Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the category “Survival”

Folks that Share Their Bluegills

Chuck and Rita on Shelly Lake

Chuck and Rita on Shelly Lake

There’s two kinds of people that share bluegills. The ones trying to get out of cleaning some because they didn’t catch enough for a mess (um me?) and then there are the wonderful people that open a bag of fillets, start cooking, and invite their friends. Feral and I lucked out last night up at Little Leverentz.

I had fished once with Chuck Raison on Leverentz and met his wife his Rita once also, but yesterday it turned into guided adventure fishing two new lakes for Feral and I, topped off with a gourmet meal: deep fried cajun batter bluegills, butter fried wild mushrooms and fresh corn.

gourmet dinner

Feral said Rita was a cook and that was an understatement. We almost didn’t have fish with the meal because we started eating them the minute they came out of the fryer. I mentioned in a earlier post that Chuck is a lake expert, which means two things – being adventurous enough to find new lakes and knowing what to do when you get there. So our fish dinner was compliments of his and her expertise.

Chuck with a bluegill

Chuck with a bluegill

We started the day fishing a small pond down by Brohman which had small gills and soon left there to fish Shelly lake, also near Brohman. This lake is a hidden treasure with nice campsites and I can see Feral and I hitting this lake for over-nighters in the future. Lots of bass and bluegill. It was the middle of the day however and the sun was taking its toll on us so we headed back toward Baldwin to camp and to fish Little Leverentz. It gave me a chance to grill chuck on some of his fishing tactics and of course then there was the cook out. Thanks from Feral and Luther!

Sleeping with the Fishes

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There’s a hiking trail at the end of my street that loops around through some woods and if the weather is decent I get some exercise with a long walk. The woods have aspen, maple, lots of oak and even some sycamore. So it’s a nice walk and I stop sometimes to enjoy the view. This year the weather is all messed up with December temperatures in the fifties here in Michigan so I am getting some extra walking in. The leaves are down of course and the landscape is gray and visibility has opened up. On my walk yesterday I spotted a fish hanging from a tree about 25 yards off the trail.

It didn’t make any sense of course. My first thought was someone is sending a message. I have been watching Dexter re-runs on Netflix and killers leaving calling cards is apparently common. Not to mention the mafia which I learned about by watching the Sopranos. So looking at the fish hanging from the tree I was hesitant about approaching it. On the other hand I didn’t want to call the police since it could be a child’s prank. I decided to investigate which I felt was my duty as a human being. As I got closer I could see it looked like one of those talking rubber bass that were popular with sportsmen a few years back. I half expected it to start talking as I walked up but could see a hook in it’s mouth holding it shut. I backed away and continued my walk but on the next loop I stopped again and decided I had better investigate further.

When I turned the fish over I could see the side was slit open and there was something stuck inside. It was a plastic pill bottle and it looked like a note inside the bottle. So I pulled out the bottle and read the note. Go Fish was the header and below it were several signatures and dates. I had stumbled on a Geo-cache. If you are not familiar with the term, there is a sport where folks hide treasures and post GPS coordinates. Geo-cache hunters look up coordinates online and go find the treasures. Geo-caching is a harmless fun sport but I found myself a little disappointed the fish didn’t start talking, possibly spouting out an eerie encrypted message I would need to decipher using all of the detective skills I’ve picked up watching TV.

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The Fisherman’s Theory of Relativity


Einstein’s theory of relativity states “there is no one true movement or frame of reference when speaking of events of the world.” A popular example is a man sitting on a cliff watches a cruise ship motor by at 20 miles per hour and on the deck a man rolls a bowling ball toward the bow at 20 miles per hour. To the man on the cliff the ball moves forward at 40 mile per hour but for the men on the ship it only moves at 20. So movements are relative.

That’s all well and good but that leaves the rest of us, especially fishermen, wondering just what is the practical application? Let’s just say I was able to get Feral to participate in a similar experiment whereby I have him overhand cast a #13 Rapala Floater forward at 50 miles an hour while standing on the bow of my bass boat also traveling 50 miles per hour. In the interest of science I’ll hunker down below the plexiglass windshield to lessen the drag co-efficient. I theorize that for approximately five seconds – time will literally stand still for the the lure, in effect actual time travel, then suddenly reappear a moment before Feral screams. A second theory postulates that a man standing on a dock watching this unfold would find it hysterical.

I ‘m not sure Feral would willingly participate so I have come up with a second experiment involving cannons of which Feral has some expertise. In this experiment a man (Feral) is shot out of a cannon mounted on the front of my bass boat. I will need to confirm human velocity from cannons and match the speed of the boat but the idea is we synchronize our watches before Feral slides down the cannon barrel. My theory is that when I discharge the cannon – time will literally stand still for Feral, i.e. Time Travel, for about five seconds as he travels forward at the same speed as the boat. I theorize also I will need to repair the boat’s plexiglass windshield unless he hangs up on the cannon proper, after which, the real excitement begins. If his watch was not destroyed in the blast or subsequent reentry into earth time proper and my theory is correct, his watch will be ticking five seconds behind mine and we will have concluded the first of many fun filled time-travel experiments. And that of course will be “step one” in our quest to find a single unifying theory of the universe.

Northern Pikeless

Luther at Dog Lake

Nightmares of Esox Lucius have haunted me since our failed excursion to Dog Lake Flooding a year ago. Oh we made it to the lake Ok which was an adventure in itself, but the missing esox still weighs heavy since I had sold my buddies on the sort of monsters you only see on Canada fishing youtubes. Were they in there but refusing all manner of spinnerbaits and lures? Not likely is all I can figure. Maybe a freeze out of the shallow lake destroyed the population. It couldn’t have been fished out since you almost have to parachute in. Three men in three kayaks working the shores could not convince a pike to attack in three hours. Three, three, three, does that ring sinister?

So we failed miserably and as the organizer I was grateful they did not leave me in that remote god forsaken bog. But the experience left me with an itch unrelated to the oak and ivy which has been germinating for well nigh a year.

Feral, as you recall, did not make fall trout camp. Did he secretly go Pike fishing on his own while Natch and I cast the raging rivers of the 45th parallel north? I suspect yes because my built in lie detector, call it a sixth sense, has been beeping in my brain like a Geiger counter whenever the topic of fall trout camp is on the table. Feral’s a sly one and admits to nothing. But in my minds eye, call it a seventh sense, he is sliding his kayak into the blue green waters of Lake county every day and reporting nothing.

I blame Feral for catching, filleting, and cooking my first fresh esox dinner. From lake to skillet it was the best fish dinner in my long fish dinner life. Secret recipe? Hardly. He powdered the fillets with a little flour and dropped them into some sizzling fake butter.  I stand here now in the shadow of great fishermen and say it was the lightest and tastiest fish to ever hit my stomach.

So maybe it was evil intent all along. Hooking me like a junkie with a single meal. Then begging off trout fishing to go after Pike on the sly. All I can say is – It is not over. Maybe there is still time to resurrect all wrongs and meet up for a last camp, this time dedicated to catching the elusive monster Esox Lucius.

Esox Lucius, photo courtesy Jake Lucas Archive

Esox Lucius, photo courtesy Jake Lucas Archive

The Man Cave

In the off season when good men go crazy knowing trout season is so far away it helps to have a place to escape so their wives don’t shoot them. Of course all men do not have that problem (wives) in which case their entire home is a man cave. I have one buddy in this situation who is kind enough not to rub it in. Each room in his 1920’s two story is dedicated to a hobby such as gas powered model airplanes, guitars, computing, hunting.  There is not enough table space in any one room to sit down a cold beer so when the couch is de-cluttered you set the beer on the floor at your feet. The solution of course is having a dedicated beer room but that could invite other problems like too much time dedicated to the one hobby.
Man cave 1

Feral has maybe the classic man-cave. The basement in his old bungalow could be rated on a variety if scales including horsepower. Feral is fascinated by machines and motors from the steam age forward and at one time or another he has torn apart, rebuilt or even built from scratch most any type of engine devised by man. He’s also fascinated by primitive weapons and has hand built scores of strange rifles including his own invention, the blowgun firearm. His current projects include a mini-bike that looks like a chopper which he wants to have ready for Baldwin’s annual Blessing of the Bikes and an antique Mighty-Mite outboard motor which may end up powering his fishing kayak.
Project Bike 1

There seems to be a direct correlation between square feet of man cave and a man’s hobbies. Fortunately for me my main hobby of trout fishing requires very few square feet so my man-cave is ten square feet of the garage. It’s not much space, but truth be told I am pretty comfortable in the 2000 square foot women cave attached to my small parcel.

Archery Deer Hunting

Bow Hunting 70s

I found the above photo in an old album and it seems like yesterday so the time machine in my head is very much alive. Our grandpa, Jake Lucas, tried every outdoor sport you can name as far as fishing and hunting and kindled that love in all of his offspring. From the time we could swim he took us out in his rowboat fishing, from the time we could pull back a bow and arrow we were practicing on the hay bale target in the back yard. I should probably mention we grew up on venison burger. Feral and I gravitate to fishing mostly, but there was a time when we couldn’t wait for deer season, in particular the October archery season. It is the most picturesque time to be out in Michigan’s woods with its foggy cold morning landscapes, brilliant turning colors and a chance to see all manner of wildlife.

Every year at this time I imagine/remember how great it would be to sit in a ground blind with my back against a tree watching over a misty low ground or swamp waiting for any sign of movement. It is so peaceful. Or still hunting, which is silent creeping through the woods on the small chance of stumbling on bedded deer and getting off a shot. I won’t kid anyone here – I was more likely to cut myself on an arrow than shoot a deer, and on that score, the deer won. My memories are tied up in the glimpses of giant deer with immense racks sneaking though the wood, and equally, the times when a small doe or fawn would come so close to my blind I could reach out and touch them. Or the camping. Someone would put a paper plate against the two track berm and we’d have bow practice to see who was shooting the best. And discussing among the hunters, as evening loomed, who would be hunting where after spending the whole day scouting for miles around the camp. And the hot bowl of stew after a cold night of seeing no deer. It was all good.

bow hunting 2

Our buddy Al after a good rain. Notice the sleeping bag and blanket hung over bushes. Back then (late 70s / early 80s) there was no such thing as a waterproof tent or a 5 dollar plastic tarp to cover a leaky tent. You could always count on a small lake settled somewhere on the floor after a good soaker.  The white dot above the blanket, off in the distance, is a paper plate for target practice. Not sure who took the shot below, could have been Feral or one several other guys that often met us for the archery deer season. Possible Jeff or Sam, both avid hunters and campers. Or Mike and Denny, two of our trout camp regulars that also bow-hunted.

bow hunting 3

Dog Lake Flooding

Panorama of Pickeral Lake

It had been thirty years since Feral, his buddy Jeff and I fished the remote flooding up in the Pigeon River State game area. In my mind at least it started taking on mythical proportions as northern pike water. On that fateful day decades ago we pulled in too many pike to count including some twenty inchers that had obviously been attacked by much larger pike, with teeth gouge marks surrounding their bodies. Feral cleaned up that day with a yellow in-line rooster tail spinner and that meant every third cast he was pulling in the small but abundant pike. We didn’t latch on to one of the monsters prowling the dark water…but there was no doubt they were in there. Fast-forward to this fall on annual trout camp closer, this time with kayaks and the means to get back into that remote water.

Natch drove. He has a pickup truck designed to haul big things and 3 kayaks in the back was no problem. We stopped at the ranger station to pick up a map – just in case – which was lucky because the road into the flooding was unmarked. Still, we needed a GPS. The road was overgrown and unused. That may have been a good clue. The road, or opening,  was just wide enough to get the truck through if the side mirrors were tucked in. The further we went, the tighter it got – so I’ll thank Natch for keeping his cool which is hard to do driving a new truck through a virtual canopy of claw-like branches and blowdowns. There was no turning around once we started: Feral speculated the 3 kayaks sticking up over the rear gate would be like the prongs of a treble hook, so even backing out was out of the question.
Luther and Feral ready for Dog Lake
At the end of the trail we found a clearing and what used to be a channel out into the flooding. 30 years put the flooding another 50 yards out from the landing. 50 yards of floating bog: grass and roots that sunk down with every step – like walking on a carpet laying over a swimming pool. We had to drag the kayaks over the bog and couldn’t help but wonder who would break through and disappear first. We leaned on the kayaks for stability and dragged them over the clumps of floating grass.
Luther making the mucky trek to water at Dog Lake
Everything in the above photo is floating on water. No telling how deep.
Luther and Feral on Dog Lake
Natch launched last and took this photo as he paddled out into the flooding. (All photos by Natch) Somehow everything looked bigger than I remembered. Maybe it was the vantage point of a kayak versus a rowboat – sitting closer to water level.

The wind picked up right away and the temperature nose-dived. Fortunately we were bundled up good with lots of layers so we planned it right. When the sun went behind the clouds it felt like the temp dropped ten degrees in a matter of seconds.

I started working the upwind portion of the flooding, in part to avoid wind drift, but could only make a couple casts with a 3/8 ounce white spinner bait and then I was too far from shore. So it was cast, paddle, cast, and I worked myself into a comfortable but fishless rhythm. Natch and Feral did their own exploring and soon we were scattered around the flooding, beyond yelling distance. I expected both of them were hauling in fish so I experimented with lures including a pop-r around some lily pads figuring if there was bass around – that is a pretty good draw. Still, cast after cast – nothing.
Luther paddling on Dog Lake
After an hour I headed to a centrally located island where I saw Natch fishing earlier. We were all thinking the same thing: converge there and see how everyone is doing. First consensus – not so good. The pike were missing.
Big catch on Dog Lake by Natch
This fish, caught by Natch, confirmed our worst fears: Piranha had eaten all of the pike in Dog Lake Flooding. I expect the pike put up a good battle but it may have come down to attitude. Piranha are vicious. Here, Natch employs the Vulcan Nerve Pinch which subdues all manner of carbon based life forms. We could have switched fishing tactics but not one of us remembered to bring along the rules and regs so the we didn’t know about legal limits or even whether piranha are in season.  So we called it a day and headed back to the floating bog mass.
Natch waiting on Luther and Feral coming off Dog Lake
I’m happy to report we all made it back to solid ground.  We were up for the challenge but I guess you can’t “go back.” 30 years is a long time. I’m going to ask Feral to make a sign for the trailhead:  Dog Lake Flooding – Enter at Your Own Risk.  A skull and crossbones would do nicely.

Camping Alone

Big Leverentz

It seems like more and more people are camping alone. I did an overnighter with Feral up at Leverentz Lake campground and a man was camping alone at site # 1 by the boat dock, and a little later a woman pulled in and camped just across from him. In a perfect world that is how people meet except that he was a young married businessman practicing yoga and trying to get away from it all, and she was an older substitute teacher and jewelry artist enjoying the right here and now.

On our first encounter with the woman, she grilled Feral and I about our age and it seemed like we were being interviewed for a job. I was put off a bit by her assumption that men like to be grilled about stuff but Feral, after our escape, had a different perspective. “She came up camping by herself, she’s probably nervous, she wants to meet people. We should be nice.” He was right, of course.

Toward evening she asked for help starting a campfire. She, Jeanette, had purchased some wood in town, some damp oak shaped like railroad ties that would make a nice picnic table but nearly impossible to light without enough kindling for a beaver dam. So Feral and I, along with Dave, the businessman, gathered sticks and did the guy thing while she did the helpless woman thing. I wasn’t quite buying her helpless woman thing (She said was part Cherokee) but hey – all of a sudden we were all talking and laughing about stuff and who cares anyway.

Jeanette invited us to enjoy the fire and Feral mentioned guitars and she said she had a dulcimer, which she pulled out of her van and passed around for inspection. We grabbed the guitars and some beers and played a couple oldies with Jeanette following along. She pulled out a music stand and fearlessly played a tune out of her Mel bay book. I tried to play along and listen for the chord changes and she was kind enough to say I did it well so you know she was not above bending the truth.

The campfire turned out to be kinetic art requiring some upkeep so Dave kept feeding the fire with engineering precision. His sharp yoga mind also injected humor into the various conversations and somehow he became Feral’s new “agent’ lining up the next big paying gig. That was good news to Feral who will normally play all night for free if someone in the audience has a pulse. Humor begets humor and Feral told a joke about a piccolo player in church which was pretty bad and I followed up with one about a banjo player and forgot half the joke set-up and pretty soon everyone was ready to call it a night. A very good night.

We packed it up the next morning but not before Feral gave Jeanette a guitar slide for use with her dulcimer. Some slide dulcimer might go very well with some John Prine should our paths cross again in some dusty Michigan campground.

DFA Hunt Club

DFA Hunt Club Members 2

After a grueling stretch on the flooded Pine River Feral and I stopped at an upper stretch of the Baldwin we thought might be good for a couple fish. Main rivers were near flood stage so it made sense to hit smaller water. We were surprised to see a large group camping in what we thought was a secret spot which is funny now since the guys camping there said they camped there every spring. We probably wouldn’t have stopped to talk but they seemed friendly and waved so we pulled in, cracked a beer and joined them. We asked about fishing and no, they really weren’t fishing but once caught a trout down the hill from camp. “Are you morel mushroom hunting?” No, not out for mushrooms. Some of the guys had camouflage so we asked if they were turkey hunters. No, they weren’t hunting. Bottom line: a bunch of guys that had to get outside and camp for a few days after a long winter. I could relate.

They immediately warmed up to Feral who threw out a couple zingers, including one about one of the guy’s wives. I was thinking about an escape route but Feral’s sense of humor sent out the right message. We asked if they had a name for their group and sure enough, they call themselves the DFA Hunt Club which brought a new round of humor as it stands for “Death From Above” which Feral suggested may involve members falling out of trees, and the conversation degenerated from there to other possible words that DFA might stand for.  They all had a sense of humor – which was great.

I asked if I could take a picture and post it on Fichigan – and they were good on that. Feral’s on the right in the photo above so, unofficially, he is their newest “non-dues” paying member. I should mention theses guys are serious bow hunters that promote the sport including teaching the next gen of young hunters about sportsmanship and safety. They have a logo they put on t-shirts (see photo below) so if you run into one of them say hello and mention you saw them on a fichigan post.

DFA Hunt Club logo

Big Leverentz Lake

Heading west on 10 out of Baldwin I asked Feral to keep an eye out for any sign of the Baldwin River since we would be driving directly over it – but alas, there was no sign of the river. Michigan has been in a drought for most of the summer and after this weekend I can report something new about this phenomenon. We camped at Big Leverentz and it started raining while we were out on the lake (fishing for bass and pike). It rained for a good half hour. We could see the rain dapple the lake and we could feel a cooling of the atmosphere.  There was a thick overcast blocking out the sun completely (a huge relief since we had been baking in the sun). Here’s where it gets interesting.  We didn’t get wet. After half hour our clothes were still dry. When we pulled the boat back in for the evening – the camp was dry. It occurs to me this might make a good Twilight Zone episode.  For added drama substitute desperate farmers for fishermen.

As usual the folks we met camping and fishing were friendly and three guys who waited patiently for Feral and I to launch the boat were treated to a comedy of boat launch errors and may they live by the adage that what happens in Baldwin stays in Baldwin. They were out for panfish and we understand they had around ten though I didn’t get a picture, except for a group photo as proof that they were at the lake.  I apologize for the quality of the picture since it is so fuzzy it could be just about any three guys. If called to testify I’ll vouch they were at the lake if they vouch for my seaworthiness.

In spite of the intense heat and murky lake with strange gunk floating about we did pretty good on the bass and caught one decent pike. Feral tossed a weedless mouse on the pads and had some action but mostly we fished power worms, culprits, and some top water baits late in the evening. Total bass for 2 days around 20 with a few three pounders. For those who know how hard that lake gets fished – I suspect we did alright. The bad news of course is we don’t eat bass. If we get a real rain maybe I can post something for trout fishermen and eat the proceeds.

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