With over 11,000 inland lakes, and 4 of the 5 Great Lakes at our disposal, it is no surprise that so many men and women enjoy fishing in Michigan. Today’s blog is a sweet story of a boy, a steelhead, and an uncle that gets his just desserts.
I think I had just turned 6 years old. That’s when I caught my first steelhead. We were fishing on the Little Manistee River in mid-April…Easter weekend to be exact. I had caught my prized fish, dad had put it on a stringer for me, and I was busy showing my catch off to every fisherman we passed as we made our way downstream.
To my dismay, I noticed that my silvery trout was getting a bit muddy from being dragged around. Well, I could fix that. I’d just wash it off. Easier said than done when you’re 6-years old. There was a muddy span of slack water between me on shore and the clear, swift moving current. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quite toss my fish far enough into the stream to get the wash job done properly. The stringer just wasn’t long enough. In one last ditch effort I swung the trout out with every ounce of my being to get him into the clear water. Unfortunately, the force and momentum of the small skipper swinging away from me didn’t stop at the end of the stringer. My fish pulled me in with it! I fell face first into a muddy abyss.
My dad wasn’t far away, and he came running to save me. As he pulled his drowning boy from the depths, all I could sputter was “Dad, get my fish!” I had lost my grip on the stringer and my fish was floating away downstream!
Back at camp, my uncle gave me some harmless ribbing about my river bath. As it turns out, I had only fallen in a few inches of muddy water…but the experience, along with being cold and wet, had me quite shook. My dad’s friends got their jokes in, but let me off the hook after a while – but not my uncle – he kept bringing up the fact that I had gotten “fish water” in my mouth.
Much to my surprise the next day, Easter morning, I woke to an Easter basket filled with sweet goodies! How on earth did the Easter Bunny find me all the way up in the woods camping? As it turns out, grandma played the role of bunny that year and had sent my dad with a care package. After inventorying my basket, I announced, “Everybody can have some candy, except Uncle Bill!” His endless tormenting cost him his share of Easter candy that year.
That was over 25 years ago. Yet I can still be found on the Little Manistee River each and every year on April 1st. I haven’t missed a year yet. The tradition – camping with my father, family and friends – is something I look forward to every spring. My dad loves to tell this “fish story” every year at camp…along with many others, and I love listening to each and every one. The stories keep the memories alive and well.
I’ve fallen in a few more times since that day so long ago, into various waterholes across the state, but there is no way you’ll ever be able to keep me from coming back to my favorite Michigan rivers, lakes and streams.
Jack lives and plays in Mt. Pleasant with his wife and two dogs. He is currently seeking to find and reclaim the tourist within as he searches for adventure in his home state of Michigan. You can find more of his writing at Navigate Jack and The Tourist Within.