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26 May 2005
Pere Marquette fishing report [May 25-26 '05]
B and I took a couple of days off work and left home for the Pere Marquette on Wednesday morning. We took the back roads - the highways are for commuters, we were vacationers. The drive was not quick as there were quite a few active road construction projects where the traffic is limited to a single lane. We arrived at the PM at about noon and headed straight for a new river access.

The weather was bright and sunny on Wednesday and actually turned out to be pretty nice on Thursday even though thunder and lightning had been predicted. We endured just a couple of light sprinkles on Thursday morning. We had the river almost to ourselves everywhere we fished. There were never more than 3 cars in the parking area (including ours) at each access.

A new river section

The fishing was OK but not great. Streamers were the obvious choice for the chilly mornings, then later in the afternoon, dries and emergers seemed logical as there were a few naturals present and a low level of surface feeding. Overnight temperatures in the low 40s and the variable weather patterns may be to blame for the sluggish action. The river was a little bit high and a tad off-color. I caught one little, but really beautiful steelhead smolt on Wednesday on a sulphur dry pattern and a pair of 10" brown trout on Thursday that smashed olive colored streamers. I did get a few strikes outside of that, but no hookups. Not much for 2 days of hard fishing. B did better, as usual. She hooked a couple of really big fish near underwater logjams. Though both times, she and the fish could not agree on a direction and her tippet was snapped in short-order.

High bank view

The evening hatches completely perplexed me. It looked to us like the surface feeding going on was motivated by emergers of some sort - the rises were splashy and just beneath the surface. The fish did not show any interest in the dries we tried, and the emerger patterns we tried (or tried to fake) didn't work either. There were brown or gray drakes, sulphurs, some caddis and a few other things in the air, but we couldn't find a fly to mimic whatever the fish were keyed in on. Very frustrating. I have a lot of learning to do... Anyone want to clue me in?

We also had the misfortune to witness a local professional guide directing his client to swing streamers over a steelhead redd with a freakin' 4-weight. They hooked, landed and released a fish that then just sat on the bottom right in front of me for quite awhile after they drifted off. It didn't head for a dark hole or back to the redd. I hope it lived. They probably should've just kept it. The guide suggested that we should go give them a try too. I definitely view this kind of unnecessary tactic as unethical. End of May, warm water, only a handful of steelies trying to sneak in some last minute spawning...and a 4 weight! Come on, there's enought big fish in the PM without having to harass these guys. For cripes sake, Tommy Lynch landed a 27" brown a few days ago. Let the lonely steelies get it on and head back to the safety of the big lake. Here's a thread on the Steelhead Site discussing the viewpoints of some fellow angler-types. Sure, it's legal. But it's not smart.

Shupac was apparently fishing near Baldwin too. We may have crossed paths but didn't realize it. We ran into several really nice fishermen. I hope one of them was him.

Vital Statistics
Difference between weather forecast and actual weather: +80%
Comfort rating of PM Lodge cabin #4: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Number of pileated woodpeckers observed: 4
Tardiness of a handful of straggling, spawning steelhead: 2 months late
Number of guide services scratched off the list of possibles: 1
Ratio of very good to not-so-good meals consumed in Baldwin: 4:0
Degree of guilt for missing 2 days of work: 0 (on a scale of 1 to 5)

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