7:30, bought half a dozen pike minnows and mentioned Hess Lake to the store owner. Reading his expression was difficult, but not impossible. He had just sold me six pike minnows and now he didn’t want to be discouraging.  I mentioned crappies and pike. He struggled to think of something good to say.  I said I fished Hess lake a long time ago.  He said Hess was a great crappie lake twenty years ago. I knew he wasn’t lying.

Feral, Chuck and I had all found the same internet post about where to fish. Four hundred yards out from the boat landing, veer right. As it happens, two other ice fishermen headed out on the ice minutes ahead of us and it appeared they read the same post. Hess Lake is 755 acres, huge, so if these guys turned around, it probably seemed like we were following them. We ended up on the same acre, OK, 1/4 acre, but they were cool about it, even talkative, which is always a good thing.

If you can imagine 755 acres of ice and a total of five guys fishing on a Sunday morning you may understand a reality that slowly dawned on the five guys.

It actually started well, one of the other guys pulled out a crappie right away, within seconds of dropping a line. Great, right? Feral and I set out a few tip-ups for pike (one fish equals a whole meal!) and then started working on finding crappies, bouncing from hole to hole. I caught one decent crappie, 9 inches, and Chuck caught another. Not much shouting from the other guys but they were toughing it out. Tiny perch were biting, trending smaller as the hours went by, whereby the smallest perch might have brought some honor if we would have pre-thought having a smallest fish contest.

Chuck with a small mess of crappies

Luther scores big

About four hours in I started thinking about what I might put in a fichigan post. One idea was getting a ticket for loitering on Hess Lake. That had possibilities, DNR watching us with binoculars and wondering what we were doing out there. And not really wanting to walk the 400 yards to see if there was evidence of fishing (an actual fish).


Feral, ice dancing

When we finally decided to call it the other guys stopped over to chat and commiserate. I mentioned fichigan, posting a photo of them, and then blaming them for the fishing. That got a laugh. I give them a lot of credit: as we were leaving they set up some ice tents. Fours hours of tough fishing and they were just getting started. Sometimes the fishing does a one-eighty so it is possible they did OK. Really.

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