Friday, December 3, 2010

Pere Marquette Journal

I got a comment from Fishbeer recently. He recognized the Bloomington Farmer's Market in a photo on my Thanksgiving post: What I'm Thankful For
Nice call, but he's a Bloomington man who gave up the White River and Brown County State Park to guide and fish on the Pere Marquette River in Michigan.
Another nice call. I really like Bloomington, but I love the Pere Marquette.
In those dark years when I was a fly fisher living in Chicago, I yearned for cold, moving water and trout. I made one trip a year to the Henry's Fork, but I made as many trips as I could to the PM. I'm pretty sure those trips saved my sanity, what there was left of it. I got to know the river pretty well, at least the section from the Clay Banks to Green Cottage. And whereas the Henry's Fork was a test of my skill, the PM was a testing ground where I could improve my skills. It's also where I first fished for Steelhead, for better or worse.
So tonight, thinking about how I could get this blog focused on fishing again, I pulled out a journal from those years, a gift from my daughters.

I humbly share the March 22, 2004 entry, ver batim.

"I entered a river for the first time this year on this day. I headed back to the Pere Marquette to try my hand at catching the fabled Steelhead.
The trip is down to a routine developed since my first venture to that river when Isaiah was just a baby. I leave on Sunday night, sometimes early, sometimes late, though almost always after the kids are in bed. This time it was very late since Jeremiah was in his sleepless mode, having fallen asleep for a fatal hour or so in the afternoon. I tied some extra flies and Jeremiah hovered first at one elbow, then at the other. He knew I planned to leave, but when I implored him for the fifth time to please go to bed because I had to leave, he said, "You don't have to leave; you want to leave."
He was right of course, but there was nothing accusatory in his tone. He, at five, is almost as crazy about fish, flies, and fishing as I am. I think he was interested in motivations and justifications.
So I left at midnight, Jeremiah in bed but still awake, calling out goodbyes. It's a four hour straight shot through minimum traffic to a Rest Area sleeping place just south of Ludington. The drive was good, and I entered the familiar zone of steady speed along the interstates with the dark country rolling by outside, the big lake unseen but always present to the left, the radio and glow of the dashboard keeping me company.
I arrived at my Rest Area on schedule only to find it closed. The sign said, "Until Spring," which was already a day old. I weighed my options. I could drive on another hour or so to Baldwin and try to find a place to sleep for a few hours in a couple of camping areas I know. But I needed some supplies for the two days I planned to be at the river, so I drove on to just east of Ludington to the Meier's where I usually stop after waking in the morning.
It was 4:30 in the morning, but the store was open. So I did my shopping, all except my Dickel's--not until 7 AM, the clerk said--and headed on east to Baldwin.
False dawn was lightening the sky when I got there. I first tried a USFS campground, but the entrance was a rutted quagmire of frozen mud and snow. So I headed through town and took a dirt road to the Clay Banks access point, thinking I could sleep in the parking area or in one of the camp sites there. The lot was deep snow, churned by four-wheel-drives. No way my little Corolla could get through there. I almost got stuck backing out of the narrow rutted lane to the lot. So not only my sleeping options, but also my fishing options, were narrowing. I headed to my other access point with a narrow parking area along a paved road, hoping it would be clear of snow.
Dawn was breaking when I got there. It was clear of snow and I pulled in and paid my $3 for the day's parking pass. I was legal. I was also exhausted. Another concern I'd had as I had approached Ludington was the temperature. It was in the 30's when I left Chicago, and the forecast for the Baldwin area that Monday was for a high in the mid-40's. But when I roared past my Rest Area my car's thermometer was registering 14 degrees. And when I pulled into Baldwin it was a startling 4 degrees outside. Now, at my parking area, it was a balmy 5 degrees.
I have spent some cold nights in Michigan, in tent and car, and have been awakened by the cold to crank over the engine and let the heater lull me back to sleep again. I was prepared to do the same, but just as I put the seat back and closed my eyes the sun came up and flooded the car with light.When I woke up three hours later the car was warm and cozy. Ah, Spring.
I headed back to Baldwin to Ed's Sports Shop, thinking I needed a new license, but I discovered my old one was good until March 31. So I got my 10-weight repaired instead. The tip had inexplicably snapped off last Fall while I was still mid-river, and I had fished out the day in that condition. I was pleased to discover that I could get a new tip guide glued on for only $1.78. Now newly geared up I headed back to the river.
I donned waders, boots, vest, and as many layers of clothes as I could and trudged down the fisherman's path through the trees to the river. It was a little high, but wadeable. I saw right away that it would be a crowded day. Drift boats were stacked up as I hiked upstream to find some open water and likely runs.
I am a novice at the art of Steelhead angling, and I experienced the impatience of not really knowing what I'm doing as I began dead-drifting flies through runs and pools. Some anglers came up behind me and one of them hooked a nice Steelie in a run I had fished moments before. I stepped back as he played the fish downstream past me and landed it in the shallows. As I watched him resume fishing (now downstream of me and working water that I had intended to work) I watched his technique and decided to change to a floating line the next day and maybe even use a strike indicator.
I fished on downstream, dodging drift boats, trying my best at drifting flies, but also throwing streamers, hoping for a trout or two. But by 2:30 or so in the afternoon I had seen nor felt hide nor hair of any salmonid. By then I was back at my path to the car, so I decided to call it a day early, get a cheap room, and get some sleep, looking toward the hope of a new day.
I made a stop at What's His Name's General Store, got a room at the Alpine Motel, and settled in with cable TV and Dickel's to keep me company."
To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

    - Daniel