My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for March, 2011

A great, but cool, weekend

It is near the end of March, but you sure wouldn’t know it by the weather around here. We had an ice storm this last week, nothing major where I live, but it was pretty bad farther north. Anyway, I spent the weekend hiking the Howard Christensen Nature Center, the Rogue River State Game Area, and portions of the North Country Trail. It is a great area for hiking, the Howard Christensen Nature Center is really nice, even though the trails aren’t very long or elaborate, that’s where the Rogue River State Game area and the North Country Trail come into play.

 On Saturday, I started at the HCNC and headed south, and crossed out of it and into the state game area to bushwhack my way to an un-named trail that runs for over a mile to the south, and ends fairly close to a small trailhead for the North Country Trail. The ground was still covered in hard packed snow, which in turn was covered in ice from the recent storm. The trails were slick in spots, especially the “bridge” over Spring Creek. The bridge is nothing more than a few limbs people have placed in the water and they aren’t secure, or very large. I used a fallen branch to help me keep my balance crossing the bridge, and while it turned out I didn’t need the help on the bridge, I sure did on the hill up from the creek! The ice-covered snow was so slick, I thought I was going to have to turn back, and several times as I was trying to find a firm foothold, I had to use the branch to keep myself from sliding back into the creek.

Bridge over Spring Creek

It doesn’t look that bad in the picture, but it was all I could do to make it up to where I shot this picture. After that, it was smooth sailing for most of the rest of the day. I found the un-named trail with no trouble, it ends in a field which made it easy to find. It was a beautiful day, hardly a cloud in the sky, the birds were singing, and the small critters like squirrels were out in full force. I was hoping to see some deer or turkeys, but the snow and ice made the trails really crunchy, and I’m sure the wildlife could hear me coming a mile away, despite my best efforts at being quiet. I walked down the un-named trail to a road, and used that to cross a large marsh to hook up with the North Country Trail. There are many marshes in the area, and there were cranes or herons in the larger ones. I couldn’t get close enough to any of them to get good pictures though, that’s the story of the entire weekend. I saw a lot of wildlife, but always too far away to photograph. That and the marshes, ponds, and small lakes were all still covered in ice, so there were no ducks of any kind to see until I was on the North Country Trail.

It runs along the Rogue River in a couple of places, and I would see ducks in the distance, but I couldn’t sneak up on them. They were skittish, and the woods were noisy, a bad combination for photography. There were several flocks of wood ducks, and I wanted a picture of them, but never got close. There was another bad bridge on the North Country Trail, over a very small creek. The bridge had a solid layer of ice over it, so I didn’t even try to use it, I found a better place to cross just downstream. The North Country Trail uses a road to cross Spring Creek, and that’s where I left the trail to cut cross-country back to my vehicle in the Howard Christensen Nature Center. There are a couple of things about Saturday that I won’t forget, one is not getting any good pics, another is the scent of pine in the air. Where ever there were pines, there were hundreds or thousands of small branches that had fallen from the ice storm. The forest floor was covered in small pine boughs in places, and it was heavenly to walk along in the sunshine with the smell of pine everywhere.

I went back again on Sunday, hoping to sneak up on some of the wood ducks. This time, I went north out of the HCNC to 20 Mile Road, and cut west to hook up with the North Country Trail right along side of the Rogue River. It was cool again, I don’t think it got much warmer than freezing either day, maybe 35 degrees at the most. But the sun was out, the birds were singing, and I was enjoying myself. Almost as soon as I started down the North Country Trail, I was startled by the sound of ice breaking. The Rogue is bordered by large swampy areas on both sides, and they were ice-covered from the cold temps this week. With the slightly warmer temperatures, the bright sunshine, and the falling water levels, the ice in the swamps was breaking up. Sometimes it sounded like a shot, other times it sounded like a herd of elephants run amok. I think it is one of the things that made the ducks so skittish, I know several times I was looking around to see if there was a person or animal breaking the ice, I’m sure the ducks were too. I did see them again, in the distance, I never got close to them though. I also heard a deer snort, but never saw it, the trees were too thick.

When I got to where the trail joins the road to cross Spring Creek, I took a short break, hoping that if I stood still, maybe a wood duck would come swimming along. That didn’t happen, but as I sat on the guard rail  soaking up some sunshine, a pair of sandhill cranes came up the little valley the creek flows through, calling the entire time. I was hoping for a repeat of when I kayaked Muskegon Lake and saw a small flock circling and calling, and cranes from the ground joined up with the flock, until they headed north. That didn’t happen, and I had my camera out, setting it to shoot video, when the cranes turned and spiraled down into one of the swamps. Sandhill cranes are becoming a lot like loons to me, loons aren’t particularly pretty birds, but their call is special to all those who love the great outdoors. The weird call of the cranes is just like the call of a loon to me, it means the great outdoors are alive and well. I hadn’t gone very far when they started calling again, this time from the ground, and their calls echoed back and forth between the hills on the banks of the Rogue, and that alone was enough to make this weekend special.

 There really isn’t much else to say about this weekend, the weather was beautiful, but on the chilly side, and I am more than ready for spring and some warmer temperatures.


Confessions of a Fly Fishing Snob

“Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts.  Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all.  This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of the time immersed up to the waist in ice-cold water.”  ~Author Unknown

Talk to a bass fisherman, and he’ll tell you all trout fishermen are snobs. Talk to those who fish for trout with bait, and they’ll tell you all fly fishermen are snobs. So I suppose that people who fly fish for trout are often thought to be the biggest snobs by others who fish. I guess I have to plead guilty on that count myself. I try not to be a fly fishing snob, in fact, I even rebel against what I think are attempts to take the snobbery to new levels all the time by those fly fishers who get so caught up in it that they can’t help themselves.

I will try to keep my superiority complex in check while I try to explain what that’s all about.

In the first place, not all fly fishermen are snobs, it just seems that way to others. It doesn’t help that fly fishermen have lobbied the state’s fisheries management divisions across the country successfully for what is known as gear restricted waters, stretches of rivers where the only fishing tackle that can be used are flies, and you have to release most, if not all, of the trout that you catch. But, more on that later.

Maybe I should start at the very beginning, the rivers themselves. You don’t have to be a fly fisherman to love rivers, many people do. I kayak with a group of people who aren’t fly fishermen, and they love rivers almost as much as I do. I think most people love the sounds of a babbling brook, that soothing sound that has been written about in untold numbers of books and poems, most having nothing to do with fishing at all. I think there is something primordial about those sounds that have been ingrained in the human brain for thousands of generations. Moving water is generally clean water, safe to drink. I can imagine the early humans hearing the sounds of moving water in the distance as they moved across the land from camp to camp. It would have been a welcome sound to hear the sounds of water dancing over rocks and trees, our ancestors would have been drawn to it,  for it would mean they could safely quench their thirst. Since all life on earth depends on water, the sounds of moving water would also mean food, in the form of game animals coming to the streams and rivers to drink. Our ancestors probably would have made their camps along streams when ever possible, for streams meant water, food, and even some shelter from the harshest weather, since rivers normally carve themselves a valley that shelters you from the strongest winds. And since rivers continue to flow during winter when lakes freeze over, they would have been even more important to our ancestors as a year round source of water.

But for whatever reason we began to love rivers, the human love affair with rivers continues to this day. Poets still wax poetic about their beauty, musicians still compose odes to their greatness, and we seek them out as a place of refuge from the pressures of the world we have created for ourselves.

“A trout is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it.” –Arnold Gingrich

Then there are the trout, in my opinion, the most beautiful freshwater game fish there are. There are many species of trout, and they are all beautiful. They didn’t set out to be beautiful, their colorations are camouflage from predators. They aren’t brightly colored gaudy fish like you see living on coral reefs or in other places, a trout’s beauty is subtle, with nearly every color of the rainbow blended in such a manner to make them almost invisible when they are in the water. I could try to describe them all, but I’ll save you all the trouble of reading my feeble attempts to put the beauty of a trout into words, and post a picture instead.

A small brown trout

I have chosen a picture of a brown trout, not that they are my favorite or the most beautiful, but because browns are the trout most associated with fly fishing, and fly fishing snobs. No pictures I’ve seen or taken truly capture all the colors of any trout, for they seem to have other layers of very faint translucent iridescent colors over what you see here, that change as the light reflecting off from them changes.

There is another reason to admire trout on top of their physical beauty, and that is the spirit of the trout. They are well-known for their fighting ability, but what is seldom discussed is the spirit with in them that pushes them to fight the way they do. When you hook a trout, as far as they are concerned, it is a fight to the death, they never give up. Other species will fight until they are tired, then let you reel them in and once you remove the hook, they swim off to fight another day. Not trout, they so love life and freedom that they never surrender, and they will fight to their death if you let them. That is always something to keep in mind when fighting large trout on light line. You have to get them in the net before they kill themselves trying to get free, and once you have removed the hook, you have to hold them in the current and let them recover their strength until they can swim away safely again. With smaller trout, that isn’t so much of a problem, but, you can still feel their fight to regain their freedom right up until you release them, and that is especially true of wild trout. To me, hooking a trout is like engaging an honorable and worthy opponent whom I respect and admire, in a contest of wills, and even though I hope I win, I always feel a bit sad when I do, and I hope that some of the trout’s spirit rubs off on me.

 “I salute the gallantry and uncompromising standards of wild trout, and their tastes in landscapes” John Madson

So, people love rivers, and people love trout, and even better, trout only make their home in the most beautiful of rivers. Trout need cool, clean, clear, fast-moving streams to survive in, which means they live in rivers that we humans find to be the most aesthetically pleasing to our eyes. But that still doesn’t explain why fly fishermen become snobs, maybe it is the fly fishing?

“Whether I caught fish or not, just the thrill of rolling out that line and watching my fly turn over has been good enough for me. That and the hundreds of treasured memories I have of this wonderful sport.” Curt Gowdy

 There is something about fly fishing that gets into your blood and can never be removed. I am not sure what it is about fly fishing that makes this so, maybe it is the accomplishing of something most people see as difficult. Fly casting isn’t as hard as it looks, but I think it is like any sport, when you learn to do it well, it does give you great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. I am not a great fly caster, but I still love the way it feels when I hit one just right, and I can watch the line shoot out, the fly turnover at the end of the cast, and then land lightly on the water right where I meant it to. There is also something very relaxing in the rhythm of fly casting, even if you’re only roll casting, that is where you never take the line behind you, but roll it back out ahead of you. I am not sure how to put it into words, other than to say that there are days when I am so into the fly fishing itself, that getting a hit is an interruption of sorts. It isn’t as if I am concentrating on the mechanics of the fly casting, because I will still be listening to the birds singing, watching the wildlife along the banks, I cast, mend the line, let the fly drift, over and over and over again, and I find that rather than minutes, hours have gone by. I lose track of time no matter what type of fishing I am doing, but never so much as when I am fly fishing. However, that still doesn’t explain the snobbery part of the sport.

“Beginners may ask why one fishes if he is to release his catch. They fail to see that the live trout, sucking in the fly and fighting the rod is the entire point to our sport. Dead trout are just so much lifeless meat.” Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr

OK, we may be on to something here, the beginning of the disconnect between Regular Joe Fishermen and the fly fishing snobs.

Regular Joe Fisherman hears that and says “Whoa, time out here. Hooking and fighting fish is fun, but the entire point to our sport is what you call the lifeless meat! Trout are good eating and considered to be gourmet food!, Don’t you understand that?”

Maybe I shouldn’t put words in the late Ernie Schwiebert’s mouth, but I can imagine his reply would be something on the order of “No! I don’t understand that, trout are too beautiful to kill for food! I find that notion to be repulsive and abhorrent! If you want a fish dinner, go to the store and buy a fish, it’s cheaper that way any how!”

 What happens to some of us that we fall so deeply in love with trout, where they live, and fishing for them that we go completely off our rocker’s and deny the basic reason that mankind started fishing in the first place, for food? I’ll let Ernie try to answer that one, as while many people have tried to explain it, I think he has said it as well as any one, and certainly better than I could ever hope to.

The following excerpt is from the closing speech at 2005 opening ceremonies at the American Museum of Fly Fishing that Ernie Schwiebert made.

“I will conclude with a story.

My obsession with fishing began in childhood, watching bluegills and pumpkinseeds and perch under a rickety dock, below a simple cedar-shingled cottage in southern Michigan. My obsession with trout began there too, when my mother drove north into town for groceries, and took me along with the promise of chocolate ice cream. We crossed a stream that was utterly unlike those near Chicago, fetid and foul-smelling, or choked with the silts of farm-country tillage. It flowed swift and crystalline over the bottom of ochre cobblestones and pebbles and like Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” it mysteriously disappeared into thickets of cedar sweepers downstream.

And a man was fishing there.

The current was smooth, but it tumbled swiftly around his legs. It was a different kind of fishing, utterly unlike watching a red-and-white bobber on a tepid childhood pond, with its lilypad and cattail margins, and its callings of redwinged blackbirds. His amber line worked back and forth in the sunlight, and he dropped his fly on the water briefly, only to tease it free of the current, and strip the moisture from its barbules with more casting. It seemed more like the grace of ballet than fishing.

And then the man hooked a fish.

My mother called to the angler, and gave me permission to run and see his prize. I remember getting my feet muddy and wet, with a Biblical plague of cockleburrs at my ankles, but it did not matter. The fish was still in the man’s landing met, and he raised it dripping and shining in his hand. It was a brook trout of six inches, its dorsal surfaces dark with blue and olive vermiculations, and its flanks clouded with dusky parr markings. Its belly and lower fins were a bright tangerine, with edgings of alabaster and ebony, and it glowed like a jeweler’s tray of opals and moonstones and rubies. I had witnessed something beautiful, and I wanted to be part of it.

People often ask why I fish, and after seventy-odd years, I am beginning to understand.

I fish because of Beauty.

Everything about our sport (and our cause in terms of TU) is beautiful. Its more than five centuries of manuscript and books and folios are beautiful. Its artifacts of rods and beautifully machined reels are beautiful. Its old wading staffs and split-willow creels, and the delicate artifice of its flies, are beautiful. Dressing such confections of fur, feathers and steel is beautiful, and our worktables are littered with gorgeous scraps of tragopan and golden pheasant and blue chattered and Coq de Leon. The best of sporting art is beautiful. The riverscapes that sustain the fish are beautiful. Our methods of seeking them are beautiful, and we find ourselves enthralled with the quicksilver poetry of the fish.

And in our contentious time of partisan hubris, selfishness, and outright mendacity, Beauty itself may prove the most endangered thing of all.”

Regular Joe Fisherman would probably say something on this order, “More of that fancy talk from another of you fly fishing snobs. You all sound like Frasier Crane and his brother Niles. Can’t you ever speak like a normal American?”

Not when it comes to fly fishing for trout.

I didn’t set out to be a fly fishing snob, or any other kind of snob, in fact, I considered myself to be the anti-snob for most of my life, and parts of me still do. I was raised by basically blue-collar parents who let us know their dislike for people who were snobs, pretentious, or “put on airs”. This was compounded when I went to school, the high school I graduated from was one of the two richest in the area.  If going to a school with the sons and daughters of millionaires, when you’re the son of a tool and die maker, doesn’t make you dislike snobs, nothing will. My parents did expose us to some of the finer things in life, my dad was a big fan of semi-classical music for example, and because I went to  a rich school, I was exposed to even more of the finer things in life, which I rejected as the anti-snob.

And even though I have found trout to be beautiful since an early age, that isn’t the reason I stopped keeping them. That was more of a practical and pragmatic decision, I caught so many of them that I was tired of hauling them home, cleaning them, and then trying to give them away, as you can only eat so much fish. I had read about catch and release, and it seemed like a good idea, if you want there to be fish forever, maybe you should turn most of them back to reproduce and make more fish to catch. I wasn’t even totally hooked on fly fishing at that point, when I started letting some the fish I caught go, and some of the fish I released were caught on (gasp!!!) bait.

 Looking back now, I think the thing that started me down the path to becoming a fly fishing snob was something as simple as buying an Orvis reel. I was going through cheap fly reels faster than one a year, they just didn’t hold up to the type of fish I was catching. I looked at the Orvis reels, and it took me almost a year, and another cheap reel, to decide that I could continue to buy cheap ones until I spent more for them than one Orvis reel, or I could break down and spend the big bucks for an Orvis reel, which I did. As the son of a tool and die maker, I could appreciate the craftsmanship that went into that reel, it was as smooth as silk, an absolute joy to fish with. As a fisherman, I could appreciate that I was no longer losing fish because a cheap reel had failed. I still have that reel, and I still use it all the time. It was a good investment, as it saved me from buying dozens of cheap reels over the years. It is a thing of beauty.

Over time, piece by piece, item by item, I replaced my cheap Regular Joe Fisherman tackle and ended up with the expensive stuff instead. They are things of beauty.

Now I have all the trappings of a fly fishing snob, I often wonder what the young me would think if he saw the present me. “Hmmm, another one of those rich fly fishing snobs who knows nothing about fishing or the fish!” is what the young me would think, but would I have been right? That’s the tricky part, for you see, there are really two kinds of fly fishing snobs.

There is one group of fly fishing snobs that are in the sport just to be fly fishing snobs. They are snobs in every aspect of their life, and they hear that fly fishermen are snobs, and they want to be part of the snobbery more than they want to be part of the fly fishing. They go out and buy the best gear money can buy, hire the best guides, read all the right books, sip the best liquor, and maybe even catch a fish every now and then. They are posers, snobs pretending to be fly fishing snobs.

 So, how do you tell a poser snob from a real fly fishing snob? Sometimes it is easy. If you see some one pull up to the river in an old, run down vehicle that has seen its better days, and the guy changes from street clothes to waders and vest faster than you can read this line, and then opens a rod case that hold two really fine rod and reel combinations, each of which is worth more than the vehicle he drove up in, it’s a real fly fishing snob. A poser snob would never let himself be seen driving an old, run down vehicle, he would have foregone the second fine rod and reel combo and used the money for a down payment on a better vehicle.

 You may then think that if you see some one pull up in a brand new Escalade and choose from the same two rod and reel combos that they have to be poser snobs, right? Not necessarily, for one thing I have learned over the years is not all the rich are snobs, and you don’t have to be extremely rich to be a poser snob, although it helps. So how do you tell the difference? It isn’t easy, but there are ways.

Let’s go back to Ernie Schwiebert’s eloquent speech, for a minute.

 “I fish because of Beauty.”

Any one can say that, even the poser snobs, they’ve read all the right books, so they are more than capable of repeating words like this, but they don’t really know what it means.

We’ve all heard the saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? And, what makes something beautiful to some one? Love. That’s something Ernie left out of his speech, love. We all know that love for a woman makes her more beautiful to the man who loves her, and can make him do irrational things, and so it is with fly fishing for trout. That’s what separates the poser snobs from the real fly fishing snobs, a love for trout that makes them even more beautiful than they really are, if that’s even possible, and our love for trout will make us do irrational things. Like spend money on a second rod and reel combination when we really need a better vehicle. Like quitting a good job in order to take a once in a lifetime fishing trip.

Our love for trout goes beyond the trout, to what the trout represent, something wild, something free, that makes its home in pristine rivers in the most pristine of wildernesses.

Poser snobs love too, they love being snobs.

So, how do you tell the real fly fishing snobs from the poser snobs? One way is this. We fly fishing snobs are river whores, we love all trout streams, but there is always one that we love more than all others. It may not be the biggest, the best, or the most widely known, but we love it as we do no other. For me, it is the Pigeon River in the Pigeon River Country. For Rusty Gates, it was the Au Sable. For Ernest Hemingway, it was the Fox. “Wait a minute here”, you say, “Didn’t Hemingway write about the Big Two-Hearted River?” Yes, that’s what he called it in his books, but it was actually the Fox River that he fished more than any others. He called it the Big Two-Hearted in his books because he didn’t want the crowds of fishermen he knew would come after reading his books to descend on his beloved Fox River and ruin it. That’s how much Hemingway loved the Fox, enough to lie in order to protect it. Get a fly fisherman to talk about his favorite stream, and if he doesn’t get that far away longing look, and maybe a little misty eyed as well, they’re a poser.

If you ask a fly fisherman you meet on the river how the fishing has been, and he says a few words about the fishing, but then goes on at length about the health status of the trout he’s caught and the river, he’s a fly fishing snob.

If he says a few words about the fishing that day and then starts talking about the big one he caught 3 years ago while fishing a big name river with a big name guide, he’s a poser snob.

But, probably the best way to tell is in the way he treats you and other fishermen he meets. If he offers to let you fish the best water first, he’s a fly fishing snob. If he races ahead of you to get to the best water before you do, he’s a poser snob. If he exits the river a long ways before he gets close to you so as not to spoil your fishing, no matter what kind of tackle you’re using, he’s a fly fishing snob. If he wades right through the water your fishing as if you didn’t exist, he’s a poser snob.

Let’s face it, a poser snob is a snob is a snob. They use the fact that they can afford the best of tackle as an excuse for their rude, boorish, inconsiderate, ill-mannered, and often times, ill-tempered, behavior. They have no respect for anything or any one, other than themselves, and if they don’t respect anything, they can’t respect the trout, and if they can’t respect the trout, they certainly can’t love the trout. Rather than calling them snobs, which feeds their snobbery, we should be calling them what they really are, fly fishing slobs.

Often when I get to a river, or getting ready to leave, there will be a group of fishermen there, who have tackle that looks like it comes straight from Wal-Mart, and they have set up lawn chairs, brought a cooler of beer, lots of food, a tub or two of crawlers, and they are fishing. I know they are never going to look at fishing or trout the same way I do, they are out there to soak up some sunshine and fresh air, and enjoy themselves. No big deal, they aren’t going to wipe out all the trout in the river. It does bother me that they are going to kill any trout they catch, but so do otters, mink, eagles, and osprey, and I love them almost as much as I do trout, and I can’t protect all the trout in the world no matter how hard I try. I would rather fish with a group like this than a fly fishing slob.

I also run into a lot of younger fishermen on the rivers who are in their twenties or thirties, casting spinners or those miniature floating Rapalas that can be so effective on trout, and I think to myself, that was me thirty tears ago, there is still hope for them. I am looking to make converts of them, over to my way of fishing, and I know if I act like an asshole, I’m sure not going to win any converts that way. So I have a pleasant conversation with them, and I hope I plant a seed that will grow as they get older. I would much rather fish with them than a fly fishing slob.

But that makes me ponder if age doesn’t have something to do with my conversion into a fly fishing snob. Coming face to face with my own mortality, knowing I probably have fewer fishing years ahead of me now than years behind me. Knowing that I want there to be trout left behind me so those young people I meet on the river will have the chance to fall in love with trout, and everything that goes with them, the way that I have.

There’s more in play than just facing my own mortality, for it seems to me that every year, both the trout and the rivers they live in become even more beautiful than before. You could chalk that up to my being helplessly in love with them, and that it is all a figment of my imagination, but you would be wrong. Our rivers are becoming more beautiful, or I should say their natural beauty is returning. Little by little, year after year, the wounds we inflicted on them during the logging days are healing. Little by little, year after year, they are purging themselves of the sewage and poisons we used to dump in them. And because our rivers are getting healthy again, more wild trout are born and survive to be caught, and hopefully, released.

Seeing this, I realize that I owe a huge debt to the fly fishing snobs who came before me that made this all happen. Even if you don’t fish, but love the rivers, we all owe the fly fishing snobs of past generations a huge debt of gratitude for saving the rivers from becoming nothing more than flowing cesspools devoid of life. That makes me realize I owe a huge debt to the trout and the rivers they live in for the many days of pleasure they have given me. I also realize that I owe a huge debt to generations to come, to continue the work of the fly fishing snobs who came before me, so the future generations will be able to have as many pleasurable days on the water as I have had.

So, to sum it all up, do I think trout are the most beautiful of game fish? Yes I do. Do I believe that trout streams are the most beautiful places to fish? Yes I do. Do I believe that fly fishing is of itself beautiful? Yes I do. Do I believe that fly fishing tackle is beautiful? Yes I do. Do I believe that the traditions of fly fishing are beautiful? Yes I do. Do I believe that many of the books written on the subject are beautiful? Yes I do. Do I believe that I have a duty to pass all of that on to others? Yes I do. I guess that makes me a fly fishing snob then, but please, don’t ever confuse me with one of the poser fly fishing snob slobs, because poor manners and snobbery for the sake of snobbery are never beautiful, and like Ernie Schwiebert, I fish because of beauty.

First kayak trip of 2011, Muskegon Lake

Just got back home from my first kayak trip of the year. It was supposed to be with a group of people on the Rogue River, but every one else had plans. So instead, I decided to head over to Muskegon to do the first of what will be many trips there. I really want to get back in the Muskegon River delta where it enters Muskegon Lake, but after checking the weather forecast, I decided to do the west end of the lake today. The weather report was for clear skies, light winds, and a high around 50 degrees. Since part of my plans for the west end of the lake included large open water, and maybe out to Lake Michigan, light winds would be a good thing.

I stopped off for breakfast, then picked up my kayak from the storage unit, and when I got to my put in site on Muskegon Lake, there were waterfowl everywhere! I noticed two other things right off the bat when I got to my put in site, it didn’t seem as warm as they were predicting, and there was a southerly breeze blowing when the forecast was for a 5 MPH or less breeze out of the north. Nothing major, I was dressed for it. I loaded up my gear in my kayak and started out from shore. Right off the bat, I had to choose whether to risk ticking off some geese, or some swans. Since the swans were already giving me the Bronx cheer, which is a sign they are about to attack, I chose to risk it with the geese. Since they weren’t nesting, they moved out of my way nicely without any violence. If you’ve ever been attacked by either geese or swans, you know they are vicious birds. A great start to a great day!

All the way across the end of the lake to the channel to Lake Michigan I was surrounded by waterfowl. Geese, Swans, mallards, mergansers, bufflehead, coot, and I think a small flock of canvasbacks too, along with the gulls of course. I could never get close enough to them to get a really great picture, the were all skittish, and as it was the first trip of the year, I didn’t have my sea butt yet. Just like sailors take a while at sea to get their sea legs back, it takes me a trip or two every year to get comfortable enough in the kayak to take good pictures. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the waves were running about 6 inches, which is normally no big deal, but when you’re twisting around backwards in the seat, and not seeing the horizon when you’re looking in the camera’s viewfinder, it takes a while to get the hang of doing it without going over. I wanted to paddle up into the Devil’s Kitchen, which is a small arm of Muskegon Lake, but it was frozen over. Most of it was clear thin ice, and I thought I could break a path through to the open water around the edges of the Devil’s Kitchen, but it was too thick, and I kept getting stuck.

I made it to the channel, and of course the wind coming down the channel off from Lake Michigan was even stronger, and a little chilly as well. It wasn’t bad, the waves were around a foot when I entered the channel, and were a foot and a half to two feet on the Lake Michigan end. I wanted to go out past the breakwater, but with the waves as high as they were, I chickened out. Guess I am getting wimpy in my old age. A friend of mine died last spring up in Canada, of hypothermia, after flipping his kayak. The thing I will never understand about that is that Dave was one of those everything by the book kind of guys. I am sure he would have had all the right gear, and would have known how to use it. And actually, if the swells had been higher I would have kept on going, the waves today were just the right height and close enough together to really rock the kayak. Kayaking a river during the winter is one thing, but being out on Lake Michigan where I would probably be dead before any rescuers could get to me is something completely different.

So I turned around and headed back in, and that was fun! No paddling except to steer, and I was surfing on top of the waves for most of the way. I took a swing around the USS Silversides which is moored there in the channel. The Silversides is a WWII submarine that has the 3rd highest total of Japanese ships sunk during WWII of any American submarine. It was re-assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Reserve after the war as a training ship. When it was de-commissioned, a group from Muskegon bought it, and are restoring it as part of their efforts to preserve a little of our history. I think it is open for tours, but I didn’t check on that, but you can here. There is also a Coast Guard cutter moored there as well.

Muskegon has changed in the years since I used to fish Muskegon Lake a lot, there is a park along the south side of the channel now that I don’t think used to be there. When I got back into Muskegon Lake, I swung around to the south just a short way to check out what looks to be a park there as well. I needed a break to stretch my legs anyway, so I put ashore and wandered the beach there for a ways. It is all sand, but there are also the remains of an old boat dock there, as there are in many places on Muskegon Lake. There used to be 40 lumber mills on the lake, sawing up the logs that were floated down the Muskegon River to the lake. From what I have heard and read, most of the lumber that was used to rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871 came from Muskegon Lumber mills.

Like everywhere I went today, there were waterfowl all around, from small flocks of 4 or 5 birds, to huge flocks that must have been close to 100 birds. But also like everywhere else I was, they were skittish as well. I think it is because they are migrating birds, once they start nesting, I’ll be able to get some good close-ups.

I started back towards where I put in, which was the Snug Harbor boat ramp in Muskegon State Park, by the way, and tried again to work my way up into the Devil’s Kitchen. I had completely lost track of time and had no idea how long I had been out there, but a lot of the ice from in the morning was gone. I did make it up there a little way, but then ran into more ice and a mean swan, so I was forced to turn around again. I was going to hit the boat ramp, use the restroom, eat lunch, and paddle up one of the creeks that feeds into the lake, but those plans changed. For one thing, the south wind I had fought on the way out had now become the north wind they had predicted only stronger, so I was fighting the wind on my way back in. That always seems to happen when I paddle still water, I end up fighting the wind no matter which direction I go.

The other thing that changed my plans is that just as I was beaching my kayak, a Conservation Officer pulled up to scope out the lake. I walked over to thank him for the job the COs of this state do, as I always do when I run into them. I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep on saying it, the COs in this state are on call 24/7/365 days a year. They know they will be dealing with well armed lawbreakers on a regular basis, yet I have yet to meet one yet that has copped the attitude that most policemen have. They are friendly and very helpful if you give them the chance to be.

Anyway, he and I talked for at least half an hour, probably closer to an hour. As we talked, we watched the eagles hunting, and the flocks of waterfowl on the lake. We talked about the wildlife there, and across the state. He confirmed that the Muskegon River delta area is a great place for watching wildlife, over 10,000 acres of almost nothing, and he gave me a few tips on access sites and other good things to know. He got a call, and had to go check on a possible violator, or we may have still been talking.

I finally checked on the time, and decided it was too late in the day to set out again, so I was packing up to leave when the third large flock of sandhill cranes I saw today flew over. I saw one early, headed north, later, I saw a flock of around 30 fly over the lake, then they started circling and calling over the north shore of the lake. Here and there from the ground, more and more cranes came into view as they took off, and began to form up with the flock that was circling overhead. There had to have been over 50 cranes in the flock when they finally ended the circle, and headed off to the north, it was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed. I was hoping the last flock would do something similar, but they continued to fly on to the north.

With my kayak loaded and my gear packed, I head off to check a couple of the access sites the CO told me about, and stopped off at the headquarters for the Muskegon State Game Area to pick up some information he told me was available there. It doesn’t get much better than today was, yes, it was chillier than it was supposed to be, and the wind was stronger, but not bad. But, seeing the amount of wildlife that I did was fantastic, because it dawns on me now that I didn’t mention all the birds singing along the shore line, or watching a squirrel come down to the lake to drink, or the muskrats, or the deer back in the woods. It was only the first trip of the year, but it is going to be hard to top it.

Some favorite fishing quotes

I was surfing the web looking for a quote from Roderick Haig-Brown, the author or “A River Never Sleeps”, about wading rivers, and found many great fishing quotes, most I have read before, some I haven’t. I thought it would be a good idea to save them all here for future reference, and so that you may enjoy them as well. And, of course, I still haven’t found the Roderick Haig-Brown quote I was looking for, but I’ll keep looking. It was about wading, and the way it felt to wade a river, and how he would love fishing a great deal less if it wasn’t for that feeling. If you know the one I am talking about, please pass it on to me.

I am going to start this with one of my own quotes, “When you pause to reflect on fishing, you often find out that the pursuit of fish has no bearing on your pursuit of fishing, or your enjoyment of the experience”~ Me

So here are many of my other favorites, new and old. If you notice any mistakes, or have some of your own you’d like to see included, send me a comment.

“If people don’t occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you’re doing something wrong.” John Gierach

“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” – Herbert Hoover

“I frankly don’t make much of a living, but I make a hell of a life” Jack Gartside

“Soon after I embraced the sport of angling I became convinced that I should never be able to enjoy it if I had to rely on the cooperation of the fish.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.” – Tony Blake

“The only reason I ever played golf in the first place was so that I could afford to hunt and fish.” Sam Snead

“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary” Patrick McManus

“The fish and I were both stunned and disbelieving to find ourselves connected by a line.” William Humphrey in “The Armchair Angler”

“I’ve gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water.” William Tapply “A Fly-Fishing Life”

“I look into… my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly: water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now. Then I remember what a guide told me: ‘Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long.” Allison Moir

“Angling is extremely time consuming. That’s sort of the whole point.” – Thomas McGuane

“In every species of fish I’ve angled for, it is the ones that have got away that thrill me the most, the ones that keep fresh in my memory. So I say it is good to lose fish. If we didn’t, much of the thrill of angling would be gone.” Ray Bergman

“The best fisherman I know try not to make the same mistakes over and over again; instead they strive to make new and interesting mistakes and to remember what they learned from them.” John Gierach “Fly Fishing the High Country”

“A trout is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it.” –Arnold Gingrich

“It is impossible to grow weary of a sport that is never the same on any two days of the year.” Theodore Gordon

“There’s more B.S. in fly fishing than there is in a Kansas feedlot.” Lefty Kreh

“If I’m not going to catch anything, then I ‘d rather not catch anything on flies” Bob Lawless.

“The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming; thus it is with time.” Leonardo DaVinci

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

“To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” Norman Maclean – A River Runs Through It

“…buying a fly rod in the average city store, that is, joining it up and safely waggling it a bit, is much like seeing a woman’s arm protruding from a car window: all one can readily be sure of is that the window is open.” Anatomy of a Fisherman by Robert Traver

“Why does a salmon rise? Why does a small boy cross the street just to kick a tin can?” Lee Wulff, The Atlantic Salmon

“It is only the inexperienced and thoughtless who find pleasure in killing fish for the mere sake of killing them. No sportsman does this.” – W.C. Prime, 1888

“In these sad and ominous days of mad fortune chasing, every patriotic, thoughtful citizen, whether he fishes or not, should lament that we have not among our countrymen more fishermen.” Grover Cleveland

“Lots of people committed crimes during the year who would not have done so if they had been fishing. The increase of crime is among those deprived of the regenerations that impregnate the mind and character of the fisherman.” Herbert Hoover

“There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot.” Steven Wright

“Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned.” –Izaak Walton

“If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.” –Vincent Van Gogh

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a gentleness of spirit and a pure sincerity of mind.” Washington Irving

“The solution to any problem — work, love, money, whatever — is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.” –John Gierach

“The Essentials of a Good Fly-Hook: The temper of an angel and penetration of a prophet; fine enough to be invisible and strong enough to kill a bull in a ten-acre field.” G.S. Marryat

“The season is ended. There was not enough of it; there never is.” Nick Lyons

“Smoked carp tastes just as good as smoked salmon when you ain’t got no smoked salmon.” Patrick F. McManus

“I think I fish, in part, because it’s an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution.” John Gierach

“Fly tackle has improved considerably since 1676, when Charles Cotton advised anglers to ‘fish fine and far off,’ but no one has ever improved on that statement.” John Gierach

“Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip.” John Gierach

“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.” John Gierach

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Game fish are too valuable to only be caught once.” Lee Wulff

“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?” Lee Wulff

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” Yogi Berra

“I used to like fishing because I thought it had some larger significance. Now I like fishing because it’s the one thing I can think of that probably doesn’t.” John Gierach

“Something to think about: If you fish the wrong fly long and hard enough, it will sooner or later become the right fly.” — John Gierach

“No life is so happy and so pleasant as the life of the well-govern’d angler.” – Izaak Walton

“Whether I caught fish or not, just the thrill of rolling out that line and watching my fly turn over has been good enough for me. That and the hundreds of treasured memories I have of this wonderful sport.” Curt Gowdy

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

“Often I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand have I been less than in a place that was less than beautiful.” Charles Kuralt

“There is only one theory about angling in which I have perfect confidence, and this is that the two words, least appropriate to any statement, about it, are the words “always” and “never.” Lord Edward Grey

“He told us about Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume…that all great fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.” Norman Maclean – A River Runs Through It

“The trout do not rise in the cemetery, so you better do your fishing while you are still able.” – Sparse Grey Hackle

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” – Doug Larson

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” – Charles K. Fox

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” – Theodore Gordon

“I have fished through fishless days that I remember happily without regret.” – Roderick Haig-Brown

“There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.” – Paul O’Neil

“Most fishermen swiftly learn that it’s a pretty good rule never to show a favorite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife” John Voelker

“My biggest worry is that my wife (when I’m dead) will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it.” Koos Brandt

“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis

“You do not cease to fish because you get old, You get old because you cease to fish!” unkown

“All the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish.” Harold F. Blaisdell

“Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it…” Harry Middleton

“What are more delightful than one’s emotions when approaching a trout stream for the initial cast?” T. Nash Buckingham

“Never throw a long line when a short one will serve your purpose.” Richard Penn

“Fishing books should ooze from a riverbank, not rocket out of publisher’s offices in big cities.” Neil Patterson

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey

“When you are on the river, ocean or in the woods, you are the closest to the truth you’ll ever get” Jack Leonard

“One evening I was awakened from a deep sleep by a weird noise coming from my husband, only to find out he was dreaming and he was a Dry Fly. I suspected then, and now realize, his dreams are not made up of wild crazy women, only episodes of his days of being in the stream.” Jan Thousan

“If our father had his say, nobody who did not know how to catch a fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.” Norman Maclean

“Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.” Norman Maclean\

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Maclean

“By the time I had turned thirty, I’d realized two important things. One, I had to fish. Two, I had to work for a living.” Mallory Burton

“In the best stories about fly fishing … big fish are caught or lost; people say wild and spontaneous words; event becomes memory and sometimes, in the hands of a master, bleeds into art.” Nick Lyons

“Fish are, of course, indispensable to the angler. They give him an excuse for fishing and justify the fly rod without which he would be a mere vagrant.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world.” Will Rogers

“Beginners may ask why one fishes if he is to release his catch. They fail to see that the live trout, sucking in the fly and fighting the rod is the entire point to our sport. Dead trout are just so much lifeless meat.” Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr

“Most fishermen use the double haul to throw their casting mistakes further.” Lefty Kreh

“I am firmly convinced that the ideal combination leading to a happy life is to have the time to both fish and read.” Brian Murphy

“I salute the gallantry and uncompromising standards of wild trout, and their tastes in landscapes” John Madson

“I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself ” Joseph Monniger

“Poets talk about “spots of time”, but it is really the fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.” Norman Mclean

“Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” Charles Waterman

“Some men would rather be photographed with their fish than with their wives.” Gwen Cooper and Evelyn Haas

“Put backing on your line; even if you never use it. It helps you dream.” Jimmy D Moore

“Hatchery fish have the same colours, but they always seem muted like bad reproductions of great art.” Bill Barich -This Sporting Life

“Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, man will know, that he cannot eat money.” Cree Indian saying

“The angel cried with a loud voice, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees.” Revelation 7:3

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus

“I fish better with a lit cigar; some people fish better with talent.” Nick Lyons

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” John Buchan

“Opportunities are everywhere and so you must always let your hook be hanging. When you least expect it, a great fish will swim by.” Og Mandino

“Water is the driving force in nature” Leonardo da Vinci

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Aristotle

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “What good is it?” Aldo Leopold

“The angling fever is a very real disease and can only be cured by the application of cold water and fresh, untainted air. “Theodore Gordon

“That’s about as big as a fish that big gets” Anonymous

“I object to fishing tournaments less for what they do to fish than what they do to fishermen.” Ted Williams

“There is only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself. Anything that detracts from enjoying yourself is to be avoided.” Leigh Perkins

There are two types of fisherman – those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish. ~Author Unknown

Fishing is the sport of drowning worms. ~Author Unknown

This planet is covered with sordid men who demand that he who spends time fishing shall show returns in fish. ~Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.

May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it. ~Irish Blessing

All the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish. ~Harold F. Blaisdell, The Philosophical Fisherman, 1969

There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind. ~Washington Irving

Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl. ~Ernest Hemingway

The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad. ~A.K. Best

The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent in fishing. ~Babylonian Proverb

It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming. ~John Steinbeck

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. ~Author Unknown

Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large fish goes home through an alley. ~Author Unknown

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau

All fishermen are liars; it’s an occupational disease with them like housemaid’s knee or editor’s ulcers. ~Beatrice Cook, Till Fish Do Us Part, 1949

An angler is a man who spends rainy days sitting around on the muddy banks of rivers doing nothing because his wife won’t let him do it at home. ~Author Unknown

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting. ~Dave Barry

I love fishing. You put that line in the water and you don’t know what’s on the other end. Your imagination is under there. ~Robert Altman

Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend. ~Zenna Schaffer

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”- Herbert Hoover

Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job. ~Paul Schullery

I am not against golf, since I cannot but suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout… ~Paul O’Neil

Even if you’ve been fishing for three hours and haven’t gotten anything except poison ivy and sunburn, you’re still better off than the worm. ~Author Unknown

Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn. ~Chuck Clark

There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm. ~Patrick F. McManus, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, 1979

Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish. ~Roderick Haig-Brown, about modern fishing, A River Never Sleeps, 1946

Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers. ~Herbert Hoover

You must lose a fly to catch a trout. ~George Herbert

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author Unknown

Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of the time immersed up to the waist in ice-cold water. ~Author Unknown

Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths. ~Author Unknown

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” – Henry David Thorea – Walden

“Blessings upon all that hate contention, and love quietnesse, and vertue, and Angling.” – Izaak Walton

“The man who coined the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness”, never bought himself a good fly rod!”- Reg Baird

“Wherever the trout are, it’s beautiful.” – Thomas Masaryck

“The fish is not so much your quarry as your partner.” – Arnold Gingrich

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fly fish and he’ll move to Montana.” – Anonymous

“Heaven seems a little closer in a house beside the water.” – Anonymous

“As the angler looks back, he thinks less of individual captures and days than of scenes in which he fished.” – Lord Grey of Fallondon

“For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.” – John H. Bradley

“Perhaps fishing is, for me, only an excuse to be near rivers.” – Roderick Haig-Brown

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river”- Roderick Haig-Brown

Some random, and some not so random thoughts

I have been adding more to the Hiking Places page, I hope to have all the local ones done in the next week or so, then I’ll move on to the ones up north.

Speaking of up north, I want to go, NOW! I can’t wait for winter to end so I can go fishing and exploring up north again. I don’t mind winter, I like it in fact, but come this time every year, I am over it and want spring, which is my favorite time of year to get here. Doesn’t look like that is happening soon though.

Some encouraging signs, the birds are going nuts getting ready to start breeding soon, I hear more of them singing everyday. I did notice yesterday that a maple tree was dripping a lot of sap from where it had been damaged this winter by the snowplows, so I assume the people who tap maples to make maple syrup have already done so. I am also seeing the flower buds in the trees starting to swell, always a sure sign spring is just around the corner. All trees flower, but the flowers are typically so small that most people don’t notice them, but they are there, and they are getting ready to bloom.

The bad news is we’re supposed to be stuck in a colder than normal pattern for at least a couple of more weeks. The deer are not doing too badly, but if this weather doesn’t change soon, it won’t be good for them. I saw a couple of them stripping bark off from brush last night while I was working, and that is never a good sign. Bark doesn’t have much nutrition to it, and if that’s what deer are feeding on, it could mean they are being pushed to the limit.

I am planning a number of trips to the Muskegon area as soon as the weather comes around, these are going to be trips where I combine kayaking and walking in the same trip. I have been interested in poking around the wetlands of the Muskegon River delta where it enters Muskegon Lake, and this spring I am going to do it! In my planning, I have found that most of the delta and the wetlands are part of the Muskegon State Game Area, over 10,000 acres of almost nothing but water, swamps, waterfowl, and a few eagles thrown in for good measure. I should be able to get some really good pictures from these trips. I am also going to do at least one on the other end of the lake, where the Muskegon State Park is, and up Bear Creek to Bear Lake. These will be great ones too. I’ll strap a day pack on my kayak, and let the day decide where I am going to go that day. I am not going to be in any hurry, and I’m planning on spending an entire day each time I go. I am going to take food and water for a full day, starting fairly early in the morning and going til when ever. If it is a warm sunny day, I may even catch a nap somewhere during the day. I have no idea what time I’ll be done, I may still be out there at sunset to take some pictures if I am having a good day. My kind of trips, hey spring, hurry up and get here! Hard to paddle when the lakes and streams are frozen over, I know, I’ve tried.

That reminds me, I have to check into whether or not I need to buy a pass for our state parks this year. The state just changed the funding, and the way they charge for access to the state parks. We now have what is known as the Recreational Passport, for less than half of what the stickers used to cost. I have read that it will be free for me this year because of when my birthday is, but that sounds too good to be true. Not that I mind paying, not at all, we have some of the best run parks in the country, and I’m willing to pay my own way. I have heard the new system is already past the break even point, good news if that’s true! The money also goes to fund our state forest facilities as well, after the state parks have been finally funded the way they should be.

I’ll also have to start looking for when the new fishing licenses come out, they are required as of the first of April, and I’d like to get mine early if I can. My arm is already starting to twitch in the casting motion. I only got to go fishing a few times last year, I am planning on a lot more this year, starting with my annual trip to the Pigeon River Country come the first of May. An entire week of quiet solitude in the largest wilderness in the lower peninsula of Michigan! I am bringing my kayak this year, so I’ll really do some exploring between fooling hungry trout into thinking my bits of feathers and fur are something good to eat. So many places, so many rivers, so many trout, and so little time, darn it. I have to win the lotto so I can become a trout bum, only if I did win, I guess I wouldn’t be a bum.

If I can talk any one into joining me on one of the two weekends I’m up there, I am going to run either the upper Manistee River in the DeWard Tract, or the south branch of the Au Sable through the Mason Tract. Both of these are fabulous kayak trips, it is hard to choose one over the other. If no one does join me, I may do the upper Manistee by myself, and add in a hike as well.

Either over the Memorial Day or Fourth of July Weekends I am going to try to paddle out to Saint Helena Island which is an island in Lake Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge. It is 266 acres of nature preserve that is open to the public, and there is a historic lighthouse on the island as well. Labor Day weekend is going to find me back in the Pigeon River Country chasing bull elk again, I hope for better luck this year. I saw a couple last year, way back out of camera range as it was getting dark, but I did get to hear them bugling.

Now if spring would just hurry up and get here!