Rarely does something in print meet or even come close to expectations…but on Friday, July 15th, I had the privilege of fishing a small lake, Wakeley Lake, in north-central Michigan and it more than met any preconceived notions I had going in.
As I opened up my March/April of 2016 edition of Eastern Fly Fishing my attention was immediately drawn to a story on a small lake not too far from where Vickie and I had camped in the summer of 2015. I read with great interests this very well written piece on the subtleties and nuances that were associated with fishing this little gem.
Wakeley Lake is not an easy lake…you don’t just drive up to the water, dump out and start fishing. The lake is about a quarter mile off of Michigan highway 72, just a few minutes east of Grayling, Michigan. If you know your fly fishing then you will also know that Grayling is the home to the Au Sable River, which was home to the foundation of Trout Unlimited…but I regress as this is another story for another time.
Vickie and I had left St. Ignace in the UP early on this Friday after spending an awesome day out on Mackinac Island the day before; where I will admit that I packed along my fly fishing gear in a small back pack and stopped at three places on the eastern side of the island and fly fished, all told, about an hour…truth is all I got was skunk-but I had always wanted to see if there were any fish, so I did…and now I know. We crossed the amazing Mackinaw Bridge and once again entered into the ‘lower-48’ and made our way an hour or so south whereby we went straight to Wakeley…I grabbed my float tube, 6 and 8 weight fly rods, kick fins, box of flies…and made my way down the trail to this simply glorious little lake. Oh, and lest I forget, all of this came after I paid my $5 dollar daily usage fee to the US Forest Service (which turned out to be the best fishing money I spent on our vacation).
Not only as it a good walk with all of my gear in tow…but the lake itself is only open from mid-June to the end of August; all fishing is to be done with artificial lures and catch/release is also mandatory! Now, you might ask why go to all this trouble…in my first 10 casts I caught two bass, both very chunky 16 inchers and a 22 inch toothy pike who had all sorts of attitude.
Never before have I been ‘treated’ to such great fly fishing as I had for those three hours…I won’t say that I caught fish on every casts but I will tell you with all regard that in the three hours I landed about 30 nice bass to go along with 8 pike. I must admit that I had to have rolled the dice perfectly on this day as upon arrival the only other canoe on the lake packed up and left. Weather was probably a factor as sheets of rain were rolling in from the east and at times it was darn hard to see too far. All this said, it was a perfect fishing day as the rain and cloud cover…along with the change in barometer had the fish in an eating frenzy.
One of the coolest moments came about halfway through as I looked over my shoulder and there before me, not 20 feet was a loon. It was preening and going through all sorts of motions…and the best part is that it didn’t seem to care that I was so close, maybe it thought I was some sort of critter being so low to the water in my float tube…maybe it thought this guy is crazy to be out here on a day when it was in the low 50’s and raining…either way it was a real treat for me and about an hour later as I was heading back across the lake, my friend the loon, it opened up repeatedly with its lonesome and melodious cry. It is one thing to hear this cry on a movie and another altogether to be out in the ‘wild’ and be an audience to it!
Hard work is nothing I am shy or afraid of and frankly I am bit odd in that I really like to work for my fishing and my fishing opportunities. As it turned out Wakeley Lake might just be the perfect spot for those others like me. I have had bird hunting opportunities whereby I didn’t really know what the dogs had pointed and was often surprised with a cackling ringneck when I thought we were in quail country; this was much the same as I had my 6 weight rod with sink tip line and a big shad pattern as well as my 8 weight rod and a big shad popper, I was alternating between the two…the beauty and excitement came as I often didn’t know what I had on the other end until I got it very close to my float tube. I will admit that much more care and caution was given to the pike than was to the bass as their rows of sharp teeth can easily wreck even the toughest hands. If you have ever tried to land a 25 inch, 5 pound pike from a float tube whereby you have to pull the fish into your lap…give it a try sometime as it is a real thrill.
As I kicked back across the lake I couldn’t help but just smile as the day I had just experienced will be one of ‘those’ days, one I won’t forget…one that I hope to get to recreate on many other days; I often feel tired at the end of these long sessions-whereby I am my own motor…but on this day I had been rejuvenated, foul weather and all…what a day to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.