Taking The Bronze
Updated: Jun 19
I can feel the sweat trickling down my back. The thermometer is already pushing 90 and the humidity is on the rise. Even the beer is getting warm. It’s not technically summer for a few days yet but someone clearly forgot to tell the weatherman.
Our morning got a bit of a late start because junior had football practice; and it’s 11 A.M. before we finally get on the water. The sun is high and the sky is clear; not exactly ideal conditions. But I’m glad for the time as days get busier and schedules quickly fill.
It’s still prime dry-fly season for trout in Michigan, in fact, even mid-day, the air is alive with Caddis, Drakes, Sulphurs, Damsels and even a few Dragonflies. But I’ve decided to haul out the raft and the streamer sticks and chase spawning Bronzebacks on the Muskegon River with my dad and youngest son. We are looking for action and getting in a serious bar-room-brawl with something on the other end of a line wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings much either. This group isn’t really renowned for their finesse game.
The Muskegon River winds its way over 200 miles through the western half of the state before it empties into Muskegon Lake and eventually Lake Michigan. The MO is a big tailwater and considered by many to be one of the best fisheries in the Midwest. Several different species of both cold and warmwater fish call it home year-round. The prime 7-mile stretch we are floating flows over gravel bars, fast runs and deep pools of quality fish habitat.
I’ve resigned myself to the middle seat for the day, content to watch the guys get after it while I perfect my tell-tale farmers tan and stay hydrated.
The action starts a little slow; moving more water than fish and putting more empties in the boat than bass. We share a few laughs at each other’s expense, grab a couple snacks and re-apply sunscreen while I secretly worry this is going to be a long fishless float.
We work each section carefully: riffles, buckets and cut banks. We test various patterns – DND’s, Deceivers, Clousers – and various colors – white, yellow, olive, brown and black. But still not much action. And then finally we crack the code.
The second strip on the black Sex Dungeon off the shaded bank and the boy is into a really big male that absolutely smashes his fly. We run straight 12lb so there’s little worry of a break off, but this fish intends to let him know he was in a fight. After they go a couple rounds, I grab the net and scoop the thrashing opponent into the boat. He’s a solid 19. Game on. The mood instantly takes on a more serious tone.
And the marathon goes on mile after mile, fish after fish. I stopped counting after a dozen.
Finally, with just a short bit of the race left, I reach my breaking point. Sliding to the front and entrusting the rowing to my just-turned-eighteen-year-old who has never been described as judicious, I throw caution to the wind and rig up.
My first cast is sloppy, the line getting wrapped under my foot, while creative expletives travel further than my fly. A slow deep breath and the next cast finds its mark. A quick strip and I am instantly rewarded with a pulsing rod and a screaming reel. I’m shaking as I bring the fish to hand. I land one more before we take out and I can’t keep the grin off my face. None of us can. It’s been one hell of a day.
Don’t get me wrong, trout will always have my heart and we have plenty of places to chase gold and silver here in the mitten state, but today I was more than happy taking the Bronze.
Raft: Outcast Drifter 13 (https://www.outcastboats.com/rafts/osg-drifter-13-0-package.html)
Rods: Redington Crux, 9 ft 8 wt (https://www.redington.com/fly-fishing-rods/crux) Redington Predator, 9ft, 8 wt (https://www.redington.com/fly-fishing-rods/predator)
Reels: Redington Rise 7/8 (https://www.redington.com/fly-fishing-reels/rise)
Line: Rio InTouch Big Nasty 4D Sink Tip WF8F/H/S3/S5 (https://www.rioproducts.com/products/it-big-nasty-snk-tip-f-i-s3-s5)
Fly: Galloup's Sex Dungeon (https://www.slideinn.com/product/galloups-sex-dungeon/)