|Pere Marquette River near the Maple Leaf access|
My brother has had tremendous success fishing for steelhead trout for several years in December. In the past, we have spent time on the surf at river outlets for migrating steelhead in the month of November. My brother, Kirk and his sons spend time traveling several hours north to fish the Pere Marquette River near Branch in an area called the maple leaf. I have visited these waters many times over thirty-five years, usually in the spring. I made plans to fish for steelhead the first full week of December. Before I left, Kirk called me to discuss the recent rains and the high river levels. So we changed our plans and decided to fish later in the week waiting for the river water to recede. I stayed with my parents for a few days to update their computer and left Thursday to fish with my brother and sons.
Thursday December 10, 2015: I followed Kirk and his youngest son, Turner from Battle Creek to Reed City near Baldwin. Kirk’s second son, Trent drove from Detroit and met us in Reed City. From there we, caravan to Emerson Lake near Walhalla to park a few vehicles and there piled into Kirk’s truck to drive to the Maple leaf access. It was a cloudy day with mild temperatures, the wind did pick up in the afternoon. The river was in good shape. I was using a center-pin reel with an 11-ft rod for the first time on the river. I did practice in the yard before the trip to figure out how to cast a reel with no drag. It is suppose to work like a bait-casting reel, but the mechanics to loading the rod slightly different. The advantage is a long drag free drift with the line coming off the reel without drag. The reel actually moves backward as the bobber and flies/bait move down stream in the seam of the stream. I watched several videos teaching myself to fish and cast this new set-up. Needless to say, there was short learning curve to get the drift in the holes and hook up with a steelhead trout. The fishing was not great, we all hooked up with steelhead. I lost one mid- day and then landed a five pounder late afternoon. Trend released a steelhead and broke off two others. Kirk and Turner stayed up stream and they hooked a few but none came to hand. We called it a day near dark, 5 PM and returned to Emerson Lake to get a bite to eat. Trent had to get on the road for his drive back to Detroit and left before we ate. After dinner, Kirk and Turner returned to Battle Creek and I stayed across the way and spent the night at the Alpine Lodge for the night.
Friday December 11, 2015: I woke late in the morning, drove to Walhalla to find a restaurant. It was a seasonally warm day, overcast with a light wind. After breakfast, I drove to the river access, paid the daily $5.00 fee and parked the truck for the day at the Maple Leaf access. I decided to hike up to Ackerson’s Cabin and fish above this area. I walked past the old beaver dam, fished this area going up stream. In short time hooked a seven-pound female steelhead and brought her to hand. I decide to take one fish back to Missouri to smoke and swiftly dispatch the fish. I continued up stream for most of the morning and by afternoon crossed the river to fish holes on the retreat working my way down stream. I caught a few small trout rainbows and a few brown trout. I fished until dark, which was near 5 PM.
It felt good to go back to a river I know from years past, the paths are more worn, a few additional trees have fallen into the stream, changing the course of the current. But, the places I know to cross the river and the holes we named a kids remain the same. It felt good to be back on the Pere Marquette River.