Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the tag “Jake Lucas”

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

The Underhand Flip Cast

I did a short stretch of Duke Creek with Harmonica Mike on opening day and managed to get some video of him casting. I took a few short videos, including one of him catching a brown, but wanted to post this one since it has a pretty good angle on his casting technique. It’s all in the wrist. A slight up and down movement timed with the release of the line sends the lure on a straight trajectory into the normally small window of opportunity – a tiny pocket next to the bank or under an overhanging branch that provides shelter for the trout.

Mike, like Feral and I, learned this technique from our grandfather, Jake Lucas, back in the sixties. Jake did trick casting demonstrations at trade shows and was a sponsored “expert” by the Shakespeare Company. There is a tendency for people trying this cast to jerk the rod forward while casting rather than just use the wrist and rod tip action to propel the lure. As kids, just starting out, Jake would cinch our arms to our sides with a belt so we had to use our wrists! He wanted it done right!

Shakespeare Wonderod

Back when Shakespeare was on the cutting edge of fishing equipment and my grandfather was doing trick casting demonstrations for them at trade shows, they would send Jake free equipment to try out. He stored his arsenal of fishing rods on a rod rack on a wall of his bedroom. Grandma didn’t complain that I know of but those were different times and I can’t imagine what my wife would say. As a little boy the fishing rods were a great source of interest to me and sneaking into his bedroom to look at them was a regular occurrence.

Jake had a favorite set-up – his “go to” rod and reel for most trout fishing and after he passed away it fell into my hands. I store the rod and reel in an old case and have not been tempted to use it even though as a kid I would have done anything to get my hands on it. The brown Wonderod stood out on his rod rack  and had a certain mystique mainly because over the years we associated that rod with Grandpa and many creels full of trout. It was like Minnesota Fat’s pool cue – there must be magic in it.

Back then fiberglass was the new thing – does that date this story? The rod was designed to go with the company’s closed face spinning reels, notably the 1810 and the 1756. The rod has a sliding reel seat over a lengthy cork handle and when the reel is attached it is attached at the butt of the handle. This allows the user to pinch the fishing line against the cork handle before releasing the bail. After the bail is released the cast is made and line released using the index finger – allowing great control over when to release the line and thereby helping casting accuracy. The line is stopped by using the same index finger to pinch the line against the handle – so the caster can stop the lure mid-air over the target. Jake achieved deadly accuracy (trout Point of View) using this set-up along with his underhand flip cast.

If you are a fisherman and ever wondered why 1810 and 1756 reels are mounted so close to the rod, that is the reason – so the line is easy to pinch against the rod handle. Modern spinning reels are mounted a good distance from the rod making manual control over the line almost impossible. I keep waiting for a tackle manufacturer to figure this out but I won’t hold my breath.

I am considering using Jake’s brown Wonderod and 1756 reel this spring as I know there is still some magic there and it will make my brothers jealous.  Note to myself: lock pole in trunk when not in use.

Pike Fishing

I have a theory that learning any art form helps you improve and mature in other art forms – and this applies to fishing too. If you love trout fishing and want to become more productive, it makes sense to try for Pike. Stop scratching your head!

My mentor, Jake Lucas, was a pioneer at small stream spinning for trout, but his fishing interests were by no means limited to that. He fished lakes and streams all year for most every species in Michigan, with side trips to other states and Canada. He ice fished, he fly-fished, he bait-fished, he threw lures of every size and make. He made lures. He tied his own flies and developed original patterns. He shot Carp with a bow and arrow. And when he wasn’t fishing he was hunting – and he was very successful at that too.

Feral Tweed, my main fishing cohort, bought a kayak last fall with the idea of catching a monster pike. He lives in Lake County and is surrounded by lakes. As an accomplished trout fisherman he knows when to head to a trout stream and prefers to wait for the right conditions. So why not try something new? To be successful he knows he must innovate and that includes learning where to find the big ones, figuring out what lures work where, learning how to land a Pike in a kayak, learning how to fillet a Pike (they are boney) and finally, how to convince me to drag my bass boat up to Lake County so he doesn’t have to land a monster Pike in a kayak.

I understand Feral’s appreciation of Pike. It goes back to our childhood and hanging out with Jake Lucas (our Grandpa) in his basement. Jake wasn’t a taxidermist, but he had a couple Pike heads mounted to boards. It was the skeletal remains of the heads mostly with the mouths wide open and razor teeth showing. It was just the stuff to capture a little boy’s imagination. One of those head mounts belongs to the Pike pictured with this story – a nineteen pounder.

I don’t know if Feral plans to mount the head of his future monster Pike to a board, but I hope he does. And I hope I’m invited to a Pike fillet dinner. His enthusiasm for Pike is contagious – I may drag my boat up there unannounced.

Closed-face Spinning Reels

Back in the 1950’s and 60’s my grandfather, Jake Lucas, worked with the Shakespeare Company on closed faced spinning reel design, including the 1810 and other models. He was a bit of a legend – doing trick casting demonstrations at trade shows and on TV, with appearances on Michigan Outdoors hosted by Mort Neff. He would pop balloons out of the air and various other fun casting tricks.  He was quite a character, and a family man. He taught his kids and grandchildren how to do his underhand flip cast – and how to use it on a trout stream.  He pioneered a new way to catch trout using pinpoint casting while wading upstream, while the bulk of fisherman were fishing downstream tossing worms or trying their luck fly fishing.

He was extremely successful at trout fishing because he could place a tiny spinner underneath an overhanging branch across a stream in the most difficult places to reach. And set the lure down gently so as not to spook the trout. He did this with the help of the reels he designed with Shakespeare – closed face spinning reels, like the original model 1810, not to be confused with current reels using the 1810 designation. The original Shakespeare reels are collector’s items and purists are always on the lookout at garage sales and the internet.

Here is what makes the reels unique:

In order to cast the reel, the user backs up the handle a half a turn to release the bail. None of this is visible since the reel spool has a cover (hence close faced).  The reel body is placed very close to the handle of the rod, typically cork, so the user traps the line against the cork with an index finger before releasing the bail. This has several advantages – it is easy to release the line at the right millisecond when making the cast, and it is easy to stop the line with the index finger when the lure reaches the destination. You don’t cast the lure and let it plop in the water – that scares trout. You stop it mid air and inches above the water so it drops in without a splash. The reel was designed around this concept, though few anglers, even 1810 enthusiasts, understand the principals behind the design, or best use of the reels.

Jake was a pioneer in the sport of trout fishing and I occasionally run into people he knew and taught. He was generous with his time and instruction. They need only see me cast and to know where I learned. It’s always good for a conversation.

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