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.


  1. Wow, at the end you just spent more of my money by saying "weekend kayak camping trip." That sounds awesome. Of course, I NEED a new kayak, and a new one for my wife, and a few more camping accessories.

    So, how many ribs did he break on that drop?

  2. GFP- glad I could assist you in spending your retirement. Kayak camping is the ultimate.
    Brandon complained about banged up shins. I'm 41, he's 25, which explains why I'm behind the camera and he's in the kayak.

  3. Looks like a great outing and a memorable day. That was a gorgeous brookie, too.

  4. You do all kind of look Hobbit-ish. ;) Splash! Too fun!

  5. Fun times with friends can't be matched.

  6. Looks like a blast. Never got into kayaks, but the wife even mentioned we should try it.

  7. That was a great day on the river, had a great time with everyone. Nothing like a day on the river with a paddle or rod in your hand, good friends, good family, good times. Looking forward to the kayaking camping trip.

    Sincerely in Balanced Health,

    Glenn aka (Mr. Fitness)

  8. Where on the Pigeon River did you put in and take out? I'm interested in kayaking from Old Vanderbilt Rd to Sturgeon Rd.