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The Manistique by Colin Ambrose

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A good fishing adventure starts long before you hit the water. Our steelhead odyssey started at 6:30 am In a parking lot next the U.S. Post office in Darien Ct.  , on to a Delta flight from Laguardia to Milwaukee, landed at 10:58. Enterprise rental car, actually a Ford 150 crew cab (awesome) and on to highway 43 heading north 20 minutes later.

First order of business, fishing licenses at the big boys toy store otherwise known as Cabela’s, serenaded by bugling elks, mountain lions & round nosed rainbow trout. We stopped off in the fly fishing department for a quick chat with Jim who sold me a telescoping wading staff. On the road in 20 minutes heading north.

Time for lunch, we pulled in at the intersection of county W and highway 41, the Gateway Bar & Grill where you  by a chance on the peg board for $5.00to win a compound bow or a deer rifle, both hanging over the bar.

From the menu we’ve chosen Irish Nachos a predictable presentation of waffle fries, Pickled jalapeño slices, black olives, taco beef and good Wisconsin cheese.

 Time to get back on the road, Hoping to cast for Northern and large mouth bass in the last hours of daylight on Christian lake. More from the road tomorrow.

Made it to Christian lake, out on the water by 5, the cold breeze was a welcome change after our day of travel but the fish weren’t active.
All I can report is one perch, beautiful in fall color and feisty enough to start my imagination for tomorrow.

As we headed north to the Upper peninsula of Michigan, after crossing the Menomonie River we came upon a pair of juvenile black bear dancing in a jet black stretch of country road, by the time we slowed down to observe they were gone.

An hour later, just before closing time we rolled into Escanaba and found The Stonehouse on the corner of the main drag and Ludington st. On arrival at the table our waitress informed us that the walleye is fresh from a local Lake Michigan dock. Prepared in a light batter with lemon and butter, the dish was simple and simply outstanding.

Our final destination is still an hour to the north, do we have dessert or make our way to Manistique? The river calls, looking forward to breakfast with our guide at 7:00 and a sunrise on the river at 8.

 On the way home we discussed our day on the river, a conversation that lasted the full 2 hour drive. Waders, Simbo’s new insulated pair were bulky and hard to move in from the truck to the river however the real practicality showed once he hit his spot. Comfort all day long for him while my all pair of uninsulated Orvis waders with Steel studded boots fell way short of the call and required hourly trips to the truck to warm up.

We found it interesting that the guide put us into the fastest moving, deepest shoot in the river first. Adrenaline was pumping, the biting cold seemed easier as our focus was on moving carefully through fast moving rib deep water,  in hind sight we agreed that he chose the deepest area at the head of the river just below the spill way because it held the most promise for fish.

We arrived at la Belle’s a road side bar and grill just a few miles north of the Wisconsin line (the bridge over the Menomonie) in time to watch the Halloween party take shape. I ordered a cup of beef veggie soup to eliminate the last pangs of cold and Simbo had the Friday Fish fry.

It was nice to take in the view of a community so different than our own as the enjoyed the opportunity to share the costumes of halloween. We spoke briefly with a local at the bar, he shared stories of backyard cougar sightings and 600 lb black bear in the same manner that suburbanites banter over possums and raccoons.

As I lay here in the quiet cabin on Christian lake, enjoying the first cracks morning light, I’m realizing the good in a day of fishing new waters. Of course we would have liked to land a steelhead or the brown that got away, but in the end of the day it was the experience of new water that made it all worthwhile.

We asked a man to take us to his river and he did it in a most interesting way. Smiles prevailed, it was well worth the journey and the opportunity to push ourselves to new challenges.

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