Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot AndersonCheeesheads in Yooperland (Revisited)
For July 28th, 2009 Edition.
Prologue: Over the past six decades members of my family and I have often left our home in Northern Wisconsin, which is centered in mid-summer tourist infested insanity, to spend time relaxing in the U.P. Likewise, I've introduced numerous flatlanders from downstate Wisconsin and Illinois Urbanites to the joys of fishing, camping and relaxing in the beauty, peace and quiet that Michigan's U.P provides.
But as Father Time has shoved more sand through my hourglass of life I have gotten a bit lazy and have not visited that special part of my world as often as I should. But during this past July - like General McArthur promised the Philippino's in WW II,- I vowed to return.
Unlike the two of us, who had waited impatiently for our return to paradise (plus Belle, my Black Lab) the river seemed unconcerned about our long absence. It's gin clear waters gurgled a lively welcome and suggested what we came for still inhabited its depths, as Anna, our "middle" daughter, and I unloaded my Mad River Kevlar canoe from my truck and began loading it with necessary trout catching equipment.
The date was July 21st of 2009 - the time ten a.m. As expectant trout anglers we couldn't have dialed up a more perfect day to fish for the oft-elusive brook trout. The mottled gray sky above promised a slight possibility of scattered showers - the temperature was nudging 70 and a light humidity laden southwest breeze whispered through the alders, balsam, spruce, tamarack and cedar that lined the banks of our favorite U.P. trout stream, the Middle Branch of the Ontonogan.
It had been three years since our spinners and flies had attempted to seduce the local residents that call the river home. Our route was one that Anna and I had traveled many times previously over the past fifteen years. Plus - I had introduced many others to the wonders that await one at each bend in the river over the past three decades. Wes, Don, Tom, John, Ned, Conard, Josh and Chris all savor fond memories of traveling the twisting, scenic, wild waterway that now beckoned us to begin yet another voyage of discovery.
Anna and I had arrived in paradise the previous evening. We erected our tent at one of Michigan's most lovely, picturesque and pristine National Forest Campgrounds, Burned Dam, just yards from a soul soothing, laughing waterfall. Not to our surprise the six-unit rustic campground was totally devoid of other humans, a super bonus the U.P. generally provides to those seeking peace, quiet and tranquility!
In preparation for our evening meal the old guy stimulated his appetite with garlic stuffed olives soaked in a clear iced liquid while my daughter settled for a Mountain Dew, but did partake in sampling one of the olives.
Our feast featured giant baked Idaho potatoes; their skins blackened to perfection amidst the glowing coals of a cherry wood fire and soaked with butter, complimented by marinated 16-ounce rib-eye steaks, grilled to medium wellness. Belle enjoyed the meager amount of leftovers mixed with a generous portion of dry dog food.
Shortly after nine, lulled into deep sleep by the melodic tones of falling water, the three of us enjoyed a peaceful full night of energy restoring rest.
Breakfast consisted of a half-pound of crisp bacon and a similar portion of deeply browned pork sausage nestled next to a heaping mound of scrambled eggs and fire toasted whole wheat bread, all washed down by hot, lip smacking "guide's coffee."
As we departed from our cast off location on the river Anna occupied the bow seat and would do 90% of the fishing. Belle became the mascot in the center of our canoe and my job was to paddle, and reminisce from the stern seat. Anna's second cast hooked the tip of a tall alder, resulting in the loss of one Panther-Martin spinner. But it was our only lure causality of the day as she quickly re-located the "short flip" casting technique required for "spot casting" in narrow, brush infested trout streams.
Our self-imposed sporting size limit of 10 inches was quickly rewarded at bend number three with a chunky eleven-inch brook trout! Anna turned and grinned as I unhooked the speckled beauty and remarked, "At least we're not skunked", a remark that turned out to be totally unnecessary!
By the number of dainty rippling circles on the surface of the water it was easily apparent the resident population of trout were actively feeding on various species of insects. It also soon became apparent the trout were also interested in small flashing spinners! Throughout the next five hours there was very few times the angler in the bow had to wait more than ten or fifteen minutes between strikes! It was indeed a trout anglers dream day come true.
What surprised us most was the total lack of evidence other canoeists and/or anglers had passed this way recently. Where leafy alders nearly closed the channel there was no sign of broken branches that normally exist created to ease passage or remove snagged lures. None of the four beaver dams we were required to drag our canoe over bore any sign others had also done so. Likewise it appeared no one had attempted to tear open a hole in the beaver blockage! Also, there were no telltale evidence of candy, gum or cigarette wrappers, soda or beer cans, or any other assorted junk and garbage so frequently associated with the passage of humans! And that was a very good thing!
Besides the frequent appearance of dancing trout dangling from Anna's lures, kingfishers, ducks, blue herons and deer entertained us as we quietly drifted downstream. Wildflowers of every color in the rainbow decorated the alder and grass-covered banks, which added to the viewer-friendly atmosphere - complimented by the sweet music of songbirds serenading our passage.
Of the many highly memorable events we experienced during our leisurely five-hour float, the most joyous was Anna's conquest of her largest ever brook trout! The fourteen and a half-inch bruiser busted her Panther-Martin spinner a split second after the lure plopped into the water next to an overhanging alder. The bulldog battle lasted for less than a minute, as I urged my daughter to "take your time - don't horse it", and Belle leaned over the gunwale whining in eagerness for Anna to capture the monster!
I took great delight in watching my 40 plus year old "little girl" act and look like a six-year old on Christmas morning when I hoisted her prize and displayed it for the first in a series of photos!
By the time we reached the takeout point, where Anna's vehicle waited for our return, my trout fishing pal had landed twenty-four brook trout, nine of which were over our required minimum length. Besides the "lunker" Anna also won battles with two over thirteen inches, two twelve, three eleven and one ten and a half! The so-called "guide" caught two little shavers! Belle was excited to get out of the canoe, piddle in the grass and splash around in the stream!
Back at camp an hour later I cleaned our catch and rolled a portion of the finished products in my special flour mixture for the main course to be savored later that evening. The remaining fillets were carefully sealed in a zip-loc bag and stored in an ice filled cooler for future dining.
After cleaning up a bit we relaxed by the campfire. I sipped a celebration cocktail and Anna nibbled on garlic stuffed olives soaked in my iced martini, while the waterfall continued to play sweet music.
Later we each easily consumed three deep orange colored thick trout fillets simmered to a golden brown in butter, along with side dishes of potato salad and cold-slaw. Later we slumbered again lulled by the sound of a wild waterfall and dreamed of record size brook trout before enjoying another campfire breakfast.
The plan for day two of our mid-summer break from the insanity of the real world included a move of twenty-plus miles to a new location. We took our time breaking camp and cleaning up our favored campsite prior to departing for another of our favorite trout streams - the Paint River.
Belle and I took the lead in my truck with Anna in her Jeep Liberty taking up the rear of a two-vehicle convoy. The first 10 miles of our trip occurred on gravel National Forest roads, which were powder dry and dusty. By the time we reached blacktop Anna's jet black Jeep was bung-hole brown! However, the short reprieve of traveling blacktop was short lived and the second vehicle had to endure another ten miles of airborne dust.
We stopped where the second bridge spans the Paint on Gold Mine Road and unloaded the canoe. Then both of us drove to where the North and South branches of the Paint join and left my truck there, which was where our second day's river adventure would end. Fifteen minutes later we were drifting downstream into a pristine forested wonderland!
The day was quite different from what we had experienced on day one of our two-day outing. The sky was clear, - the breeze vacillated between northwest and northeast with periods of dead calm. The humidity of yesterday was absent. In other words, this was not the type of weather a trout angler would pray for!
To add to the negatives the water in the Paint was quite low, but due to the very shallow draft of our canoe we had a minimum of trouble navigating the shallowest of the frequent gravel bars.
Before casting off Anna and I decreed we'd not keep any trout on this day as we had kept more than enough to satisfy our ravenous appetites for fresh trout on day one. However, should a genuine lunker show up on a hook, such as the 17-inch Brown Anna landed on our last trip to the Paint, we just might keep one of those for additional dining.
The Paint is a much different river than the stretch of the Ontonogan we fished on day one. Here the Paint is wide, rather sluggish for the most part, and extra gin clear. But the beauty is spectacular! I lost count of how many times my daughter said, "Oh my God - is this beautiful!"
Although not nearly as aggressively feeding as they had been the previous day, a few small brookies were dining. During our nearly four hour leisurely float we landed ten little guys, none of which were over ten inches in length. All were carefully and tenderly returned to their homes to grow up to become bigger brookies.
The only member of our expedition that was not happy with our second day's excursion was Belle. She somehow expected Anna would continue to haul in one trout after another as she had on day one! Belle whined, squirmed and wiggled at each cast expecting to see a flashing trout, bending rod and an exciting battle. Anna finally moved my over-anxious retriever into the bow ahead of her seat in order to quiet the beast.
The vote was 2 -1 to leave the dog home on our next camping/canoeing/trout fishing adventure, with Belle casting the lone dissenting vote.
By 2:30 we were packed and heading home to the real world. The hour and a half trip seemed longer than usual as my mind replayed the highlights of our wonderful two-day vacation. Once back at my home Wifee Poo was delighted to discover we had secured trout for her to also dine on, as brook trout is one of her all time favorite taste delights!
Anna visited with her parents for a short time and then headed south towards her apartment some eighty miles distance. As she was about to leave our yard she rolled down her window and asked me a question.
"Dad, do you think we might be able to squeeze in another trout fishing trip in September?"
She had heard my standard answer many times before. "Is the Pope Catholic?"
Yep - we'd just experienced another memorable, relaxing, peaceful mini-vacation in paradise!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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