While out riding tonight I was listening to TED Radio Hour. The theme was happiness: what it means; how to achieve it; and the science behind it. All of the speakers made insightful points. However, Monk, David Steindl-Rast made the biggest impression on me. He posited that we cannot and should not strive to be happy, rather we should strive to be grateful for for each and every moment and opportunity. (Hear David's talk here: David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take To Be Grateful? Thank you NPR).
That sentiment really resonated with me.
Be grateful for everything and every moment. Your gratefulness will birth happiness.
When I was a Troll I regularly peeped Aaron Peterson's social media outlets. He does most of the Marquette area tourism work. His work also regularly makes its way into many of the magazines that find their way onto my coffee table. (http://aaronpeterson.photoshelter.com).
Seeing the UP through his lens pacified my desire for the serenity and adventure that is found up here. His newest piece, an ode to John Voelker's Testament of a Fisherman, is called "Testify." Testify brings all of the feels to me. I have watched it over and over since it came out in late April. It brings me to the water no matter where I am. Watching Testify will no doubt bring the delightfully musty smell of a riverbank and the smell of "Off" and sweat to mind. Peterson totally nails it.
The pike and walleye season opened up in the Upper Peninsula on Friday. I have been waiting for this season to open up since moving here. I have been reading old fishing reports and talking to locals every chance I get in order to hone in on a perfect spot to enter the season. Last weekend I prepped for this quasi-holiday by tying up some fist-sized fur fish.
While in Traverse City I picked up some materials from The Northern Angler. The Northern Angler has an honest staff and a great selection; one of my favorite fly shops anywhere. They had 99% of what I needed, the rest I got from Orvis Streamside down the street.
When I woke up this morning fog was rolling in from Superior and the forecast called for an overcast morning with possible light showers. I strapped on the kayaks and we headed to the lake.
The first hour brought much stripping and not a single fish. I was pretty discouraged; maybe I had the wrong bug, maybe the fish weren't hungry, maybe maybe maybe... The wind was also a dampening factor.
In an attempt to get out of the wind for a bit we holed up on the leeward side of rocky island. Seeing the remnants of last year's weeds and reeds I drew out some line. I found a beaver dam and cast toward some of the surrounding riprap and litter. The fourth or fifth strip following a rather ungraceful presentation resulted in a solid tug on the line. I set the hook and the little hammer-handle was ready to play.
I thought for sure this juvenile esox was a loner and that his bigger brothers would be in the deeper basins. Luckily, I was very very wrong.
Chelsea loves pointing out my ridiculous hook up face. Priceless.
Up to this point I have not truly understood the need for a Boga Grip, however, after several close calls I definitely need.
Here's a nice thrash shot from one of the bigger pikes. He came up to the boat a few times and then dove back down. I need to rethink my GoPro POV for the kayak. I am thinking about engineering some sort of third-person style above boat view. Any ideas or plans would be greatly appreciated. I am not against making alterations to my deck to achieve a proper POV.
Yesterday I read the short piece in The Flyfish Journal about pike on the fly. That piece really resonated with me. The name of the author is escaping me at the moment, but he wrote very passionately about sight-fishing pike. I read the intro to Chelsea aloud. He described the intense rush of seeing the golden underside of their throat flash as they swipe at your fly. I have been the disappointed witness to that scene dozens of times.
Running across that piece tomorrow was the perfect way to introduce Chelsea to the world of apex northwoods predators on the fly. After several fish, I switched bugs and put on one made from Icelandic sheep and craft fur; a pretty neutrally buoyant fly. I kept my strips short and fast. He was swimming about 10 inches below the water when we both saw the lightening-fast swipe and roll. I paused between quick strips and the fish again came out of nowhere and took the fly hard. (Check out this video for an awesome slo-mo pike strike on "Mike the Pike" lure: 11100306_862351750503543_599885733_n.mp4 )
I brought several 30" fish into the boat. Definitely the biggest pike that I have ever caught, but nowhere near trophy fish. Guess I will have to keep trying.
The fog continued to sit on the lake as we paddled back to the launch.
We are very fortunate to live here, this is God's Country: what a wonderful place to spend a Sunday morning.
Next weekend: more teeth, bigger teeth, longer fights, more smiles and paddling.
The snow has only been gone for a few weeks, but I already miss it. I always get this feeling; Spring's coming doesn't fill me with the same sense of rebirth that others get. The ability to move around more easily is appreciated, however I don't long for the death of snow, never have.
This year Winter was much more pleasant than the past 4. Over the past few years I got into riding my commuter and cyclocross bike as much as possible. The weather patterns in South Eastern Michigan make it fairly easy to run semi-skinny tires year round. Our first week in Marquette I quickly found out that my semi-skinny tires wouldn't cut it up here. It works just fine to run down to the co-op for groceries but taking it anywhere that's not plowed or well-traversed is a poor idea. Next Winter I will have a fat bike and things will be a little different.
Luckily, Marquette has so many snowy-weather activities to make up for my lack of winter biking. In the late Fall I got Chelsea into cross-country skiing.
She isn't interested in going downhill and I am fine with that. We like to be able to get out away from people and quietly enjoy nature so xc skiing works really well for both of us. We picked up some wider touring-style models. The extra width is no bueno on groomed trails and track which is totally fine because we usually go places where we have to break the first tracks.
So much solitude: miles of trails along the southern shore of Superior in Marquette County. So many areas that are difficult to access when the ground is bare open wide up when the snow comes. The woods are a blank canvass for you to write your story. Get out of your chair and do it.
Nice use of the ski pole bipod.
She's all smiles at Presque Isle. (Her first day on her new skis)
Chelsea loves breaking trail. I took her on one semi-groomed trail one time and she quickly determined that it was not her cup of tea.
My little fatties. The Marquette Backcountry skis are hybrid snowshoe-like contraptions that really allowed me to go almost anywhere this winter. Next year they are going to get some serious use! (They will also be getting a binding upgrade. More on that later)
Skiing during a blizzard.
More Marquette Backcountry skiing on a bluebird February afternoon. We were blessed with quite a few of these days.
When you live in an area that has so many months of Winter you need to either be super stoic and not say anything or get outside and enjoy each and every flake. We choose to do the latter. Next Winter I will be much more diligent posting daily trip reports complete with stories. This year we were all about getting out there and exploring.
If you are a Marquette or UP native and you have some secret spots that you would be willing to share please get a hold of me, I am always looking for new places.
Thursday brought 6-9" to the marquette area. Friday we had a high of 38; the weekend's prospects of pleasant adventure looked grim. Then came Saturday: 55 and sunny with a slight shore breeze.
I started the morning off searching for some steelhead. I got skunked but it was great being knee deep in the river.
After splitting a muffin and draining Bany Cakes' coffee urn we headed north on 550 and pulled off into the Harlow Lake parking lot.
The last time I was here we had several feet of snow on the ground and the the going was kinda slow.
The sun did a number on the newly fallen snow and turned most of the trail into a creek. We walked on the built up snow berms along the trail. The view from the top was totally worth it though.
This could be one of my favorite places. I know that it's way too early in my transformation into becoming a Yooper, but it's true. Beautiful views without people.
Very glad to have been able to share such a lovely place with a wonderful person. I drag her all over the place doing silly things that leave us with soggy wet feet and windburned cheeks. If you don't have someone like this then you should keep looking.
The sun is out; it looks unseasonably warm but you put on extra insulation just in case.
Public Radio pundits provide a thoughtful soundtrack for the trip. But you are somewhere else in your head.
The parking lot has a few other vehicles; don't worry there's enough to go around. You pop the rear hatch and begin the ritual of putting on your waders and boots, rigging up the rod and taking an educated guess at the fly de jour should be.
The crusty snow crunches underfoot at you take the goat trail away from the cars.
Bend one: two spawn dunkers.
Bend two: fruitless after working a yarn egg and a nymph.
Change it up: maybe there's a hungry, active fish in this place. Guides start to ice up: no one said that spring fishing was easy.
Bend three: strip, breathe, strip, breath, strip, breathe. Chuck it back out. Strip, breathe, strip, breathe, stri-........ Give him some room to run........ Take you time..... Enjoy the fight; this is why you put the time in.
Take pleasure knowing that you tricked the beautiful beast and honor him by letting him go.
Last weekend I found myself in Marquette; a delightful town on the southern shore of Lake Superior.
I had the morning off so I took to the Subaru to roam about the area. I haven't been to the area in 12 or 13 years. While the town had changed a considerable amount, the natural surroundings remained exactly as I remembered them: beautiful, raw, and clean.
Hogback Mountain sits in the distance just waiting to be explored and I can't wait. I figure that is a nice way of telling you all that I am moving to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's not everyday that a dream job comes up in the perfect location but I guess it did for me. I cannot wait to be able work with a great group of people during the weekdays and then spend the whole weekend communing with nature and enjoying life finally.
Outdoor Research's latest catalog had a section on living a Complete Life that talked about being able to spin your adventures alongside your everyday happenings. That advertisement really stuck with me, and that's how I am going to start living.
Here's to our move up north and a new chapter in our lives.