Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bananas On Board 

In the not so distant past people were told to head West to seek their fortunes.  Dreams of California gold and the wide open free plains of the central West draw lots of people.  Some were desperate, poor folks others were adventurers seeking what was beyond the Blue Horizon.  Others were driven by impulses beyond their control or understanding.  I don't know the category I fit in at the time but dreams of big trout and deep powder were dancing in my mind.  So I packed up and headed West to find my fortune.  While I did not find any monetary fortune- my experiences were enough to fill a lifetime.  Yes I found big trout and deep powder, amazing people, natural beauty beyond compare but not my fortune.  Whatever my fortune might be it was not found in the West.  

I returned to the Mid West and moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan- family in the area, Lake Superior, bitter winters, buggy summers and not a single mountain in sight.  The fishing is well the fishing is great if you want to put in the effort.  Here there are no guide books, waiting in line to launch your drift boat, no well paced paths.  But the fish are there and they are brilliant.  Big bass, starving pike, delicate brookies and many more.  With such an embarrassment of natural wonders you would think people would folk to the area.  Yet the population has been stable for years with like change.  The harsh winters are probably the main cause to keep those less than hearty souls anyway.  Thank god there is little chance this area will turn into trendy resort towns of the west.  

My friends and I have often commented on returning to nature is actually expensive.  Fishing, hunting, camping all those things we most enjoy are not cheap.  They are full of expensive gear, my different ideas on how to best do and little time to do it because many of us are simply working to pay our bills and not that fancy new jacket that will resist rain, cover our scents make us invisible and if the advertising is correct allows you to become the reincarnation of Daniel Boone.  

So I began other cliched journey to fortune and headed to sea for my fortune.  I got my merchant marine credentials, physical, drug test, back ground check and TWIC card.  Applications sent and I got a job on a ore boat traveling the Great Lakes.  A fitting job for somebody living in Marquette with its two ore docks, a Grandfather who put buoys and chartered the lakes and another Grandfather who worked on the ore docks.  

Like most people I started as an ordinary seaman.  The bottom of the barrel.  Cold, dirty, mindless work day in day out.  For over 140 days.  The lakes are amazing, the stars in the middle of the lake are beyond words.  The docks are dirty industrial suck holes that remind of stories about Soviet Union towns.  Its a job not a calling for me on the lakes a means to an end.  What is that end?  Well I am working on it.  Again great experiences and I learned so much.  Much of my time was spent in the engine room and for those that know me well can imagine the challenge it was for me.  Machines are not in my wheel house.  The experience gave me confidence in areas I never thought I would have.  I saw the docks, the routes, the locks that built the great lakes region into what it is today.  The great cities of the midwest owe much to the iron, stone and coal docks on the lakes.  And even more to the sailors that go months without seeing their families and friends.  

There is no time for romance of the sea.  We are on the boat to work.  The colorful language describing life at sea- are done pleasure sailors, imaginative authors and those rare sailors who love the water and the life.  I love the water, the mindless work not so much.  A sailors credentials  and experiences opens many doors. Perhaps that is the sailors fortune.  You make a pretty good living, you cannot spend the money, you are gone for months on end, see amazing sights and if you are lucky they are the keys to your kingdom.  For now I wait for the ice to melt, wait on applications and dream of open water and the Blue Horizon.  And imagine what is was like before GPS when the horizon was truly unknown.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

When it comes to fishing, Michigan is king.  Plain and simple.  If all the fishing was contained in Lake St. Claire, we still would have the best fishing.  Still there is some awesome fishing next door to us.  Wisconsin has the Driftless area.  A small stream trout fisherman's paradise.  It is enjoying a banner year.  When the likes of Lefty Kreh and Dave Whitlock sing the praises of northern Wisconsin smallies you know you have a great fishery.  Hayward and its mighty muskie mania is legendary. 

So, lots of good fishing in Wisconsin.  Lots of it is famous, you know what I am talking about. 

This is not that type of story.  I wanted small stream USA.  County fairs, cow crap, no paths along the banks of the streams and feisty fish.  Opening a Gazetteer it is harder than you would think.  Smallmouth are listed as being in a fraction of the rivers in Wisco.  So I asked around- made some calls and headed out. 

The fishing was great.  Plenty of willing fish, destroying poppers and big enough pike to shred mono tippet.  There were enough decent fish to make the fishing worth it.  Cows, domestic ducks, crows and chipmunks were my companions.  Great conversation though I am certain the cows really enjoyed seeing me get my fly out of trees. 

After spending some much time tying my flies, organizing my pack it was totally refreshing to head out with a single box of flies in my pocket, some tippet and hemostats.  Nothing else- car keys hidden, camera in the car and the bloody cell phone turned off somewhere in the car. 

I drove through some towns.  Ate at an A&W- remember those.  Root Beer (on Tap) out of a frosted mug it was brilliant.  Small town tackle shops that had never seen a fly fishermen in the shop.  And the tail end of a county fair.  The fishing was great, people were friendly and grass was soft to sleep on.  Now if I could just figure out how to do this all the time life would be so choice. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anticipation, Humility and Fun

Ice and ore boats- a common sight these days

For weeks now I have been living for May 15- the opener of smallies, pike, walleye, and muskie in the UP.  Rearranging my fly boxes, following the massive fish caught in lower Michigan and Ohio.  Listening to my friend’s brag about all their fish and making fun of me for living in the UP.  Well, I would show them- massive pigs would be landed on the 15th.  So big that the Bassmaster would change over to flies only and big soulless outdoor retail stores would go out of business.  Small fly shops would thrive and those of us who are still dealing with snow and ice in the UP would be rewarded for our strength to make it through a harsh winter.  
Pretty as sunshine and as sweet as rain.  Brookie streams are little jems

So a guy can dream, right.  May 15th was snowy, windy and cold.  Still I  was determined no more switch rods, no more eggs, no more swinging.  Stripping streamers, flies that kick hard and maybe even some poppers were the name of the game.  Changing lots of flies- staring into my boxes looking for some eureka moment.  Pounding good looking water.  Praying to the fish gods.  All for one fish.  One fish that would make it all better.  Sometimes that fish is a flash.  A flash of color behind my fly after a long day.  It was awesome.  I was totally happy with the day.  Yea ,I didn’t catch any fish yea my friends will still give me crap for living up here.  But the wind was blowing, the snow was slowly stopping, small deer were running around and I was standing in the middle of a brilliant river with nobody around.  Of all the places that I have lived this is the best place in the world.  The rewards might not be what you want but they will be want you need.  

Water that saved my day or at least my attitude.  Pike flash ain't bad

The next day I pushed in a new area and fished a brilliant little brookie stream.  Eager, fearless little beauties kept me occupied for most of the day.  With the light dying I decided to pack it in. I have already hit a deer this year and a second this early in the year was not in the cards.  All in all, a great two days.  As I am writing this and avoiding work, it is warm and sunny.  My plans for the summer are laid who in OCD detail- lots of new water, so golden oldies and lots more awesome fishing in the UP.  To paraphrase the last Calvin and Hobbes comic- lets go exploring.
New water that is on my list- looks like fun.  Tons of deer, beavers, grouse and hopefully fish

Monday, April 21, 2014

New flies added!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After numerous requests my confidence flies all in one selection.  Most of your fishing needs will be covered.  A great gift for any angler.  I call this selection my Utility Box.