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9-14-04 - 2 weeks of tying at my "Visor Vice" has yielded a large quantity of the staple salmon fly...Glo Bugs galore!

9-15-04 - MP Returns to the Garden.

Waters Fished: Garden River
Fish Caught: Numerous! - 6 photographed, more landed fair, many more lost!
Outing Date: 9-15-04
Weather: Stunning
Air Temp: low 80's
Water Temp: Didn't take it, about 60F or so
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: Stained and clear
Fish Species: Pink Salmon, Chinook Salmon
Pattern Fished: Pheasant Tail Nymph, EGGS of all types!
Pattern Color: Natural Shades worked best
Fishing Quality: Amazing!

This story actually starts way back on the 10th of September...I'm outta work ASAP and take Tucker to Renee (a full evening production in itself). After having to bath him I'm simply DONE...won't be heading (as planned) to the lake on Friday night.

So we get up there on Saturday...I had honestly been hoping for some uninterrupted time to finish as many as FIVE fly rods before Monday night (the last point at which I could put one on the dryer).

By Tuesday morning I had only finished 3 rods and ONE (#19) needed retouching! ACK. To top it off, I had visited the harbor the night before with the intent to get in some fishin, but the Camaro's window was stuck in the down position. So fate had thwarted my attempts to get in another day on the water.

Well, I guess I like to take too much on (surprise surprise) and between everything going on I resigned myself to simply packing up and getting ready for the trip, which I almost didn't finish! While technically an "hour late" I arrived at Jim K.'s right on time at 6:00 PM (the "original" meeting time). Randy met up with me moments before and just after we pulled in, Matt J. showed up. Jim was actually the last to arrive! Leanne fed us well and before you know it we were off in Jim's trusty steed which still carries the name "SMOKIN' TAHOE". Jim has since quit, so I had to carry a double smokin' burden. No problem.

Our designated meeting spot on the 14th was the Rt. 20 McD's off 94...we met up with Richard "FAT / FATMAN" Brown (who organizes this trip with all of us) and his two sons, Kramer (Chief) and Dutton (Duke). Gerry G. and John had beat us there...quick hellos and we were on the road! "FAT FEST 2004" as we had dubbed it is now officially underway.

Gerry is shaken awake by the explosion, sparks, and airborne fender from FAT's trailer...Houston we have a blowout.

The offending tire and fender.

Now I should tell you this is a road trip...depending on your speed and stops it's a 10-12 hour total trip up! Somewhere between Milwaukee and Sheboygan disaster struck....FAT had a blowout.

John was driving behind FAT with Gerry in the passenger seat, just about to doze off when he was awoken by a loud pop, the trailer veering left then right then left, sparks flying everywhere and finally the left fender simply flying off the trailer. Gerry says he instinctively grabbed the side door handle, and watched, white-knuckled. So much for Gerry getting any sleep on the way up!

FATMAN conquers all with a trusty spare!

FAT had a spare...phew...for moments there I thought this would be the end of the trip before it even really got started - all our GEAR was in that trailer! John and Gerry went on ahead to Escanaba while we stopped EVERYWHERE looking for air (for the spare) and a new tire. After Sheboygan the search was pretty much given up, well until we found a 24 hour Walmart in Escanaba where we didn't find a new tire, but we did get a "mini spare". It's better than nothing - should something happen in the Algoma Forest we were now at least armed with a tire...albeit a very small tire.

Well after midnight, now the 15th, we made it to Sault St. Marie, MI. The border crossing into Ontario was pleasant...no problems or searches, although finding our way through Sault St. Marie was a hassle to say the least...roads closed with no detours....signs not pointing the way. Eventually we found a Tim Horton's and grabbed breakfast. After that, it was time to meet up with more of our group at the Trading Post.

9-15-04 - Over the border, the crew of the Smokin' Tahoe get their licenses and camping permits.

So around 6:00 AM we found 4 more of our group - Jim Coursey and Kent Carlson in the other Tahoe, as well as the silent Freds, Fred Anderson Jr and Sr. (no one could remember WHERE they were meeting up with us!). The Anderson's had some massive cahones....they were taking a minivan in to the Garden campground. After getting licenses and land use permits, I took a look around. I guess they've rearranged the Trading Post in the last year...didn't find any local tied flies, and Giuliani's big brook trout pictures were gone :(

And now another hour (at least)....it's gravel pretty quick. All the way in, the last stretch off the main road is definitely the longest (and roughest). About half way in, we stopped for all those guys who were doing the pp dance (you would be too, so no laughing). This is one of those spots I just love...you can see over into the valley and the hills beyond. What a breathtaking first look.

The drive to our final destination - the Garden River.

A foggy morning on the drive in...it had been raining overnight.

Our first hints of sunrise.

Looking over the valley...a traditional stop along the way.

Our chariot for this trip - Jim's Tahoe.

The Andersons opted to bring a minivan...barely made it in!

After our stop, it was back in to conquer the real brutal part of the drive. The 4X4s made it through just fine, but the Andersons had to take their time getting that minivan over the more uneven parts. Folks if you've never seen a minivan go offroading, it's a hoot! Thankfully FAT had a winch with and we all had plenty of rope, so there wouldn't be any big issues if someone go stuck. Loosing an oil pan or something...man I'd hate to see the towing bill (and to make it worse, it would be MORE, because it'd be in CANADIAN Dollars!)

Finally, when none of us could take this roller coaster ride any longer, we arrived at camp. Last year's spot was taken, but right in front of us was a huge clear area that was simply perfect.

Another tradition...a bunch of bleary-eyed anglers head straight for the river...was the overnight drive worth it? I think the kings swimming by give away the answer.

It's a tradition I witnessed for the first time last year. The moment of arrival, everyone, no matter what state of sleep depravation, flings off the seatbelts and makes a mad dash for the river (OK, so folks were a bit tired, no one was RUNNING but there was a lot of speed walking to be seen). Last year, um, well folks just kinda looked around and wondered if they needed their polarized glasses. This year every face that turned around from the river was grinning ear-to-ear.

I'll tell ya it's REAL hard to resist the urge to go fishing right there on the spot. However, if we wanted to sleep we'd need tents...if we wanted to eat we'd need a mess hall. Most folks gladly volunteered to set up tents as they had seen the fiasco known as "setting up the carport" last year. What they didn't know is that all the carport parts are now labled...so I snatched Fred Jr. and in no time we were set. We even had time to get the picnic tables set up AND put a side tarp off the car port which would cover our "kitchen". The best part? We set it up behind a hill of dirt that closed off what once was a road and bridge. Right outside our "mess hall" we had an unobstructed view of the Garden River. It was by far the best spot for our camp.

Everyone starts setting up camp.

Tents go up...these will be home for the next several days.

Fred and I started working on the galley.

ENOUGH about camp...it's time to FISH! I don't need to give you play-by-plays here because a) they'd get repetitive and b) there were so many fish who can really remember. I kept count initially but quickly lost track...now I know why guys use clickers when they're on a charter boat (or recording fish numbers for any other reason).

We fished right in front of our camp and in short order I had my first fair pink....it hammered a Pheasant Tail Nymph. Randy Cochran picked up a couple right off the bat. I have no doubt that within the first hour on the water most everyone had their first fair pink of the trip.

First Pink Fair ever. This one hit a Pheasant Tail Nymph.

Randy Cochran's first pink ever.

Yes, there will be MANY fish pictures...here a Hen Pink Salmon.

Looks like Randy is happy he made the journey.

In no time, Randy's #2.

This picture should show you why Pink Salmon are also known as "Humpies".

A closeup of this buck.

Fred is tied up with a Pink.

Lunch consisted of FATMAN's traditional "Deli Sandwiches"...Butter Top Wheat Bread, cheese (started out with Swiss) and Oscar Meyer Sub Sandwich Meat...prepacked, presliced, preportioned, man it's EASY to make a double-decker and get back to the water.

Your first look at the salmon on the gravel.

Another Male Pink Salmon for MP!

After lunch I went downstream to the Island to see what the rest of our group was up to. Checking in on Jim, I found that he was slammin' the fair fish left and right. Jim was thrilled and he joked about all the success he was having with the flies I gave him last year (he never got to fish them!).

Now, the funny part about where Jim was fishin' is that a local resident named Louis always camps up on the bank for 2 months out of the year. Well, today, Jim was fishin' right opposite Lou's living room.

The situation was hysterical...three guys sitting on an old couch under a tarp watched and jeered as Jim hooked up with Pinks. If Jim got one in, they'd shout down for him to hold it up....then they'd score it with scorecards made from cardboard and red permanent marker. At one point I think it was Lou who gave Jim a "2". Jim asked "What's up with that Russian Judge up there"...and his score was promptly revised to a 10...then an 01. Then a 0.1. This went on for MUCH of the afternoon.

Jim Kercheval was slammin' them right off the bat!

Apparently Jim was competing in an Olympic Fly Fishing Event...the judges sat opposite the river and scored his every catch!

This Pink scored an aggregate 5.33/10.00 for Jim and was later revised downward.

After enjoying Jim's situation for a bit, I kinda made my "rounds" fishin' and documenting as many of our group's catches as I could. Afterall, part of the group deal is that they ask me to come along as the trip photographer (so all I have to do is hitch a ride...besides I don't eat all that much)...since folks were actually catching fish this year I figured I'd try to get as many of them with fish pictures right off the bat....no one was going home without at least one good picture of them with a Pink. By evening I had Randy, Jim K., Jim C., Kent and Fred Jr. scratched off my list.

Jim Coursey with hen.

Kent Carlson gets his first fish picture taken with a hen Pink.

Randy is havin' a blast.

This is what I came for - yet another Male Pink.

Fred Anderson Jr. with a humpie.

A closeup of Fred's Buck Pink Salmon.

Fred has the hang of it too!

More Pinks for MP!

Jim battling one of many pink salmon.

I had now been up for at least 36 hours...some folks with us had gotten sleep and I'm sure there were a few who had been awake longer than I had been. Dinner was a repeat of last year's hit....Italian Beef.

Who's bright idea was it to give the Texan the chainsaw??? Matt Jennings is off to get firewood...

Dinner was fantastic...Gerry, John, Matt and Chief all enjoyed the Italian Beef sandwiches.

Somewhere along the way I never got the memo about needing a "mess kit"...with total disregard for any civilized dining I grabbed a French roll, stuffed it with beef and devoured it. After everyone had their first I was back in line for #2...this time drenching it with Mozzarella Cheese and finally soaking my entire roll and hand with Au Jus.

And if that wasn't good enough...FAT broke out what I consider to be his best cobbler recipe...Double Chocolate Cherry Cobbler. For folks who don't know, Rich makes some drop dead delicious Dutch oven cobbler....and Chocolate Cherry is arguably the best of his many fine concoctions. Did I mention FAT planned ahead for all of us this year...we had REAL Whip Cream, and by REAL I mean the stuff that comes out of the aerosol can.

Some of my favorite campfire food, with a bunch of great guys, some of whom I don't get to see often enough, and to top it off I completely got my revenge on the Garden river, easily landing enough fish to make up for 4 fishless days last year. For the first day on the Garden, I didn't think life could get any better than this.

  MP 

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