Friday, June 5th, 2009

After much debate, here I am back in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: just had to float that river! New water always seems to entice – it’s the unknown. I’m traveling with my good friend Barb Theisen who agreed to join me, be my second paddler, and help shuttle the canoe. Unfortunately Barb doesn’t espouse the generally accepted principles of a fly fishing life – as the book A River Runs Through It surmised, one should never be late for three things: work, church and fishing! And so Barb rolls into my drive way sometime, oh let’s say “before noon” to be respectful. And then just to add to the overall ambiance of this particular excursion, sometime before we arrive in Iron River, Michigan, she announces that she doesn’t have her fishing license! So we track down a Walmart  – the last place that I want to set foot in when I am thinking about a wilderness excursion – and get legal. Hey Barb! Did you know that you can get your license online (Wisconsin and Michigan) – from the comfort of your own home BEFORE you get on the road?

We also stop by Town & Country Ford to pick up a rental car so that we can shuttle the canoe. Throw a gas-up into the mix and it’s all of 6:30 p.m. already. The light is fading fast. At least we might be able to get over to Cooks’ Run or the Paint River tonight if we’re lucky. Above all though, we’re here! It feels good to be back out with a good friend in pursuit of trout.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

The next morning finds us examining the water at the bridge upstream from the place that I fished last week. This bridge is named for its distance upstream from the Forest Road crossing down below. A 10 mile float is a long one when there are trout to be extracted along the way, so we better get moving!  Hopefully we’ll get off the river before dark; we have our headlamps in tow if that’s what’s needed.

An Upper Peninusula Trout Stream

Well as I said, “we” are here “on the river”. When I say, “we”, I mean Barb and I. When I say “on the river”, I mean that I am sitting in my canoe tied up to shore while Barb futzes around stringing up her rod at the boat landing. So my feet are wet, but my spirit is damp as I am once again forced to wait for Barb! She is clearly still in withdrawal from work, so I finally get up to help her complete the process. Let’s take a look at her setup: she will be fishing with a plastic-coated, cork handle on a 7-weight rod with the reel on backwards! OMG! We’ll have to see how she does today. It’s probably worth noting that Barb is more than a proficient and well-accomplished fly-rodder. What she is doing with this rig on this river will forever be one of the great mysteries of my fly fishing career. You can probably tell that I also like to pick on Barb from time to time. 🙂

We finally push off. Amazingly, we are no more than 20-feet down the river when Barb notes a place where she would like to get out and fish!!  I tell her that we cannot fish by the damn put-in and at last we head down river…

Stopping Off for Lunch

Our float is a memorable one. We don’t tag any big browns, but we would hardly expect to during the day. We moved some nice schools of brook trout – some with good size. We even took a couple of very respectable 13-inchers along the way. The general routine became to pull off when we entered the head of a long sweeping bend. We would beach the canoe in the shallows or sandy bank of the inside bank.  Then we would creep along that sand bank and drift our nymph rigs down into the depths of the dark water on the opposite side. We took fish on dead drifts, Leisenring lifts, and by swinging wet flies.

The water clarity is like few rivers that I have seen. We can see some fish suspended in the water before us like they are floating air. That clear water permits a fine examination of what lies beneath: a sandy bottom with a range of rocks, boulders and timber throw in. This sandy bottom provides  just what the burrowing Ephemerella species of mayflies love. The brown drake hatch here must be spectacular. That will drive me craaaaazy for the next couple of weeks as there will be no opportunity to return during that time. We see the same trout insects that we saw last week including that #12 parachute pattern and Bead Head Prince in sizes #10 and #12.

There are no rapids in this stretch of river. It is mostly a smooth ride winding through the Hiawatha National Forest in a serpentine fashion with some tight turns thrown in as we pick our way through with a bit of canoe craft. Overall, this is a very enjoyable float with some nice wade-able stretches.

There was at least one fish that we failed to photograph that will forever haunt me (one of many I’m sure). Not because of its size, but because of its unusual markings. It was silver with the vermiculate marking of a brook trout; however it was more silver in the sides and had black flecks running throughout its flank. The only thing that I can find that matches the markings are those of an Atlantic salmon – and this was no Atlantic salmon. This is not the first time this camera has missed its mark – something wrong with the shutter release button and time to retire it. This “speckled trout” is burned into my mind, so I will have to work a little harder to identify it, or return here and sample another next year…

~ WiFy ~

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