Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the tag “trout camp”

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.

Spring Trout Camp 2014

Natchl with 66 Apache Chief

We had a late start camping this year finally meeting up at Leverentz Lake which is centrally located in Lake County, Michigan and therefore putting us close to several great trout streams. We set up camp on wet ground and were surprised when Natch showed up with a vintage 66 Apache Chief camper. I had my 61 Apache Chief so if you are a fan of old campers and swung in you would have seen two classic campers made in Michigan a half a century ago. Natch’s 66 Chief is in great shape including the canvas. His version has a rubberized floor (Nice!) and an add-a-room option that zips into the awning. (click on any photo to enlarge, backbutton to return) I’ll do a separate post on his camper sometime in the future.

We ran up to the Pine River with the idea of stopping at our morel mushroom spot first and then hitting the stream. The morels were up. Feral scored a nice bag of about 30 and Natch and I picked up another dozen or so. The Pine River was flooded but we had guessed that ahead of time. We went in south of six mile road and cut off a couple short stretches mostly casting from the bank. I caught a brown trout about 17 and tossed him back figuring we were camping for a few days and would likely catch more if we wanted a trout dinner.

Thunderstorms blew in and the next morning we woke to a downpour. When that happens, and in Michigan we count on it, we put on waders and rain jackets and look for fishable trout water because hanging out at a wet camp is no fun. We knew the Pine was flooded and, from experience, the Little Manistee, The Baldwin and main tributaries to the PM, the Middle Branch and Little South would be at flood stage and impossible to wade. So Natch, Feral and I drove to a far upstream (headwaters) stretch of the Little South where the water is is normally a foot deep. It too was flooded but at least we could get in the river. Rain came down in sheets and wind gusts rocked the treetops. Feral commented it looked like tornado weather as the sky took on a strange color.

Natch and Feral are trout addicts like me so we spent several hours getting in and out of the stream and casting every piece of trout cover. I went fishless but Feral and Natch each caught several in the 12 to 16 inch range and released them. Natch was wearing a go-pro camera so at some point maybe he’ll send a video I can post.
Natch and Feral, Little South

This might sound like blasphemy but one reason we released all trout is because we were thinking about pike for our trout camp “fish dinner.” When the weather broke we went out on Leverentz Lake with our kayaks and I was fortunate to catch a pike around 26 inches that provided a nice plate of boneless fillets. Natch also got lucky and caught the biggest bass I’ve ever seen come out of Big Leverentz.  Might have gone 5 pounds but we didn’t have a scale handy. He released it because it wasn’t in season and we don’t normally eat bass.


Luth with Pike

2014-05-09 18.23.03

Feral prepared a fried morel mushroom appetizer as a prelude to our pike dinner. A couple beers and trout camp magically transformed from dreary Kansas to the Land of Oz.

On Saturday, Keith rolled in. Keith has been to a couple trout camps now and when the guitars come out at dusk it is his job to play the heck out of some of the classic rock songs that we all know but can’t remember the words to. So that puts Feral, lead vocalist for “Rock Bottom and the Out-of-Tuners” in a position of having to make up words on the fly while I struggle to recall old songs that combine killer electric guitar with some acoustic guitar – so I am at least contributing something. Not an easy job if the Labatts beer is flowing.

Keith with Gibson

I always mention Keith’s exceptional guitar playing but he is a story teller like Feral and Natch with a vast reservoir of odd experiences. So the guitar is great but he fits right in as person. When Natch and I took him morel mushroom hunting with dubious results (2) it wasn’t a problem. We just knocked down a cold beer and talked about whatever came to mind. So guitar or not, he’s in.

I’m always circumspect about asking non-fishermen to trout camp mainly because if it rains we fishermen take off for the streams. If it’s overcast we hit the lake.  Keith seems to have a radar about the weather and shows up at just the right time – sunny and seventy and time to jam.

It was all over way to fast. The lake was beautiful and we had the campground to ourselves. We caught trout and pike. Morels were up. A great start to another year.

Camp 2014


Pigeon River Country Closer

Feral works a bend on the upper Sturgeon

Feral works a bend on the upper Sturgeon

The trout season came and went and I was fortunate enough to have several memorable camping/fishing trips this year with buddies that really bring something to the table – not the least a desire for adventure. For our trout season closer, Feral and I were joined by Natch first and Keith later up at Pickerel Lake which is centrally located in the Pigeon River State Game Area.

Natch is a trout camp regular having put up with Feral and I for something like a dozen years – so this year we told him he has graduated to “Honorary Member 2” not the least because he outfished Feral. I have asked Natch to write a first hand account of his trip to the Sturgeon River on the day we set up camp where he will hopefully mention those anglers whom he admires so much and have provided so much inspiration. It would be embarrassing, but not out of the question, for me to have to edit that kind of information in to his post. As a teaser, here’s a picture of the smallest of three fish, a twenty incher, he caught on a single pass at the river.

Natch's smaller brown trout

Natch’s smaller brown trout

The thing about Natch and Feral is they are both game for adventure and this year it was put to a test. I won’t go into a lot of detail here – look for a post later about Dog Lake Flooding, a pike haven of some repute. If the trip in to the flooding doesn’t destroy your truck, and you don’t fall through the floating bog mass, and the whitewater and freezing rain don’t exhaust your stamina, you might catch a… OK, I have said too much already. I’ll do a post with photos.

We also took the kayaks out on Pickerel Lake which was fun but not to productive. We caught a handful of bass and a couple perch but we had to work for those.

Luther and Feral at the boat landing

Luther and Feral at the boat landing

Natch on Pickeral with Feral in the distance

Natch on Pickerel with Feral in the distance

Natch pulled out Sunday night and then it was up to me and Feral to prove we could still catch a trout and fortunately The Pigeon River, recently decimated by a silt fish kill by the Song of the Morning dam, still holds trout if you know where to look and when to fish. In the fall, large brown trout move upstream into the decimated area and you might believe the fish kill never happened. Feral and I took a couple big trout – but we were amazed that Feral also caught two brook trout about 10 inches. I don’t know what that means but it could be the brook trout were hardier than the browns when the dam was opened.

Trout camp would not be trout camp if we didn’t play some guitar and knock down some beers over a campfire. Keith, another adventurer, came up Monday for one night – which is a good four hours drive both directions for one night of camping. Somebody conk me in the head with my guitar as I didn’t get a campfire photo of Keith playing. Keith is good enough to sit in with any world-class band and add killer lead guitar and he wasn’t about to pass on the chance to play with “Rock Bottom and the Out of Tuners” which is a name unfairly placed on Feral and I by jealous contemporaries who may not realize we own an electronic tuner.

We played some of our standards, like Buenos Tardes Amigo by Ween, but Keith really cooked when I started jamming the old JJ Cale song “Call me the Breeze.” Keith has some blues rock mojo and that took over. He played my old Les Paul Studio through a battery powered Roland Street Cube and rocked the campground. The other highlight was listening to him play my Martin acoustic including doing some of his own jams. A cold beer, an acoustic guitar played by a master, a warm fire… no further explanation needed.

Feral lights a fire with extra virgin cooking oil.

Feral lights a fire with extra virgin cooking oil.

Feral and Keith, morning coffee

Feral and Keith, morning coffee

I woke up a little before them, poured a coffee, and went down to the lake and took a few photos. Another reason why camping gets in your blood. I heard an elk bugle out past the lake through the fog.

Morning coffee, Pickeral Lake

Morning coffee, Pickerel Lake

So look for some more posts on the fall camping trip to Pigeon River State Game Area: Dog Lake Flooding; Natch’s account of 3 monster browns out of the Sturgeon, and some video Feral and I took on the Pigeon with big browns.

2012 Trout Camp Closer

I hope to write a couple posts about this years closer,  but here are some highlights:

  1. Great trout fishing – 4 browns 20 inches, many others
  2. Brooks and rainbows
  3. Great camping weather
  4. Plenty of beer
  5. Met some nice people – Ray and Desiree, her older brother, and his crazy girlfriend
  6. Ray cooked best venison I ever had
  7. Feral sang the Mexican song with Luther on acoustic guitar, even Natch joined in
  8. Mike and Denny camped on the Pigeon but came over for the campfire
  9. Stories and banter that encouraged another beer
  10. Another beer
  11. Feral re-invents the blow gun
  12. Natch fished the whole valley in one stretch
  13. Feral and I saw a bull elk that filled a two track – half a ton?
  14. Saw a bobcat, countless deer and turkey
  15. Waders leaked but I didn’t get cold
  16. Caught two big browns following Feral – offered to take the lead!
  17. Best trout camp ever.

Feral landing a good brown

Odd angle for a photo

Natch working the bend at the top of the valley

Checking length against Feral’s marked pole

The one hour trek through bear country

Why we make a one hour trek through bear country

The Unspoken Contest

Denny is a trout camp regular and even more important a family friend. Strangely he has been best friends with myself and both of my brothers at different points in our lives. He is a character, with character, and to me the fact that he’s stayed connected says something very nice about our family. There is a quiet strength about him that may be hidden to some people by his outgoing personality and wit, but knowing him has made a difference in our lives. Sounds like a Eulogy in progress, but he’s fine, though he did have a scare and some surgery a short while back.

The photo above was taken a few years ago at fall trout camp. Feral and I had an ongoing, unspoken contest with Mike and Denny regarding the largest trout and we were taken back when Denny pulled this one out of his cooler. We don’t necessarily keep the fish, we use the honor system and keep a tape or de-liar on us when we go out, but Denny happened to keep the one shown here, a two-footer. He caught it on the Sturgeon casting from the bank because the river was too high and muddy to wade. It is difficult to present just how difficult a task it is to pull a fish like that out of the Sturgeon – even in the best stream conditions. To do it from the bank is next to impossible. So there you go, Denny is a trout fisherman and certainly has earned a seat at trout camp, not to mention a spot at the family table.

Trout Camp on the Calendar

Deciding when to meet for spring trout camp is getting a little complicated. Natch asked Feral and me about our plans. I’ll let Feral explain:

Hi Fellas. Snotgold here.
I was talking to Feral and he said he was talking to Ironclad.  Ironclad was talking to Jake in an effort to sort out this opener thing.  Bob, (the other one of me) will fish anywhere anytime for anything with anyone.  Snotgold told Feral to tell me that Jake is coming down for the real opener.  He like everybody else has to put in ahead of time for a day or two off.  Bob told him anytime was good but had no idea when anybody else would show up.  Snotgold told Ironclad that he thought Harmonica Mike and Outhouse sitter Denny were going for the first week….That was the latest Bob could get from Luther at the time.  Judging from all Feral has heard, nobody knows what’s going on!  So, Feral, Bob and Snotgold are all agreed.  We will be hunting for treasure and fishing with Jake and Ironclad right around Baldwin starting the twenty eighth.  Anyone who wishes to join us will be more than welcome.  I hope this helps clear things up for you Natch.

Here’s a clue about Snotgold. Feral took up metal detecting.

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