Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning Coffee- August 29

Auuuuuaaaaaaghghgh!!!.  Stretch, yawn, scratch, repeat.  What happened?

I had this crazy dream last night, that I had gone away to a place of incredible beauty and caught gorgeous big fish.  It had fiery sunrises and sunsets, rainbows every day, trout in technicolor, islands that seemed to float in the sky.  There was thunder and lightening, rain and wind, heat and cold, a vile toilet, bears everywhere and a road that ran forever through the back country, past glittering blue lakes set under towering granite cliffs.  At one point the road had a moose running right down the center of it, right in front of our bumper. There were mountains rising out of what looked like an ocean, rolling away to the horizon.

Why can I remember it all so clearly?  I dreamed I caught a brook trout that weighed about three pounds on a mouse- a MOUSE during the DAY!  That's one way I know it was a dream.

Oh well, I'm awake now.  Time to go to work.  Also, I just realized there's this giant pile of gear in my living room that has to be put away.  Whatever that's about.

Have a great week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday August 26, 2011- The odyssey continues.

sunrise today

  Yesterday was spent exploring.  Wednesday was some very rough weather that lasted well into the morning, and the stiff breeze on Jessie Lake discouraged us from getting out there on Thursday, so we took off with my map book into the back country looking for small stream action.  We went back up Black Sturgeon road.  Near Shillabeer Creek we passed two Trans Canada work vehicles headed the opposite direction- these would be the only vehicles we would see all day. 
head high in bear country
We attempted to fish the Nonwatin River, but couldn’t buy a bite, the river isn’t really wadeable where we crossed it, the bankside brush was so ridiculously thick we could barely penetrate it, it had by far the most bear sign we had seen anywhere, so much that you had to really watch your step so as not to be knee deep in it so to speak.  There were loads of berries in the area, but they all tasted like bear spit, so we moved on.  Black Sturgeon Road becomes this interminable two track, barely passable in places, with blowdowns from the recent winds everywhere.  My new slogan for Canada is “Canada- The Clear-cut North of the Border”, as we drove through miles of it.  Well, it’s good to know where my toilet paper comes from.  In a way, it was like going home.  Black Sturgeon Lake is a jewel set in granite, and I wish we had time to explore it.  Our goal was to check out the Poshkogagan River, some 80-100 miles from camp.  I believe Black Sturgeon Road itself is 80-100 miles long; in all we drove 230 miles yesterday.  While I was looking through the pictures on my camera, Sam spotted a bear crossing the road just north of Black Sturgeon Lake.  We finally reached the Poshkokagan River at about 4 pm.  It is a beautiful river that I’m sure is full of fish, but again- unwadeable, and no time to explore.  We drove north from there to rout 527 which is paved, then took the Dorion Cutoff back to 17 to get back to camp.  It was a long day, and beautiful drive through wild country.
big fish of the day- 20"

I realize that most of you just want to see fish, so here goes.  I got up this morning in time to see the most stunning sunrise of the week, quickly followed by more rain.  I launched the kayak anyways, and hooked up on my second cast on a solid 20” fish that took me for a few rounds before landing.  I couldn’t find my tailing glove, and hadn’t figured out how to do the self-portraiture and so the pictures stink.  Two points later I hooked up on the big fish of the week, 19” but deep, heavy and muscular.  He took several hard runs and really put my 3 weight to the test and I was afraid he would smoke the reel.  The color on these fish is astonishing.  This time I figured out how to take the pics, but when I lifted the fish he thrashed and left me with this shot.  The picture says it all.
so much for the hero shot

I then paddled over to a group of small islands that had deep drop offs on all sides, and got this fish- gorgeous fish, found the glove, got the pic.  I’m going to thrash this lake hard the next couple of days in search of decent pictures to share, now that I have the system down.  By the way, all of the fish have come on Au Sable skunks, except for that big 19” which hit the same orange and black Chernobyl that I got my big Michigan brookie on.  Today I made a point to cast streamers at all of the spots that I stopped and have not had a follow.  The local guides have all been reporting very poor fishing conditions, and I’ve caught the most fish of anyone I’ve talked to.  The fish I’m catching are not the giants everyone is after, but they are still great fish in my book and worth coming for.  I’ve missed a couple of bigger fish that may have gone 5 pounds.
not a monster, just a great fish.

We had to come back to town for more ice, thus the post- I’ll try to do some better posts when I return, with some analysis.  This trip has fully lived up to my expectations and has been just the vacation I’ve needed.  Sam has been a great travelling companion, we’ve eaten well, snacked non-stop on junk food, gotten too much sun, gotten stormed on, and our minds are full of more beautiful scenes than we could ever take pictures of or share.  I’ll put together a couple of posts after I get home with the highlights and lessons learned and try not to wear you out with it all.
greetings from the bush

It has been fantastic.  I'm headed back out in the kayak to explore the lake for the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Excerpt- Day 4

Wednesday August 24, 2011-  talk about missed opportunities.  The wind blew all night.  Each time I stirred in the night I could hear the waves lapping on the shore.  I woke during the first graying light, still to the sound of waves, and now another sound- thunder.   “Good, I’ll sleep in” I thought, and rolled back over.  Lightning flashed constantly and the thunder rolled.  After a while it grew more distant, and the next time I woke, it was still gray, lightning still flashed, but I could not hear thunder or waves.  I got up and made coffee as the storm lifted its skirt up over the mountain and trundled on.  Fish started rising on the lake, and I sat there drinking my coffee and contemplating my move.  After a couple of large boils in front of camp I could take it no more and started gearing up, and just as I was about to launch, the first gust of wind blew, hard.  By the time I got back to my corner of the lake its entire surface was rippling under the gusts.  I blind casted for a while, and even got one nice fish to roll, but with the wind blowing in my face directly from the north, I decided to paddle back to camp and park and work the shore in front of camp.  Several big fish had rolled there this morning, so why not.  The wind was making me peevish, throwing my casts every which direction, but I did manage to get one more good fish to hit before the sun rose enough to make it all pointless.  I wandered back to camp, Sam was up, and so we made breakfast and formulated a plan- to explore the area around Black Sturgeon river.  

We loaded up our gear and secured camp, hopped in the Suburban and- it wouldn’t start.  Two days of it being parked with us opening and closing the doors had worn out the battery.  Two cars passed during the ten minutes we fooled with it, but when I took jumper cables and stood out by the road to flag down help, no one came for the next hour.  You would think that this would have ticked me off, but I was actually quite content- I had said I wanted something to go wrong, so why not this?  My only regret was that I didn’t bring a chair and book with me to read out there.  A nice young guy in a work truck came along and gave us a jump, and we ran into Nipigon to re-supply.  We got the groceries we needed and then headed west on 17.  
Turning up Black Sturgeon road we came to the first creek of interest, Shillabeer, but there were people there and we kept going several miles more until we got to a road that crosses Black Sturgeon river.   We parked at the bridge and followed the wolf and bear tracks upstream.  Soon it began to rain, no fish stirred whatsoever and we soon left.  We headed back to Shillabeer and were flagged down by a friendly conservation officer checking for fish.  We had none of course, but he was friendly and chatty, asking if we were licensed and had Crown Land camping permits, then giving us advice on places to check out, including directions to John Creek.  We tried Shillabeer for some time, but it was milky with runoff, and spooky.  The rain poured, but when you’re wearing waders and rain gear who cares?  The spooky  part was that the area was loaded with berries and bear sign, and all the riparian growth was head high- it would be easy to walk up on a bear in this mess and wind and surprise it.  I’ve heard that bears like to be surprised.  Despite the thick cover, the locals had beaten a path for quite some distance upstream, and no fish stirred.  We got a feeling that this little creek was too close to town, too accessible, and so we went back up to the Suburban and decided to head north and find John Creek.
bear and wolf tracks in the same shot!

The conservation officer had given us directions- head north as far as you’ve come already (20+ miles?) until you reach a gravel airstrip.  Across from it will be a track heading straight downhill.   At the bottom is John Creek.  We got to the bottom to find the remains of someone’s long-term campsite, First Nations perhaps.  A plywood shack with a birch pole frame lay flat on the ground, as if some giant had stepped on it.  Random trash, a couple of fire rings, and shot up targets were the remains of someone’s idea of bush camp.  On wandering down to the creek we found it to be a ditch, with barely a flow, but the first hole was deep, the bottom invisible despite the water clarity.  I flipped a skunk onto its surface, and a resounding smack answered any questions we had about fish.  Sam stayed below to toss spinners, but the next hole gave up three more beautiful fish, and so I called Sam over, had him get his 5 weight and gave him a skunk.  John Creek turned out to be small stream brook trout fishing at it’s best- tight, choked, tiny, loaded with trout, barely a stream at all where it flowed, but punctuated with deep dark holes, brushy cover, undercut banks, and dozens of eager trout.  I caught and released fish after fish, while the gale raged overhead and the rain poured, water streaming down my grin that wouldn’t quit.

  I love small stream.  We wandered up, breaking brush, following the slight trail, cursing the tag alders and catching fish.  I reached one long bend full of grass, the kind that trails in the current and began casting.  First one, then another and another large fish came out and hammered the skunk, but either I missed, or the fish did.  On perhaps the sixth cast it got nailed by a fish that was at least 14”,  but it shook the hook loose in a matter of seconds, leaving me breathless.  On the next cast I landed a beautiful 9” fish, and this one I kept.  Sam and I were going to have fish for dinner.  We continued to fish, kept four more fish, and pushed on until the breaks in the clouds revealed the yellowing light as the sky seemed to race overhead, and the brush got so thick it seemed we would be trapped.  We hiked out in gathering gloom, stopping to photograph flowers, and made it back to the truck.  When we topped the hill at the main road the sun dipped below the clouds, and the whole sky seemed to catch fire.  Then not two miles down the road, Sam suddenly laid on the brakes, just in time to avoid hitting a young bull moose.  There it was- the elusive Canadian moose.  After all my trips to Canada, mooseless, here was one trotting down the road, fifty feet in front of our bumper.  While his antlers were barely visible, he was enormous, the size of the draft horses you see at the county fair, and I was fascinated at how his hind quarters seemed to work in the same fashion, massive muscles rippling under his dark hide.  Despite the size of our vehicle, we were looking up at his hind end, and I realized the reason for all the roadside warning signs- you do not want to hit one of these things.  We followed him for almost 200 yards, trying fruitlessly to get pictures in the near dark before he crashed off into the brush.  Further down the road, in a cut-over area, we spotted two whitetail bucks, one with a rack so tall it made him look like an elk. 

It took 90 minutes to get back to camp, the odometer saying we had traveled 80 miles one way.  We returned to find camp in disarray- our chairs blown over, the clothing we had left to dry laying everywhere, and the worst of it- the rain fly had blown off the tent, soaking our beds.  We did what we could to clean up, but it was already 10:30 and so we didn’t make dinner.  My sleeping bag was soaked, but being a space-age synthetic it was just as warm as if it was dry, and so I read my Paul Theroux travelogue until my eyes became too heavy to continue, and then slept, warm and soggy, the wind howling a gale, the tent at times seeming to collapse on us before rebounding.  When I awoke in the middle of the night I was dry and warm, my bag having dried from my body heat, a testament to good gear and modern technology.  The gale would continue until dawn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Success, of sorts.

small fish of the day

Well, just a quick one while in town re-supplying.  I finally got into some fish yesterday, I'll post a picture of the smallest one.  The key right now seems to be fishing the first and last couple of hours of the day.  I've had no success with streamers whatsoever, and it has been very windy, to the point of making it dangerous to cast the 350 grain streamer line I have.  I've got one nice welt to show for it.  We kayaked up the canyon from Jessie Lake all the way to Pine Portage dam.  The canyon is lovely, the thought that this entire system has been tamed for hydro power is not.  Still, the brook trout are here, and if you fish the peak periods you have a shot at some decent fish.  All the locals are grumbling about the poor fishing, and we ran into a very nice local guide who got out his aerial photos of the river when he found out what we were doing, and shared tips and fly suggestions.  When he came back in at dusk he said the fishing was terrible, that there was a huge school of smelt stacked up at Split Rock, and that his client had missed a large fish that day.
near Pine Portage dam

Our Kayak trip yesterday was the highlight thus far- gorgeous scenery, a long paddle, and an exciting trip back against 30+ mile per hour winds and a high splashy chop on the lake.  We're in town to re-supply and then explore a couple of other rivers today.  I'll do more comprehensive posts later.

Storm at sunrise

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dispatches From Nipigon- Monday August 22

Good morning Nipigon!  The coffee pictured is yesterdays, brewed at Rabbit Blanket Lake, in Lake Superior Provincial Park.  Live blogging is almost impossible here, unless I wanted to sit around some crappy truck stop here, which I don’t.  We got a late start Saturday- thankfully the boat was good enough to break down before we left instead of while we we’re ten miles into the canyon here.  The canyon is 300-400 feet deep, the river powerful, and not the place to lose your motor.  The revised plan is to explore all the accesses to the river we can find for walk and wade opportunities, which, while limited, are said to exist.  We have the kayaks and will explore some Stillwater sections, hopefully being able to paddle out to islands or reefs, or to access different shoreline structures and get out and cast.  Then we’ll locate a local boat to rent for a couple of days to hit more inaccessible areas of the river. 
We stopped in Wawa for breakfast yesterday, as thunder had preempted a campfire breakfast.  We drove through the lightening and rain, on through the spruce and granite, past muskeg sloughs and small lakes.  I wanted to stop and cast at every little creek we passed, but one word beckoned us onward- Nipigon. So onward past Obatanga, White River, the gold mines, Pukaskwa, Marathon, Terrace Bay.  Past the campy signs to small cottage resorts.  “Very, very clean” boasts one sign for a motel near White River.  White River itself spuriously claims to be the home of Winnie the Pooh- an odd claim for for a character created by an Englishman.  If Winnie the Pooh were truly from White River, his playground would have been called the “Million Acre Wood”.
Lake Superior near Neys Park

We found a lovely place to camp on Lake Jessie, part of the Nipigon system, then fished below Alexander’s dam.  With the passing of yesterday’s front, the fish seemed to be pretty well shut down.  Everyone complained that the fishing was dead.  Here’s hoping.  It’s a large, somewhat intimidating system, lots of current and big water, and without a boat this will be a challenge, but we got some good intel on places to kayak into, so we’ll give it a go, and there’s some other rivers that are worth looking into.  There were fish rising all over the lake this morning, including right in front of camp, and I had one decent fish hit a mouse pattern, a very exciting development.  There’s too much to tell, so I’m going to end it here.  Enjoy the couple of pictures, I’ll try to get some fish in them and post later this week.
Sunrise on Jessie Lake

Saturday, August 20, 2011


It's done, almost.  Don't ever travel with me.  I'm a horrible procrastinator.  In my defense, the long days at work have continued, and I've barely had time to make dinner at night, much less pack.  My brother is in the same boat- too much work.  Speaking of boats, I'm here writing this right now because he's putting the finishing touches on the used boat he just bought for the trip.  This already has the makings of a road trip adventure.  What a conundrum.

I have five rods, 6 reels, most of my fly tying gear, and enough other crap to lay siege to northern Canada.  In some ways this feels right- a road trip done seat-of-the-pants, gear hastily assembled, an untried boat, and we couldn't get the base camp tent out of storage.   Something is bound to happen to make this trip interesting- the seeds are sown.  But it's things like that that keep it interesting, test your mettle, your perseverance, your improvisational skills.  If I wanted a safe and predictable trip I would have gone to some lodge and hired guides.  I don't want that, I want an adventure.  I want the Suburban to get a flat or start making weird sounds, drip brightly colored fluids.  I don't want to know where I'm sleeping tonight, or for the rest of the week.  I don't want to plan more than a day ahead where I'm fishing.  I want spontaneity, adventure, hardship.  I want grit and ash in my burned food.  I want some time to write.

Mind you, death or injury aren't the goal at all- I packed my PFD, and a first aid kit (first aid kit consists of hockey tape and ibuprofen).  I'm not going to take any unnecessary risks.  But I don't want a pre-packaged, padded room, safe, guaranteed-to-catch-a-fish-or-my-money-back trip.  I want to go and explore, choose my own adventure, take care of myself, and my brother, and have fun.

So I'm off soon, I think.  I'll be back next weekend, I think.  If all goes well, I'll have pictures of fish to share.  No matter what I'll have stories.  If I can find wi-fi I'll even try to squeeze some teaser posts in.  Judging by the lack of live-blogging success others have had recently, I wouldn't bet on it.

So that's it- I'm off to Nipigon, in search of giant brook trout.  Or maybe just in search.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Anglers Year- August

July fooled you, you thought it was going to last forever.  August continues the ruse, for a week.  Then it dawns on you- it's August.  What have I been doing?  I had so many plans.  Rivers to fish and paddle, new lakes to try out, camping and hiking trips, or even the great American Road Trip.  But somehow the work, and the graduation parties for kids you hardly know, the weddings of friends you fear for, and a couple of family barbecues have sidetracked you, and now it's August.

So you panic.  You go back over your list of must-do's and prioritize.  You haven't gone on that kayak trip, or driven to that distant river, you haven't fished for a new species.  You set some new priorities- to eat a s'more, to go to the beach, to go to an ice cream stand at dusk, to sleep outside in the yard and watch the meteors. To eat a hot dog you've roasted on a stick.  Because August, with all it's subtle charm, is telling you something.  It says that all good things must end, that this impossible dream that is summer is mortal, that the light and heat and balm can't continue, that frost will return.  You will be cold soon.

Change does indeed occur in August.  First it's the little things- You notice all the Queen Anne's Lace in bloom along the roadside.  You notice that the corn in the store is local.  Then you notice all the "corn for sale" signs along the roadside, lettered in hand-written scrawl.

About ten days in you see it, stark, grim, beautiful- that first harbinger.  A limb of scarlet leaves, saying "it's not forever". That this whole world of green and blue and warm won't last.  The frost is coming.  You try to ignore it, you go to the beach, you pick a summer novel to read, you start wearing different clothes, clothes that say summer (desperate). That first front just blew through, here in Trout Country, and you're forced to acknowledge it, to wear a sweatshirt in the morning.  August is the month of subtle change.  The air, the grass, is sallow, they take on a barely perceptible patina.  The clouds change, and you realize that somewhere up there in the atmosphere, there is snow.  I love August, for it reminds me of all that is precious in life- green, blue, the brevity of life and the preciousness of loving something, even if it's just a chocolate swirl single soft-serve cone, the laughter of children as they play in the surf, good conversation with a friend on the front porch, in the dark, reflecting on your lives.  The geese are doing test flights, teaching this years brood how to fly in formation.  Young robins, spotted and awkward, hop around the yard learning to forage.  The hummingbirds get aggressive, for soon they must make one of the most astounding migrations on earth.  They always leave my house on September 9 and I mourn just a little.

Oh, right, this is a fly fishing blog.  I never stop.  Hoppers are hot.  The night game continues.  But there is a tension to August, as if something is about to tear loose.  The water is low, the water temp is high and you wait for something to break.  There are several things I do in August.  I hopper fish, usually on the Manistee.  I troll for salmon on Lake Michigan- I make this killer salmon jerky that is to die for, and it's worth laying down my fly rods to experience the big water.  I try something or go someplace new. I try to savor this flavor that is August, an ice cream combo that is both Blue Moon and Superman, Tres Leches and French Vanilla.  August is a warning, but not serious, a slap on your wrist.  Those big browns and chinook salmon are moving in, and the steelhead aren't far behind.  Is your gear ready? Got Streamers? Can you strip-set?

August- I roll that word around in my head, and it reeks of old, age, wise, and yet I can't shake this feeling of it being youth revealed for it's fraudulence, a temporary stop in our migration, that the things we learn here will continue with us when the leaves are gone, and the bite get's tough, and we look back to this day when all was pleasant, when the riparian flowers were in full splendor, and you could streamer fish in water shoes and a T-shirt.  If you understand that line you're a fly angler.

So join me- let's celebrate this August.  Go to the beach, take a trip, learn to double-haul.  Eat a soft-serve chocolate twist ice cream cone.  Make it a double.  Go on, enjoy August.  It is fully as brief as the other months.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Run-Up to Nipigon- Gear

My big trip to Nipigon Ontario, in search of giant brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is fast approaching. We leave August 20.  I've had several gear needs develop over the last weeks and months, as well as some wants.

Last fall I bought some Frogg Toggs waders for $100, then immediately put 30 miles of dry hiking on them and generally thrashed them ever since.  I also bought $60 wading boots at the same time that left a lot to be desired.  The side walls started blowing out a couple of weeks ago, and I know they're not long for this world. The waders have leaked since May.
So, when I got rained out of work today, I made my way down to The Northern Angler fly shop in Traverse City to get some gear.  I'll have to admit that I almost ordered stuff online, but thought better of it.  For one thing, I would have been just guessing at the sizing, and spending that much money on stuff I hadn't tried on made me nervous.  I also like to support local businesses whenever I can, and I love what Brian Pitser is doing at TNA.

First the boots- the side walls on my current cheap pair started blowing out a couple of weeks ago, and have proceeded to decline at a rapid pace.  My buddy Tim got a pair of Korkers with the aircraft cable lacing system and swears by them.  I ended up getting the Simms RiverTek BOA boots with the Vibram sole.  I've heard a lot of back and forth about felt versus the Vibram sole, especially now that Simms has decided to bring felt back into the fold, but several of my friends swear by the Vibram and so I took a leap of faith.  I love the BOA lacing system, and the support in this boot feels amazing.

Then, the waders- I've been fighting this leak in my Frogg Toggs since early spring.  I think for the price they were excellent waders, but not up to the abuse I put them through.  I fish way too much, and bushwhack way too much.  I was interested in a set of Redington Sonic Pro waders, but they didn't have them in my size.  These Simms Freestone stockingfoots are very popular, and I wore them aroung the shop for about a half hour.  They're incredibly comfortable, the fit was just right, and I loved the fact that the features of the waders are made to mesh with the boots.   I did try on the Redington Sonic Pro pants but the clip on the gravel guards doesnt work well with the loop on the Simms boots, and so I gave up on that option.  I'm really happy with my choice- they were $50 cheaper than the Redington's, and they are designed to work with the boots, which I like.  I should add that Brian threw in a Simms Taco gear bag for buying boots and waders, which will provide great storage for travel.

Next- Water shoes.  I have this pair of Teva open toe sandals that I've had for years, and continue to use for sentimental reasons, but it seems like every time I go out, I hurt my feet somehow.  Sunday's kayaking trip was the last straw- I slipped on something in the river and jammed something sharp under a toenail.  The ensuing infection..... I'll stop there, suffice it to say that I decided it was time to get water shoes.  I need more protection, especially for my kayaking, and for walking the flats on those slick rocks up at Sturgeon Bay.  I was going to head to Dunham's Sports after I left The Northern Angler, but then these Simm's Stream Tread sandals caught my eye.  They have the Stream Tread Vibram sole, a hard toe that should offer lots of protection, and at $90 the price was right.

Finally- the rod.  I have three 8 weight rods.  One is an old glass heirloom.  One is a Redington Crosswater that I use for chuck 'n' duck for salmon and steelhead, and the last is my Flextec.  I've broken the tip off of it twice and just glued a new one on each time.  I don't really want to pay to mail a $100 rod back to England to have it fixed in the middle of steelhead season.  To its credit, I've learned to double haul with it, I caught my first carp, loads of steelhead and salmon, and that giant brown on it.  But this trip is all about streamer fishing, and I'll be working a rod harder than I ever have.  I'll be fishing for brook trout in the 3-9 pound range- fish as big as the browns I fish at home.  The Nipigon river is another consideration- it is big and deep, with loads of boulder structure, and a heavy current.  I'll be fishing a 350 grain Streamer Express line and 4-6 inch streamers all day long.  I want need a cannon.  My buddy Phil has a 6 weight Temple Fork Outfitters TiCRX streamer rod.  I've fished it a lot and can tell you it is a dream to cast.  I ordered an 8 weight TiCRX from Brian and can't wait to use it. CANNON!
And lastly (does that come after Finally?)- tying materials.  I loaded up on some gaps in the supply.  The vise is going with me on this trip.  I'm going to throw everything I know and have at these fish.  Also, I lost my entire smallmouth/carp box in June, and so stocked up on brown and rusty colors.  I don't know how much of that kind of fishing I'll get in from here on out, but I want to be prepared.

I spent more money than I like to at one time, but it was just the way it worked out.  If my old waders and boots weren't on their way out, I wouldn't have gotten new just for a big trip. But with fall salmon, steelhead and brown trout fishing coming up fast I need to be ready.  I feel like a walking Simm's advertisement now, but that's just the way it worked out.  I have no affiliations with Simm's and I'm not endorsed by them in any way.  I've long been aware that they make quality products.

I'd like to thank Brian Pitser and the crew at The Northern Angler for their helpfulness.  Brian's pricing is competitive, they are very knowledgeable about their products, his store is always well stocked, and they'll spend all the time with you that you need to make a decision and feel comfortable with your purchases.  You might think that I would have wanted to save the $50 on gas I spent driving to Traverse City and just order the stuff online, but it was too much money being spent to just order this stuff sight unseen, and my shopping experience at TNA reaffirmed the role of the local fly shop in my mind.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pigeon River, Kayaking in August

I went kayaking on the Pigeon river yesterday.  I went with my friends the Stark brothers, Glenn and Keith.  Keith you'll remember from my Floating Away story.  Also along was Brandon, who I don't know very well, but was a welcome addition, and a new friend from Denver, Tim.  If there is one thing that sets me free, lifts my spirits, it's kayaking.  I love fly fishing, I really really do, but kayaking says "freedom" to me like nothing else.  Incidentally, all of my rods fit conveniently under the bungees on the fore and aft decks of my Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125.  But to get out on the river, float, drift with the current, power through rapids, portage the bones, talk with your friends, splash, paddle, mock, jest, pee in the bushes, fight the current, part your way through downed trees, snack on the shore, mock your friends some more- priceless.

The Pigeon River is a much embattled river about 30 minutes from my house.  It flows through the Pigeon River State Forest, from the high interior moraine of central Michigan near Gaylord into Mullet lake in Cheboygan county, about 60 river miles.  I say much embattled, because a few years back there was an accidental discharge of sediment into the river from the only dam on it at the Song of the Morning Ranch, a yoga retreat.  This was the third such discharge on the river, the second in my lifetime, and only recently has a judge affirmed that said dam must be completely removed, a victory for the river, the fish, Trout Unlimited, and everyone who uses the river.  I don't fish this river often, but it is always dynamite.  The fish are starting to come back, and it gets solid runs of fall/winter/spring steelhead and lake run browns.  While the sediment discharge killed a lot of fish, it did not get them all, and numbers are starting to rebound.  The potadromous runs of steelhead and browns ensure that rainbows and browns will always be available.

We postponed the start of our kayak journey as lightning was cracking overhead, rattling the windows, and setting our teeth on edge.  We didn't wait long though, and conditions on the river were perfect.  Here's the cast and crew.
Keith "The Enforcer"

Glenn "Mr. Fitness"

Tim "Urban Warfare"

Brandon "No Fear"  aka "Go Lite"

We hadn't gone far before we got to this huge downed willow tree totally blocking the river.  I'm not at liberty to discuss, but it was totally Lord of the Rings in there.  Complete with spiders.

We donked around after that, and came to this rapid in front of a cabin.  For some reason the guys got it in their heads to fight the current and  work this class II little boil over and over.  I was happy to sit back and shoot.

After that I couldn't take it any longer, this is after all, a blue ribbon trout stream.  I got the 8'6" 3 weight Redington Classic Trout out and flexed it a little.  The trout came quickly, and I was really pleased to get this gorgeous brook trout.

We floated past a seawall piled with lumber and made a long portage, but soon came to a high bank.  Some high-jinks ensued.  Brandon got it into his head that this bank would make for some ultimate hillbilly kayaking.  It did, and what resulted was photo and video gold.

This was a perfect day on the water, with overcast and humid conditions, and an incredibly fun group of guys to go with.  It sounds like we'll be doing a weekend kayak camping trip in September in the Upper Peninsula.  It should be great.