Friday, December 10, 2010

Pere Marquette Journal, Entry Three

From April 7, 2004:

"A Wednesday this time, grabbing some time in the midst of a hectic Spring. The trip Tuesday night was one of the good ones; I hit the zone early and sailed my way north through the budding dark. Unfortunately, the Rest Area was still closed, but I drove straight on to the parking area south of Baldwin and had a few good hours of rest. The temperature was much more Spring-like, in the 40's.
Dawn, or soon thereafter, saw me at Ed's again getting legal for 2004. Then off to the river, this time at the Clay Banks access. I immediately met a guy who said he had been fishing all night with no luck. 'I hate to tell you,' he said, 'but there aren't any fish.' By which he meant Steelhead.
Undeterred, I geared up and headed for the 143 steps down to the river. (Note: There's a long wooden stairway down to the river. Fine going down; a real test of stamina going up after hiking and wading all day.) It was a beautiful day, just cool enough at the beginning to wear my flannel shirt and jacket, but it wasn't long before they were rolled up and stashed in the back of my vest. I was comfortable in shirt sleeves the rest of the day.
My main problem this trip was a lack of commitment to Steelheading, though I hoped at the beginning it would turn out to be a strength. I took two reels--one sinking and one floating line--and tried a variety of techniques to get flies down to the Steelies. This time I saw a few, though always wary, and always moving somewhere, never holding in plain sight. All that was well and good until I saw a few trout rising enthusiastically to Little Stone Flies fluttering on the surface.
I couldn't resist rigging up a trout leader and casting a dark Elk Hair Caddis at them. The drift was nigh impossible, trying to get the fly into slack water near the bank across a very fast tongue of current shooting around a submerged tree. But it was an enjoyable challenge, and I managed a couple decent rises, but missed a hookup.
So the rest of the day I was alternating lines and leaders and trying for Steelhead and trout. Just one trout rise would get me reeling in, looping off the heavy Steelhead leader and looping on the trout leader and dry fly. It was fun, but I caught nothing.
During the day I watched an angler near me hook, play, and land a nice Steelhead. (That's when I had reeled in, looped on the heavy leader, and started after Steelies again.) That evening as I arrived at my car he was a couple parking spots down taking off his waders. He asked me how the trout fishing was. I told him I had seen him land a nice Steelhead. 'Yeah,' he said. 'We've been here for three days, and this was the best day by far. I managed twelve hookups, and landed four.'
I made some wistful comment about wishing I could learn more about Steelhead and graduate from beginner status, and he said, "Well, it's location. Knowing where they are." Just enough to re-intrigue me and get me thinking that I'll try it again in the Fall.
But I think next time will be Trout Time."
To be continued.

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