Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the category “Trout Gear”

The Bottle Opener

We had a group challenge to bring an interesting bottle opener to spring trout camp and Natch brought his A-game. He made this one for me. The opposite side of the opener has trout camp date specifics. All hand carved.

I went a different route and found some vintage combination pen knife/cork screw/bottle openers on ebay to hand out. (see below) I thought it made sense for mushrooming and self defense. If a bear attacks quick open a beer and hand it to him…

Natch picked one shaped like a bottle, which was unique, and these are left over. Feral and Jake never made it to camp which was disappointing considering they rallied me on the bottle opener idea. Actually Feral made a cameo appearance for a quick mushroom hunt but had to leave. He’s busy with home repairs, and moving, but that seems pretty thin considering trout camp is like new years for all of us.

The Fishing was amazing. I set up camp about 3:30 PM Thursday and headed for the river. I caught three nice browns, all 15 in or better, and saw others. Stream was low and clear, not ideal, but the fish were hungry. Basically work any deep water with lures. I took photos for proof but any trout fisherman in Michigan knows what a nice brown trout looks like so I’ll forgo posting the photos.

Morel Mushrooms were spotty. Natch and I found some on Friday. The next morning we fried them up crispy and mixed them with scrambled eggs. It was pretty incredible.

Sunday rolled around and the weather report said thunderstorms moving in at 10:00 PM. Natch and I decided watching the thunderstorm roll in would be worth packing up wet on Monday so we stretched a tarp out in front of our fire pit. We had the fire ready to light and loaded up with dry elm. Previous fires cut from the same downed log burned so hot we had to set the camp chairs five foot away. So that was the plan – sit under the tarp, watch the storm, and light the fire. You might say it was a staged contest between the storm and the fire. Could rain put out a fire that was truly a furnace?

We were pounded by rain but stayed dry. We had a score of munchies that are too embarrassing to list. Lots of beer and whatnot. The view was amazing.

Vintage Coleman Single Burner

I made a bit of a haul this morning at an estate sale in Ada, Michigan. It was day 2 of the sale and everything was 50% off. I found two thick anthologies, one of ghost stories and the other science fiction, both like new for a dollar a piece, a 3-pack of D’Addario Phos. Bronze guitar strings for two dollars, an extra large denim shirt I am going to douse with permethrin tick spray for mushroom hunting, one dollar. But the best find was out in a shed.

A vintage Coleman single burner propane stove. This caught me by surprise because I wasn’t aware of Coleman using this design whereby the propane tank provides a third leg to the base. I have one of these by another maker which you may have seen in earlier posts. It is a very practical design- just pull out the legs, attach the propane, set it on the table and light it. I found one of these early Coleman’s for sale online which they claim is circa 1955 but I would be surprised if it were that old because I’m not sure the propane tanks have been around that long! Anyway – I paid six dollars.

The trout season starts the last Saturday in April and Feral, Natch and Jake have been emailing trying to figure out a plan. The only thing we seem to agree on is two spring trout camps this year, one up by Baldwin and one by Vanderbilt. The first trout camp includes this twist of entertainment – bring an interesting bottle opener, whether hand made or antique or just unusual. It is safe to say the bottle openers will get some use…

Pigeon River Late Fall

When I drove up to see Jake and Feral, last post, I had a second agenda which was swing over to the Pigeon River State Game Area and fish a section of the Pigeon that stays open all year. You can keep rainbow trout, but that’s it. I have caught rainbows on the stretch but mainly brown trout which move upstream in the late fall to spawn. It’s a chance to catch a monster, take a couple pictures, and put it back in the river which I normally do anyway, preferring to keep small pan fryers if I want a trout dinner.

It was a long day starting at 5:00 AM driving to Alpena for my visits and then west over to Gaylord and north to the river. I was on the river shortly after 3:00 PM and finished the stretch by 5:00. I packed a tent and sleeping bag figuring to camp but it sounded like an lonely outing so I drove back to Grand Rapids. I figure I spent about ten and a half hours driving and it made for a long, tiring day. Did I get a photo?

This one came out of a deep sandy section upstream of a large island. I lost another brown that was a bit larger – right at the net. It came out of a piece of cover that didn’t look like much. It jumped a couple times so I could see it was big. I should have been concentrating on keeping it from jumping by holding the end of the pole in the river. He threw the hook coming out of the water. So it was an eventful trip but must report the large migratory brown trout were not up there yet. You know when they get there because they are everywhere and usually hungry.

Jake

The hand forged copper and steel bicycle sculpture above was designed and built by blacksmith Jacob Moss Idema (Jake to fichigan readers). It is located on a bicycle path in the town of Alpena, a sleepy artist community in northeast Michigan. Jake followed Feral’s footsteps with jewelry design and repair at Bolenz Jewelry then branched off into metal working and sculpture. When the town’s art’s commission saw his amazing work they commissioned two more sculptures including a pair of bicycle racks (see below) and a large sculpture representing the town and the historical importance of the Thunder Bay River, his next big project. In order to fully appreciate his work it helps to know all metal parts are bent and fabricated using a forge including hot rivet assembly. Nothing is bolted. Jake often calls on Feral to help with fabrication and assembly of his art projects. Feral has some chops in metalwork himself including hand fabrication of black powder blowgun firearms, which he invented and sells privately.

Feral (left) and Jake leaning on Jake’s spectacular hand forged bicycle rack.

Jake also sells unique one-of-a-kind collectibles including knives, pendants, belt buckles and other items at Chippewa Valley Leather in Alpena. If you are looking for unique gifts for any occasion the store also specializes in hand-tooled leather goods. The store front is just behind Feral in the photo. 210 N 2nd Ave.

Henry James Soulen

Girl with Victrola – H. J. Soulen   (18 in x 26 in)

A day before heading up to fall trout camp I checked local estate sales online and found a photo of the above artwork. The author’s name was listed so I checked online for his bio and found he is a noted magazine illustrator from the early 20th century. I went to see the artwork and they were asking in the range of two thousand, more than I could feel comfortable spending. I made a low offer on day two of the sale and managed a good deal. The title is “Girl with Victrola.” I am sure at auction the artwork would sell for substantially more for several reasons. It is a slice of Americana, the subject girl is beautiful, and there is great interest in American illustrators.

H. J. Soulen update:

I contacted the estate of H. J. Soulen hoping to find where my illustration was published and while they could not provide that information they did send me a photo of another illustration  they have that is very similar – including the same girl. The archivist, Leslie, suggested that the illustrations may have been used in the Saturday Evening Post somewhere between 1910 and 1920 based on the clothes, Victrola record player, and typewriter. I found and searched an online Post archive without luck but will hopefully find other possible sources of publishing because I would very much like to read the story Henry Soulen illustrated.

I am especially fascinated by the artwork because I spent most of my life as a technical illustrator drawing machines …wondering if I could beak out of that into more interesting work like this. When I see the skill needed to compose such a magnificent piece as this, I am humbled. 

 

Silver Lake Bass Fishing

I wasn’t sure what to expect up at Silver Lake, Mears, Michigan because rumor had it that local efforts to control the exploding weed growth were working – which had an adverse effect on the fishing. Silver Lake is a swimming and recreation lake first, fishing takes a back seat because most homeowners want sand, not weeds. I didn’t bother bringing a fishing pole on a family visit to see Bill and Karen who have a beautiful home opposite the dunes.

It turns out Bill was up for a challenge. We had access to a nice deep-V fishing boat and motor so we rose early and headed to the one spot in the lake that had reed beds thinking it might provide some bass structure. I was skeptical, Bill was focused. We had a strong wind out of the east, not good, so we anchored just outside of the reeds and went to work. Bill bought some crawlers and tried those with bobbers and/or just tossed them overboard with sinkers while I poured through his tub of artificial baits. I would like to say my finesse with plastic worms payed off but instead watched Bill find a workable pattern, bobbers with half-crawlers, just inside the reeds. He took three nice bass inside an area of about six square feet. It was surreal.

This was humbling. About the time we were ready to leave he took one of his poles and handed it to me – hoping I might catch something. A second later the bobber went down and I pulled in a bass that might have gone five inches. That is stretching it.

Mosquito Art

Advance notice: To liven things up at our fall trout camp (late September) we’re holding the first annual Mosquito Art & Lager Fest. Trout Camp buddies will bring one or more original pieces of artwork to hang from trees in the campsite. This includes paintings of any style or media, drawings, collage, photos, photoshop art, sculpture, any form of art. There is one stipulation – it must include a white plastic chair like the one in the earlier post “The Chair.” Judging to take place after an evening of typical trout camp behavior (reduced mental capacity). Maybe there is a prize for best entry, maybe not. Feral suggested a can of bug spray. Entries will be posted in a fichigan blog sometime after the close of trout season. Expect some interesting art…

George Floyd

Last weekend I went camping with my buddies mainly to get away from all things Covid: the constant news, the restrictions, the hideous politics. I was aware of George Floyd’s death from the brief video showing the officer on his neck. I expected demonstrations. I returned to riots. I would like my readers to know I am appalled by what happened to George. Because we have a free press with real news I was able to learn about him as a person and then follow a time lime of his last fifteen minutes on earth. I went from thinking one of those other officers should have told that moron to get off his neck, to understanding the real horror of what happened. I thought back to gentle giants I knew in school. You remember them. Big guys that bullies would avoid. Wouldn’t hurt a flea. Then I watched the timeline. George was suspected of passing a counterfeit twenty. I wouldn’t recognize a counterfeit twenty and if I passed one it would be grounds for some questions, not an arrest. But George was guilty the minute the officers showed up. They assumed he knew he was passing counterfeit money because he was black. The videos are hard to watch. I am upset. I hope his family and the black community understand the vast majority of white America is grieving too.

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.

 

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