I put a trip together last minute and jumped in the Yota with the Titan vault full of 8wt. rods and the back packed to the brim with gear. Filled the yeti with brew and bull and off I went. Traveled to the Brule and fished for a few hours before hitting Escanaba in the U.P. Pretty dead up there right now. I’m hoping for a November push of steel.
Camping along highway 2 in da UP is plentiful if you keep your eyes peeled for the state forest signs. Bring cash to pay the fee and u are camping lakeside like a champ. FYI don’t trust Seri along this rout for directions. Apparently she thinks logging roads are the easiest way! The funnest for sure, have the 4X4 ready! After waking up to coffee out of my Jetboil and a killer view of the lake I booked it across the bridge ($4 toll) and off to Traverse city to wait for Kirk to get done with work. Took the BOTE HD to the river in town and scouted for salmon and steel.
All the reports were on the money, slow movement from the lake with just a select few steelies coming in. Every gravel bed held fish and slow and low was the ticket with egg patterns. Collected lots of flies from the trees and enough lead to sink my paddle board. After Kirk called with the green light I paddled to the weir and deposited the trash and checked out the updates on fish in the trap. Turns out they got some nice big Browns moving in 2 with a combined weight of 11lbs!
After stowing my board and handing out cards to people drooling over the board, I was off to Kirk’s to see the fam and pack his gear into the already full Tacoma. On the way out of town we decided to hit the Betsy on the way to the PM. As expected it was combat fishing with the locals in full form. Pick up truck after pick up was parked into the small lot with an RV stationed in the back with some Surly Michiganders swapping stories about the stringer of salmon they had hung up off the back.
Finding our way down the mud ridden path it seemed every bend and bed was packed with treble hook wielding wild men of the north wearing neoprene waders stained with egg sack remnants and cigaret burns. The glares we got told us to ” keep moving” and we did.
Finding a small spot with log jams we switched hit the run for a bit until the party next to us cleared for a night of keystone light and smokes. As we pushed down our excitement increased as a school of salmon and small trout pushed up right in front of us. They were probably waiting for the constant slap of bell weights to stop splitting the water like Moses parting the sea.
We drifted egg patterns weaving around fallen branches with a few bump and runs. I decided to throw a leach pattern on a short leader and dead drift through the run and as it swung up from the depths and my head was turned to scout my next cast I felt the tug of the line and looked to see a nice brown popping out and spitting my leach as if to say ” F.U.” The night fell quickly along with the temps so we slogged back through the mud to the truck and off to the PM for 2 days of fishing from a drift boat.
Awaking on the first morning in time to see the sunrise over the Pere Marquette River, we emerged from the cabin to find that after quite a few PBR’s by the fire the night before Kirk and I had left our waders and boots outside in the 30 degree temps. Coffee wakes the brain but nothing beats frozen waders and boots!
After launching the boat on the river I was expecting to float down stream, but was told we would back row up River to some killer gravel spots that are known to hold fish. And it was on the money! Boated a couple nice salmon before lunch on egg patterns and lost a few more from lazy hook setting. I wish I could have blamed it on the beer but after the first salmon ran me down river I got as trigger happy as a backwoods Michigander with a new gun!
We floated down to the cabin and was met by Kirks friends who had prepared a venison stew! No joke, best shore lunch I have had in a long time! After dragging the boat uphill and repositioning it on the trailer we headed up stream to drift back down to the house and were met at the launch by a gaggle of others that had fished upstream.
After drifting in and around fallen trees and log jams we found a lot of real estate with older ” skunky” fish hanging around. Lots of dead skin Hangen off of them made it look like a river full of crazed zombies chasing each other and beating up the little guys. A few more fish boated and we drifted back to the cabin for a bonfire, beer and Kirk taking requests on his guitar. Every now and then we were interrupted by the slap of a fish moving up the river defending its spot and driving us wild with anticipation for the morning!
Once again waking up and finding my bearings I moved outside and expected to be greeted by the morning chill I was surprised to find that it was warm, very warm. So shedding all my layers I set off to the rivers edge coffee in hand to peek onto the gravel bed that stood just off the near side bank and found it empty. ” Not a good start” I thought to myself as I strolled down to the boat launch.
After rowing up River and not seeing fish at all the spots we cast to the day before, we jumped for one more hole up River just beyond some fallen trees we had to pull our selves through to get by. There was a couple of nice beds with some nice fish sitting perfectly on top. Kirk went to work and soon hooked into a nice fish. The salmon splashed and darted under the log jam and as Kirk raised the rod and relaxed a bit thinking it would easily come to the net, it took off like a monkey from a box and left Kirk double fisting the rod trying to keep up! Finally boated Kirks fish was a fresh run salmon and had to be less than 24hrs in the river. This led to lots of high giving and hooting from us all!
The rest of the day saw more fish, slipped anchors, wrapped line, broken rod and 100 more stories to keep us going for the cold winter to come. A great trip is as only good as the company you have and the things that go wrong that put you in your place as a fisherman!