Project H, The Magic Pocket
Breakfast at the Paddle Inn set the day up straight with bacon, eggs, hot coffee and a smiling waitress. It was a good place to unfold my county map and search out a place to enter a stream from a backroad. I was anxious for some brook trout fishing away from the hoopla of the Au Sable. The Au Sable is a great river for canoeing and kayaking but for fishing, it generally is as slow as watching snow melt in January. I leave fishing the Au Sable to the tourists if I am serious about catching my limit of trout.
Small stream fishing is not for everyone; it is a tough mosquito ridden journey into brush, chest high nettles and grass, poison ivy, ticks and a host of other hostile elements such as mud, invisible holes, snags, bees, ants and an occasional bear. Beyond those things it is like Alice In Wonderland, a wild world untamed by man and holding the miracle of catching brook trout as orange as the setting sun.
I laid my finger on Big Creek. There are acres and acres of Federal land giving access to this stream to the South of Luzerne, Michigan. It would take a lifetime to get intimate enough to really know her many curves. She wends and winds for miles on end.
Locating some consistently productive trout holes is a fisherman’s quest that in the end will sew his lips tight, in other words, you will have to find them yourself. I have seldom divulged exact locations of where I regularly catch twelve and thirteen inch trout, for when I have betrayed that trust, those fish have found their way into the frying pans of those to whom I shouldn’t have spoken.
Being this was basically a scouting trip, I had little expectation for what I might or might not catch. I just wanted to get my line in the water. Scouting is always a process of elimination with note taking that is either written down in a mental or paper journal. I have a very acute memory so my recording is all done in my cranium. (Pray I don’t go senile or as the old saying goes, I’ll be up shit crick.) The things noted refer to certain sections of stream: too brushy or access fairly easy, too shallow or some deep water, straight with no holes or wending with deep holes, what side of the stream gives the best access to the holes, all things that would either get me back or keep me from ever setting foot in that part of heaven or hell again.
From where I parked the truck, Big Creek looked promising right there at the road as it disappeared into a tangle of alders and tall grasses. It was brushy but not too brushy, the water looked to have a nice flow with some depth that looked promising.
I travel light with a telescoping pole that is over 40 years old matched with a cheap reel that can take some abuse. I have a canvas creel with my hooks, extra line, bait and a bottle of water. The collapsable pole is a huge advantage in navigating through the woods. It doesn’t get caught in limbs or break during frustrating entanglements with blackberry bushes or dense thickets.
Since the water was looking promising right at the road, I settled down in some tall grass a couple of yards from the stream and readied my rod with a small swivel, some leader line and a number eight hook. I baited it with a medium crawler and flicked it delicately into the moving water where the current grabbed it and sent it swirling under the cut bank. I fed out a few feet of line and the crawler was aggressively snatched by a fish that had been waiting patiently for me to arrive.
Some fisherman days are blessed with not having to grunt and grind our way through mud holes or stinging nettles. We don’t have to go to war with mosquitoes and gnats, or dislodge broken sticks from our hair or our ears, we can just stand in the open in one spot and put a limit of nice brookies into the maw of our creel. Hallelujah!
The first fish I hooked and landed was a beauty, almost thirteen inches, then came a tidy eight incher, then two identical twins of about ten. The last one was a bit more testy of my patience with numerable dry casts, but finally after some persistence I felt that welcoming tug as a fish sucked the crawler into its mouth and darted back under the bank. I waited a few seconds until I felt him again and set the hook. I was overjoyed by an aerial dance not that common from a brookie before creeling a beautiful full colored fish coming in at twelve inches.
I stood there and pondered my luck. The air was still cool and the sun had barely opened its eye over the horizon and I had my limit of brook trout for a nice lunch on the back porch. All I had to do was climb up the ditch embankment to my truck, no slogging through the brush for an hour or so from deep in the woods.
My mind noted and marked the spot as magic, and it will always remain so, even if I never happen to pull another trout from that little pocket of water ever again.
From: The City Slickers Guide to the Amish Country, Stories and Poems From Fairview, Michigan. To be published sometime this year.
by Richard Rensberry, The Grumpy Poet, author of The Wolf Pack Moon and How the Snake Got Its Tail and Colors Talk