In woke up to the familiar sound of my phone alarm clock. I had no recollection of going to bed, and noticed that i was in a small log cabin and Willard was sleeping in one corner of the room, Neldon in the other. Quickly I realized I was at the slam, I had over-served myself and it was time to get up and head north 30min. to guide Chris Martin’s palace for a day of steelhead fishing on the Manistee.
Five year had passed since the last time I had fished with Chris, though we had stayed in touch. We have had a standing bet with Notre Dame vs. Michigan State football game. If the Irish won, I would get a free day on the river with a real guide… If Sparty won, I had to provide that same guide with 300 of my famous clown eggs, which he had requested I pack since the Irish had been taking care of business over the last few years and he was running low.
It was a cold morning… but the forecast was for temperatures in the 60’s. Willard asked me how he should dress and I told him to dress for sitting in a freezing rain and then add a layer or two. We fished a section I had never seen. Chris believed the rain would push the fish further up stream, and he proved to be right. We put in at the High Bridge Access and floated down to Bear Creek. As the sun rose, he skies brightened only slightly, as rain was our constant companion.
Chris Martin and Myself
The first hookup came about two hours into our voyage. A fresh steelhead put a bend in my rod and put up an incredible fight while Chris cheered and laugh. He safely netted the beautiful chrome fish. I had forgotten how much fun he was to fish with. Willard had a couple on hits, but they quickly found freedom. I could tell he was a little nervous and unsure of himself. Chris has an imposing personality, but as a guide, he is a complete professional. In the end, Willard managed to land his first steelhead on a fly rod, a dandy. On the day, I was 2 for 3, Willard 1 for 3, and Chris, One for one. (Yes, we let our guide fish…)
Willard's First Steelhead
We ended our time with Chris around 2:00 and made our way back to camp and met up with BP. It has been a long time since we fished together. We headed back to Fishermen’s Access and back to our not so secret spot where we found about half of the Salmon Slam crew camped out. All together we covered almost a quarter mile of stream between the 12 of us and had a complete blast! Everyone hooked up. I have never seen so many salmon in all my years fishing… and truly huge fish. We took turns playing “Net Bitch” and screamed at each other when the monsters broke off.
Perre Marquette Salmon
Around 7:00, we headed to the Government Lodge Bar and Grill. Willard was glad to hear it was open, since the government was shut down. (Yes, he seriously was). We headed back to camp where FOErik and The Rat had started a bonfire. We shared stories and whiskey until the wee hours of the morn. Exhausted, I headed back to the cabin… Still in disbelief of the incredible day of fishing we had just experienced.