Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the category “Trout Gear”

Denny’s Jam Sessions

Denny, a trout camp irregular, has a pole barn in the hollow of his back yard which doubles as a photography studio and a place for his monthly music jam sessions. Denny and I go way back. To cut the story short: after a brief session of motorcycle racing in the 70’s (motocross and trials) which left me banged up and Denny in a cast we sold off the bikes to buy Martin guitars. D-35s. A couple Mel Bay chord books and we were off and running. The seventies provided a lot of inspiration in the form of acoustic guitar music inspired by current events like war, black oppression and riots, assassinations, political corruption, Jim Crow laws… a host of things our generation attempted to fix.

So you might think a jam session at Denny’s would be a real downer. A bunch of old guys rehashing bad news. But no. We do play some Dylan and John Prine but even those heavy message songs are a celebration of life. That may be the real power of protest music: acknowledging what is wrong reaffirms what is right. We play diverse songs ranging from bluegrass to rock. Nothing is out of bounds at Denny’s and something new is always welcome.

Denny and some of the jam session regulars (Michele, Don and Paul) formed a bluegrass band called Down Yonder. I recorded them with my Zoom Q2n-4K camcorder.  This video of Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan is recorded at an old folks home in Cedar Springs where they provided free entertainment. The crowd loved them!

 

The WLAV Raft Race

For about five years starting around 1968 Grand Rapids hosted one of the biggest parties in the country. Hundreds of home-made rafts and thousands of contestants ran a timed trip/race down a section of the Grand River on the north side of town.  Live rock bands at Riverside Park blasted the pretty much drunk and stoned out crowd. There was police presence but they were cool. They weren’t there to bust pot smokers, they were there to make sure the crowd was orderly. I know it may be hard to believe but in the late sixties and early seventies pot was not considered a big crime unless you happen to get in the crosshairs of a fanatic cop. We would never have guessed it would take fifty years for pot to be legalized in Michigan. Really, it was just a social thing, probably like drinking during prohibition. Back to the raft race.

Robbin Crawford, of local metal sculpture fame, worked as a welder for a local machine builder. I worked there a couple summers at the same shop. Robbin designed and built a couple rafts for the raft race and I was fortunate to be invited to participate. He somehow hooked up with Ficeli’s Party Store and Budweiser to build a custom raft, essentially a pontoon boat supporting a platform with Miss Budweiser, a local beauty. To propel the raft forward we had hinged boards bolted to the bottom of our shoes in a way that there was no resistance moving our foot forward, but when drawing back, like rowing, the hinged boards opened like an umbrella to scoop water. Didn’t work at all so we floated down the river in style. Robbin built a second raft whereby a couple were married on the river. Don’t recall their names, but that was a year or two after this race.

That’s Robbin sitting in front, then me standing, then standing at the back is Ken Phillips, my step-dad, a machinist working for the same machine shop. He managed to get me in the shop as a paid intern.  Here’s two more photos. If you google WLAV raft race you will find some photos that show the size and scope of these events. Sadly the event was cancelled after serious accidents on the river. I understand the city attorneys were worried about lawsuits.  Not sure how you weigh that against such a great time for so many people.

 

Beatles Postcards

I have been wandering through antique malls and estate sales to fill time between trout seasons.  I picked up the book “Warman’s Antiques and Collectibles 2019” at the library figuring it may help to know a treasure if I see one. The book devoted a small section to Beatles collectibles and I recognized a photo I had seen recently at an antique mall downtown so I figured it was worth my time to go back and see if it was still there.

The photo at the antique mall turned out to be a postcard of the same image with Paul McCartney’s brother Mike’s signature on the back. Mike picked up a camera about the same time Paul picked up guitar so he was in a unique position to follow the band in the very early years. In the pre-Beatles photo above George Harrison is only fifteen years old.
There were five postcards for sale, four of them with Mike’s signature.

The postcard with the signature on the front side shows John and Paul rehearsing “I saw her standing there” according to Mike’s note about the photo. Of special interest is the guitar John Lennon is playing, his Gibson J-160E which later sold at auction for $2,410,000.

I have no idea of the value of the five postcards but they seem to be rare and Mike McCartney’s signature adds a bit. I remember watching the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan. Black and white.  You couldn’t hear much music for the screaming. Frantic girls passing out. Crowd control. I started wearing my hair longer. They changed the world like no band has done since.

Preston Arendson

I mentioned Preston Arendson a few times in earlier posts and on the Songs/tab page. This article by Pete Hector was great publicity. The Sawmill Saloon in Big Rapids was a great place to play to a college crowd in the 70’s. A really fun time.

“Lil” Storm

My youngest daughter Lisa and her husband Brantley were blessed with a daughter eight weeks ago. Lillian is happy, healthy and and beautiful. Her middle name is Storm. Her mom and dad are world travelers and adventurers and Lillian will be right in the middle of it all. Lisa is an outdoor biology teacher turned yoga instructor turned mom, and Brant is a Navy pilot turned dad. The entire family on both sides are so happy and excited. As a first time grandpa I am so proud.

 

King Kong

I purchased the etching The Making of King Kong by Bruce McCombs, a Michigan artist, at the Cascade Art Gallery going out of business sale. McCombs is famous for his etchings which hang in galleries and museums around the world (including the Smithsonian). King Kong and I go way back to 1960’s late night TV. When I saw the etching… I had to have it. The image is totally fabricated by McCombs imagination: a full size mechanical King Kong robot on a movie set. Clearly, this might be considered his most creative, whimsical etching.

It turns out there’s a book of the same name: The Making of King Kong, by Goldner and Turner. I checked on Amazon to see about buying it and there were several copies all going for 80 dollars. Price fixing? Seemed high for a used book. So I checked the Kent District Library on-line catalog hoping to find it. No Luck until I mentioned the book to the circulation manager at the Kentwood Library. She was able to find and order it through a system that scans outside of Kent County. (Thank you!) The book is filled with movie stills and anecdotes from the actors and the production team. A fascinating read if you are a fan of the original 1934 movie.

I purchased three other Bruce McComb etchings at the art sale including one called Parade that shows a downtown city parade with giant cartoon character balloons. It’s spectacular. I have been thinking about donating it to the library. It is artwork that kids, teens and adults would all find very interesting. Might inspire young people to pick up a pencil.

Update – Parade now hangs in the Kentwood Public Library, 1st floor, children’s book area.

Reeds Lake, August Night

I fished another Reeds Lake bass tournament with Mid-Week Therapy GR group. It was a cool evening with wind blowing out of the east which made it tricky keeping the boat in place with the trolling motor. I caught the first bass with my the second cast at Rose’s Restaurant docks. So I knew I had to work the docks for a while even though I told myself to explore the lake. (Last tournament I couldn’t start the outboard because of a bad battery. This week I was ready.) Still, the docks have fish. There’s a nice drop-off in site of the docks near a small stream inlet but every time I looked over there there was a boat parked on it. So I didn’t fire up the outboard. I did OK though, four bass for 10.94 lbs. Another bass, large, may have helped but probably not enough – there are some seriously good fishermen in this group. Figure five fish /15 lbs to finish in the money.

The moon was up for the 9:15 finish and weigh-in. I pulled in a couple minutes early so I could get a spot right next to the dock. Fishing alone has it’s challenges including loading the boat. Most teams have one guy back the trailer in while the other guy motors on which is quick and easy. I back the trailer in then need to wrangle the boat around the dock and onto the trailer. I hate to slow things down but if I can park right on the outside of the dock it works pretty smooth. My one complaint is the city turns off the flood light at the boat launch as soon as it is dark. We need that light to load up! It helps to see the docks when backing up. Maybe I can write to the city park commission about that. If they left it on till 10:00 it would be a great help to fishermen (and pleasure boaters). That said, it was a great night for fishing. What a fishery.

Estate Sale Pottery Art

I know, not trout fishing, but I thought a few readers might be interested in the strange piece of art I picked up last week. It’s about the size of a volleyball and hollow. I have been trying to research the artist online, Meg Scott, hoping for some information. I found two other examples of the artists work: A vase with a raised flower with the exact same signature. A second piece, a blue ceramic plate with a raised orchid with no signature visible but attributed to Meg Scott. Both pretty tame compared to this haunting, apocalyptic piece. I am sure my daughters will be fighting over this.. Not.

Baldwin River

A week ago Feral called to report the Baldwin River was not just over the banks, but over the roads. They had ten inches of rain which put a real damper on the Trout-o-rama festival including blocked roads into and out of town. But that was a little over a week ago. I had the morning off so I drove up there with the idea of fishing the Baldwin if it was wadable. The weather report said possible rain and that was actually a bonus, not to raise the river more, but to get the trout actively feeding. Add rain, double your trout.

It rained but five minutes so it didn’t help. I caught one nice trout, about 17 inches, on the stretch below Bray Creek Campground. There’s a poorly marked walking trail which follows the hillside and drops down to the river in two places. I went as far downstream as I could figuring that would have the least overall fishing traffic. I would post a photo of the trout except the lens of my camera phone must have been wet so I have three fuzzy photos of a large blob surrounded by green stuff.

I didn’t see many trout. The stretch is mostly gravel and shallow. Casting the cover takes some patience and skill because the river is more like a creek, overgrown with lots of blowdowns. Still, if you can zing the lure into tight spots it can produce trout.

Feral and I have been threatening to go camping and trout fishing since the opener but this is the year where bad weather (clear skies and 90 degree temps) or various commitments keep sidetracking plans. I’m afraid to blink: the trout season closer will be upon us.

Art Projects

In addition to blogging I like to torture myself with art projects including painting, writing fiction, and songwriting. In the span of two months I worked on three such projects, the first being a short story, Alphabetical Order, which I entered in the Write Michigan short story contest sponsored by the local library system. The story was about first love in the ninth grade (her name was changed) and was based on my own experience. Writing it was cathartic and surprising – I remembered small details that had been buried for decades. The odds of getting selected as a finalist were pretty slim, over a thousand entries. Sorry to report my story was not selected. Something I thought would help my chances is that the story has it’s own authenticity, i.e. the young boy, me, comes off as an idiot. And the story has humor. Past contest winning stories published in yearly anthologies are not generally happy stories, instead focusing on difficult subjects like death and cancer, the two things most people want to avoid thinking about.  But there are some real gems… stories that show a side of life you never imagined. My favorite story, from a couple years back, was about a young girl’s marching band experience. After reading her story I developed great respect for any student that joins their school marching band.

Art project 2, I saw a notice for art entries for the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts 2019. I had not picked up a paint brush in years but decided do an acrylic painting. The big question was what to paint. My thought was paint a night time cityscape with two women in an alley. I used a photo of young women off a yoga clothing website.  I do technical illustration for a living so composing the picture went quickly but when it came time to paint the picture I couldn’t capture what was in my imagination. The two women turned out well but the night scene ended up being a strange surreal composition which I worked and reworked until it had nothing to do with my original idea, but was interesting in it’s own sake. I entered it in the festival but sorry to say it was not selected. I’ve repainted it twice now, the last time removing their clothing. May call it finished.

Art project 3, I wrote/recorded a new song called “I am a Scientist.” It’s a ballad about a scientist that goes to a salvage yard and builds a rocket car from a 1960 Plymouth. He meets an alien in outer space that resembles Marilyn Monroe (except for the extra eye) and the two get married on Planet 9. They have a daughter they name Frankenstein whom they encourage to become a doctor or a nurse (and one day heal this universe). Frankie has other ideas: she wants to be scientist. I am collaborating on the song with my buddy Scott, producer, accomplished guitarist, and owner of Frontier Recording sound studio in Copemish, Michigan. When the song is finished I’ll post an mp3 in the songs page/ tab of this blog.

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