Spring Fever

“Let’s go fishing!”

The three magic words. Not according to your significant other of course. If I am remembering correctly I think those magic three words are “I’ll do dishes”.

But alas, I am not here to give advice on appeasing your better half. In fact, I would instantly discard any relationship how-to book written by a fisherman. While trout are rarely seduced by the humble gift of a tiny Blue Winged Olive; they at least simply ignore your offering instead of throwing it back in your face. Fisherman are not likely to be experts on the particulars of handling a relational crisis, especially one brought on by their own doing.

But here I am, continuing to ramble about love and it’s many intricacies. It must be that “Spring Fever” my high-school teachers always laughed about. That fever is probably what prompted Doug, Ryan, and myself; upon learning of our wives’ plans to be away for the weekend, to turn to each other with glee in our eyes and proclaim

“Let’s go fishing!”.

Never step foot in trout water without Smiletime

Never step foot in trout water without Smiletime

Word on the wire said that the rivers lining the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula had reached fishable levels and were beginning to warm up. Streamers and nypmhs in the dark holes and runs would still be the name of the game; but the chance of teasing a native Brookie from a sunken log with a tasty looking Hendrickson was burning a hole in the back of our minds.

The Michigan spring came fast and early this year. Already in mid-March we were seeing the ground thaw and winters’ white blanket trickling into swelling rivers around the state. Of course April showers turned into 2-feet of snow across the Mitten and throttled all excitement for many trout fishermen. However, by the third weekend of the month, 70 degree days were forecasted, and the trout were waking up.

The three of us rolled into a deserted campsite hard on the banks of the remote Pigeon River. The drive up had been filled with hopeful projections of slamming slabs of Michigan butter and ill-advised Taco Bell; one of which will play a major role later in this story. Standing on the bank, fly rods in hand, we hearkened to the words of a young Hemingway who stalked this river a hundred years ago.

“The river made no sound. It was too fast and smooth.”

Ryan surveying the swift flowing Pigeon

Ryan surveying the swift flowing Pigeon

The water level had almost doubled in the hours leading up to our arrival. Being outside of cell phone service, we were left without the trusty USGS river data which holds a solid spot on our browser favorites bar, and were unaware of the recent changes in levels. But three young men observing a trouty piece of new water do not dare step on the pessimistic side of the proverbial line. Confidence catches trout. However, no amount of human conviction can force a trout to feed, and therein lies the strategic fault in the attitude of a trout fisherman.

As the deepening dusk signaled ‘last call’ on the river, we three trout-less individuals trudged to our camp fire and slumped down baffled by our utter lack of action on the water. The sharp sizzle of brats quickly lifted our spirits and as we drifted asleep to the lullaby of Augustus Bulleit, our heads swam with brilliant, energetic trout.

I awoke with a start to see Ryan scrambling from the tent like it was on fire! He made it halfway out the door and left last night’s dinner right there on the dew soaked forest floor. Gingerly stepping around him I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and began to set about building a breakfast fire. Breakfast only came for me that morning. In fact lunch and supper were solo pursuits as well. Ryan and Doug spent a bluebird April day convulsing and retching on the banks of the Pigeon River. Valiant attempts at a normal day of fishing were made, but as the sun climbed high and beamed down upon the wilderness, they felt weak, dizzy and utterly miserable.

Working my way downstream as the afternoon waned, I worked small streamers in and out of every nook I could find. When you fish for 8 hours without a strike, there is a desperation that sets in and your purpose for being on the water switches from peaceful recreation to manic pursuit. Bouncing down through a straight deep riffle, feeling like Neil Armstrong taking that “giant leap for mankind”, I glimpsed Ryan threading his way through the thick bankside brush. I scrambled up on bank and found out that he had been slowly fishing for the last two hours, leaving the river every 20 minutes to heave into the bushes. We made a plan to work a pair of sweeping bends with deep, structure ridden holes and then grab some supper before the evening bite heated up.

Working a deep, dark corner

Working a deep, dark corner

As we talked about what to prepare for supper that evening, our good sense prevailed and we decided to call it an early weekend. Heading home early from a fishing trip is definitely not an easy or enjoyable thing to do; but it becomes easier when 2/3 of the guys have food poisoning and the fish aren’t biting. The only thing Ryan and Doug had eaten that was different than myself was Taco Bell the previous day. We concluded there must have been something decidedly fishy about their food and wished that it had been the river instead that was fishy.

‘Spring Fever’ had gotten to us in numerous ways that weekend. Despite almost all circumstances going against us, we managed to spend a day in the beautiful Northern Michigan woods where just looking around erases all memory of work, stress and responsibility. Getting skunked on a fishing trip can still be deemed a successful endeavor if you get to see new territory, make memories with friends, and taste the fresh air that emanates from areas where trout live. The drive home was spent scheming ideas for getting our wives out of the house once again so that we might have a shot at ‘Summer Redemption’.


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