Baldwin fish guide loves his profession
BALDWIN — Chris Raines fell in love with fish guiding a long time ago. He’s still deeply in love with the profession.
Raines, a Baldwin area resident, is a fish guide at the Pere Marquette River Lodge.
“This is the peak of our dryfly season right now,” he said. “We are fishing primarily at night. The hex season is upon us. We head out late afternoon or evening and fish into the darkness. It’s the biggest mayfly in North America and it draws out the biggest fish in the river. We’re targeting brown trout. Our river offers year-round fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout. But right now, the german brown is the target species. Once the darkness hits, the bugs start to fly and fish start to eat.
“We used a real large bug and it floats on top of the water. We’re fly-fishing obviously. This is probably one of the neatest natural events that occur in the outdoors that you can witness from a fishing point of view. There’s so many bugs that hatch each and every night. At times, the water will be blanketed, fully covered with bugs and the air will humm with the sound of their wings flying. Essentially, the bug hatches from under water and hits the air. It’s vulnerable for a moment as it sits on the water. Then it hits the air and flies up stream, lays its eggs and dies and flows back downstream. There’s a conveyer belt, if you will, of food constantly being supplied by nature as the bugs hatch and go through their life cycle. It happens over the course of 14 to 20 days. We’re about five days into it right now (as of Wednesday).”
Raines, nicknamed “Uber,” has been a guide for 15 years and has worked fulltime at the lodge for five years. He’s currently the head guide.
“I manage to get to the river from 220 to 275 days a year between work and play,” he said. “I miss a day here or there, but try not to make it a habit.”
Raines worked in sales and had a drift board. “I started taking my own clients out that I worked with,” he said. “Five years ago l got out of sales and switched full-time to guiding. It’s just been a passion of mine, flyfishing, since I’ve been young.”
He started fishing the Pere Marquette in 1987 and fell in love with it.
“As soon as a I graduated from college, my job moved me to Ludington,” Raines said. “I lived in Ludington for about 10 years and live in Branch for 12.”
Raines is a native of Lake Odessa.
“I lived on the lake and did a lot of flyfishing for bluegills and bass,” he said. “I did a bunch of regular fishing too.”
Raines recalls one usual episode when his client had a big salmon on his line.
“He wrapped us around a few logs,” Raines said. “We ended up having to go under the logs to get the line wrapped from it. The next thing you know if were pushing the rod under water and letting go of it and letting the salmon take it away and we were going to grab it on the other side of the log. But it never came out.
“We lost the salmon, the rod, the reel. I grabbed the side of a boat and was kicking around trying to get it. I managed to dislodge one log with his boat and he floated out of the hole. The other boat came by. I held on to that and kicked around until I couldn’t find the line. He picked up the line, it was the wrong line. And that boat floated away. Then a guy in a boat said ‘Uber, here’s your rod right here.’ They grabbed it and picked it up and started reeling it in, and the salmon was still on it.”
Several persons handed the rod one to another, including to Raines’ client.
“My client grabs it and starts reeling it in and we landed the thing,” Raines said. “I turned around and his father was videotaping it. We have it all on video. That stands out as a memorable moment.”
Raines’ clients come from all over North America.
“The biggest place people come from is Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis,” he said. “People (travel from out of the country). What we have here with the Pere Marquette River is a couple of unique things. First of all, this was the birthplace of german brown trout in North America. This was the first place to ever have brown trout introduced to it. Now brown trout is spread throughout North America. A lot of people into fly fishing realize that.
“The river is also unique to the fact that it’s not dammed, it’s a natural flowing river. It’s pristine, very little pollution, very few houses on it. You have a sense of peace and solitude out there.”
Raines fishes on his own heavily.
“I go right across the street from my house at Rainbow Rapids,” he said. “I do fish other rivers occasionally. I guide on the Muskegon, Manistee and White. But I consider this (Pere Marquette) to be my river.
Raines also hunts from the river.
“I do a little duck hunting on the river,” he said. “I enjoy duck hunting in the fall. I hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon.”
Raines sees plenty of deer while he’s on the river. He immensely enjoys the rifle hunting season.
“Every opening day I have shot bucks on public property,” he said. “I’ve seen monster bucks.”
“One of the reasons I’m a guide is I can’t do anything else,” Raines said. ‘I don’t believe I’ll do anything else.”