Last Saturday of April – the start of a Michigander’s Tradition
When do traditions begin? How do traditions begin? This slightly philosophical question I pose to myself, and it appears the reader, now at this stage in my life. I’ve been living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for five years now; this being my second, third, or fourth... year of attending the Michigan Trout Opener.
No one in my family fished for trout growin’ up, partly because we lived downstate where browns and rainbows are very rare and brookies are unheard of. Since moving up here to Crystal Falls I have gained a real passion for fishing for the elusive, beautiful, and petite creatures that are often overshadowed by the larger fish species we’ve to offer with much less effort paid for.
Two years ago I caught one brook trout- last year I caught 44. If I continue that pattern (and multiply my previous year by 44) I will be catching 1,936 brook trout this year. My math must be off or something or maybe this pattern will not play out. I am sincerely geeked about getting out and catching a few this weekend (and rest of the year). I’m looking for some in decent sizes and not just decent numbers. Already this year I have pulled in 5 decent brookies with some nice color patterns adorned upon their flanks.
I’d be happy to get out on the 29th of April this year and catch a decent handful of fish. The weather is calling for rain, rain, rain for nigh a week straight. That might really rain on my parade, we’ll see. I will be pulling a bachelor for a week straight so apart from my work obligations and feeding the two animals here at home, I will have only time for stalking the muddy rising river banks. I will not let a little drizzle get in between myself and my goal of tossing back a few brooks into the brook they came from.
Most people catch brook trout to eat- it’s not that I don’t love the taste of fresh trout, because I relish them, but I find it amazingly relaxing and zenful to toss a tiny bait, on a tiny line, and catch a hopefully not so tiny fish, just to up and let it back. Something peaceful about a fish’s tail waving the ultimate farewell flap as it descends to the aquamarine below. It helps not being by anyone and being in the middle of nature and the rush of the water below, with the whisper of breeze above, pulsating through the pines, alders, and the rest. Alone. Always alone. I consider it a personal insult if someone is fishing around me. I know it sounds asinine, as we all have the right to be in our great outdoors, but fishermen grind my gears. The few bad apples really sour the taste of the rest of them, us, me, whatever.
This weekend I will be fishing somewhere- north, east, west of Crystal Falls. I doubt I will go south, but you never know. My goal this year is to catch a native stream trout that is 16-17 inches plus. I know I could catch a stocked fish that large, and I can also catch a coaster brook trout that resides in Lake Superior for part of the year, that would be that large, but I want to catch one that is stream bred and fed. The act of fishing for these fish is more hunting and stalking than fishing as getting to the location is half, if not more, of the battle. Fishing for other fish can be more casting and what-you-expect-fishing while trout and steelhead are more of a fight to find the location that holds the fish in the first place.
My goal this weekend is to use my favorite setup to fish for trout. I will be using an ultra-light spinning rod with a light spinner of some kind at the end. I will probably use a spinner such as a Mepps, Rooster tail or a Panther Martin but I will need to take the treble hook and replace it with a single hook with a crimped barb. I will then take the single hook and add a trailer piece of line to the hook and on the end of the of the line I will add a small wet fly or another hook that will have a piece of plastic roe or plastic worm. That is my favorite way to fish for trout, I will take the lure and line combo and cast it upstream and let it flow down with the current and then I will reel it slowly back in. This combination is so much fun because you are fishing two different styles of fishing in one: the dead drift nymph, roe, worm and the active spinning spinner once the drift is up or down, depending on your literal or figurative understanding of my sentence.
I picked up this style of fishing in Alaska back in 2010 when I first left the lower (49 lower states). Once in my life I had a nice sized stocked brookie on the line and another fish was hitting the other lure on the way up. IT was almost a twofer on one line. Both brookies were 15-16inches or more, but as they are/were stocked fish it doesn’t count as much in my book. The water was crystal clear in a lake close to here. Maybe I will hit that pond up on my way home if the river brookies are hesitant to play.
Back to the question at hand at the beginning of this blog- what and how does a tradition begin? I would say that normally one is not cognizant of the beginning of a tradition, while we are usually all too aware of the end of traditions. I am forcing myself into a position where I want to start a tradition, a yearly tradition, to go fishing for trout on the opener during the last Saturday of April. I would love to take up this tradition with my wife, or my brother, or father, but I believe this tradition will be one that I partake alone. A tradition that is partook between myself and my consenting cohort, nature herself. Throw some wriggling fish into the mix and we’ll have a party to reminisce upon- hopefully years from now. Grizzled ‘n grey, smashing the brookies with techniques I’ve yet to master.
Hopefully this time next week my appetite will have been sated for trout, but knowing me, that is unlikely to have occurred as my desire will only have grown. Fishing knows no boundaries.
Last Saturday of April – the start of a Michigander’s Tradition
The start of an extremely fishing tale,
Literally and figuratively, the best o’
Brook, brown, rainbow
Cease the dream you cast o’er
Tis the time of culling,
Nigh the day approaches,
Where legally your beautiful little trouty faces,
Will no longer be able to hide.
A few days more- this blood sport
Will have a happy ending for you,
But only if you chance
At my passing lure.
I am the antithetic fisherman.
I catch, release, and wander.
Choose my lure to nab and I will return you,
This I plead and tell to you,
To your home and not,
My dinner plate.
Or maybe just one of you to my dinner plate.
Roll the die.
Fishing during the Last Saturday of April-
This Michigander’s new tradition.
C'est la vie.