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The Put-In

Rustbelt Flats Phenomenon

When our flight left the tarmac our small plane arced into the sky, and I finally had a good look at the water. We’d traveled more than 24 hours. The engine’s hum and the view below reminded me of the trip from Belize City to Ambergris Caye.

Later that day as our boat bounced from deep water into the flats and moved closer to a small barrier island, I released my ten-finger grip from the seat. My jaw remained clenched. It was similar the ride from Tortola to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

When I swung my legs off the bow and my boots slid into the water they crunched on the firm flat. We might have been in Ascension Bay.

But we were nowhere near any of those places.

Boat Spray, Looking at Map

Carp in water, Orange Bug

We walked the flat and looked for fish—big fish. The carp in Northern Lake Michigan average 10 to 12 pounds. The fish we saw easily pushed into the 20-pound range. We first found them in a small cut between a break in a long thin island, not two hundred feet wide. The water was barely deep enough to cover my boots. The lake’s contour dropped three feet and the water was off-color from fish stirring the mud bottom. Quickly, I made out the shapes of feeding carp.

In comparison to what I’m used to we threw big, gaudy bugs.

From a short distance I watched photographer Tim Romano and guide Kevin Morlock target fish moving from cold, deep water to the shallow warm flat where we stood.

Guide helping Tim catch fish

Holding Smally

I Love Carp

I have fished nasty, dump-like locations for carp. Northern Lake Michigan isn’t one of them. When it comes to premier destination carp fisheries (yes, I said “premier”, “carp”, and “destination” all in the same sentence) it’s hard to imagine exceeding this unsalted flats environment. The area has more than 380 miles of coastline. To put it in perspective, this would be like fishing the coastline from Boston Harbor to the Bronx. And it’s all excellent carp and smallmouth habitat.

We gently bounced in the boat and watched two shapes move closer. It felt like I was tarpon fishing just a few miles south of Chetumal Bay.

I picked up the fish immediately. I punched a cast and dropped it in front of their intended path. They closed within a foot or two of my bug, and I twitched it. One fish turned and I began to strip. He followed my fly for just a second until he decided otherwise.

Refusal. Rejection. Dismissal. A familiar scenario quickly reminding me that—regardless of the locale—I was still fishing for carp.

For more on exploring this area of the not-so-distant-world. with guys who know the deal, visit Indigo Guide Service.

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