After a week of activities at the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers’ annual conference, I might just have to call Gaylord, Michigan, the perfect city for a family getaway.

There were places to hike, bike, paddle, ski, and get outside. For our family and for this group of outdoor communicators, the great outdoors was the draw of the area. Whether it’s visiting the local restored elk herd and hearing the September bugles far from the Rocky Mountains, trips to nearby Lake Michigan or nearby Lake Huron, a stroll through acres and acres of public forests for grouse and woodcock, or a rafting trip down the Sturgeon River, there was something to suit the unique interests of every individual outside.

My first day at Gaylord allowed me to wake up early and head south on Interstate 75 in the total darkness of the early hours with AGLOW President and Virginia-based outdoors writer Ken Perrotte . Ken and I used the hour’s drive to catch up on our last phone call and talk about upcoming trips and the excitement of events during the week-long conference.

With a fishing guide meeting us at a popular Civilian Conservation Corps campsite, we did our best to not only be on time, but also early, especially since the minutes could be invaluable as Ken had to return to Gaylord for his presidential duties.

It was as close as this scribe could come to secret service duties. My mission was to get down and get Ken back safely and on time.

We crossed the red pine and the jack pine in the national forest of Père Marquette. As we neared our river rendezvous, a dark shadow crossed the road, medium in size but distinctly feline in appearance. We slowed to a stop, rolled down the windows, and looked up at a grove of trees near a small cottage by a lake.

A small bobcat glanced back, a symbol of the wilderness around us.

We continued for a few kilometers until we found the campsite. Three vehicles with drifting boats on trailers were dropping their loads into the Manistee River, preparing for a day with six outside communicators. At the head of the trio was Tim Riley, owner and operator of River Valley Adventures.

“You guys, my writers? Tim asked. “Yes sir,” was our response.

Being the first to access has its advantages. With a pair of clients ready to fish, Tim took Ken and I and we continued uphill to get an early start. The float should take around four hours, but Tim could speed things up by rowing slow stretches.

We loaded up Riley’s fiberglass Hyde drift boat and got ready to go. As the nights cooled and fall set in, the aquatic insect outbreaks had slowed and the peak of the grasshopper bite was long gone.

Stripping streamers and drowned flies on nine-foot, 5-weight rods would be the order of the morning, and not just any flies, but the ones that have grown in importance in the Great Lakes State.

Sitting in front of the boat, I was first interested in fresh water with a popular hinged banner, the circus peanut. Originally designed and popularized by Traverse, Michigan fly fishermen Russ Madden and Kelly Galloup, the marabou body and rubber legs of the Circus Peanut ripple in the water.

From the stern of the boat, Ken tossed Earl Madsen’s Michigan Wet Skunk, a drowned fly true to its namesake and whose throbbing rubber feet on a caterpillar body would resemble a stone fly floating freely downstream.

Tim took us to the middle of the channel and we started to put our flies under cover. Fallen trees, occasional boulders, and submerged edges of vegetation held back brook trout and brown trout as the sun rose and the morning fog cleared.

A few undercut shorelines held fish near alder overhangs or private canoe trips, and Tim pointed out some coverings of CCC-era cedar branches that still held fish against their dark, stained exteriors and held back. the banks almost 100 years later.

It didn’t take long for the first fish, a brave brown trout, to cling to my circus peanut. With some fish in the net, Ken and I rushed over to take some pictures while Tim held the fish in the water until we were ready for the pictures.

Tim looked surprised at our rush for the photography, so I explained. “In our profession, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It is always the kiss of death to release the first fish not photographed on a trip; this seems to guarantee that you won’t catch another one. What if this is our last fish?

Tim smiled and understood, then responded. “But in my job, what kind of guide would I be if this was the only fish you caught?” “

For the rest of the morning, every fish was Tim’s running joke; we better get more pictures because who knew if this might be the last fish we caught!

It didn’t take a lot of conversation to learn that Tim is a prolific Michigan outdoorsman. He’s an avid lure collecting waterfowl enthusiast, angler and darkhouse launcher, practicing with a double shotgun behind his dogs guiding clients to the grouse and woodcock, and had just come from finish taking her daughter on a successful deer hunt where she collected a magnificent tip buck.

The morning was spent with Tim helping tie a handful of flies from the writers’ wayward casts, happily landing fish, picking out tangled cane tips and spinning stories of past trips with clients and treasured moments with family and friends outside.

He slowed the boat down in main waters, rowed through direct footpaths, instructed casters on the right and left banks and the prettiest lies, and dropped the rolling anchor of the Hyde drift boat on pulleys in the ground when we needed a moment to free ourselves, change who’s fishing ahead, or make a plan.

If we weren’t spoiled enough in such great company and with such great fishing, Ken and Tim spotted a giant 10 point white-tailed deer lazily feeding on a coming turn.

It was a giant of public lands standing on the near shore of state forest lands. We whispered to each other to prepare the cameras as we slowly approached in silence.

The male looked at us cautiously, but stuck around, alternating between staring at us and plucking mouthfuls of fresh grass. Eventually he became disinterested and gradually wandered out of sight, but not without leaving a lasting impression of the remarkable generosity of Michigan’s public land resources.

We got to the take out outlet on time, but had to deal with the late morning clock and the intense, intense sun that slowed down the bite.

“Everyone wants to fish in holy water,” Tim explained, referring to the famous nearby Au Sable River that once had a native grayling population and is the birthplace of Trout Unlimited, “but it’s is where the guides go. I think the fishing is a bit better here.

Squared up with Tim, Ken and I wished him luck, before resuming duties as the Secret Service driver and turning the car north, through the twisting pines.

President Perrotte was on time to deliver his opening speech.

Scott Mackenthun is an avid outdoorsman who has written about hunting and fishing since 2005. He resides in New Prague and can be contacted at [email protected]