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Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the tag “Pine River lake County”

Pine River Rainbow

I set the alarm for 5:30 but rose at 4:50. The weather prediction for Tustin Michigan, up near the Pine River, was 60% rain. It’s about a two hour drive north for me. I had small spatter on the windshield around Big Rapids but nothing after that. I wasn’t discouraged but knew from experience that if it starts raining on a trout stream my chance of success doubles at a minimum. And the size of the keepers goes up. I pulled into the old canoe landing site off Raymond Road and was happy to see no other cars. I didn’t have to second guess if another fisherman went up or down stream and whether I was fishing behind someone. Never a good thing. I put on my waders and took the high banks upstream a few hundred yards and scaled the steep bank down to the stream. The river looked good considering no rain. It was carrying a little mud and the river depth was higher than expected considering the minor drought we’re in. I put on a floating minnow and slowly waded upstream working each piece of cover. I had new 10lb XL fishing line which helps casting and adds insurance for landing big browns.

The fishing was slow. I saw a few browns dart out from cover but they just weren’t interested in chasing the lure far and they didn’t bother taking a second look. About an hour into the trip I approached a wing dam of fallen logs that stretched almost the width of the stream forcing water through a deep trough near the left bank. I fished the opening and moved up just below the wing dam to cast up in front of it and had a strike. I made the same cast and hooked a rainbow about sixteen inches. Nice fish. My enthusiasm cranked back up after that but it was the same thing – work cover with good casting and see only an occasional flash. So after another half hour I decided to call it and wade back downstream to my get-in spot. I debated fishing to the bridge, a ways further, but the walk back to the car on a hot blacktop sounded bad. Here’s were it gets interesting. I waded back downstream around the last bend and there was another fishermen. Where did he come from?

We talked for a bit and I was surprised to hear he had driven up from Saginaw. So he made a two hour drive also. He was parked at the canoe landing and must have followed me upstream unaware I was ahead of him. I felt bad. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. He said the fishing was slow and I can only imagine considering I may have spooked many of the fish that might have chased his lure. A spinner, by the way, with a rooster tail. A good choice for summer trout. He took it in stride. Anyway, a nice guy hoping for rain like myself but just glad to get out no matter what. He said he was going to fish up to the bridge and I hope he did well. There’s some nice holes and cover up that way. I told him about this blog and asked to take his picture. Didn’t get his name but maybe he’ll comment on the post.

I wished I would have taken a photo of the rainbow! They’re pretty scarce on the Pine so it would have made sense. It’s filleted and in the fridge so that’s that.

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. Update – might as well show the trout…

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.

Twenty Four Inchers

So a spin fisherman sees a fly fishermen at a good bend in the river and asks how he is doing. The fly fisherman is excited. “Twenty Four Inchers.”
Spin fisherman: “That’s funny, I caught four twenty inchers.”
– Feral Tweed humor.

I should point out that Feral is an expert fly fisherman also, not just spinning gear.

So Feral and I decided to go trout fishing when no sane trout fisherman bothers. No rain for a week. Low clear river. Around 11:00 in the morning to make sure the trout were deep into cover. Sun was out and bright. We ate a giant breakfast in Tustin with too much coffee. We fished one of the most popular stretches of the Pine River in Lake County. We tried to stack the odds against us but it didn’t work. We caught trout anyway. Feral kept three for dinner. Good pan fryers. I would like to say we really killed it but we didn’t see any lunkers and fishing was spotty. Good casting saved the day – zinging lures into tight cover and really doing the dying minnow action with floating minnows. We had to drop the lures right on their noses to get them to strike.

Feral field dressing trout.

We fished a couple hours, changed lead a dozen times, talked about the trout closer in September. Hoping for bad weather and giant brown trout.  Twenty-four inchers.

The Intervention

After posting so much non-fishing stuff over the winter Feral speculated whether an intervention was required. Ballerina statues, book recommendations…that stuff was not going to cut it with my blog readers. We joked about that for a while then drove up to the Pine River near Bristol. There’s lots of state land and river access up in the northeast corner of Lake County and after the opener you pretty much have the streams to yourself. We pulled into popular spot for camping and youth partying and fished a stretch neither of us had visited in years. A wide bend of river swings around an open field then narrows down and cuts though woods into a large deep pool. The river was high and muddy. The bend is relatively shallow which looked promising. Third cast and Feral hooked a nice brown about sixteen inches. I was still fumbling around picking a lure.

The way it works with Feral and I is this: when you catch a fish the other guy takes the lead. Or, you get so embarrassed about not catching something out of good cover you tell the other guy to take the lead. So I stepped in the river above him and started casting to some sparse overhanging cover on the opposite bank, finally seeing a fish that missed my lure. I worked that fish for a few minutes and finally hooked and landed him. Another brown, maybe seventeen inches.

Feral moved back in the lead. Wading was difficult with large rocks and boulders deep enough you had to inch your way along blind. We managed to cross the river in waist deep water but the narrows through the woods was so deep we had to get out a couple times. We crossed back to the other side of the river above the deep pool, again, inching our way across blindly.

Feral had me take the lead after going fishless on the deep pool (understandable – bottom hugging fish likely never saw his lure). Right off I overcast some cover on the opposite bank and hooked my lure on a log jutting out. A brand new eight dollar lure. So I broke it off and went back across the river and tried to find it. Somehow it disappeared. Later, back at the car, Feral said I should have cut the line so I could snag and follow the line right back to the lure. Very good advice, just a bit late. We had a good laugh about great advice an hour late.

I hated to give up on the Pine (and a real good shot at a lunker) but Feral is more circumspect about treacherous wading and suggested the Little South (branch of the Pere Marquette). The Little South is much smaller water and much easier to wade. It had missed what must have been a deluge that flooded the Pine. The water was high and coffee color though which was inviting under the overcast, cloudy sky. Once again Feral hooked a nice fish while I was putting on a lure. Another brown with spectacular color.

I decided to drop down a bend below Feral and try that, telling him I would catch up soon. I caught two keepers right away then circled back through the woods to catch up. He was having similar luck. The coffee colored water was providing just enough opacity the fish weren’t seeing us but they were seeing our lures.

Honestly, we caught so many fish we lost track. We released them all. I should have kept a couple for the skillet but we were sort of caught in a rhythm. The sun would peek out from behind the rolling clouds once in a while and warm us up, then it would darken down again making the river that much more inviting. We were both tired but wanted to keep going. We finally cut out about seven-thirty PM which made for a long day.

Summer Trout

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Lake County had a downpour last Friday and I was concerned about driving up to fish with Feral Saturday morning because the rivers up there flood so quickly. I didn’t have to worry. The downpour brought the rivers and streams back up to normal shallow depth which is to say – not so good for trout fishing. The water was clear. You couldn’t tell it rained. I don’t know what the streams looked like before the rain but I suspect we could have picked trout like mushrooms.

We fished a stretch of the Pine River and Feral caught the “summer trout” pictured above but that wasn’t enough to convince us to stick it out for long. Normally deep (and treacherous) holes were wadable – up to a point. I crossed the stream in a deep spot and could literally feel cold water pour in my waders around mid-navel.  Good to know. I’ll have to dip them in the goop tank or buy new before fall when we do our “closer” up in Pigeon River country. Leaky waders in warm weather is one thing, in the fall it’s a curse.

The one (other) surprise Saturday was someone (Trout Unlimited?) added some log structure intermittently throughout the river. It didn’t help our fishing but I suspect when the rivers rise the new cover will hold fish. I appreciate their efforts even though the Pine does a pretty good job on it’s own of carving out new fish holding spots.

As a trout stream, the Pine is one of Michigan’s best naturally reproducing streams so tampering with it seems risky. I don’t know enough about stream biology to know if the work done to add fishing structure might not affect spawning areas but hope those who attempt to improve it fully understand they are tampering with mother nature. Most likely they are hoping to catch more “Summer Trout.” I can appreciate that.

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