Sat, 23 Feb 2013 18:45:42 EST
Time certainly flies. It seems like six years was just a short time ago when I went fishing on the Au Sable River with riverguide Michael Johnson. At that time he had just finished his Junior Year at Hillsdale College and his summer job was using a drift boat from Mio on downstream to guide clients for excellent fly fishing opportunities for trout. Michael had learned how to fish on this stretch of river from both his grandfather and father when he was a child, and doing what he loved as a summer job was a dream come true.
This had been my first experience with a drift boat that has a shallow draft that can even put a canoe to shame. It also features pedestals at the stern and bow called ďcasting hornsĒ where a fisherman can brace him/herself while standing and working a fly rod, even in rough water. The riverguide sits in the middle of the drift boat facing towards the bow while working the oars, which is an art form in its own right. One thing is for sure I became smitten with the entire process.
Needless to say it was a real pleasure to go fishing with Michael again, on his own private lake near Clare where he guides clients for fly fishing excursions from his drift boat. Called a small ďkettle lakeĒ that was formed by a glacier more than ten thousand years ago, Brookhaven Lake is fed by 20 flowing springs that keep it at a cold and steady 40 degrees causing it to rarely freeze over in the winter. It has been stocked with Lake Nipigon (Canada) brook trout and Artic grayling that are beautiful fish species that appreciate this frigid and invigorating environment. Both are also quite feisty when hooked into with a fly rod and considered as true trophies to catch anytime.
Glacier formed kettle lakes are usually pretty deep and not known for having shallow shorelines, so I made sure to watch my footing when I stepped off the dock and into the drift boat. I soon found myself sitting in the bow seat and working a dandy five-weight fly rod (all the equipment is furnished) and doing my best to get the fly out where it belonged. The fly was a small fuzzy-bug affair (I donít get into to the names of such things) on a barbless hook that would drop down about a foot under the waterís surface, and the key was bringing it back in just so.
Michael Johnson was at the oars and fly fisherman Tom Losiowski of New Baltimore was in the stern position. It was a beautiful October day with a clear blue sky outlining the gold colored tamarack trees that dominated the shoreline and sent their shedding needles skimming across the water. The brookies were in the spawning mode and rolling fish breaking the surface were continually evident. This was a catch and release operation and the first brook trout we hooked into and netted were sassy foot long fish that are a true delight to catch.
Tom in the stern was the first to hook into a brute, which turned out to be a 22 inch male featuring all the splendid colors of a spawning brook trout. My personal reference to the coloration of brook trout is that they are to the fish world what the wood duck is to waterfowl. They are just downright beautiful at anytime of the year, but especially so in the fall.
My biggest brookie was a feisty female in the 16 inch category that gave me a real tussle with the light fly rod, and she even dove deep, straining the tackle as she tried to go under the drift boat. Quite frankly, I find nothing boring at all about this type of atmosphere, and the action was such that when I set my fly rod down to take photos, I made sure the fly was out of the water because any unmanned tackle could be easily pulled overboard by eager and aggressive fish.
When I wasnít catching fish, I was watching fish schooling down in the amazing depths of the crystal clear water of the spring-fed lake. It was obvious the bottom topography featured all the things brook trout and grayling would like, including contrasting rocks and boulders and a series of long ago sunken tree trunks. Michael commented that there wouldnít be any efforts to clean any of the fallen trees out, even close to shore, due to the excellent and important habitat afforded to the fish.
The wind was of a brisk nature that day, enough that Michael had his hands full at the oars when were in the middle of the lake, and the drift boat wanted to skim with the wind like a fallen leaf. As is my normal habit with a fly rod, I managed to snag a tree limb during one of our drifts near the shore (and blaming the wind of course). Tying or untying knots is not one of my best skills and I am always amazed at the maniacal knots a fly line can make when it twirls haphazardly around a tree limb. Iíve encountered some very unique knots Iím sure a seasoned sailor couldnít figure out how to undo them. However Michael managed to figure this one out much to my amazement. Being a professional fishing guide, heís obviously seen his share.
All to soon our fishing adventure was over and it was time to head into shore. We hadnít hooked into any of the grayling, but I find that catching feisty brook trout on a steady basis is far from being disappointing. In fact it is both exhilarating and a bit addictive. There is little doubt that Iíll be returning to Brookhaven Lake to sample some more fantastic fishing fun and the possibility catching a grayling is simply icing on the cake. I have never caught a grayling and it is a unique experience that Iím looking forward to (a friend of mine had to travel to Alaska last summer to accomplish this very unique feat).
With winter finally over and new leaves budding on the trees, I believe fishing with Michael Johnson will be a great way to work off a nasty bout of spring fever.
Brookhaven Lake is fully private and therefore a fishing license isnít required. All the equipment including flies is furnished and if you donít know how to use a fly rod, that can be taken care of as well and actually it is the perfect environment for beginners, as well as seasoned fishermen. The fishing time there runs from April 1st to November 30th.
For more information go to www.MJRiverguide.com or call Jeff Johnson at 313-510-0928.
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