Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

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Fishing The Battenkill River and Roaring Branch

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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Camping on the Battenkill campground

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Battenkill behind our campsite

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It was 57 degrees when we woke up, which makes for great sleeping. Sooner suggested driving 9 miles south to the New York side of the Battenkill River where they stock trout  so we might have a better chance of catching fish. We stopped at a bridge and fished above and below for about an hour. A man, who looked like he knew what he was doing, entered from the other side. None of us did anything. 

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We looked at several other areas before settling on another bridge on a secondary road. We are in the land of covered bridges. It was a beautiful spot with several good runs and nice holes. I switched to a small nymph and caught a small Brown Trout on the first cast and immediately walked down to Kelly to tell him the news. Maybe we were onto something but only one more strike was it. Maybe it was just the end of feeding time, or maybe they were keying in on something else. There was nothing rising and no hatch however it’s never a bad thing wading a cool, beautiful trout stream in the summer.

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We drove upstream to another bridge where a professional entered the stream above us, teaching a couple how to fly fish. Changing flies and techniques, we didn’t move a fish. There was a hatch of teeny flies, and one sulphur almost hit me in the face, but I could see no fish sipping, rolling or rising. 

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Tired and hungry, we went back to camp, fixed lunch and rested a bit. Then we rode back through the little town of Arlington and drove up Sand Road to Roaring Branch. It didn’t look like much as we drove along and it didn’t appear to be much water in it, but what water there was, was crystal clear. Cabins and houses were all along the stream. Roaring Branch seems to be appropriately named. It’s a huge boulder field with what looked like a trickle of a stream running through it. We could see that when the spring rains came, all hell could break loose, moving these huge boulders around and washing trees downstream. 

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Not having any idea where to fish, we just stopped in a shady area where at least the fish would have something to keep them cool. Traffic was heavy on this dusty, gravel road and, while I don’t know where this road goes, thankfully, all these cars were not carrying fishermen. We were in Green Mountain National Forest, which only means the government has timber and mineral rights. 

Kelly went directly to the stream and I worked my way downstream, fishing a couple of small pools. I wasn’t optimistic since a road ran along the stream providing easy access and there was little to get in the way of casting, I suspected there would be few, if any, fish. I looked up as I was moving and saw a man watching me; he looked like a game warden, but didn’t say anything. We had gotten a $10, one day, non-resident New York license and a $21 Vermont license. For $2 more, you could get a 3-day license which was a smart enticement to get additional state revenue but we did not fall for it since we really only needed the one day and we are cheap. We have a little printer in the Airstream that is great for printing licenses – I might start a little collection from this trip.

I asked the man if he had caught any fish and that he said he was new to the area and was unsure of what to do. He had fished up higher with a caddis fly and caught a couple of small trout. I told him we were new to the area too and didn’t know much either. 

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The stream is deceiving. It splits, comes back together, makes runs and falls into some very deep pools, some of which aren’t 4’ across but we found fish in them. Kelly caught a couple early on and I got a couple of strikes. OK, game on. I love this kind of fishing. Just about everyone says Brook Trout will readily take a fly, and they will but if you miss, it’s all over in that pool and you will not get a second chance. Brook Trout can see you so you best stay low, get behind a rock and don’t let this fast-moving water drag your line. It’s target fishing and you have to be accurate. 

The longer we fished this little stream, the more impressed I was. It’s not easy going in this boulder field. You have to navigate carefully, and you are climbing up a mountain, so it’s great exercise. At our age, we may not be able to do this much longer, which made this afternoon so much sweeter. We caught 8 nice, little Brookies and probably missed 15 more. They fight so hard! By 5:00 we were whupped and called it a day, but what a good one it was.

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7″ Brook Trout

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Behind this little dam is a deceivingly deep pool that was over my knees.

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Back at camp, Kelly surprised me as he went back to the Battenkill to fish. A young couple had settled in beside us, cooking hash over an open fire for dinner. Kelly went over to discuss how they made it. They started by frying bacon, add potatoes, then anything else you might have. In their case it was peppers and something else. Sounded good. He told them Stouffer’s made our dinner.

Moving to The Westfield River

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

We are so sorry to leave this area. The more we saw, the more we learned, the more there is to fish. There are 485 miles of streams to fish here. As Jeff said, “Come back in June and stay a month”. 

We employed the same strategy – I would pack up while Kelly fished the Beaverkill right in front of us. After watching the river last night, we knew there were plenty of fish in this river and he was as anxious as a Labrador retriever going hunting. I gave him my phone with instructions that we MUST have pictures if he caught fish.

I took a shower, straightened inside the trailer, loaded up and emptied the trash. I put DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) in the truck as it was getting low. Then I heard Kelly yelling, “GREG!” I knew he had a fish, so I ran to the river and up the rocky edge as I saw him with a fish on. He was walking it downstream toward me, saying he didn’t know the password for the phone. Oh yeah, that would help. I took the phone and took some quick pictures. Releasing the tired Brown Trout, Kelly revived it, holding it upstream, moving it back and forth so water would run through his gills. It’s odd to watch my old friend, sometimes a curmudgeon, talking softly to this noble fish, so gently holding it in his powerful hands. He released it once, but it drifted backwards, so there was more moving it back and forth in the cool waters. It was tired and breathing hard, but soon it wiggled away back into the current. In 8 inches of clear water, its amazing how you can’t see the fish. It is so well camouflaged. Excited like a kid at the amusement park, with a big grin, he went back to work. 

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I wanted to say goodbye to Dennis, so I walked up to the beautiful 30’ Airstream Classic and knocked on the door. As the door opened, I was greeted by McHail with a wagging tail and smiling face, jumping up on my leg to get a pet. Dennis came out and we talked for a while. I thanked this nice gentleman with so much fishing knowledge. Since his wife passed away, he and McHail have been traveling. 

Once more, he helped me understand how he fishes these rivers. He was going over to the West Branch today. “Why there?” I asked. “Because they are wild trout”, he said. “Not stocked”. I told him I’d like to come back for the month of June. He said, “Oh yeah, that would be good. I am here for five months”. Then he rattled off all the streams to be fished, many of which I hadn’t heard. We talked about his fishing technique, and he showed me his rod and how he had it set up with the leader he liked these days. He likes fishing emergers this time of year, telling me how he did it. 

Dennis is a mechanical engineer. He and his wife ran a shooting store. He was into reenactments, and he is highly knowledgeable in black powder rifles. This is a soft-spoken, humble guy I could listen to for hours. I gave him my card hoping we would meet again. “Come back next year”, he said. “I hope I can do that”, I replied.

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“GREG” I heard Kelly yelling as I walked back to the trailer. I ran down to the river as he had another one on. We were a little more efficient with this one, and the fish swam strongly away.

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It was a 4-hour drive east to Tolland State Park in Massachusetts. Not sleeping well last night, I needed coffee when we stopped to make a quick sandwich for lunch. We set up at a nice campsite and headed over to scout the Westfield River. It’s an hour east. We are only 120 miles or so west of Boston. 

Again in unfamiliar territory, we took the computer, our two phones and the truck GPS. We were using an excellent blog site for reference. It told us where to go and what flies to use to fish the East Branch of the Westfield River. Driving north on Rt. 112, looking for Chesterfield Gorge, we asked a man walking how to get there. “Just up ahead, take the next right”. Turning right, we found the road to be closed. The bridge was out. Now what? We were low on fuel and desperately need to find a diesel station. We found one 11 miles away. Surely there was a way in the Gorge, a big attraction in the area. With more searching and reading and driving and time, we finally found it. It was 6:30, and we were tired.

The blog told us to pass the parking lot and drive down the rutted dirt road that went for miles downstream. This big diesel truck has a stiff suspension that allows it to do its job of pulling the trailer very well, but it isn’t great on roads like this. Slowly, we drove down the bumpy road. The river is beautiful, with clear water. It’s low, but fishable. Our spirits lifted as we looked at this beautiful stream. Tomorrow was going to be a good day. We have two days here, so maybe the next two days we could fish this.

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Fishing The Beaverkill River

Monday, July 1, 2019

We tried to organize our flies and label them. The trouble is we buy these flies, put them our fly boxes and then never can remember what they are or where we are supposed to fish them. Some are works of art. Some are classics and some are specific to a stream.

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It was our last full day here, and we wanted to devote it to the Beaverkill right in front of us. We walked out our door and went fishing, Kelly going up to the pool above, while I opted to fish faster water in front of us. Wading a third of the way across, I began casting. There was nothing rising, and I could see no hatch. I had my big rod, a 6-weight, 10’ Orvis Helios 2 with a 12 foot leader. It’s a beast that I bought for steelhead, small salmon and largemouth bass. My other rod is a 7’4” 4/5 weight that is too small for this stream. Well, maybe not for the majority of fish you might catch, but there are big ones here.

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On the 5th cast, the end of my rod fell in the water. I’ve never had a rod come apart on a cast. It’s a 4-piece rod and half of it was in the water. As I retrieved it, I saw it was broken and had not just come apart. Orvis rods are expensive, but they will fix or replace a broken rod. I walked upstream to tell Kelly. Jeff was on the bank watching. I held up my broken rod, and he said, “I hope that’s not going to stop you from fishing!” I said, “Which end should I use?” 

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I went into Beaverkill Angler, and Orvis dealer. Matt smiled and examined the rod. He said they would send it to Orvis and they would rebuild it and send it to me. It’s the busy season so it would take three weeks. %#@*#. What is a stupid fisherman supposed to do? With two more weeks of fishing, I needed another rod. Matt showed me two 5-weight rods and took me across the street to try them. He also gave me some tips to improve my casting. Be stronger on the take up, drag it a bit going forward and release it higher. If I could just keep the vision of Matt’s easy casting stroke in my mind, maybe I would get better. I walked out with a new rod, reel and line and a lot lighter in the wallet, but I was back in the game.

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We needed groceries, so while I was in town, I did some shopping. It was lunchtime by the time I got back. Kelly came up and we traded stories. He had hooked “a hog”, but after 10 minutes it got off. He said all the time he was thinking about how he would get a picture for the blog. I was gone and he doesn’t carry his phone while he is fishing. 

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After a trip downstream to a recommended pool, we returned to camp and fished out our door. With my new rod, I fished the same spot I was in this morning. As the sun went behind the mountain, fish started rising and splashing – not regularly, but there were plenty of them, and I had targets. I used everything I had bought and several others and only got one fish to splash at a caddis fly. I could see teeny flies in the air, but nothing on the water. They seemed to be feeding a bit on top and a bit underneath, but I just couldn’t get anything to work. Neither could Kelly.

We came back in, took off the gear and fixed a drink. We borrowed two chairs from our neighbor and took them to the edge of the stream to watch. Now we could see #12 size brown or tan flies floating on the water. There were plenty of those teeny flies flying around too. We watched the brown ones float down, and every now and then a fish would take one. It was a beautiful, cool evening. Kelly, a non-technology guy, said he wanted to FaceTime his son, Kelly, searching his phone for the app. Finally he got it to work and Kelly answered. He was probably at dinner when we called. He couldn’t see any video, but we could talk, describing the scene. After a while, he said, “Hey I can see it! I just saw a fish jump!” We had seen that fish rising with some regularity all evening, just 15 feet from shore. 

Fishing Trout Brook

Several have said all the feeder streams in this area have native Brook Trout. We chose Trout Brook. We didn’t know where to fish it or what the regulations were, so we just parked at a pull-off, geared up and started fishing. It’s a beautiful little creek. With plenty of logs and vegetation, we had the usual problem of getting the fly caught in them. We leapfrogged all day. Sometimes we will split up on a small stream, keeping in contact with radios or phones. Since we didn’t know the stream or what might work, we decided to stay together. If nothing was biting, or a fisherman was ahead of us, we might quit and go to another stream. We could also try two different flies and see what worked. If someone gets caught in a tree or changes a fly, the other goes ahead, so the fishing stays steady.

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We didn’t do much at first, but then we began catching some, or at least there was enough action to keep it interesting. I hooked three, but they all came off the barbless hook. Kelly caught three nice ones, lost two big ones and lost a few others. Our best luck was at the top. We didn’t know until we got out that we were on posted, private property.

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We ate a granola bar, drank some water and went back to the bottom. Just as we were about to get out, another fisherman drove up. Kelly got out to talk to him. He said he didn’t need much room, so we went up to the next pull-over. The gentleman said planned to fish a BWO (Blue Wing Olive) upstream, then walk back while fishing a nymph (an underwater fly).

It was a nice day, and we got our exercise. We were tired, but needed to do laundry. It’s nice to have a laundry in the campground, but with sheets, towels and a week’s worth of fishing clothes, it took a while. Waiting for the dryer to finish, we noticed a gentleman sitting outside his 30′ Airstream, so we walked toward him. Before I got there, he pulled out a folding chair and put it beside him. It was 84 degrees and hot, but he was in the shade of some trees and had his awning out. I told him I liked his Airstream and introduced myself. He had met Kelly yesterday. His name is Dennis. The Airstream is a 2002 Classic. I told him about our 2005 30′ Classic we used to have. I think it is the prettiest and most energy-efficient model.

Dennis lives in it full time. This is his home, along with his cute, little dog. He fishes, moving around with the seasons. He stays here for four or five months, then moves south, fishing the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. He loves to fish salt water with a fly rod, showing pictures of some big sea trout. He is a retired gun dealer with a lifetime of knowledge fishing this area. Reluctantly, I excused myself to finish the laundry and take a shower.

At about 6:30 people gather for the “Liar’s Meeting”. Butternut Grove is mostly a fishing campground, right on the Beaverkill River, so the like to meet on top of a bank in the middle of the campground to exchange stories of the day. As we walked up, we struck up an easy conversation with Jeff, a retired policeman from NYC. He too has a camper he is keeping here for a month. He had fished the West Branch. That translates to West Branch of the Delaware where he caught 8 fish, “no big ones” he said, but all nice.

I was dying to sit down in one of the eight Adirondack chairs overlooking the river, but these two veterans were talking fish, what to do and where to go. I was all ears and questions. Jeff said most visitors pound the water with dry flies, but “you have to go underneath”. He uses a 11’6″ Spey rod, a two-handed rod that throws the fly a long way. He was using a Leadwing  Coachman, a Caddis female imitation. I asked how they know what to fish and when. ” We just know what usually hatches this time of year, so that narrows it down to five flies”, said Dennis “Then you change those until you see what works. We’re not quite into nymphs yet”. I asked how they know it’s nymph time, and they said to look under rocks in the water. Once they have come out, they will leave their shells along the banks.

They talked about guides using strike indicators that bob when a fish strikes under water, but they didn’t like that. It inhibits the way the fly swims. “OK” I said, “How do you tell when a fish strikes?” “Tightlining”, Dennis said. Keeping the line taught, without drag. “You MUST have at least a 14′ leader. These fish are line-shy”, Dennis said. Then there was a 20-minute discussion of leaders, poo-pooing Euro-nymphing, which I had recently read up on. I was wishing I had recorded the conversation. They used to use Maxima line to make their own leaders, which I had just done, but now they use something else they love. Of course I promptly forgot as they moved on to another topic. My head was swimming with new ideas.

Fishing Esopus Creek

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Tags: Phoenicia Hardware Store, Phoenicia, NY, Esopus Creek. 

It was a clear, beautiful morning at our campsite on Esopus Creek. We could see no hatch or fish rising, so we decided to go to the hardware store in Phoenicia which also sells trout flies. A lady at the counter said good morning and went on mumbling to herself – something about her brother not being there this morning. We found the fly counter, and it was a good selection. Once again, we bought flies, this time stonefly imitations. We hadn’t seen a stonefly, but that is what is supposed to be hatching at this time of year. the nice lady helped us, and told us a couple of places to fish. She works as a bartender also. You have to be versatile to get by in Phoenicia. Kelly asked where we could get a coffee, and she said Brio’s. 

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Once in Brio’s Pizzeria, we decided breakfast might be a good idea. Kelly asked the nice waitress which of two selections would be best. She said, “Well, that’s hard, but judging from your southern accent, you would like the eggs with sausage gravy biscuits.” I chose the breakfast burrito. Both were good.

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Esopus Creek is a beautiful stream with clear, rushing waters. We fished it hard for a couple of hours in front of camp. We had a couple of flashes, but nothing else. Surely this stream is fished a lot throughout its length. We were tired and hot when we quit. 

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After a rest and lunch, we went back out with the same result. This is such a pleasant spot, it’s fun just to sit in the shade of big trees and watch as others try their luck. People have different techniques. We could only guess what they were using. A few small fish were caught. If fish are there, they are well-educated.

Grueling Moving Day

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

With rain last night, stream conditions weren’t going to get any better, so we decided to move on a day early. Once we got on a main road, we would call Sleep Hollow Campground and see if we could get an extra day. We packed up, hooked up and headed out. With no cell service, we used the truck GPS to set the course for Phoenicia, New York. As we headed up the gravel road, I took a left turn. Kelly said we had come in from straight ahead, so I pulled over. It’s hard to turn a trailer around on a gravel, mountain road, but we probably could have done it in this spot. I was on the GPS route, and after some discussion, we opted to stay on it. Wrong decision! It was a long, curvy route up and over a mountain for 45 minutes until we finally found a narrow paved road. It was a pretty drive, but not what we were looking for, and we were low on fuel. Surely there would be a gas station somewhere. Wrong again.

By the time we got to the pretty town of Mifflinburg, the route took us right through downtown on a narrow, busy street. I wasn’t sure I could get the trailer through, but there were tractor trailers coming the other way – right through downtown! there were no gas stations still! We were headed toward I80, so there had to be something ahead, but there wasn’t. We got on the interstate figuring we would find a station at the next stop, but the interstate was blocked! It was shut down with two trucks with flashing lights blocking both lanes. We had to get off and go right back through town.

In a circuitous route, we finally found a crowded Sheetz station. There were only two diesel pumps and at one of them, a big truck was camped out with no nozzle in its tank. A passenger was walking his pit bull. Kelly went up and asked him to move, which he reluctantly did. I circled around the busy lot to get a straight shot to the tank while Kelly stood in the lane. 

Finally, we found our way back to I80 and it was open. Later we heard on the news there was a bomb threat. Could that have been the reason it was closed? We traveled east on 80 to I84 and then I87 past New York. These roads are in terrible condition! Ruts and jarring holes bounced the trailer around. Hitting a big bump and hole on a bridge, there was a loud bang. I thought we had broken a stabilizing bar, but we never found a problem. With heavy traffic and jarring bumps, it was a long, all-day drive to get about 300 miles. Geez! Kelly called Sleepy Hollow campground, but no one answered, so he left a message. A few hours later a man called back, saying he had a place. 

It was 6:00 when we finally checked into the 100-site campground beside Esopus Creek. Wyatt checked us in. We had requested a stream-side site, and he had on for us 😊. Then he guided us into the site. At the end of a hard day, I was very happy for the help. Wyatt was a UPS driver, and he runs a great campground. For such a big campground, it is very pretty and well-maintained. The year-round campers maintain their trailers and sites nicely. 

All the days tensions subsided as we sat beside beautiful Esopus Creek outside Phoenicia, NY. This supplies Ashokan Reservoir, which is the water supply for New York.

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Fisherman’s Paradise and Fishing Creek

Monday, June 24, 2019

We had passed an overlook several times, so this time we stopped to get some pictures of this beautiful area

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We knew Fishing Creek was muddy, but that was our best choice, at least of the streams we knew about. We stopped at a convenience store for some coffee. As Kelly was getting in the truck, a fit, middle-aged guy walked in front, and Kelly asked, “Where’s the best place to go fishing around here?” With a quick smile, he asked, “Trout fishing?” “Yeah”, Kelly said. “Fisherman’s Paradise. Two presidents have fished there. You’re just 20 minutes away. Just put it in your phone for directions. It’s a spring creek.” We thanked him and searched Fisherman’s Paradise to quickly find directions. A spring creek wouldn’t be muddy.

As we drove south on I80, we thought, sure, it’s a pay-to-fish place. With the luck we have had, that was fine with us. As we arrived along a large crystal-clear spring creek, a sign greeted us. It is a state-run facility as a model for sustainable trout fishing. There were a few fishermen as we crept up the road admiring the beautiful stream. The road ended in a big parking lot and a large building. Now fishermen steadily walked up and downstream with a purpose. We have never seen so many, totally-geared up trout fishermen. They all looked like guides with the best waders, fishing shirts, vests, rods, nets, hats and sunglasses. I should have gotten some pictures, but my purpose was fishing. I walked around reading signs discussing the history of this place, once a private, pay-to-fish place, lined with fishermen. As the water quality deteriorated, the state bought it and gradually restored it. Using barbless hooks, no fish can be kept. 

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I noticed Kelly had been talking to a man, so I walked over and met George. He was very familiar with this stream, coming every year. He said he tries to come during the sulfur or midge hatch. Unfortunately, it is between hatches now. He had a license tag that read, ANGLER surrounded with a Trout Unlimited frame. He is from Connecticut, and was working on a project for UConn. At first I thought it was Yukon, and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Coming in on the middle of the conversation, I didn’t want to make him retrace everything. What I did get was that he didn’t catch anything this morning. He targeted several fish that he saw, but couldn’t move them using a #20 fly. That is tiny! He said the fish didn’t even look up, so I asked why he didn’t try something under water. He just smiled. One, it’s not as much fun, and two, spring creeks have heavy grasses in them. If you go under water, you are going to get caught in them. If George hadn’t caught fish, what chance did we have? Surely there was some answer to attract these rainbows and browns. 

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George said if we liked wading, we should go downstream a mile to a bridge. We thanked him and headed down, passing fishermen along the way using a variety of techniques. None were catching fish, at least that we saw. For several hours we tried our best with no luck. After a hour of trying a few dry flies, I tied a dropper nymph, knowing that would do the trick. That means tying a small underwater fly to a large dry fly. That way you can see a strike and control the depth of the nymph. Nada, nothing, so I moved the nymph deeper. Nada. Wrong nymph? between hatches? Wrong time of day? We didn’t see anyone else having any luck either. By lunchtime, we were hungry, tired and frustrated, but this sure is a beautiful stream, like a large version of Mossy Creek at home. 

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OK, let’s go back to Fishing Creek and try that. We picked up a hamburger at McDonalds in Coburn and drove to Fishing Creek. It was still muddy, but we fished it hard for a couple of hours in a couple of places with no luck…..again. Well, we weren’t skunked. I caught one small, beautiful Brook Trout. 

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The fly shop said Poe Creek had fish in the upper section above the bridge, and Kelly was determined to catch some. I opted to take some pictures as I followed along. It is such a beautiful stream, it was fun to relax and enjoy the views. I’ve never been on an ugly trout stream. They may vary greatly in size, shape and surroundings, but they are always pretty. 

Raccoon, I think

Raccoon, I think

Poe Creek

Poe Creek

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By the time we got back to camp it was 6:30, and we were tired. We built a fire, fixed a drink and discussed the trials and tribulations of another frustrating day. Still, we felt lucky to be able to do this. Thank you Martha and Rhonda!

Houses of Natchez

I spent the afternoon driving, but mostly walking around Natchez. One neighborhood along the cliff overlooking the Mississippi was most impressive. It’s only a guess, but I suspect the city codes for historic homes might stop some people from buying. Next door to some incredibly beautiful homes are once-beautiful homes that are in disrepair. There are also intermixed modest homes that are often quite pretty. Blocks away, I found a modest neighborhood that looked like Elvis’ birthplace. Rhett was right. This is a very cool town, rich in heritage and history, and I didn’t even get started on the cuisine. Next time 😊

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Loved my campsite at Natchez State Park.

Mackinac Island

Thursday, October 4, 2018

We drove north from Petoskey to Mackinac and caught the 11:00 ferry over to Mackinac Island. It was a chilly 45 degrees with the winds blowing 20 miles an hour. I was beginning to wonder about this trip with ferries going over every half hour, carrying a hundred or so people each. Of course they come back every half hour too. As we entered the harbor 16 minutes later, I saw a cruise ship in the harbor. It wasn’t like a big ocean-going cruise ship, but it was a cruise ship. We had planned to take the bikes and ride the 9 miles around the island, but it was a bit too chilly and windy for us.

As we got off the boat and walked up to the main street, it felt like we went back in time when horse-drawn wagons were the means of transportation. Clydesdales and other workhorses were all over the place, mostly carrying people on an hour tour of the island. There are no cars allowed, so it either ride a bike, ride a horse or hire a wagon. It is a beautiful downtown with well-kept stores, hotels and beautiful houses. An old fort sits on the top of the hill. Every block had a fudge store, where it is all hand-made.

We started walking west on the street, gawking at the homes, with flowers everywhere. Shortly, we decided to maybe not walk all the way around the island, but cut across the middle and back along the other side. We walked up a big hill to find the Grand Hotel, and grand it is! A golf course sits across the street, while the hotel has a superb view of the bay and lake below. Continuing past the hotel and around a corner, we entered a state park of woods with trails crisscrossing everywhere. After all that rain we had the night before, we stuck to the roads, passing the airport sitting on top of the island. A horse-drawn wagon passed us with one passenger with his golf clubs in the back. A sign designated it as a taxi. Cool! 

Walking through the park on these roads had a bit of the taste of Acadia National Park. I’ve never been to Bermuda, but the town felt like I imagine Bermuda, with pretty hotels and homes and flowers everywhere. When we got to the other side of the island, we picked up Tranquil Bluff Trail, walking along the edge of a bluff overlooking green and blue waters of Lake Huron. We were sure we saw two whales cruising that side – maybe killer whales with white bellies, but there are no whales in the Great Lakes. Martha remembered a guide telling us there is a place on the St. Lawrence that blocks them. This is a very pretty trail through the woods overlooking what looks like an endless Caribbean Sea.

We were starting to get tired as we came to the east side of the town, walking a crushed gravel road along the water. Beautiful Mission Point Resort overlooks the lake. As we came up to main street, we exchanged pleasantries with a couple walking the other way. The gentleman came right over, asking if we had been here before. Then he told us all the things we should see as well as the best places to eat. They had been here for three months and I think come every year. How nice!

Walking back through town, we passed a Mackinac moving van – two Clydesdales pulling two wagons loaded with someone’s furnishings. We took our new friend’s recommendation and went to Milly’s on Main for Whitefish stew and whitefish fish and chips, and both were good. After getting some ice cream and fudge, we caught the 4:00 ferry back. It would be great to spend three months here and explore the island more. There are many options for staying here and it is a gorgeous place that handles the tourists well. 

We drove to Wilderness State Park, now a bit tired. Martha thought she saw a sign that said there were no vacancies. Thankfully she was mistaken. One of the advantages of traveling this time of year is you can drive through the park, find a campsite you like and then go register. In Michigan this means picking up the yellow phone and calling some central office somewhere and giving them your site, license tag, length of stay, etc and payment. After doing it a couple of times, it’s pretty efficient, and they don’t have to man every campground. This is a very busy place in the summer as it is right on the lake with 26 miles of beaches, lots of hiking trails, lakes and bike trails. The sites on the water were pretty full, but we went to the Pines section, where it is open, grassy and only 6 other campers – perfect!

Bike the Heritage Trail and Kayak the Platte River

Saturday, September 29, 2018

With temperatures struggling to reach 50, we drove north to take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. On parts of it, I felt like I was on the Skyline Drive in Virginia. Then it opened out to immense sand dunes, one being 1000 feet tall. 

Then we took the bikes to the northern end of the park and biked the Heritage Trail that goes 27 miles through the park. Part of it is paved and part crushed gravel. It was Saturday, so lots of serious bikers were on the road biking in teams. You can bike Rt. 22 around the top of Michigan. It was 49 degrees with a little wind, but it was fine once you got going. We just needed better gloves.

We got back about 3:30, and put my kayak on the Platte River. They said it was a 2-hour float, but paddling steadily, I made it to Lake Michigan in an hour. It’s a great way to see how the fishing is. Weaving my way around and behind fishermen, some were catching, some not. One guy was fishing at the bottom of Loon Lake with the place all to himself. He said it was the best day ever, catching pike, bass and salmon, all on a TDK (?) wet fly. 

Martha fixed a great fish stew in the slow cooker using Walleye.