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6-26-04 - It's HUMP day in the U.P.!

Waters Fished: Michigamme River, Unnamed Bog Lake, Silver 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 (aka Largemouths).
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 tributaries...well...nope!

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!

Spin and I survey the morning's water.

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 boat.

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!

Spin's first fish of the morning...bye bye skunk!

A quick pitch to my right and I even saw the hit from this one! We're both on the board now!

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 last week's!

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!

Northern #2 pushed above the 20" mark. I'm happy ;)

Spin groans as I show off my "high-stick nymphing" pike before releasing it.

Spin hooks into a northern that decides it's an airplane.

Jump #1 for this acrobatic pike!

Jump #2, one more last ditch effort by this feisty beast!

Spin puts a stop to this monkey business and proves he is master of the fish!

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.

Spin with a darn nice fly-rod Smallmouth Bass!

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 Mountain Dew.

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.

Right after lunch and Spin is at it again!

Another smallie for Spin!

Spin shows that this he is the home team...another hookup!

Spin spins around as this fish pulls a daring move in desperation.

Look at the bend in that rod!

The fight is coming to an end.

 

Time to get the hook out and get ready....

"YEAH" - I think the look on Spin's face says it all.

 

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.

Spin holds up my Rambo (Rock Bass) for the photo...

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.

Spin's 3rd Smallmouth taken behind a log.

A good closeup shows the bronze beauty of this fish.

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 good fishing.

An unnamed bog lake lies down the hill; you can make it out through the trees.

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 there :)

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.

These deep wine flowers were the first thing that caught my attention.

At my feet I found all sorts of life...mushrooms and pitcher plants and so much more.

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:

I was truly drawn to the Pitcher Plants (row above and below).

 

 

 

 

 

I slowly got back to looking at the shoreline...

The floating shore, replete with flora.

Alright, lets' check this lake out...look to my left....

...and look to my right.

Spin is like "enough with the pictures already Nature Boy...we came to fish!"

This is where we get in?!

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.

Yes, this is the best illustration I can give you...the shore simply falls off into nothingness.

On small step for man...

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 beautiful spot!

A 180 degree Panorama of Spin's Unnamed Bass Heaven. Even cooler when viewed in the 3D Viewer. (5mb)

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:

Spin and I worked up opposite shores and met at the far end of the lake.

A last sliver of sunshine cut through onto the lake before the sun slid completely behind the trees.

Another 180 degree panoramic shot at dusk as we left the unnamed bog lake. Kinda cool in the 3D viewer too.

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!

It was already well past sunset when we arrived at Silver Lake

One last shot over Silver Lake as twilight slipped away.

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!

  MP 

 

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