Having had a rather stressful couple of weeks and with my birthday around the corner my wife approached me with a rather odd request.
Simply put she said "we should get away, do you think you could get that cabin in MI for the weekend?" Having just returned from there she had seen my pictures of our accommodations and was intrigued. This would afford her some much needed R&R and me a wonderful birthday present on the Manistee. How could anyone say no to a request like that? Seriously...
So I got to work and made the arrangements. The girls were more than happy to spend the weekend with friends and family and the Cabin owner as equally happy to generate some much needed revenue. Next thing you know we are driving across the state early Friday morning with a van full of supplies, the dog, a killer weekend forecast, and piscatorial anticipation. Heather's boss lent her his waders and we had purchased her a 24hr license with high hopes of getting her into a nice MI steelie. My wife used to come along with me on local fishing outing when we were dating buy had never really gone steelheading with me so I was hoping we would turn a fish or two.
Arriving at our accommodations I offloaded the supplies while my wife toured her "cabin in the woods". To say she was impressed was an understatement and I think I will have a hard time going back without her. By now we were approaching 2pm and the heat of the day was at it's peak. Like many die hard steelheaders I'll take a freezing day on the water over a warm one any time but my wife was enjoying the unseasonably high temps to say the least. Thinking my wife may not want to fish to the extent that my OCD tendencies will drive me towards I suggested she bring a chair and her book. Keeping that in mind we decided to hit the sawdust section as it is a beautiful section of the river where one can easily escape the stresses of life and become lost in nature. Arriving at the access site I was surprised to only see a handful of cars. The camping section was full and the same crews was still there from the week prior. We geared up and made our way to the river. Thinking about starting out at the long run to the right from the bottom of the hill I peeked over the bank to see 6 guys waist deep. It was reminiscent of an Ontario river after opener and my stomach slightly knotted up. We crossed our fingers and hiked further down to the section where we had our best luck last week. Amazingly enough this section was uninhabited so we started our afternoon there. The river was very clean and had dropped about 6-8". This section affords some depth so it had taken on that ever so alluring emerald glow. I had a good feeling and gave Heather a brief rundown on the pool and how to approach it. I have to give her credit as she stuck it out for a while to no avail before the call of the chair and book was too much to resist. I continued to do my thing and made my way up and down and in and out of the river. This water was awesome but we could not turn a fish. Sometimes that just the way it goes. The armada of riverboat traffic surely didn't help things. We decided to cut our losses and head back to the cabin. It was approaching 4:30 and the fresh air must have gotten to Heather as she was thinking nap time while I was thinking here was an opportunity to slide down to Suicide as we did rather well there last week in the evenings. Once again the parking lot was rather empty and I ran into a nice gentlemen just walking back from a full days fishing. He was quick to comment on the lack of fish and informed me the entire section to the right at the bottom of the stairs was all mine if I was so inclined.
That was enough to convince me to make the climb down the million stairs to the river bank. The sun was just at the right angle that afforded some shade down in the tail out so started to make my way down there floating along the way. With the exception of a few 1 lb brownies an uncomfortable theme was starting to settle in on this trip. I made the hike out just before 7 pm and headed back to the cabin.
Heather was just getting up from her nap and we decided to take Cody for a nice walk down the road to a field where I had just passed three deer on my drive back. It was exceptional spring weather and I really shouldn't complain about it. Just not fishing weather. Being a lab Cody is always in his element when we are North and longs for the long walks. I can only imagine how his nose must go into overdrive with all the critter smells and the like. After returning to the cabin we had a nice meal and settled done on the couch with some TV and a nice fire in the fire place. (note to self...when you think the damper is open...visually check with a flash light! IDIOT)
5 am came too early the next morning and I found myself drinking coffee with baileys on the couch waiting for the first signs of daylight. I was certain I could turn a fish or two down at Sawdust and that was my plan. Arriving at the access point I wasn't surprised to be alone. MI fishermen like their sleep and first light is seldom busy in my experience. I gave the first run a decent go to no avail and decided I better head down to the preferred water before the troops started their decent on the river. The sun was just starting to peek over top of the hills and the reflection of the trees and sun from the far bank on the water was hypnotic.
I pounded this particular section of river from top to bottom to no avail but still I kept my confidence in check. I was certain there were fish here when what I figured was a fair sized brown rose and took a fly in some swift water very close to the bank just up from me. I made a perfect cast way above from where the fish rose and started to mend my line as the float meandered down towards me. Suddenly the float dropped and instinct had me abruptly pull back on the big rod. The rod loaded up and a familiar thumping action ensued. I was certain it was a 1-2 lb resident brown when the thumping increased in severity and duration. Suddenly the fish exhibited its power and I immediately knew it was a MI steelie. The week prior I had noticed similar patterns in these fish where they initially sound in the current as if they are unaware they are hooked until they realize they are and explode. It was very hard to tell how big this fish was as I could not get the fish remotely close enough to have a glimpse. The battle ensued for quite some time until I finally got a glimpse of a long drop back buck. With luck on my side I managed to swing him onto the beach and give my aching shoulders a break. The power and grace of these MI fish never cease to impress me and this fellow was eager to get on his way. After a few quick photos he did just that and returned to the section from which he came. It was very cool to see that fish actively feeding on flies off the surface and as equally cool to have picked him out of that run. By now the river boat traffic was starting to show up and I decided I had enough time on the water for the morning. It was time to head back to the cabin, make breakfast for Heather, and have a lazy morning. Later in the day we decided to checkout Bear Creek at the Coates Highway bridge. The river was looking rather skinny so it was not a viable option. With this days increased temps and full sun I figured Suicide and Sawdust would be not better than Fridays experience. We decided to take a leisurely drive over to Tippy and show Heather the circus. The parking lot on the Wellston side was 3/4 full and the majority of peeps would no doubt be fishing above the coffer. I decided to gear up and hope for some room below to get a few drifts in. Heather brought her book and chair and we made the descent down the stairs. There were a few fish being taken and the river looked very appealing. I did manage to find an opportunity to drop into the river at the first bend and picked up a chunky brown but now steelies. All the water that I would have loved to float was occupied by lead chuckers or riverboats. Nonetheless it was still nice to spend some time on the river and take in the entertainment. On our exit from the river we had a chuckle after reading some MI sportsman's interpretation of PETA plastered on the back of his 4X4. On our way back to the cabin we took the back roads and did some wildlife spotting. There was no shortage of turkey, deer and grouse viewing opportunities on this trip. Arriving back to the cabin I threw the steaks on the grill and and cracked a few cold ones. After supper we settled onto the couch and watched a movie and a had few more cold ones before crashing for the night.
Sunday morning the alarm beckoned very early but was quickly silenced never to be heard from again. I felt my time would be best spent in the warmth of a comfy bed to catch up on some sleep. It was nice to sleep in and have a lazy morning before the 4 hr drive home. Another terrific trip over to the West side. I like it over there. It has a relaxed pace and feel. The rivers are stunning and the people are genuinely friendly. I know my wife enjoyed herself and will most certainly be up for a return trip to the cabin at some point in time. The fishing she can do without but the relaxed pace, silence, and lack of distraction is right down her alley.