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Fishing Steelhead and Camping on the Pere Marquette and WhiteRivers in MichiganMarch 17-18, 2007
My fiend Bruce is still part of the world of work and, like so many others, has not been able to enjoy the Michigan steelhead season. That changed when he booked a three day trip with Walt Grau, a thirty year veteran guide of the PereMarquetteRiver. As a solo bank fisherman, I looked forward to enjoying his generous offer to take me along for two days. My other friend, Ron Olsen accompanied Bruce on Monday. They stayed at the new Baldwin Bait and Tackle digs on Sunday night and they were able to glimpse into the guide shack and reported a collection of many pairs of boots and numerous rods and reels. They toured the White River on Monday and fished hard. The catching was hard but Ron was lucky to haul in a dime bright fish early on for his first fish of the year. On Monday night I stayed at Ivan's campground instead of my usual spot in the Claybanks USFS area. Facing two days of fishing all day, I declined to fish that evening , and made (heated) the guys a dinner of roasted chicken and curried rice. I had the oak slab campfire blazing and we enjoyed talking and some fine shiraz. They both felt good about the day. They were sunburned and talked about the beauty of the White River.

How you feel when you land your first steelhead of the year.




Since the PM had not been fishing very well we went bank fishing on the Little Manistee. I had seen it before but not many times. We drove into a primitive camping area between the six and nine mile bridges. It was my kind of place. I could see myself fishing right out of the camper. There were six other parties camped there. I was impressed by the speed of the river and the numerous bends and deep slots. We fished until noon. Bruce hooked a big male that jumped twice and broke his line. I saw a big buck swimming with his nose toward Lake Michigan. He looked like he knew where he was going. I spoke with a guy in his tenth day camping and fishing. I agreed he had hit the worst weather. It made me appreciate my ability to fire up north when the fishing looks good and retreat to recover. I didn't mention the obscene success I had experienced on several days.
I did mange to get my foot planted wrong on a log and was unable to stop a comical sit down in the icy current. The cold water descended my backside, and gave a lie to the thought that it really wasn't that bad. We ate lunch in Wellston and decided to float from McDougal's Lodge to Rainbow Rapids to continue the theme of "doing it different." We saw no other boats or bank fisherman. I stood in a deep run with overhanging branches front and back and managed to haul in my first of the trip. I tied the first of three nail knots of the trip in this spot as I left it all on a single bare branch. It broke off with a loud snapping sound.

Our float from McDougal's to Rainbow Rapids produced one fish for me








Dinner was on Bruce and he produced a fine tenderloin steak with his wife's fine zucchini/tomato/rice casserole. We were hungry. We again enjoyed a campfire, conversation, and good wine. I reflected on the wisdom of staying up until 1:00 when the call would come at 5:30 for a long float from 37 to Gleason's, but we had a good time and had plenty of energy. Partly we were energized by the dark rain clouds that arrived and prompted some steelhead to show themselves and give us hope. The down side was the traffic. We spotted some fish and Bruce needed a fish. I was given a deep, black, slow moving hole downstream of Bruce's action. I felt a little hopeless in this spot and amused myself with taking pictures of Bruce casting and making what I thought were perfect casts and floating my egg's through a bubble line near the far bank. I was jolted when a hard grab from a nice hen led to a spirited fight.

This is the first of two spawned out hens I hauled out of a deep pool below spawning fish.




Bruce connected with this buck to make his trip.




Bruce has nice spey casting technique.





I appreciated the generosity of my friend and look forward to our next yearly steelhead trip. As I drove home to Ann Arbor that night after little sleep and fishing in the rain for ten hours it made me feel like the running and lifting that preserved this 62 year old body was worth it. I prefer fishing from my camper so I can pace myself better but the knowledge I gain fishing with a true expert like Walt Grau makes me appreciate how much there is to know about the river.
There are fish in the river if you are willing to be patient and you avoid bright sunny days. I have one more shot next week, before I head to Florida to meet up with my friend Jerry for some Keys tarpon fishing. I have had great success this spring because of my dogged determination. Just as in running, I overcome many weaknesses by patience and determination. I can sustain my adolescence because my parents taught me to love nature. I feel their approval from the beyond when I have a great day on one of our fabulous west Michigan rivers.
For other steelhead accounts click here:
http://www.wallyherrala.com/fishing_reports.htm
 

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Very Nice!
 

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Great pics and report!

Thanks for sharing your story with us.
 

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Excellent post. That last buck is awesome.
 

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I enjoyed your post, you should be a writer in woods and water or some magazine. I felt like I was with you guys. Thanks for sharing. Congrats
 

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Wally
Great report and pics! I spent a couple of days on the Little M the weekend of the 14th.
Jim
 
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