Chuck and Duck

Sucker spawn, teenage spawn, and first mouse attack of the year

My toughest client is my teenage son, Coleman—his friends call him Cole. Now, you might say taking a kid fishing doesn't count as guiding, but you couldn't be more wrong. Taking a kid fishing is the best practice a guide can get, especially when it's your teenager, because they know pretty much everything and don't need your help.

Swisher Sweets, venison tacos, and the savage traditions of Michigan's annual trout opener

With so many miles of special regs water open year-round, you'd think Michigan's trout opener would have become largely insignificant by 2015. Yet most anglers still consider the last Saturday a holiday—including myself. In fact, as I walked out of a party store with celebratory provisions on a Friday night, a local fly shop owner on his way in for some of the same greeted me with a, "Happy New Year!" Like singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on January 1, northern Michigan trout fishermen practice various opening day traditions that border on religious rituals to celebrate a fresh crack at another trout season.

Guiding in northern Michigan starts with a great bumper sticker

This series begins, oddly enough, where the last series I wrote left off. "Lake Effect" chronicled a steeelhead trip where a friend and I hit tributaries flowing into all five Great Lakes inside a five-day window in early November 2013. I was so stressed to start that trip that it took 1,900 miles of gas station food, hangovers, and swinging flies to feel relaxed...

At some point in every young angler’s life, you’ll have to sit them down and have “the hex talk.” Conversation timing completely depends on the person. Some may not be ready, some will, and others are already experimenting with hex—without you even knowing.

Here are a few key points to remember when it’s time for that all-important heart to heart, considering a lot of what’s portrayed in the media is not real:

1) You don’t just go out and immediately start having hex. The hatch bounces around, and a stretch of river that was blowing up with bugs one day won’t fish well the next.

2) Every hookup isn’t going to be with a trophy. Don’t feel bad about lowering your standards at times.

3) Just because every fish in the river is up and eating on the surface, doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You still need to spit a little game in the form of a well-timed drag-free drift.

4) Bring a wingman. Doing it in the dark is a team sport—especially if you're in a boat. Good positioning is essential. Your wingman needs to be hyper-aware, focused on opportunities. And the guy on the rod needs to perform.

5) When it’s good, it’s addicting. Make sure they know their decisions can have lifelong consequences.

Finally, once you’ve had the talk, accept the fact that new anglers are going to be the ones making these decisions on their own. As much as you might want to, you can no longer control or dictate their actions.

And I already know what you’re thinking, If I sit down and talk hex with them, won’t that just make them want to do it more? Absolutely.

An old timer with an 8-inch Buck Knife strapped to his belt once told me that mousing for trout was invented on the North Branch of Michigan's Au Sable River. Not long after brown trout were introduced there—shortly after the grayling were gone—an angler was field-testing some bass poppers he'd carved and accidentally discovered that these German fish were eager to eat after dark.