6-26-04 - It's HUMP day in the U.P.!
Waters Fished: Michigamme River, Unnamed Bog Lake,
Fish Caught: TONS! 2/3 on Northerns. 1/3 on Rock Bass, and 0/2 on
unknowns (3/8 total on Michigamme). 22/38 on Largemouth in the Bog
Lake. So for MP, a 25/46 day (whooo hooo...above 50% landed!)
Outing Date: 6-26-04
Weather: Bright sun with patchy clouds in the AM, giving way to
dark clouds and 20 mph winds most of the day.
Air Temp: cool..probably upper 50's to mid 60's.
Water Temp: Michigamme River was 62F
Water Level: High according to Spin
Water Color: All were clear and stained. Visibility was usually
about 4-6 feet.
Fish Species: Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Black Bass
Pattern Fished: Flying Bunny, Marabou Muddler, Small Popper, Crawfish
Pattern Color: FB's in white with a chartreuse tail took all my
M.R. fish. Marabou Muddler in Yellow, as was the popper. Crawfish
was natural olive.
Fishing Quality: went from good to OUTSTANDING but SPIN says it
gets much much much better than this!! How is that possible?!
Alright, first off I'm going to use a different
layout this week...just trying something different due to the fact
that I took SO many freakin' pictures (I'm including 58 here...so
you can only guess how many I shot)!!!!
So last week I reported on my trip to MN with Renee...got
my first Northern and although it was a dinker...I mean a REAL dinker,
I was happy. Well SPIN from WFF took pity on me; a last minute invite
was private messaged to me to join him this weekend at his place
in the UP for some "REAL" Northern Pikes! Well...I already
had a charter trip scheduled for Sunday, so after some creative
scheduling we made a mad-dash kind of trip to put in a FULL DAY
on Spin's home waters in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. FYI the
license set me back a whopping $8 and I got it online! I bet most
of you thought my first trip to fish Michigan would've been some
I met up with Spin in the Fon Du Lac area late
on Friday...in no time we were packed and heading north towards
Iron Mountain! We arrive late, probably after Midnight, to cold
crisp air and more stars than I've seen in a long time...figure
normally you see the major stars, then on a good night you see the
stars in-between those. Well, we were seeing the stars in-between
the stars in-between the major stars....yeah...sounds confusing
well lets just say there wasn't a piece of the sky that didn't have
a star in it!
Saturday morning I awake to the smell of eggs and
sausage...man Spin knows how to make up one helluva Sausage McMuffin
- home style! I normally don't eat breakfast but Spin forewarned
me...I'd burn this off in NO TIME!
A quick drive and we arrived at one of many many
holes along the Michigamme River. First order of business, Spin
laid out our plan of attack. We'd go upstream and work some reeds,
backwaters and channels and then head downstream to pound the big
pool. I would go for a ride in his inflatable pontoon (I've been
thinkin' about adding this to my arsenal...here was my first chance
to try one out and see how I liked it!). Spin would take the belly
We got out on the water and worked some normally
hot spots...but in a matter of minutes the weather headed south
as darker, thicker clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up. I was
getting blown around, but in spots I could stand up and simply have
the pontoon around my hips. Not a bad way to go I think! Meanwhile
it looked like Spin was getting blown downstream, especially since
the wind and current were both heading in the same direction!
Well nothing happened in this usual spot, so we
moved on to the next "usual spot". While milling about
trying to keep my position, Spin's line went tight with a vicious
topwater hit tight along the bank....unfortunately that hit didn't
convert into a catch!
Time went on and I moved up to an anchored position
while Spin continued to work the slow side of the reed bed. As he
came up and things were starting to look grim, Spin again got nailed
in a back bend. This time, Spin managed to get rid of the skunk!
As Spin moved up along the reeds, I go tired of working the channel
and literally plunked my fly at my side....and wouldn't ya know
it there was a TUG, my line went tight, I raised my rod tip and
the line went slack! Not to despair, I plunked again just a bit
further away and watched my fly sink tight along the steep dropoff...rather
than slowly fade as it sank it was merely there one moment and gone
the next. I raised my rod sharply and felt the solid tug of a fish
on the end of my line! All too quickly I brought up my first northern
pike of the morning, and definitely a more respectable fish than
Definitely confident now, I went back to working
the channel, hauling line to try to get across to the seam on the
far side. It just wasn't making it, so I continued to cast, sink,
drift and strip any water I could reach. Thankfully well anchored
I wasn't working as hard as Spin had to. Then again, Spin was contending
less with the wind and more with current....being in the pontoon
I was getting blown around all over the place with all that surface
area above the waterline!
Well Spin made it up and we both worked the water
in front of us; then I turned to my right and cast about 15 feet
up along the shore. Spin watched as I watched my line go tight...FISH
ON AGAIN! No problem, in short order another Northern came to hand
for MP! Spin gave me all sorts of grief for my "high stick
nymphing" of the Pike, but then again I was now ahead for the
morning! No problem though, Spin simply moved down 20 feet and whacked
another northern of his own!
It was getting pretty windy so any slack water was going to have
potential. I shifted across the channel to anchor at the other side
while Spin started to drift in the channel and work the shore I
was now anchored on. The plan was to hit the head soon. In no time
Spin hit yet another pike, but this one managed to shake free. He
continued to work around the channel and down to the end of the
reed bed. I could see him just beyond the back of the bed when he
started shouting "BIG FISH, BIG FISH"...his rod doubled
over and throbbing.
I quickly pulled anchor and rowed down shouting "just a minute...I'll
be there just a minute" and arrived to find Spin with a nice
fish...I was expecting a Pike but Spin lifted out a heck of a nice
smallmouth! As he released it, he reminded me that there are larger
fish to be had!
Since we were so close, it was decided that now was a good time
to take that leak and grab a bite. Lunch was a well planned Atkin's
friendly mix of Pepperoni, Cheddar Cheese and the best red apples
I've had in years. Oh, and of course I socked down another couple
Before I knew it Spin was already back in the water and heading
across stream to where he had picked up his first fish. I decided
to go back and try our absolute first spot again, but in no time
Spin's rod was again throbbing with the fight of a fish at the other
end of the line. Time head downstream and snap some more photos
of Spin and his second Smallmouth of the day!
And you'd think it stops there, but while I flogged the water as
we headed downstream Spin managed to hookup yet again after considerable
effort, this time with a Pike that gave him the full run-around,
almost swimming right between his legs.
Things totally shut down after this. Turns out that while we were
fighting the wind to stay in a good casting orientation we were
also continually kicking ourselves back upstream. We flogged the
same vacant water for way too long...finally Spin crossed to the
opposite shore and I followed suit.
As we drifted down, Spin hit the structure first and I batted cleanup.
After hanging up, something had to be retied, so Spin and I drifted
side-by-side while I worked the shore. Upon coming to a rocky point,
Spin said something about the fishin and how we needed another fish.
NO PROBLEM...my first cast after that remark resulted in a hard
hit tight along the rocks. I saw a flash in the tannin-stained water
and the fish was off. A few more casts and another pounding it...my
rod did a jig as the fish at the end put up one fast, twitchy fight.
Spin thought smallmouth until I got it in close...it was a MONSTER
rock bass. Spin, FYI, used to actively pursue WI's Master Angler
program...in his estimation this fish entirely qualifies as a Master
Angler Rock Bass. Spin pulled it up, I shot a photo, and then as
we were going to exchange the fish for a measurement and another
photo...plop it went right into the water and swam off!
Again, we got back into the grove of me batting cleanup...as Spin
moved downstream I spent a little more time at this rocky point
and managed another hit and miss. After landing and confirming what
I was hitting, it's safe to say that this miss and the other one
were both also Rock Bass. Spin theorized that I may have found some
actively spawning fish on the beds in this little spot....sounds
like a good hypothesis to me.
Well I worked slow and Spin worked a bit faster...we both had our
eye on the prize...a fallen log that reached out into the river
and created a sizable area of slack water behind it. PRIME structure
for fish. Spin made it down and heck, I was still just downstream
of the rocky point when he connected AGAIN...more fast rowing got
me down just in time to shoot Spin with his third smallmouth of
the day! Man Spin must have a magic smallmouth call or something...what's
with all the smallmouth for SPIN? Even Spin felt I needed to get
on the board with a Smallie, but as it would turn out this would
be the last smallmouth for both of us!
So Spin suggested that I work the shore and bend while he cut across
to work the inside-front of the riverbend at the bottom of this
pool. As soon as he got over there, he nailed 2 more pike! Not to
be totally outfished, I too hooked into a nice fish....got it close
enough to see that it was another "fair" sized Northern;
I'll guestimate 22-24". But as he cruised alongside me I watched
my fly literally just DISCONNECT from his mouth. DRAT!
Well, it was getting close to evening, the wind had not stopped
howling and when I turned around, Spin was already halfway back
to our access point. DARN! I put it into high gear, kicking and
rowing and he still beat me back to shore using only his bellyboat.
Talk about a tough row...we sat and finished off the Pepperoni and
Cheese, another Mountain Dew slammed, and even then I really just
wanted to spend the next few hours lying on my back. Spin knew that
towards late evening/dusk the wind would shut off and the fishing
could be fantastic. We discussed our options...stay and get maybe
a couple more fish, go fish for trout, go fish for largemouth, go
rest, go eat, go whatever...we had TONS of options. Somehow it was
concluded that I had definitely already done what I came to do,
beat my first Pike. I definitely gave that 7" a solid lashing
when I landed that 20"+. So, perhaps we should continue fishing
in a small area where the wind wouldn't be a factor? Spin knew just
the place...we headed to Spin's Secret Unnamed Bass Heaven. Spin
promised HUGE numbers of hookups...I admit just a bit of skepticism
after our relatively poor (in Spin's opinion) day on the Michigamme.
However, I also admit that if I hadn't caught another fish all day,
I would've been happy...in my mind this was already pretty darn
A car ride later, we arrived in the middle of nowhere. Trees everywhere,
no paths, no roads, just woods and through the trees, I could make
out the glint of water. I will tell you now, this lake is unnamed
and not on any map. It doesn't exist, except for the fac that I've
been there myself. As far as I'm concerned it could've all been
a dream. Spin found this through 30 YEARS of fishing and hunting
in the U.P. Scouting PAYS OFF folks. I am grateful that Spin decided
to share this with me...he didn't have to, he knew I'd write about
it. He also knew that not having a name or a mapped location means
that even if I WANTED to tell you all where it is (which I don't)
I in fact COULDN'T tell you where it is other than to say "in
the U.P." 'cause that's about how well I know my way around
Spin informed me that getting the Pontoon down to the lake would
be a total bitch. Furthermore, he informed me that there is no "shore"
in the traditional sense. This unnamed lake was in the middle of
a sphagnum bog....the "shore" is merely VERY dense mats
of moss, live on the top, long since dead underneath, that float
along the edges of the open water.
We trucked our gear down to the water's edge, the steep hillside
giving way to flat, mushy ground that gave way when we walked. At
the water's edge, it felt more like walking on a floating raft made
out of sponges. The feeling was unreal, unnerving, and would've
been downright terrifying had Spin not forewarned me. This is NOT
a trip to do SOLO guys...you must enter water like this extremely
carefully. Furthermore, being in the middle of nowhere as we were,
had you gone solo and something happened, it would be days, weeks,
or even years before anyone found the body, if in fact anyone ever
did at all.
All this aside, what a breathtaking slice of heaven on earth. No
nasty smells, just the most unique diversity of life that I only
experienced for the first time on this trip. Spin was all set to
hurry up and enjoy our remaining couple hours in the water...my
usual "gotta take tons of pictures" self was too preoccupied
with the scenery, both big and small. When I have time I may go
and ID all the plantlife; in the meantime just enjoy! Here's a little
slice of bass heaven above and below:
Yeah, that's right folks. The "shore" is actually floating
over about 15 feet of water...maybe 20 in spots. Unreal when you
realize that. There is no "wading in"...you simply kinda
have to jump. I actually think the pontoon was a bit easier than
the belly boat...I simply parked it on shore, sat down and slid
myself backwards into the water. No problems. Had the shore "sunk"...I
would've just floated off.
Conversely, Spin had to take the plunge. Simply step in and hope
for the best I guess. I didn't actually get to see him do it...the
first picture caught him right before, then the camera gave me my
"review", and when it came back online Spin was already
kicking out of the channel and into the main open water!
So now we both sat floating in a still pool of the blackest water
I've ever seen. It's clear, definitely, but so heavily stained it
is BLACK. It's REALLY erie to be in such a place...look down between
your legs and all you see is blackness falling away beneath you
with no clear end. And yet somehow you are floating on top of this
black void...you feel like at any time if you stopped concentrating
the force that was keeping you up would suddenly give way and you'd
simply disappear into this black hole. Alright screw this, stop
thinking about it, I'm here to FISH DAMNIT! Look around, what a
I was rigged, ready to go with a 7'6" 4wt. Not sure why, but
I didn't have much planned in the way of smaller offerings...riffling
through my box I found a yellow marabou muddler...figured "what
the heck, I've never used this before". Turns out this was
THE fly to use...man I hope you don't get tired of bass pictures.
Bottom line, in 2.5 hours, Spin and I worked our ways around the
entire lake. Spin also told me beforehand that these were some of
the blackest "Black Bass" he's ever seen; so dark you
often can't make out the lateral stripe, so dark the eyes look like
onyx. I personally think that Spin nailed that description; I personally
hooked 38 largemouth and landed 22. Sure none were HUGE (I'd say
they ranged between 9-15"), but this is up north where the
growing season is short.
The action was NONSTOP (well, until the wind completely died and
the caddis hatch disappeared). When the muddler finally got snapped
off, a small yellow popper was tied on and performed well, not as
well as the muddler but pretty darn well. If I can sum it up like
this; cast in close to shore, I mean TIGHT to shore, I mean 6"
from the shore or even less. Let it rest for a minute, then twitch
once or twice. If nothing happens, recast.
MOST of the time, a well-placed cast would result in activity.
Often the shoreline would ever so slightly wave, the water in front
of it becoming disturbed. Clearly there was something actively hunting
just underneath the surface of the water. Surface takes were often
sips, sometimes gulps, and always exciting. The best occurred with
large bass, which would wake up behind the fly like a Pike is said
to do. Sometimes, a refusal on the first cast was met with energetic
acceptance on the second presentation. So enjoy the bass pictures
below, I got many of them but a few didn't turn out and a few were
camera shy (AKA I dropped them back in before snapping a pic!).
Don't stop with these pics though, 'cause we actually hit ANOTHER
LAKE after this one!
As the evening wore on the bite shut off as I mentioned before.
Once the surface bite stopped, and I mean it totally shut off, Spin
and I were left wondering what to do. Spin turned to a hair mouse
cast into the thick weeds that poked out from the shoreline...this
got him 2 more hits. I started looking subsurface...a crawfish pattern
sunk tight along the bank produced one last fish for the day. As
you can see from above, I was busy takin' fish pictures but I managed
a few more nice shots of the lake which I've included here:
Getting out of the lake proved to be a small production...Spin
got out first and then helped beach the pontoon....in the small
spot where we now stood water was seeping in from beneath...3 inches...6
inches...time to get outta here!
I thought we were done for the day, but Spin had yet another idea...we
made our way over to Silver Lake and found panfish actively feeding
on the surface, with the occasional large fish making a wake or
jumping. We both gave it a few casts, but nothing happened here.
Both hungry and exhausted from 14 hours of fishing, we had steak
waiting for us back at the cabin. Topped off with some spirits and
we both hit the sack hard, which was a good thing considering we
got up the next morning at 5:00 AM to make the drive back...and
ultimately I had a boat to catch!
No matter how I say it, I simply cannot adequately thank Spin enough
for this invitation. And BTW, this day was #65 for the year; it
has officially put me halfway to meeting my 2004 goal of fishing
130 days or more. What a great way to make a milestone!