Trout season – the ‘rite’ stuff

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE STREAM – It is time for Michigan trout anglers to begin their “Rite of Spring” – open a new trout season with high hopes that the trout will rise and the waders won’t leak.

Next to deer season, that “Rite of Fall”, Michigan’s historical trout fishing ranks high in the outdoor pecking order, and for good reason. Trout fishing in Michigan is not only ranked high among state anglers but also, in a recent national poll, the state was crowned as the best place for trout fishing in the USA. (Montana folks might grumble at that, but hey – tough noogies!)

On the last Saturday of April, the traditional opening of inland trout streams to fishing, an army of chino-clad folks from “down there some where’s” will roll into popular trout-haven villages and hamlets, ready to open trout camps, set up a campground tent, or make a motel owner a happy fellow – not to mention make the dispensers of adult beverages smile instead of frown as the cash registers ring.

At a certain trout camp held in a century old log palace along the banks of the “Holy Waters” of the Au Sable, this scribbler will join with his fishing friends of 38 years in their annual club gathering. Some will fish relentlessly over the opening weekend – some will fish randomly while enjoying the warmth of the large river stone fireplace – and others will just sit back and enjoy the togetherness of the weekend, knowing that the season is long, the water will warm up even more to make mayflies rise in more profuse manners, and that at the heart of it it’s the opening shared among friends that is the real reason to be back again.

Sadly, a few of the regulars will be missing from among us. Latest to cross over to fish waters of a higher plane was long time club member Art Underwood of St. Ignace – the “Guru” of the “Royal Order of the Trout,” the lofty club name some member hung on us years ago.

Art passed last fall after a long siege of ill health and will be missed greatly this year. He will have a few old club friends of the stream waiting on the other side of the creek and will no doubt have a sip or two of heavenly malt together we’re sure. After all, this club began well over a half century ago; the truth is that nothing lasts forever, so make the best of it now.

Trout anglers will have to take the time to study the new fishing guide to see what the rules will be for this year, since the DNR fisheries folks decided that the old rankings of trout streams was a bit too difficult. So they did what every good bureaucrat should do and made changes that are even cloudier to understand.

To help you understand these rules, they have added even more footnotes to explain the parts they muddied up, thus assuring you’ll spend as much time trying to make sure you are on the right section of the streams of choice and using the right flies, hardware, or bait to fit, and having the right tape measure with you to make sure your catch is legal, as you do actually fishing.

By the way – it is now official. The DNR is now the DNR again. For a year or so it had become the DNRE. Some DNR people may have patches on their uniforms saying DNRE or DNR. Ya pays your money, ya take your choice. Again – leave it to the folks in Lansing to make changes nobody really gave a damn about in the first place except bureaucrats.

But shove all that aside for now, friends. It’s time to open a new trout season. In that we can more or less agree that some things don’t change. It is a North Country tradition not to be missed. Whether you fish for sport or fish to eat, there’s a place for you to wet your lines this opener. I’ve got my spot all lined up – sharing it with friends of the stream that make this “RITE” of spring the “RIGHT stuff!”