Not a typical fishing report. Not a typical time in the world. I’m sure everyone knows by now that the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo is canceled. The NBA season is suspended. And many worse things. It’s the news. You can read it anywhere. We are disappointed not to see everyone. It’s truly the best part of the show.
Fly fishing has always been about getting away. The river is not on lockdown. The trout are wild and beautiful. The forest is shaking off winter. On a warm Sunday afternoon, we saw a handful of turkeys laying in the warm sand on a south-facing bank. Deer. Grouse. Two wood ducks. Red winged blackbirds. Signs of spring. Denny and Kim found a spot where a bear dragged a deer through the woods. Tracks and scat.
The river is a little high and stained after a warm rain. A spring rain? Perhaps. Winter is breaking slowly. The trout have been alternatingly happy and grumpy. Great days that turn out slow. And slow days that turn out great.
Like everyone, I wanted to get away for a bit this past week. Just an hour after work and before the kids got off the bus. The water was clear — this was before the storm — and I ditched the Euro rig for a fine and far off indicator system, two tungsten beads, something that I could fish at a distance and keep from spooking too many trout. I planned to work up from the bench at the lodge and see if any rainbows were staging in the pools.
It was the perfect day. And my first cast was a trout. A nice trout. A foot long trout. Enough, on my first cast, to call it an afternoon. But, hell, why not throw a second cast? One can’t quit fishing after the first successful minute. I did, and landed a ten inch fish, right there in front of the lodge.
Third cast. Fourth cast. I’m searching my memory for what cast it was when the yarn dipped and I set the hook and saw a small flash of white. I stripped down on the line, thinking it a small fish, and my rod tip went nearly to the water. The white flash didn’t stop flashing. It was just a small white spot deep in the run.
It was a big fish. A really big fish. And the white “flash” was the fish’s mouth, and it was a big mouth.
The trout didn’t rush to the wood, it sort of just swam that way. I put the rod tip in the water and held the line submerged as the fish went under the undercut of the fence and held there. I was fishing 6x, a size 14 and a size 16. The whole time I’m whispering to myself self-assuring things like this is fine and he‘ll get tired. And he did.
He turned out of the fence and then ambled down the middle of the river, past the cedar, and past the bench. I ran alongside him and turned him into the backwater across from the bench and saw the full side of him, the nubby tail that robbed him of a few inches, the huge shoulders, the big adult trout, the sort of fish one typically finds on a 15lb test and a six-inch streamer, a big old Holy Water monster. Rusty always called the big fish under the bridge “Henry.” This was one such Henry.
I backed him up into the shallows without realizing I was backing him right up into a small tangle of logs, which the fish buried himself into. Luckily he was too long to hide his nubby tail, and though it wasn’t a firm grip, it was enough to get him out of the jam and into my net. It was a full adult trout. I didn’t measure him. Didn’t weigh him. He wasn’t enormous, but I could barely one-hand him. He ate my finger and he made my year and he provided a whole bunch of memories and a new sense of possibility.
It’s going to be a good year. It’s just off to a difficult start. Go fishing. No big crowds, and a little river therapy. For many, what else is there to do?
I’d like to thank the Michigan Fly Fishing Club for the many years of successful fly-fishing shows, many of which have been very good to Gates Lodge, and numerous other vendors. The MFFC is an all-volunteer organization that puts together one of the best fly-fishing shows in the country, and uses the money it raises to make fly fishing better in Michigan. “The Club” is one of the foundations of Michigan fly-fishing. You folks do it right. And I know you’ll be back next year with a great show, and so will we.
In the meantime, Gates Lodge has a lot of fly-fishing gear to sell — stuff we usually sell, on discount, at the fly show. To address this overabundance, we are going to work hard tomorrow to set up the online store with the same sale atmosphere as the show, with a discount code that applies to everything on the store, and then marking other gear down much further. We will also be offering free shipping. An email blast going out tomorrow will fill in the blanks.
From now until March 26, all rooms are only $60, single or double, cleaned to speck, and right on the river. Come get away…
Sup for our email list at the bottom of our homepage: https://gateslodge.com/
Visit our new catalog here, pick some stuff out, and we’ll add sale prices to items on Friday: Gates 2020 Gear Guide Final Opt