Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Michigan vs. the World

Or the Value of Home Waters

hard to beat that Rocky Mountain scenery
I hear it all the time.  "The fishing is ok, but it's not Colorado."  You can replace Colorado with any destination you like- Canada, Montana, British Columbia, New Zealand, Alaska.  It doesn't matter the place, the idea being that the fishing is pretty pedestrian and dull here, the fish being bigger and more plentiful, the grass definitely greener everywhere else.  It seems to be a local mentality, or maybe people everywhere think like that.  I've fished a couple of premier locations- Colorado, the San Juan river in New Mexico, Canada.  I've had some fantastic fishing in all these places, had non-stop action, epic days.  Lots of fish, big fish, gorgeous scenery.  What I've found however, is that in the end it's all just fishing.

Not to discredit or downplay those experiences.  I was blown away by Colorado and Montana.  I definitely want to go back to Washington and Oregon.  Nipigon Ontario could become an annual trip for me.  But none of these beat the opportunities I have here in my home waters.  Those places and experiences, while dear to me, were no better, and no worse.
Take THAT Montana

I think that this idea- that the fishing here is dull, that it is much better everywhere else, stems from two sources.  First, the people who say them haven't actually been to the places of which they speak.  Second, they haven't explored their home waters sufficiently.

I'll make a comparison with the Rocky Mountain West.  Too many legendary rivers to name.  Way too many unsung creeks and rivers that are just as good.  Just as many secluded lakes you and I have never heard of.  I've gone and fished these places, had epic days, watched big, fat cutthroat trout cruising by the dozens in crystal clear water, set against that astonishing mountainous backdrop.  I've also had bad days, when the weather shut the fish and us down, when the fish took their ball and went home.  Western fish can be extremely hot and cold.  I also know that a lot of these places are inaccessible for large parts of the year.  I heard the complaints of all my western fishing friends this year, about how the spring run-off keeps them from fishing until mid-summer.  This year it was particularly long.  While they were bemoaning conditions, I was here catching fish.

Quite awhile back Field and Stream kicked off a minor storm by proclaiming Michigan to be the best state for fly fishing.  Alex Cerveniak of, a Michigan native and recent returnee, argued for the state of New York.  I'm sure a lot of people had their argument for their own state or favorite.  I argued for Michigan, and my argument is this- we have about 14,000 miles of trout stream, a significant portion of which receive salmon and steelhead runs.  Michigan has a large population of fisherman, but it by no means has the population centers of the east coast, and its rivers see nothing of the traffic that famous national park rivers such as the Yellowstone or the Big Thompson in RMNP get.  If you're not from Michigan I'm willing to bet that the only Michigan rivers you might have heard of are the Pere Marquette and the Au Sable.  Ok, the Two-Hearted river, but only because of Hemingway.  Good luck trying to fish that miserable, tannic, tag alder choked ditch.  But guess what, with 14,000 miles of trout stream and loads of public access and none of this "Private Water" nonsense they have out west, there's tons of river to explore, and if you look hard enough you can definitely find your own Shangri-La.  For every epic day I've had elsewhere, I've had dozens here.  30 fish days, 50 fish days, big fish, little fish.  Michigan does not have the Rocky Mountains, no.  It has its own unique beauty.  Apples and oranges.  Every trout stream has its own charm, each one is a gift, I've never seen an ugly trout stream, not here in Trout Country.  Despite my forays to other places, most of my personal best fish, including an 8 pound brown this year, and a 14 pound steelhead, all came from good ol' MI, not the Madison or British Columbia (to be fair I haven't fished BC- yet.)
sunset in Trout Country

It does take some research and work to find the good fishing.  The locals can hit these streams pretty hard.  Some of the streams' fly hatches peter out in July and the bite can be tough.  The key I have found everywhere here is to get away from the access points.  Be willing to walk in, put some distance between yourself and the parking lot.  The great thing here is that you don't have to climb a mountain to do it, or wait for a glacier to melt.

I'm not pooh-poohing the fishing in these other places, and I have my own bucket list of places to go and  see and fish.  Everyone should.  What I don't believe, is that the grass is greener.  It's just different.  I'm not spitting on your home or favorite destination either.  My intent here, is that if you live in Trout Country or visit it often, appreciate what you have.  There's a reason such places have great fishing-  they tend to be remote, or access extremely difficult, or the weather forbids fishing ten months of the year.  What I know though, is that I have fantastic fishing here, with virtually year-round opportunities on more species than most anglers can dream about.  I appreciate what I have.  Trout are trout, and fly fishing will always be a special privilege, whether there's a mountain in the background or not.
success is sweet, no matter the size or setting


  1. great to see you back in the saddle!! Awesome points and very true!! This is truly one of the best seasons to enjoy these spectacular waters~
    Tight LInes,

  2. Right on! Here's to homewaters. I love mine, and it's not because they are in's because they are mine, and I am beginning to know them well -- after having fallen in love.

  3. I miss Michigan even more... fished the Mighty Mo for the first time in March, now that's all I can think about!

  4. Great writing and very true Jason! The majority or the individuals that discredit Michigan for hunting and fishing seem to be the ones who talk about hunting and fishing more then they actually go out and do it!

  5. Excellent post! I agree with everything you said. Being from New York, I'm a bit biased towards my home state and always want to fish here but to travel to other destinations and see what they have to offer makes for great memories and a chance to gain knowledge and lessons that can be applied to one's home waters.

  6. Really well written. The grass certainly is always greener if you let it be, and it sounds like you have it pretty well figured out. "Appreciate what you have"...a great thing for us all to remember, because fly fishing certainly is a privilege. Something I think we all take for granted from time to time.

  7. Excellent points in this post. I am one of those that is just happy to be next to a trout stream where ever it may be. It will be quite some time before I come even close to exploring all of my own home waters. To many streams to little time:) Does trout season stay open year round up in Michigan??? Tight Lines

  8. Nice read and very true. If you're on the water with a flyrod in your hand and good friends to sit around the fire with it really doesn't matter what the GPS coordinates are.

  9. Jason a serious Brown like that calls for a serious lanyard!