Mister Tussock is in town. Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes the larva of the Rusty Tussock Moth. Fly fishing this week I saw my first one. I've seen Wooly and Monarch Caterpillars but the Tussock takes the cake. This invasive species from Europe has burst on the river scene just recently. If it works it's way into the trout diet, what are we going to do?
How in the world are Fly Tiers going to match this gaudy caterpillar? The Tussock has every color and more curves than Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. What would you call this fly? The "Quadra-Para/ Horned/ Furry Antennae/ Orange Headed/ Fuzzy Buck Tailed/ Yellow Stripped/ Wooly Bugger? Whew, that's a mouthful and for the trout as well. With fly names like "Peanut Envy", "Dirty Hippie", or "Muddy Buddy", how about calling this new fly "Para-Rube Goldberg"!
OK, now try to tie one. Those who tie the fly would be strapped to their tying vise for a week and the fly would cost about $300? Wow that's a lot of money to catch a fish. Wouldn't it be smarter to go to the Moose Jaw Restaurant for the "All U Can Eat Friday Night Fish Fry" for all 12 weeks of summer and for less money? I might not be the sharpest barb in the fly box, but I did the math.
The larva of the Rusty Tussock Miller is a real looser, but they sure are pretty...Really?
Some people fish to remember, some fish to forget. Whatever draws you to a northern Michigan trout stream be sure to stop and smell the flowers. This time of year the iridescent Cardinal Flower blooms. It's fiery red color is stunning when you fly fish by one on the river bank.
The Cardinal Flower usually is solitary, and blooms in a high stemmed, several flower group. It gets it's name from the Roman Catholic Cardinals bright red vestments and high silk hat. For me it marks mid summer and the count down to winter begins. The Cardinal Flower has a most unusual pollination process. It can only be pollinated by the humming bird.
While fishing near one I watch and wait for a humming bird to come to the flower. The humming bird arrives with a hum that sounds like the worlds largest bee, hum-m-m-m...yet it is the worlds smallest bird! The symbiotic relationship between the Cardinal flower and the humming bird is very interesting. The Ruby Throated Humming Bird shares the Cardinal flowers colors of red and green. They are a perfect match in every way.
So if the colorful trout are not hitting your fly, change your mental channel to watch the world of the Cardinal Flower.
Photos; JER , Cardinal Flower: National Geographic, Humming Bird
When it gets this hot what's a guy to do ? I try to trick the mind. I some times can't get the hot weather out of my head so I dwell on winter pictures of our rivers and Little Traverse Bay. The snow and Ice of January soothes me, see what it does for you.
Wth the current heat find something else to do and give the trout a rest over the next couple of days. Or fishing very early in the morning or late at night. Take the water temp and if it is over 68F, go home.
How do you know it's a whippoorwill? It says it's name;
whippoorwill ...whippoorwill...whippoorwill. It does it right at dusk and like a Swiss watch the Whippoorwill is accurate.
When I fly fish I loose track of time and when the Brookies are biting it is easy to let the dark creep up on you. The river proper stays very light late into the night at this time of year, but the forest back to the car will be pitch black. Walking in the dense dark woods along the river can be very hard on you and your rod tip. Tripping over dead fallen trees, branches slapping you in the face, did I mention unidentifiable loud sounds only yards away? The river isn't much easier to travel. Even though lighter than the game trails (easier to walk along a trail deer ,and other animals, have carved out in the woods), in the river you can't see the holes and logs in the water. Have you ever said..."I've got myself in trouble this time ", apply that here. A flashlight is a last resort. It's limited beam is like looking through a pipe, peripheral vision is non existent. Traveling with a flashlight can be problematic, weak batteries or bulb failure can be a very bad situation. I never carry one. When I need it...it never works and when you think you have a light and it doesn't work, your in deep #%X#. The solution is...always night fish a familiar part of the river. Be able to recognize tall trees silhouetted against the sky and of course know direction. You always have the North Star, if the sky is clear, but even then traveling 100 yards can take a hour...ouch. iPhones and flashlights are nice, but a well charged battery is nicer, and what if that did happen? The punishment for bad judgement is a night in the forest, an upset family, and lots of embarrassment. So take the Whippoorwill's advice, when you hear his call start your exit plan, time to leave and get back to the car. Brook trout seem to stop feeding just as the Whippoorwill calls. Brown trout fly fishers stay well into the dark but stay at one hole with the exit path in sight or float from one bridge to the next with several flashlights in the boat. You must always have a plan if you are going to stay out until dark.
The Whippoorwill is nocturnal, such a peaceful bird, shy and harmless. At night they fly over the forest canopy, diving with long thin wings vibrating like a strummed rubber band...vrrrrrrm. They eat bugs like the mosquito. They disappear at dawn roosting in barns and abandoned buildings, on the ground, or a branch. They lay their eggs on the ground and are preyed upon by coyotes, foxes and feral cats. They are confused with Chuck-will's-widow or the Night Hawk.
This past week my son Hunter and I did a night trip. I parked the car upstream and waited for him on an old logging trail next to the river. I have always told him, fish in the evening alone, use stealth and work the holes, you will catch some big ones. He timed it right arriving at the car as the Whippoorwill called (10:00 PM). He caught several Brookies in the 12 inch class; large for Brook Trout. Though I didn't fish, his stories and pictures excited us both. My reward was my son admitting, "Now I know what your talking about - dark at night and the Whippoorwill".
That's a first!
Only a couple times in my life have I set my eyes on this native flower. When I do I sit down and stare at it for an extended time. Rare, rare and most rare. I mark the spot and return the next year to that area to fish in late spring. I hope to see it has endured the year to blossom and is alive as I am. Who created this marvelous plant? Why does it take fifteen years for its first flower? It will last almost a 100 years.
The Showy Lady's Slipper needs very wet soil and sun so it is found near rivers. It will not succumb to mans wants, that is to say, you can't transplant it. I have never told anyone of the several spots were I have located them. I want no part of its extinction...it's locations are safe with me. The flower is like an angel appearing to you, you just don't tell people about that. You probably will never see one but if you do, it is a personal gift, only to be shared with a close friend and in photographs. They once were common but numbers are decreasing due to human interruption.
It is Minnesota's state flower and along with Michigan it is illegal to pick. Minnesota has had great concern with people digging it or picking it to the point they are worried about its survival. Remember with today's computer phones your ability to photograph the flower should satisfy that desire to pick it.
The flowers are gone this time of year so I feel safe writing about them. One other note, they have an irritating affect on humans similar to poison ivy. True or not, I wish they had the irritating ability of the Rattle Snake, there would be more of them! The Showy Lady Slipper...love 'em and leave 'em!
This furry creature is an omnivorous character found everywhere. His curiosity has put him in homes, garages, cars, you name it he's been there. You can see his prints on the sand bars along the river. They are very human like. The Raccoon has a foot and hand print like ours. It can use its hands in most amazing ways. To open doors, windows, trash cans and even to wash his food. Uncontested he can be harmless. Trap him and you will be in for a vicious fight. Weighing about 10-20 pounds his black mask and ringed tail makes him easy to identify. Nocturnal, they travel looking for an easy meal. They can be a big nuisance around the cottage. Food in your trash will drawn them ever time. Securing last nights chicken bones in a locked bin will create a challenge to a raccoon. He is fun to watch. The raccoon uses its hands to fiddle with locks or even roll trash cans around until they pop open. Once you are on his nightly route your problem begins. Removal of all garbage is the best way to get rid of them. Picking up your trash time and time again gets old fast. The raccoons waddle is a side to side rocking motion and his run is like a rabbit or the gallop of a horse. He is related to the bear, but thank heavens only a fraction of the size. They have different color phases of grey to brown. They can cause a lot of damage if they get into your cottage. They seek out secure locations like an attic as winter approaches. Many cottage owners return to the north this time of year to find that a raccoon was your winter guest and not a very neat one.
My favorite Raccoon story; the article is based on a true story. Information was hard to obtain due to the fact that Mr. Miller was reluctant to talk about it.
The Millers Last Stand...Once upon a time in late summer the Millers were entertaining a couple with a barbecue dinner of steak, sweet corn and red skin potatoes at their northern Michigan cabin. It was decided by all to have an after dinner drink at a nearby rural roadhouse. Leaving the dirty dishes on the dining room table, off they went. Upon their return to their cottage they walk in on a masked burglar. It was sitting on the dinning room table enjoying the fair. The dishes, bones and spent corn cobs, were strewn about the room. The raccoon advanced towards them. The panic stricken Millers retreated to a sofa located in front of the fireplace. Using the couch as a barricade, Mr Miller was able to reach his revolver from his desk along the way. The Millers were a union of metropolitan dwellers not accustomed to a back woods confrontation. The raccoon made repeated charges at the couch as Mr. Miller rebuffed the "attacks" with gun fire. The critter then used a Chief Crazy Horse flanking move. Mr. Miller, down to his last round, knew the end was near. The raccoon came around the corner of the couch along the fireplace hearth and in desperation Mr. Miller fired his last shot. It was another errant discharge that ricocheted off the field stone fireplace. Miraculously the raccoon, unscathed, disappeared into the fireplace never to be seen again. Due to Mr. Millers poor marksmanship the casualty list was a Tiffany floor lamp, a picture of a Lake Michigan sunset, and a Kelvinator refrigerator. All three involved survived. No one was hurt...physically. I later told the Millers that the Raccoon meant no harm, his charges were only an effort to gain freedom by exiting the way he had entered the cottage; the fireplace. The Millers versus the raccoon, like all battles or wars, was a terrible misunderstanding!
Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Editorial comment by Richard Keiswetter
Most of us have parades to see, fire works to watch, chicken to barbecue ....Family. Not many will be able to sneak out with that old friend the fly rod on July 4th. But if you read Reel Waters with your coffee this holiday morning let me make a statement born out of many years... make that born in the USA.
Times are tough for most. Freedoms have been shrinking under our past and current elected leadership. I worry about the America my children will inherit. Freedom is not free and it is earned with great responsibility. It is respecting what people might choose to do (without harm to people), so the things you choose to do might also be respected.
I was so proud to give my son my Winchester, model 70, .308 cal and be with him as he shot his first eight point buck this past season. That venison had a special flavor last winter. Hunting and fishing is more than a hobby, it is all I have ever done, and for a lot of people up here in the rural north it is the food on their plate. Hard as this might be for those in urban areas to believe it is the truth here. In the north there are no professional sports teams to watch, no Detroit Institute Of Art or museums to visit, and no apology. Things change, but lifestyles based on where you were born, raised, and live influence your activities and needs. Not a lot of hunting and fishing in New York City but lots of it in Northern Michigan. Consider other peoples traditions, needs, and respect them. Most outdoor people have heard the big cities complain about our life style and we just disagree. So this holiday let's pull this country back together with common respect for each others way of life. Just because you don't understand something, don't outlaw it. When I stand on the corner of Woodward and Jefferson, looking at the bronze statue, "The Spirit Of Detroit", I am as far from all I know as one can be. Yet I don't pass judgement on those of you who walk that asphalt jungle. I'm sure it is a challenge, but so is rural life. So if problems arise in your city, legislate your area, but leave my Bill of Rights alone.
I love this country, it's Constitution and all it encompasses. Our Republic has freedoms like no other country in the world. Free people have been defending their liberty long before the first recorded history of Thermopylae 2500 years ago and I will work to protect our freedoms for my sons and for you too my fellow Americans. "Those who give up freedom for security don't deserve either", Benjamin Franklin.
"Walk softly, and carry a Big Stick", President Theodore Roosevelt.
After World War II the USA became the earths producer of food. With a starving world America pushed agriculture to the limit. Grow wheat and corn at all costs. That effort was devastating to our most beautiful birds. DDT was used for pest control to increase crops, but it took many egg laying species to the brink of extinction. The Bald Eagle, the Eastern Blue Bird and the Osprey suffered due to their eating habits. DDT contaminated the food chain. It's presence attacked the eggs of these species causing soft shells and thus reproduction failure. By the late 1950s they were all but gone from Michigan. DDT deemed the culprit was then banned. Their comeback was slow but the Blue Bird now has returned to the meadows, the Bald Eagle populates the small Lakes and Great Lake Shore lines here in Northern Michigan. The Osprey which never was big in numbers seems to be the last to recover. It is because they have a one source diet...fish. Not only was DDT washing into the lakes and streams, mercury poisoning added to the problem. Eagles that have a varied diet of carrion do not live exclusively on fish, the Osprey does.
The Osprey is a master angler, it takes large healthy fish, where as you often see Eagles flying at water level pick up an injured or dead fish. The Osprey dives head long at high speed right into the water. With its talons tucked neatly under its beak, wings back, the Osprey penetrates the lakes surface, then it must lift off and struggle for altitude. It's wings are long and thin for a high speed dive and level flight takes more effort. As it labors to stay airborne it must control the fighting live fish. The Osprey then does something that no other bird does. It turns the fishes head forward for less wind resistance and flight control, while the fish struggles, flying back to the nest.
The Osprey is hard to identify. It will helicopter over its prey, then dive similar to the Common Tern. It has a white appearance like the sea gull. Distinguishing characteristics are, much longer wings and the head first hold of a large fish in its talons. That hold of the fish is easy to see as it flys by you. Seagulls can't hold fish with their web feet. Osprey travel at very high altitudes when not seeking out prey. A well trained eye can help you with field identification. Silhouette and motion can help you identify the Osprey at a miles distance. It is difficult to get close to this bird to see color patterns or markings but if you take an educated look you will find the magnificent Osprey is back, the last raptor to recover.
My favorite Osprey story ;
A father rented a car in Detroit to take his family on vacation in northern Michigan. Upon his return he took the rental car back to the Agency. The agent noticed a large dent on the hood of the car and asked for an explanation? The father replied, I hit a fish! He further explained, that a giant bird dropped a big fish that hit and dented the hood of the car. The rental agent accepted the damage report and remarked..."No one can make up a fish story like that ".
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings