Fly fishing in the fall brings other considerations to the river experience. This time of year draws other outdoor sportsmen to the river side. Small game bird hunters ply the cover along the rivers edge with their dogs to hunt the Ruffed grouse and American Woodcock. It can be an unnerving situation when a nearby shot gun blast breaks the streams silence. The fact is you are safe fly fishing in the river. Wing shooters, as they are called, do just that, shoot the bird on the wing. That puts the shot over your head if a close encounter should occur. Bird hunters in the know hunt the Ruffed Grouse with a twenty gauge shot gun. They use bird shot. This type of shot is small in size and will only carry a deadly punch up to approximately 30 yards. These pellets are listed as number 8 or 7 1/4 shot. That is half the size of the common BB gun. If a hunter should come within this 30 yard distance shout your presence, it is very audible. I must admit I have done both Grouse hunting and fly fish and I get nervous in the river fly fishing when a hunting dog passes near me. The fact is guns have one disturbing factor...who's holding it.
November 15 through November 30 is a whole different situation. Whitetail Deer in our area are hunted with high power rifles. A deer rifles range is measured in miles. In the last thirty years Grouse hunting, or small game season on public lands, began to be closed for the deer/rifle season for good cause. Grouse hunters compared to deer hunters hunt in different ways that put them in dangerous situations with each other. However, during this deer season, fly fishing is not closed. It is my opinion that the rifle/ deer season is a good time to stay home to tie flies.
No matter what your politics are, deer season is with us forever! Michigan is known for its world class trout fishing, Grouse and deer hunting. So I guess it is a matter of common sense. November 15 to November 30 is a good time to repair waders, tighten up screws on your reel or go deer hunting!
This time of year the babes of the woods reach young adult maturity. They strike out on their own seeking new territories. It is a dangerous time, similar to than parents putting their child in an automobile or taking them hunting or fishing for the first time. Danger comes in many ways that the young are not aware of, but that's the responsibility of parenthood here on planet Earth. Fatalities sadly are prevalent. 40% of young eagles do not survive their first flight. The breeding Bald Eagles have a process to force flight to their new born eaglets; starve them. Cutting food to them creates aggressiveness. It removes baby fat, strengthens the eaglet. The adults tease them with carrion as they fly by the nest. Soon the young are air borne, and survival is their first challenge. This first winter is a true test. Survive, hone your skills, stay alive and in about four years the baton is passed.
Northern Michigan with it's Great Lakes and inland water ways is a paradise for the National symbol the Bald Eagle. They have returned from brink of extinction in this area to almost common. However not for me. With my eyes heavenward I am always scanning the clouds for their powerful, high altitude soaring flight. I watch as they glide at 45 MPH over the horizon. The Bald Eagle was non existent in this area in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's. The effort by naturalists has slowly helped them back to soar the northern Michigan skies.
In Northern Emmet County, the Waugashonce islands, Wilderness Park, and Weikamp Lake offer a rural environment that has had breading pairs for over a decade. In that time several successful nesting seasons have brought their numbers back. Other breeding pairs are appearing. While I search out the salmon runs, I find myself sharing small streams with Bald Eagles. I have witnessed their mating game in the spring. However this year, I believe, there is a young pair bonding in my fishing territory. They are almost comical. Squawking at each other, tumbling together, and just hanging out like two teenagers. I have run into them many times in an area of about 100 square miles. They are easy to identify. These young adults are never more than a wing beat away from each other. Very unusual this time of year. I have run into them from Sturgeon Bay to the Maple River near Pellston. Their togetherness is a bonding for next springs mating season...another new nest will be forth coming this April. A second chance for the magnificent American Bald Eagle to rule our skies...a chance the Passenger Pigeon never got.
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings