Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the tag “Shakespeare 1810”

Rods and Reels

Shakespeare 1776 reel and hook jawed brown trout

Aside from the hook-jawed male brown trout in the above photo you might notice the rare left hand Shakespeare 1761 reel, circa 1960s. It belongs to Denny, one of our trout camp regulars. He has three of them which he manages to keep working, somehow. He doesn’t care to fish with anything else and I can relate, even though I have ventured to the dark side. Compared to the spin cast reels on the market today, the old Shakespeare’s feel like precision machines. No high tech alloys or injected plastic, just well machined pieces that fit together in a surprising bit of functional engineering. There is nothing on the market like it today, and even Shakespeare couldn’t get it right when they introduced the 1810II, a remake of their most famous closed face spinning reel from the 60’s.

When asked to recommend a spinning rig for small streams my answer is: I can’t. I have tried every brand of closed face spinning reel on the market and no one is producing anything that really works well consistently. I can’t depend on new spin cast reels lasting more than a season. Handles fall off. Pick-up guides stop working. Gears grind when there doesn’t seem to be a reason. I have tried the various “underspin” designs including those by Shakespeare, Pflueger, Diawa, and Zebco. For what it is worth I think the Zebcos are the most reliable maybe because they have a long history of spin cast reels going back to pushbuttons. Last year I used a 33 Gold Triggerspin and can say this: I caught a lot of big trout with it. I had to change line often because the tiny pickup pins wreak havoc on monofilament, but the reel was mostly trouble free.

This might be a good time to mention my total dislike of open faced spinning reels – the kind with the revolving bail and open spool. For the type of casting I and my buddies do – it is just not an option. It goes to the type of casting we do – we pinch the line against the rod handle, release the bail, cast, and stop the lure in midair just above where we want the lure to land. The small hole in the cover of the close-faced reels allows us to catch and pinch the line against the rod handle to stop the lure in flight. With open spools – the line is not available to pinch because it flies off the circumference of the spool.

I have a pretty good and inexpensive spinning rod that I bought at Gander Mountain, model GS Advantage IM6.  It’s light weight, stout enough to hook trout, and nimble enough to use an underhand flip cast to rocket lures across the stream into nooks and overhangs – places where trout like those pictured above like to hide. It has a cork hand with sliding rings that allows placement of the reel at the back of the rod where it belongs (for balance). See below.

Zebco reel and GS rod

So you can see I am not a purist and have visited the dark side. Tucked away in boxes somewhere I have a couple old closed-faced Shakespeare reels, similar to Denny’s 1761, I am saving for who knows what reason. One belonged to my grandfather, Jake Lucas, and I am afraid his ghost will come back and haunt me if I don’t take the same meticulous care of it that he did. He treated his equipment well – cleaning and oiling the reels often, placing them in a sock in an old cardboard beer case in the trunk of his 65 Chevy Impala. His rods were stored in hard cases. He would assemble what he needed/wanted when he parked at a stream side. He treated his fishing equipment like an old machinist treats his precision tools – with love and care. I should probably treat my $25 Zebco the same way but in the back of my mind I know it will wear out quickly no matter how many times I oil it up.

I should attribute the fish in the top photo –  Mike, another trout camp regular, caught the larger brown and Denny the other nice one. Last time I fished with Mike he was using one of the defunct Shakespeare 1810II reels and a long rod I might consider for steelhead, though it obviously works well for stream browns.

Spring Steelhead in Small Streams

Mike with Steelhead

Mike scores a Steelhead on the Baldwin

Michigan has an early opener for spring steelhead and depending on how you look at it – it is either the most fun you can have or a good way to destroy your Chinese made fishing reels. Spring steelhead can run upwards of 25 pounds and aren’t shy about hitting lures. It is a science and passion for a lot of anglers. Depending on weather and stream conditions the spring steelhead spawning runs can overlap the opening of the general trout season so you might find yourself casting for a keeper Brown and think you snagged a beaver.

I remember the first time I saw Steelhead in a stream, on the Little Manistee back in the seventies, and it was spooky looking down and seeing these huge fish cruising right next to your legs. There is a momentary panic where you wonder if you are on their menu.

Mike and Denny, if they don’t head up to Pigeon River country for the general opener, will usually check the Baldwin for Steelhead. If they are there, they are game. I should point out that they don’t test their Zebco underspin reels against the big fish, but rather use Shakespeare 1810 reels (circa 1960’s) and stout seven foot rods, equipment more geared to hold and keep bruiser fish out of the log jams. As far as I know they toss lures, not spawn bags, the most popular bait.

The Baldwin River, north and east of the town of Baldwin, is a great brown trout stream in the summer. South of town it empties into the Pere Marquette River which is on everyone’s list as a great steelhead and salmon river. So the big fish take a left turn at the Baldwin and find themselves in some pretty small water comparatively – think 15 foot wide and a foot deep most of the year.  Lots of gravel and lots of tight cover. So hooking a steelhead and landing it on the Baldwin are two separate things.

According to Denny, and this sounds familiar, every year one of them catches all the fish and they go back and forth. The above photo, taken by Denny, is from May of 2010 – so that must be a Mike year, and he’s holding one that may go 12 pounds (best guess) which he may weigh in on if he reads this post.  I wish I could say steelhead was a priority for me, but I’ll trade them all for a twenty inch brown.

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