Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For October 1st, 2010 Edition.
It had been slightly over a year since I last visited one of my very old and dear friends. At first I hardly recognized her, as recent torrential rains had swollen her body well over a foot, darkened her waters and flooded the stands of speckled alders that line her banks. But I knew she'd still welcome my companion and I and I also knew at least a few of the resident native brook trout would provide a bit of action.
The date was September 18th of this year - the location was one of Michigan's Upper Peninsula's most popular trout streams. My, friend and companion was Mike Frank, who was making his second pilgrimage to the promised land although my memory fails to recall how many times I've embarked on the pristine journey that lay before us. That was the good news.
Besides the unusually high water additional negative fishing conditions centered on the weather. We were one day on the backside of a wicked cold front. The sometimes-brisk northwest wind carried an Arctic chill with morning temperatures hovering in the low 40s and the sky was nearly cloudless. We already had an excellent excuses should we return home with an empty creel.
Brook trout are the only truly native stream trout in eastern North America - or so I've read. Fish biologists also claim that only about 4% of existing brook trout waters contain pure strains of native brook trout populations. Fishing season on most brook trout streams ends in early fall, September 30th in Wisconsin and Michigan, to protect the fish during their spawning season. As unlike most fish species, brook trout spawn in the fall, generally in early to mid October here in the North Country.
Prior to our arrival at our put-in location Mike and I had stopped for a gut filling breakfast and also purchased our one-day non-resident fishing license, each of which cost about eight bucks apiece. By 9:30 we were sliding my canoe down a grassy slope into the aforementioned darkly stained waters that were well above flood stage. My little inner voice spoke of nothing by negatives concerning our expectations of securing a dinner of succulent, mouth watering orange-fleshed brook trout fillets.
I snapped a silver Blue Fox number one spinner on Mikes line, the same lure that produced a 20 ½ inch Brown trout for me in August, and I opted on trying a number one Mepps spinner with a multi-colored spinner and a bronze body. Much to my surprise Mike connected on a feisty brookie on his third cast! The little scrapper was an inch too short to receive an invitation to be part of the main course at dinner later that evening and it was gently returned to its home to hopefully grow up to be a big scrapper.
For about the first mile of our downstream float the river flows through a marshy area where much of the bottom material in the stream is soft and mucky. During that first hour after Mike's initial fish the only living thing we encountered was one eagle and two soaring turkey vultures. I surmised that possibly most of the brook trout had already migrated downstream into the section of the stream that contains numerous areas of gravel where brook trout spawn.
Shortly after reaching the section of the stream mentioned in the previous sentence our second trout unexpectedly darted from underneath an overhanging alder with the speed of an air to air missile and smacked my spinner with a vengeance, which is very normal occurrence when fishing for these speckled beauties. This one exceeded the minimum length limit by a little over an inch and soon rested in a plastic bag on ice in our small cooler. My final comment on the turn of events was, "At least we're not skunked."
By ten-thirty the temperature had warmed nicely and we had entered a much narrower river valley lined predominately with towering tamarack, balsam and spruce trees, which greatly reduced the minor discomfort created by the chilling northwest breeze. Activity by our underwater friends also improved as several more undersized brookies were released and Mike got on the scoreboard with a second keeper slightly larger than mine. We had doubled our legal catch.
Ma Nature continued to be unusually quiet. Few songbirds were about, we jumped but one wood duck and a pair of mallards and the usual spotting of deer along the forested banks did not take place. But the old gal was beginning to showcase her traditional fall colors as splotches of gold, orange and reds on shore side maples was interspersed between the various shades of green being displayed by the evergreen trees. Another plus was the peace and quiet with the only foreign sounds being an occasional distant shotgun blast, which reminded us this date was the opening of grouse season.
Mike's second keeper was definitely a male, resplendent in full brilliant spawning colors and measuring a tad longer than a foot. In my estimation a male brook trout in fall is the most beautiful freshwater fish in North America. And add to that - brook trout is my personal number one table fish.
Due to the increased flow of the river what is normally a five and a half hour trip was completed in four hours. But what a wonderful four hours it was. Despite the fact the catching was minimal, Mike and I experienced a perfect fall day and ended up with enough fresh trout to at least give everyone that would be descending on the Anderson house for dinner - a taste of exquisite dining pleasure.
During my absence Wifee Poo had been busy preparing various items to complete the evening menu. Our home was filled with the aroma of brats simmering in a mixture of onion and beer. A "ho-ho" chocolate cake was cooling on the counter and the frig housed fresh potato and three been salads.
Besides our friend, Mike, guests included our daughter Anna and her current significant other, Nate Dickman, both of Wausau, long time friend and fishing client from Madison, Tim Vernon, who owns a summer home just across the creek from Peggy and I, and Bill McCarthy, another old friend we hadn't seen in many years. To top off the guest list, one of our close neighbors, who only lives a half mile from us, Bob Mesko, dropped in to see how the trout fishermen faired. Presto- instant party!
While I prepared the main entrée, lightly floured in Buckshot's fish flour mixture # 1, which I slowly simmered to toast brown in olive oil and butter, a second pan of bluegill and perch fillets that had been saved for such an occasion also browned to perfection.
As I cooked our living area rocked with guitar music provided by the Nate and Mike Duo, featuring a few old Johnny Cash ballads and assorted other popular numbers. (Nate is a popular featured nightly entertainer at Hiawatha Supper Club in Wausau, a unique establishment Anna manages.)
About seven o'clock the house became very quiet. The only sounds were an occasional, "pass the fish" and "ohhhh, its soooo good."
By eight-thirty all that was left in our house besides Peggy and I, plus Belle and Buffy, was dirty dishes and great memories of a wonderful day in the Northwoods!
By nine o'clock yours truly had already been conquered by The Sandman..
Ah yes, life is good, and on this day it was VERY good!
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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