Friday, March 06, 2009
Pere Marquette - Bowman
The spring season couldn't come soon enough for me this year. I cannot recall ever having had such a difficult time with winter. With the incredibly early lockup and the recent Arctic blast it just seemed like it was never going to end. I had been eagerly awaiting a break in the cold for a much needed road trip to get my head in order and perhaps find some chrome. I had been longing to fish the Big Manistee but a recent rise and projected warming trend had me opt for plan B. For the past month I had been getting reports that the Pere Marquette has been fishing exceptionally well. Watching the weather and water graphs closely I noticed that the little river was holding her own and in excellent shape. A guide friend of mine fished from Rainbow Rapids down to Upper Branch bridge on Monday and did exceptionally well. He informed me that the Sulak access road was impassable due to hold over snow so I would have to seek an alternative access point to the river. Typically this river is fished from a Hyde drift boat. There is a great deal of private land and you can cover alot of water while fishing the best of the best runs and holes. Not having a Drift Boat I have always fished the public access spots on State Land and walked the river. Today was going to be no different but my usual haunt was out. I had decided it was time to find some new water and decided that I'd drive down river to Walhalla and put in some leg work. Arriving in Baldwin later than anticipated I made my way down the side roads towards my destination. The PM is open year round from M37 to the Lake but the section between M37 and Bowman Bridge is deemed "Holy Water" catch and release flies only. As I approached the Bowman bridge I decided to pull into the State maintained access facility to have a look. To my surprise there was nobody there. It was about 8am and I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised as we have come to realize that first light is of no significance to MI fishermen. The lure of the desolate manicured asphalt parking lot was too much to resist and I put the van in park and began to get the gear in order. This section of river is a heavily timbered low lying area. Very different from the high banked, hilly Sulak section. As a result the river is literally full of wood. The river was flowing clean and well within her banks. The forest floor was covered with ice from a previous high water event. Hiking today was not going to be of concern. I had only fished this section once prior for about an hour on a bright spring afternoon and managed a few resident browns.
One thing that stuck with me from that outing was the deep black timber laden bends and I set out to find some. I didn't take long to find a suitable spot to start the morning. It also didn't take long to find some wood. I re-tied and cast back into the run only to snag up on another piece of wood.
This was to replay over and over throughout the day and without a word of a lie I re-tied no less than 25 times in 6 hrs. The second spot I stopped I managed to hook a nice resident brown. The Pere Marquette Resident Browns are very beautiful fish. The first Brown Trout to be stocked in the US were stocked on the PM in 1884. That initial stocking lead to the self sustaining Brown Trout fishery of today.
After releasing this fish unharmed I carried on down river where I managed another brown but struggled to locate that big chromer I was longing for. The PM winds back and forth like no other river I have fished and the deep prime water always seemed to be at my feet or best fished from the opposite side. After hiking what felt like a few miles down river I decided to fish one more bend and then attempt a river crossing to fish the prime water on the way back. The last bend proved unfruitful and I made the turn to double back. I got a different look at a small deep slot surrounded by wood and decided it warranted one cast. Not three feet into the drift and the float drops. My instinct take over and I set up fully expecting yet another re-tying opportunity but this snag exploded from the water and was chrome.
Fully expecting to lose this fish in the plethora of lumber that lined half of the river I took my time and hoped for the best. Much to my surprise after a worthy battle I managed to swing a nice 6 lb chrome PM hen to the bank. Just what I needed to cure my head and shake the re-tying funk that had set in. After a few photos she made her escape into the darkness. By now I was getting very eager to cross the river and fish the prime deep water bends that I had passed on the way down. I located a suitable river crossing and made my way to the other side. By now I have spent about two hours on the river and have not seen a single soul. There can never be enough said about solitude on the river.
The first spot I stopped on the way back I hooked and landed another brown. I slowly made my way up river fishing the prime locals when I came to a very deep section.The top of it had a log across the entire river with water spilling over the top providing interesting seams. I drifted this section about 4 times when I decided to lengthen the lead as it looked very dark and deep. First drift through and I hooked a hot steelie. I only managed to get a quick glimpse of it and it looked to be about 4-5 lbs of chrome. After a about a 45sec battle my knot gave on my swivel and she was gone. For as much re-tying as I had done this morning I would have thought that I had it figured out. It stung a little but I had a good feeling I'd find some redemption in the mile or so of river I had left to fish. Rounding another bend I found a fast deep slot on the inner bank. I positioned myself back from the bank and pitched the float to the top of the slot. The float dipped and I set up on a big fish. All I could see was this huge tail sticking out of the bronze water as she spun and spun herself up in the line to the point where she was immobilized. Having just lost a nice fish I was not about to take any chances and I let the current unwind her so the battle could ensue. With lady luck once again on my side I managed to bring her to a sand bar near the bank where I dropped in and tailed her. She was a magnificient fish. Dime bright and pushing 9 lbs. After a few choice pics she was returned to the run unharmed.
The day carried on with numerous snags and the odd resi brown.
The last spot of the day I managed my best brownie both in looks and size and it was a nice way to close out the outing.
The PM is a special river. Just walking her bank you know there are trout in those wooden abysses. Bowman offers a unique fishing experience totally different than the water you will find down at Sulak. Sulak affords high rolling terrain with huge hemlocks and cedars where Bowman is low lands with Ash, Maple and scrub. I can only imagine what the "Holy Water" is like and hope to fish it some day soon. Once one fishes this river they can clearly understand why it is a world class destination and why the steelhead and trout fishery is so healthy. I can't wait to do a float down in a drift boat. I will definitely put that on the list. Who knows...maybe even in 2009. And to think its only 3.5 hrs from my front door.