There's an old maxim that says "Sometimes you have to leave home to truly see it." That can apply equally as well to fly-fishing.
Author Chuck Sams tells it like it is.
The long Michigan winter and Saturdays watching Major League Fishing almost had me convinced to abandon my fly rods this year. In fact, I had vowed not to pick one up, not even for the run of Lake Michigan salmon on the Pere Marquette River this coming fall. I was fat and happy following MLF - the soap opera of bass fishing - and stocking up on plastic worms and bullet weights. I was going to abstain from something I’d been obsessed with for more than fifteen years, and to be honest, I was feeling good about it.
Then the text message from C. T. came, "I am free this weekend. It's late June, it's going to be 90 degrees out there, and we've never hit the Hex quite right. Let's go." He was right; we'd never hit the Hex quite right. We'd always been too late or too early. Hell, we'd never really hit the trout all that right except for an odd fish here or there that we'd figured had been dropped on its head during a release by another angler. I balked at first, thinking about MLF and all the bass out there in the local lakes just waiting to be caught. I'd call up C. T. and say, "No, got too much going on let’s just stay local and hang a few bucket mouths." But then my mind started to work; last weekend in June, warm outside, Hex reports are good, the timing and conditions have never been better.
...there was no doubt that my love affair with the fly rod and trout had been rekindled right then and there...
The first night we got in late and set camp, decided to fish a familiar stretch. There were a few clouds around and I prayed for them to stay and increase. A clear sky can spell doom. With no insulating blanket the heat escapes and the bugs resort back to the bushes and treetops. We stood in the river and waited, the sky getting clearer and the stars getting brighter as the night wore on. A cottage dweller left in a car and his headlights swung out over the river to reveal a swarm of what we figured for Brown Drakes dancing ten feet over the river. We smiled in anticipation, it wasn’t the Hex but there was still hope but I knew it was fading fast. Hope was fading with whatever warmth was left over from the day. We waited a long time and finally I walked down and checked the river for bugs with a flashlight. They were gone and we retreated back to camp thinking about ghostly wings dancing above the water, haunted once again by the Hex that never were.
I’d made a few casts that first night but we all know that casting isn’t fishing and I still wasn’t sure exactly how I was feeling about the fly rod. The next day was long and hot, a bright orange sun beating down on the river. The tubers and canoe renters liked it, floating by with their flesh burned pink from the sun. We sat in the shade on the bank and watched a fish rising to damsel flies on the far bank between flotillas. We figured if we could put a bushy fly over that fish it would eat so we rigged up and gave it a try. It was a difficult drift, behind a log and around the corner of a set of bulrushes along the bank. We took turns standing downstream and trying to spot a cast. We hung the log, hung the grass, hung the rushes, and eventually put the fish down. I went over to retrieve my fly from some grass and saw it finning there for a split second before it bolted for the cut bank with another fish. And there was no doubt that my love affair with the fly rod and trout had been rekindled right then and there with that little riser.
It wasn’t the Hex but it was good, perhaps the best one hour of trout fishing of our lives.
Air temperature and water temperature are two different things and despite the heat we knew we were too far upstream. We had to move down if we wanted to find the big bugs. We crossed Wakeley Bridge on our way down to Connor’s Flats. The flats turned out to be a wide slow guide, a fisherman standing waist deep not even in the middle of the stream, cars squeezed into the lot, picnickers on the bank, and more foot traffic than we cared for. We decided to head back to Wakeley. I’d driven over that bridge a thousand times but never stopped to fish it.
An old man with wool socks pulled over his Khaki pants, piercing blue eyes, and a set of pipes to rival old Tigers announcer Paul Carey sat one leg over the other in a drift boat at the launch. I distinctly remember wondering if his feet were hot. He pointed a crooked finger at a stump across from the access and told us in his deepest bass, "Just put your stuff on and stand there and wait." He looked skyward, "Iso’s will come for sure. They'll be first and that fishing ain't half bad."
We split up. C. T. went upstream and I stayed down by the stump. The sky above the river filled with Iso’s as the old man predicted and eventually fish started to rise, but not at the stump. I could hear C. T. landing fish in his glide up stream and made my way there to join him. It wasn’t the Hex but we had finally hit it just right and for a solid hour landed one fish after another. They were the best trout of our lives but we had both left our cameras in the truck. Finally, we couldn’t take it anymore. We needed to document it for posterity and my partner headed back for a camera. I landed one more trout while he was gone and just like that it was over. The glide we were fishing went still and the temperature began to drop. I looked up and the stars were bright in the blasted northern Michigan sky. We sat around for three more hours, happily drinking warm beers from the back of our vests and waiting. But nothing showed.
Still, we had finally hit something just right. It wasn’t the Hex but it was good, perhaps the best one hour of trout fishing of our lives. For me, it was a Wakeley Bridge revival, and thoughts of fly rods and trout dancing through my head once again crowding out plastic worms and bullet weights.