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Old 04-30-2002, 07:50 PM
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Portrait of Pere Marquette - Ernest Schwiebert

Had to go back reread this short story from Mr. Schwiebert's book "The Complete Schwiebert".

Here is the part describing the exact location I was fishing last Thursday afternoon/evening and Friday morning. Mr Schwiebert is with Dave Borgerson one of the Michigan Fishery biologists responsible for the salmon and steelhead program. Simmy Nolph was a famous PM river guide and kind of river keeper in his later years. I talked to him a couple of times on the river before he passed a way a couple of years ago.

It will be one of the most memorable trips I have had on this sweet river, there have been many others but this one is different since it felt like I had the river all to myself that afternoon and the following morning. Three great encounters with wild steelhead to remember at the Deer Lick.

Remember Mr Schwiebert grew up in Chicago and learning to fly fish while camping with his father during summers on the Pere Marquette River and other rivers in this area of the Michigan LP.

(Schwiebert, The Complete Schwiebert, A Portrait of the Pere Marquette, 1990, pages 89-91)

"How large can these steelhead run ? Simmy Nolphe took that 16 pounder here last year, Borgeson replied excitedly, and weve seen fish over 20 lbs. Thats big enough ? I laughed. Snow started falling again when we walked the brushy banks along the Deer Lick stretch. The river was swift and slightly tea colored from the marshes in its headwaters, and it flowed with a kind of sullen strength through our waders. Weve often found the fish under those cedars. Borgeson pointed but the light is wrong to see them now. The snow doesn't help I said. The snow flurries passed, and the weak April sun tried to warm the swift currents.

The Deer Lick is a little forbidding in its spring flow, particularly in the bend at the Anderson Cottage. There is a small log jam on the opposite bank just where the current shelves back into the bend downstream. It is deep there under the throbbing sweepers, where the strongest currents suck through the tangled roots. When a strong fish decides to leave the Deer Lick, stripping the reel well into its backing, it is a tightrope to follow it diagonally above the shelving currents between those holes. Crossing there is the only way to follow a troublesome fish, particularly with the April currents running bank full in the willows.

Hes stopped taking line Borgeson yelled. But hes still awfully strong ! I plunged through the shallows and fought to recover some backing. Awfully strong !

I'm coming ! Borgeson came sliding down his tree in a shower of bark and fresh snow. Hold him out of that brush pile ! I'm trying I groaned. The slender rod bucked and lunged heavily, echoing the sullen struggle of the steelhead along the logs. The straining leader hummed in the current. The jackstraw labyrinthe of brush and flood debris looked threatening, but the tippet somehow survived.

Hes trying it again ! Borgeson warned.

Damm ! I applied pressure and the rod was a tight half circle.

Hes still trying to break me under those logs !

Still think you can hold him ?

My response died in my throat when the fish bored deep under the fallen trees. The rod throbbed angrily under the stress. Its pressure finally turned the fish, until several other brief runs were parried easily and the fight was almost over. The big steelhead worked splashily to avoid the net, but Borgeson captured it expertly and waded triumphantly ashore with the prize.

Good fish, Borgerson said excitedly.

Strong I agreed. What do you think he'll weigh ? None or ten pounds the biologist answered happily.

Thats a lot of steelhead on a fly rod in that brushy water".
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