One of the perks of having friends with diverse interests is when you get to share one of their dream adventures. I recently joined my friend on an 8-hour guided fly-fishing trip. This experience was WAY out of my comfort zone. My friend and I both operate from different sides of appreciating nature.
I’m a city girl at heart and enjoy the 80% city/20% country experience. She is an outdoors girl at heart and prefers to be with 80% country/20% city whenever she can.
The Birthday Gift
My favorite kind of natural experience is laying out beachside, so you can only imagine what my conversation was like when my friend’s husband called me with plans of surprising his wife with a guided fishing trip. That is a call my husband will probably never make.
(They lived in Alaska for 3 years and really enjoyed fishing while living there.)
The price was the same for 1 or 2 people and he thought it would be a fun girls trip because he couldn’t make it with their kids and work schedule.
I was clueless, but up for the challenge. When I pictured fly fishing ..images of Brad Pitt from the movie “A River Runs Through It” came to mind in a stream. I honestly think my memory is only from watching the previews.
He told me that we would be fishing off of a boat and the guide service would have everything we needed and show us what to do. That was a relief because I have never baited a hook and only caught a few crappie fish, which are really tiny, once in my life.
What to Wear?
I next asked the most important question for a girl who is trying fly fishing for the first time…”What kind of outfit do we wear?” I had temporarily forgotten that we wouldn’t be in the water and I was picturing wader gear that you see people fishing in.
Relived that we just need jeans, sturdy shoes and something warm. Fishing in Michigan in March is unpredictable weather wise. We lucked out with an amazing 80-degree day spent at the beach the day before.
My next reality check came as we were packing up the night before when we began talking about the boat that I would not be on. I’m picturing a big boat like you see for deep sea fishing or fishing trips on Lake Michigan equipped with a bathroom, kitchenette, and maybe a spot to lounge as I catch some sun.
We had to meet our guide at a little country store at 6:45am and anxiously wait to see what my fishing vessel would look like. Basically an oversized canoe or a good size fishing boat with two seats a platform up front and a place to store fish below. Ok, so no bathroom break today and this just gave me an opportunity to get in touch with my surroundings. Thank God it was a beautiful day. I think my experience would have been different with rain or snow which are both likely for March in Michigan.
We met a few other people who were waiting for their guides as well. Little did we know we would out fish them later on in the day. Our guide was a young guy in his 20’s. One of the repeat customers shared how he was really good and that we were in great hands. So we followed our guide from the store to the Muskegon River…which is why we didn’t have a big boat with a kitchenette. (the river is pretty shallow and rocky in spots)
It was still a little dark as we began our journey.
I was so glad we had sweatshirts on because it was chilly. We got up the river a bit and our guide Jim showed us the basics of fly fishing. He had a boat filled with two extremes; a novice and someone with a lot of fishing experience. He did a great job of educating the clueless girl and then taught with a level of respect for my friend. Apparently fishing in Alaska gives you street cred in the fishing world.
I learned a few terms for the parts of the fishing rod and soon began trying to fly fish. At first, I was a little nervous about hooking someone. Your line goes on one side of the boat and then you cast it on the other, almost like you are creating a big outstretched rainbow. Fly fishing is all about repetition. I was starting to get the hang of the rhythm of casting the line and letting it gently flow down the current for a bit before winding it back up. I did pretty well when I pictured myself being smooth like Brad Pitt in the movie preview.
I had just tangled my line in something and my guide fixed it and got me started in the water again and handed me my pole. Within a few moments, it caught something! Here is where my brain and my reflexes did not seem to be in sync. I tried to pull back and wind up but it all happened so fast and the line was heavy.
We continued to wrangle the fish in with the big net when it was close enough to the side of the boat. Apparently, I caught a big Walleye.
I didn’t know what a small one looked like but all I could do was jump around the boat like a scared woman seeing a mouse as the fish flopped everywhere. …..Keep in mind I’m a city girl fishing in a boat. The guide helped me hold the fish which was a challenge in itself and then it began pooping as we were taking the picture…ok so apparently walleye eggs look like runs.
Let’s just say everyone on the river knew the boat with the girls had just caught a fish.
Not too long after that, I caught my first Steelhead with the same level of excitement.
We both had gotten a few bites but my reaction time was still a little slow to yank the pole back really fast and hard. After a while, my friend began catching fish too. First, she caught a little trout and then moved on to steelhead.
We stayed in that spot for a while and then moved around on the river. We had a period of time when my friend was catching fish consistently. One of the spots that we did really well at had about 10 turtles resting nearby on logs in congo line formation. That seemed to really amuse me ….which doesn’t take much. We also seemed to provide entertainment for our guide as well, who also enjoyed showing off his students who were catching more fish than the guys on the water that day.
We went to a few other spots throughout the day that had no action. We had been so successful before that it felt like an eternity when we weren’t catching fish or getting any bites. At one point in the day, I caught a tree with my hook and then I caught a fishing guide, when one of my fish got away and the hook came flying into the boat. We learned that our guide had catlike reflexes.
We moved toward the dam and rotated eating lunch while the other fished.
We didn’t want to stop until we caught more fish. We were positioned in between two other boats and then my friend morphed into the “steelhead slayer.”
She began catching fish so often it became comical. The other boats weren’t catching anything, we would catch a fish, come back to the same spot and then catch one again. After showing up all of the fishermen near the dam our time began to run out and we moved back to our spot by the turtles. I had not caught a fish since that morning. I had a lot of “almost” but no prize and I was getting frustrated and competitive. We only had 15 minutes left to fish and I just wanted one more. My wish came true after a few minutes in our spot.
With the final fish of the day caught our trip was complete. We had an amazing time and even got to take home dinner to the family that night thanks to our guide who cleaned and prepped our fish.
I now am open to the idea of fishing thanks to a great day with my friend and the company of our amazing guide.
I’m living proof that they can teach anyone how to fish and that even the seasoned pros can learn from a guided trip. My friend wants to try again but only if Jim is our guide.
If fly fishing is on your list check out Betts guide service and ask for Jim Berthiaume to be your guide.