Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Trout Season 2020

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Michigan has been hit hard by the Covid 19 virus and my heart goes out to all front line workers and especially doctors and nurses whose lives have been imperiled. I cannot imagine the hospital scenes played out on the media and what it must be like to walk into danger like so many brave people are doing. I am trying to do my part. I acknowledge I could be a carrier even without symptoms, wear a mask in public, and adhere to social distancing. The strict rules in place for Michigan are working.

The lifeline for me not going crazy is trout fishing. So far I have visited a couple flooded rivers without much luck. I like to wade the rivers fishing upstream and flooded rivers pose several problems including personal danger and difficult trout. Trout lay on the bottom, gorge on nightcrawlers, and never see lures swimming by. So yesterday, sun shining and rivers down close to normal, I drove up to the Pine River in Lake County and fished a short stretch that always seems to produce a trout. I started seeing trout right away. Two batted the lure without getting hooked. I switched to a small floating minnow and stopped seeing fish but decided to stay with it knowing it was a matter of time. It’s a lure I have great confidence in, a plain gold Rapala.

When wading for trout I cross the stream back and forth putting myself on the inside of bends and opposite whatever looks like trout cover. I caught the brown trout above by staying to the right side of a natural wing dam formed by down timber and branches. It wasn’t pretty. Branches were sticking up and forward making casting difficult. If you catch a limb you may wreck the hole wading in to retrieve the lure. To add to the drama casting a floating minnow is like throwing a curve ball – the wind can drag the lure out of it’s presumed path. Did I mention it was windy yesterday?

I made several cast in front of the structure inching closer each time to figure out the next best cast. I finally lobbed a cast up along the far bank and let it drift to the very front corner, then reeled like mad. The trout slammed it and was hooked good. Then I had the problem of dragging the trout away from the cover which involved leaning back with the rod and wading backwards. The trout cleared the mess fighting the entire time. I netted him mid-stream and found the closest spot to de-hook and field dress him. It’s about seventeen inches. He’s dinner tonight.

So next up is the annual Trout Opener with Feral and Natch. So far it is looking like dispersed camping may be allowed on May 15. We have our fingers crossed on that. I need to hang with the fishing buddies for a couple days as part two of not going crazy with the epidemic. Social distancing will apply.

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.

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!

 

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.

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.

October on the Pigeon

There’s a section of the Pigeon River up near Vanderbilt that stays open year round but with some restrictions for keeping trout. The Pigeon winds through some very remote country with a a great mix of gravel bottom and sand bottom areas. In the late fall large brown trout move upstream to spawn and it is a chance to catch (and release in my case) a trophy fish. I rose early Monday morning and made the four hour drive.

I could see from weather reports and the DNR daily report on stream conditions (right hand column) that the river was going to be high. I thought by the time I was up there the stream water level would drop. Instead, the river was very high and carrying a lot of mud making it resemble a moving, watery vanilla milkshake. I had never seen a river look quite like this.

When I dipped my lure in the water it totally disappeared six inches down. So, not good. It would be nearly impossible for fish to see the lure. I put on my biggest, flashiest #13 silver minnow and started casting. There’s a good sandy stretch that Feral, Natch and I have all caught good fish and that was my destination.

I managed to get into the stream just above a beaver dam but crossing to the other side where I could place a few critical casts was impossible and dangerous. If I was not alone I might have chanced it.  So I backtracked out and went up to a spot upstream where I knew I could makes some casts along the bank. I managed to get into the stream and fish a good bend. Long story short – I never saw a fish, not even a strike. But that’s OK. Just needed to get away for a day. Take one more shot. It’s a long time before trout season comes around again.

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…

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