Monday, September 30, 2013

Big Fish on the Pere Marquette

Many have observed that fly anglers go through three phases in their evolution. First, they want to catch as many fish as possible. Then they become obsessed with catching the largest fish. And finally they simply want to catch fish in the most challenging and appealing of environments.

I'd like to pretend that I'm at the stage where I'm only interested in is fishing well in wonderful places and not worry so much about the results; but I concede to liking to catch really large, hard fighting fish. That is why this past weekend I made my second annual trip to the Pere Marquette in Michigan with a group of friends -- some of whom have been making the salmon trip for more than a decade.

King Salmon aren't native to the Great Lakes, but Michigan officials have engineered an outstanding and entertaining fishery. Since salmon don't eat once they begin their spawning run most of the fish hooked in the mouth are done so by accident; and most fish hooked are hooked somewhere other than the mouth. In other words, the angling isn't exactly pristine. But the scenery on the PM is beautiful with tall pines standing guard along high sandy banks. Owls hoot in the distance as we stand under the stars waiting for the sun to come up, and once it does eagles can be spotted overhead looking for dying salmon to become dinner. The PM is a challenging river to fish with its deep pools and abundance of log jams. It seems like every fish knows just where the nearest log is located and quickly runs there to break the line. This past weekend we lost so many fish on one log jam in particular that it was named "Freedom-land."

I managed to avoid "Freedom-land" and all of the other obstacles on the largest and last fish I landed. The 30-plus-pounder ate (or opened its mouth when it floated by) a hex pattern and took me downstream more than 100 yards. I was wondering if it would ever come to the net when I decided to take a chance and climbed up on the bank. The extra height gave me the leverage needed to lift the fish's mammoth head out of the river long enough for Kyle to slip the net underneath. The salmon was the largest freshwater fish I ever caught -- by far.

It's size was sufficient to make up for not landing another fish over the next two days. I hooked and fought plenty, but lost them all. But I wasn't disappointed as none of the fish were nearly as large as the big one that didn't get away.

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