KALKASKA – My first presentation was primo; a nice brook trout (not quite 10 inches) came out from under the shore and grabbed my offering. I pulled the tip of the rod up and pulled the fish out of the water and onto my knees. It’s a beginning.
My second presentation was similar except there was an alder tag hanging over my head (so my hook was a little less emphatic) and the fish was bigger (about 12 inches) and it unbuttoned before reaching me, flying in the grass, and before I could catch it, was back in the water. Sigh.
And that’s how it happened for me; I finally caught my fish, but not before Chuck Emmert had finished his limit and caught and released more fish than I had ever convinced him to bite.
We were on a small stream, much of it surrounded by alder groves, which I have been fishing with Emmert for about a decade now. When we first started fishing together Emmert was much better than me at brook trout fishing. Ten years later, it may be even better.
But I guess that’s to be expected. Emmert – who recently retired to Tennessee and returned to Michigan three times this year to fish for brook trout – has worked hard there for almost 60 years.
A retired pastor, Emmert grew up fishing for brook trout, making his way through brush to drop worms into small streams, only to be rewarded with mostly small fish. And he is totally happy with it.
âThere are fewer and fewer guys breaking the brush,â said Emmert, 66. âWho wants to break the brush when you can get out of Ludington or Manistee and grab a 30-pounder?
“But bigger doesn’t mean better.”
Not that he is against the capture of beautiful fish; he had one 13 inches and another 12 Â½ in his creel that day. But he is satisfied with good guards.
âI think eight- and nine-inch fish are the best to eat,â he said.
Emmert perfected his craft, running his cane through small openings in the brush – often on his knees – to drop a red worm just upstream of any deep hole (i.e. more than two feet), just upstream of a log or brush pile, and if there’s a brookie in there, the weird ones are very good that he catches them.
He does this with an eight-foot rod and a six-pound test line, pulling enough line from the reel to swing his lure in any hidden hole, the same way bass anglers turn a stencil into a bunch of brushes or a cattail patch. But he keeps his left hand on the line, and when a fish strikes, he gives it a sling – like a fly fisherman does – and pulls it out of the water with one stroke.
âI know some people use a four-pound line, but I don’t feel the need to go lighter,â he said. âIf you get a really good fish, you might have a problem there.
âAnd I hardly ever use my reel unless I’m fishing in a beaver pond. Never.”
Unless he’s fly fishing, which he sometimes does, Emmert always uses red worms.
âThere was a time when I loved Panther Martins (spinners) but felt like I was killing too many fish with this treble hook. It was difficult to prevent it.
He’s experimented with grasshoppers and brook minnows, âbut I think we’ll agree that worms are the most natural bait,â he said.
Emmert has always set a goal of catching (but not necessarily keeping) 200 brook trout per year and has almost always achieved his goal.
âIf I haven’t, it’s because there is something going on in our lives that has cut my time – things like the birth of children,â he said.
Although he assumes he fished some 35 brook trout streams in Michigan, he now has about half a dozen. He always fished for a few days every two weeks and alternated them so as not to put too much pressure on them.
âI used to explore, but there’s no reason to go running all over your own backyard,â he said. âIf you lay them out and go around, you can come back every few weeks. Some think they can fish in the same stream all the time, but if they fish two days and catch 10 fish – and if they take someone with them, 10 becomes 20 – they won’t hold the water. cut. Maybe if you fish a big stream like the Manistee you can fish it all the time, but I think rotating my streams is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Rarely does he not reach his limit – “if I have a few hours I can have five,” he says – but if he thinks about it and fishes hard he says he thinks 20 at 25 it’s “a very good day.”
This year, he expects to catch close to 100 when he returns home in the spring, summer and fall this year.
âI like cloudy days,â he said. “They’re too scary otherwise, but I’ve had good days every season, but it seems like until it warms up the spring is pretty slow. I haven’t made up for it here for the game. opening this year – the first time in I don’t know how many years – and I don’t think I missed much.
And he found a mountain stream in Tennessee with brookies, and he caught them, he said, but he still wants to come back to Michigan.
âIt’s not the same,â he said.
Bob Gwizdz is a longtime writer on the outdoors and has also worked in public affairs for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.