Trout Services

Thank you for this guest blog post by Dan Donarski on his love of Pure Michigan fishing, and the opening of trout season.

You have to get up early sometimes. It just can’t be helped, avoided- postponed any longer. The last Saturday in April is one of these.

Bare feet hit hardwood floors. Hunched over shoulders balanced on the side of the bed, elbows on knees and hands on face rubbing stubble.

Struggling to stand. A hobbling walk brings you to the kitchen. Hands find the light switch. Recoil at the invasion of light on the dark room.

Two cups of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. Time to get ready. Time to put on your Sunday-Go-To-Meeting clothes.

Old blue jeans. Tattered shirt. Well worn boots. A ball cap stained by sweat. A vest- whoa! Yeah, that vest. A bit ripe, that vest.

Trout season, Saturday Services trout season. Church of the Fallen Cedars season.

That’s the way it is with the opening day of trout season. To be quite frank, that’s the way it is with every day of trout season, every day when you can get away, anyway.

High holy days are many in the varied religions of the world and for well worn, worm smelling, fly-tossing, hardware-flinging trout bums, the opening day of trout season is every bit as meaningful, full of certain traditional rituals, and observed with the passion of zealots. I know- I am one. A trout bum that is.

Over the past several years I’ve headed to the same spot on opening day. I’ve fished it the same way, with the same bait, the same rod, and the same clothes. My wife, Kris, wishes I’d throw them out but I can’t, they are as much a part of the service happening on this little stretch of river, somewhere south of nowhere, as the trout themselves are. Maybe more.

Over the years I’ve met opening day with an ice spud and winter woolies to fish a trout lake when there was still too much snow to go into the stream. I’ve met others with short sleeved shirts and heavy doses of bug dope. I’m betting on the bug dope scenario this year.

My particular church is located in the eastern Upper Peninsula, somewhere between Raco and St. Ignace. Yours could well be in the pine barrens north of Marquette where the Yellow Dog flows lazily along, or maybe the storied waters of Iron County.

My afflicted brethren that live below the bridge have churches scattered from the swift waters of the Sturgeon River north of Gaylord, to Grayling, and the twin sons of different mothers, the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers.

Your pew may be in the form of a canoe or one of those sleek Au Sable River drift boats. Others, like me, will find our pew after a rather long hike in to waters rarely visited by other anglers. Mine is at the base of a big bend, a fallen cedar at the top end lies half buried in the river, the current scouring a deep hole just behind it. A cathedral of hemlock and cedar tickles the sky here.    

It would be nice to think I could fly fish this water, fly fishing is one of my greatest passions. However, this four-step-to-get-across stream just doesn’t have the room for a cast, my cast anyway. Instead I go with how I was taught by my father and uncle Clem. A nine-foot fly rod, the reel loaded with monofilament, a single split shot and a hook dressed with half a crawler. If you are a purist fly fisher change the crawler to a No. 10 Pink Nightie. (Hope you feel better.)

I’ll work the water slowly, dapping the crawler into current seams and using the rod to keep it there. I’ll let the current take the bait under the stream-bank, into those hidden hides that the larger fish favor. If the sun is bright and strong, and I get lazy, I’ll pitch that crawler just behind the cedar and let it sink into the hole before it settles on the bottom. Then I’ll just set the rod down and wait for a brook trout to come by and nip at the worm. Or not. Some baits are never taken, just as some prayers are not answered.

Spring and trout fishing go together like April showers and May flowers. They are intertwined, impassioned lovers. Trout bums such as I celebrate their union.

Dan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.

  • michelle zank

    Very nice writing, I can almost smell your stinky fishing gear!