Saturday, July 5, 2014

Too Many Secrets

Setec Astronomy.

This was the name of a fictional company in the movie "Sneakers". It was an anagram for "too many secrets", and a protest against government secrecy. Except that the CEO, played by Ben Kingsley, had become evil and. . . oh just watch the film sometime.

But I feel this way in fly fishing sometimes. It's amazing to me how paranoid people can be about what they think is a secret.

There is a local stream that I regularly throw under the bus. It is in my opinion a put and take fishery. It is well stocked with salmon and steelhead but has very few holdover stream fish. It is a tailwater and water levels and temps fluctuate quite a bit. If you go there during the salmon and steelhead runs you will find 30-50 cars parked there at times. It's no secret in my opinion, and I regularly name it in social media if not here in FR.

So imagine my surprise when I got a call from a good friend inviting me to fish with him and another guy. The condition was I could go as long as I didn't tell anyone about it or name it in social media. I agreed. When he named my local river I was shocked.

"Really? That's a secret? There's going to be 30 cars there when we get there."

And I was right about the cars. Now mind you, the method we used- swinging streamers after dark- is not practiced locally. We did hook up on some big kings. The hole we fished is well known to locals, but most are too lazy to wade down to it after dark. Why bother when you can snag fish at the tubes? To me their "secret" seemed kind of silly. It's a well known river. It receives heavy pressure. Still, I respected their wishes which is why I haven't named the stream here.

Ditto a local muskie fishery. It's no secret here that the place has plenty of muskies. Everyone here takes it for granted. All the local sports would rather chase walleye and perch, or trout for that matter. Unlike in Wisconsin there is no muskie culture here. They are mostly by-catch, despite there being no dearth of fish. I have been trying to get people to go fish this water for six years and couldn't get anyone to go. When I finally got an invitation from another friend to go fish it, it was on the condition that I keep it secret. I understood the sentiment, particularly in light of the growing interest in muskie, but part of me thought "Really? I haven't been able to get anyone to commit to fishing this water for six years. What's going to make them flock to it now?"

Well- pictures might. And social media is a powerful new tool. It's great for sharing things. But you can also hotspot the hell out of your favorite fishing hole.

There's another local spot now called Fight Club. It regularly gives up outsized browns at night. I caught my biggest brown ever there. It's called Fight Club as in "the first rule of fight club is you DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB". Except people have been talking about Fight Club, and now on any given night, even mid-week you will  run into 4-5 other anglers, even at 2 in the morning. No one advertised it with a bullhorn, but everyone told two or three of their friends, including me. Several of the Pere Marquette, Manistee and Au Sable river guides fish it on a regular basis, and at least one guides in there. So much for secrets.

One place I always give up is Wilderness State Park. It is located at the northwest corner of Emmet County just west of Mackinaw City. It hosts spectacular flats fishing for smallmouth bass and carp. Some still think it is a local secret, but I first read about it in Outdoor Life in the mid-80's. Since then the campground fills up in late May and early June with sports from all over the place. Some guys have told me they've been going there for twenty years. It's easy to see 100-200 fish a day being harvested, and some are in that rarefied 6-8 lb. class. Yet the fishing is still spectacular and well worth the drive.

So I'm going to give up all my secrets. Right here, right now. Here goes. I fish the Sturgeon, Pigeon, Black, Maple, Bear, Boyne, Jordan, Tahquamenon, Fox, Carp, Carp and Manistee rivers. Yes there are two Carp rivers. They are all fantastic streams. Each one is different. There are several hundred miles of stream between them, so go knock yourself out.

No I won't tell you about specific accesses, stretches, hatches, seasons and runs. You can figure it out just like I did. If perchance you someday come fishing with me I will take you to wherever I'm going. I may believe in secrets, but I'm not going to cheat myself out of some good fishing to keep you in the dark.

As my friend Zach Ginop once stated, there are no more secrets since Google Earth came along. It may take a little legwork and wherewithal to find, but spectacular fishing can be found by anyone these days. All it takes is a little research.

So I'm still a little torn. I don't understand why so many rivers in other states are justifiably famous, while all our local fisheries here have to be shrouded in secrecy. To be fair a lot of those rivers are big and can support a lot of pressure while many of the rivers I've named are quite small and can't support large numbers of anglers. Another factor is that while Michigan streams have great numbers and big fish, they can be incredibly fickle. Michigan can be a cruel state to fly fish in.

Take for instance the Sturgeon River. It is a first class trout stream, but it would be incredibly cruel of me to just send you there fishing. It is a very fast river, and much of the water isn't fly fishable, or even wadeable. It has no predictable hatches. Yet if you know how to fish it, it can be very rewarding.

Michigan has several justifiably famous rivers- the Au Sable, Manistee, and Pere Marquette rivers for instance. These are big systems with hundreds of miles of water each. They host big runs of salmon and steelhead and yet have abundant stream resident fish and good natural reproduction. They also have large predictable insect hatches that make for excellent fishing. They even have secrets, to those that know them.

Personally I have only found two truly secret spots in this state. One I don't dare name and the other I won't talk about.

1 comment:

  1. Dude,
    I'm late to the party reading this, but, I can tell you this, you took the words clean out my melon on this one. The flipside to this story is how the masses are always looking for the "hot" fishing info without taking some chances and giving a place a shot. I can relate to the night time story you shared, a few years back the same phenomenon happened on my local waters; night fishing was a place where you'd be out there by yourself rarely seeing anyone else turned into packed parking lots and a see of headlamps on all the major pools. Sometimes, it's just better to not mention any of them and let the rest figure it out.......