Fichigan

Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

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Quicksand in Michigan Streams

Everything I know about quicksand I learned from Tarzan movies. The main thing to know is: bad guys don’t make it out, but good guys and gals always do. If you’re a bad guy, please stop reading. Quicksand on a trout stream is a little different than sand bogs in Africa, but there’s some similarity. They are both camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late and if you make it out alive you’ll have an interesting story to tell even if no one believes you.

Quicksand on a trout stream is harder to see since it’s underwater. The stream bottom appears normal except there is no visible hole (sand covers it) so you don’t know it’s here until you start sinking. In waders it’s pretty scary since swimming doesn’t feel like an option.

I’ve found quicksand on the Pine River in Lake County and the Sturgeon River in the Pigeon River State Game Area. On the Pine, the particular spot I know of is a few bends downstream from Raymond Road. The first time I ran into it I was alone. I scrambled to get out and it was like running in place up a sand dune. It was easy to see the exact spot afterwards because a cloud of light gray silt poured out like smoke.  An hour later, walking the bank downstream, the silt was still pouring out.

A couple years later I fished the same stretch with Feral Tweed and mentioned it to him right before we got there (it was hard to forget). I was in the lead and sure enough I stepped into it and the same thing happened. Here again, I didn’t see the hole – it looked just like the rest of the sandy stream bottom.  A film of sand over the hole made it invisible.

The Sturgeon River has at least one spot I know of in the section they call the Valley which is upstream of the notorious Ford property. The same thing happens, but without the silt pouring out. How dangerous it is I don’t know. You start sinking and your reactions take over. This spot is near the left bank (fishing upstream) opposite and below a couple giant evergreen trees that lean out over the water from right the bank. If the stream is low it’s easy enough to wade around (since I know the exact spot), but with high water I get out on the bank and get back in above it.

How prevalent and dangerous are these quicksand spots?  If you are careful wading, meaning testing each step which you should be doing anyway, then you will likely get off with a small adrenaline rush and some exercise. Best not count on Tarzan to rescue you. He’s busy.

Guitars and Trout Fishing

Bray Creek campground was empty except for Mike and Denny. They were gone but we recognized Mike’s pop up camper. Feral and I pulled in late afternoon with our tents and set up. This was a couple years ago.

Bray Creek campground is on the Baldwin River in Lake County, Michigan. At the upper end of the campground Bray Creek feeds into the Baldwin making a pool that is slightly warmer than the rest of the river, and almost deep enough for a swim. As kids camping with our grandpa, we fished Bray Creek for chubs as the water was too warm for trout. I caught my first trout on the Baldwin.

Feral and I brought guitars, including my Les Paul Studio electric and my battery powered Fender Amp Can which looks like a coffee can on steroids. I also brought my zoom pedal which provides a variety of guitar voices including some pretty ragged distortion that sustains till Monday. Feral brought a jumbo bodied acoustic of unknown brand that sounded sweet with plenty of volume and low end.

Mike and Denny showed up toward evening and we still had the campground to ourselves so we pulled out the guitars. Feral and I have been playing together a long time so we dug into some of our old stuff, and, as happens most times we get together, I handed him the electric. Since Denny was there, maybe Neil Young’s most devoted fan, we decided to try “Down by the River,” a classic mostly in E minor though I’m no student of music theory. It’s one of those songs that you can do a short version or you can do the long version with a lot of “out there” lead guitar. Feral was up for the challenge. We started out slow with Denny and I trying to reach those high vocals that Neil Young can manage with ease but in my case leaves me hoarse for the next few days. Feral soared on the guitar going places I didn’t know he could go – triple picking leads in a wall of distortion at decibels that would have stopped cars on Highway 10.

We did some of our other standards too but Down by the River was the standout. I know we’ll never do a better job on that song.

We knocked down a few beers that night and slept well. I suspect we fished the Baldwin the next day but for some reason the only thing I remember is the guitar jam and Feral treading new ground on a song played to death by bar bands in the seventies. Feral’s also pretty good on a trout stream. Maybe it helps he’s a musician.

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