I recently got an invite from flyrodder Peter Jonas to do a canoe trip down the Menominee River near Iron Mountain Michigan. I have done a lot of canoeing….but that was several years ago, a far cry from the comfort of my Crestliner fishing boat. The thought of big bruising smallies that live in remote, unpressured waters was too much to pass up. The river levels were low and fish would be accessible to topwater presentations, especially flyrod bugs and poppers. Nothing gets me more excited than surface action!
We put in below the Ford Dam near Kingsford, Mi and it didnt take long to see Pete knew his stuff. He explained that the fish would hold below any current break caused by fallen trees, rocks, or riprap…a common pattern in most river situations. Pete pointed to a large downed oak tree coming up and told me to drift my Red/White Deerhair bass bug as close as possible to the branches and give it a twitch. I false casted a few times with my 9’6 St. Croix #8 rod and managed to hit my target. Sloosh! a dandy 18 incher Smallie hammered it as I desperately tried to keep my line tight. It was quite a battle but I managed to net that beautiful fish. What a start!
Three nice bass and a couple pesky Northerns later I offered to switch places with Pete and give him a crack at the bass. When fly rodding the back person is limited in his fishing time as he is constantly positioning the canoe, steering and paddling. The current picked up and as we slipped by an eddy Pete expertly dropped a pearl colored popper tight to the gravel shoreline. Slurp! it disappeared in a large sucking swirl. Pete leaned back on his flyrod and a huge Bronzeback exploded to the air. The fish fought like a titan for a long time and we finally netted her. She taped over 20 inches and was really fat, close to 5 pounds.
As the shadows lengthened the action got even better! We had an incredible day, catching over a dozen Bass a piece and missing several others including one bruiser that I got close to the canoe that was an easy 22 incher with one the same size trying to steal the tiny Torpedo out of its lip! The sun set in all its glory and the mosquitoes reminded us it was time to head for the campfire, a couple veinson tenderloins and a cold drink. What a beautiful place this North Country is!
I should add a postscript here. All the bass on this trip were released to fight again. We fished from Peter’s 16′ Old Town Penobscot canoe.
Peter Jonas is the Pastor of 1st Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Iron Mountain and is a frequent contributer to Midwest Outdoors Magazine on fly fishing.
Here is Pete with a Smallie that broke his rod.