Norland did a wonderful thing for us all last January. He decided to produce a top 10 list of his most memorable catches over the years and shared them with us all. It brought me much enjoyment reading each entry and waiting for the next on the countdown. It helped me weather some of the toughest days of a long winter and gave me something to look forward to on a fishing front. It was a very kind and unselfish act so I talked to him on one of our outings this fall about producing my own list. So with his blessing I plan on sharing with you all my personal top ten most memorable catches from the digital camera era. Its a funny proposition as it forces one to look back on the mass of photos one has accumulated over the past 7 years and grasp the true reality of just how many fish have came to hand and relive a lot of experiences. We are all truly fortunate men and are blessed to have access to such fruitful waters. So without further hesitation I present you with #10 which I have entitled "Handicap Platform Chinny and the Smile"
If you read this blog or know me on any sort of personal front you will know I have developed an affinity for fishing Michigan's West Side rivers over the past 3 years.
This particular trip had us on the Big Manistee chasing chromers in November as our rivers were bone dry. This trip was one of the many whirlwind shots we were doing to avoid disrupting family life too much with overnight stays. We arrived early to the State Run Facility on the Brethren side of the River and drove down to manicured parking facility by the boat launch. The fishing that morning was tough and I had managed a decent steelie right out of the gate and I believe Gene had blown a nice fish early on as well but aside from a bunch of browns it was a rough go for the next 3 or so hours. We were making our way down river away from the damn and I decided to walk up to the Wheelchair/Handicap platform to see if I could get a better view of the river and get a better feel for what kind of water was out there.
While waiting for Gene to join me I threw a cast out and picked up another Manistee Brown. Gene joined me and threw out a cast of his own and did the same. We had pretty much decided to throw in the towel for the day when I cast out to the middle of the river and made a long drift down to a moderate elevation change in the river when my float disappeared. I quickly set up on what I figured was another brown only to have the 15ftr bend to the cork. I immediately knew it was a big fish but what could it be. This fish was taking no direction from me and was determined to head for the lake. If you know the position we are in you will see the humour in it. Here we are on the Wheelchair access platform high above the river behind the railings. Chasing this fish is a really poor option but it was really our only option so over the hand rail Norland goes. I pass him the rod and over the railing I go and into the water. If you have ever fished the Big Manistee you will know that she runs strong and carves deep channels in the gravel forming long bars and ridges. I found myself in the middle of the river on one of these ridges running out of real estate while the fish was determined to hit the lake. At one point my feet went out from under me and I did the curly shuffle mid river hoping not to go over backwards. I managed to regain my footing and parked myself at the end of the gravel bar. The water was screaming around me trying to push me into trouble all the while this giant fish was pulling me forward. I was in a piscatorial predicament but I couldn't stop myself from smiling. I don't know if it was the fish or Norland yelling at me how useless and pathetic I was and how I had no chance at landing this fish. LOL! I came to a decision that I had no options available to me but than to put the brakes on this beast and hope for the best. And that is what I did. I clamped down on the Mykiss and hoped for the best while struggling to make my way back against the current and over towards the shore. The 15' Frontier was pushed to the limits and won my praises that day. If anyone was watching from the shore they would have gotten their access money worth in entertainment because we landed this beast and it was a great feeling. As I write this I am smiling from the memory. She was a great fish and a true titan of the river. I really hadn't caught a Chinook for many years she sure gave me a run for my money. She was also full of roe at a time when we really needed some. The Salmon run was all but over and we decided what better time to selectively harvest a fish for the cause. I will never forget this fish and just how great the experience was. She made my trip and my top 10 list.