Late September is the time of year I look forward to for my annual "cast and blast" that takes place in Northern Michigan each year.
This is the time I hunt grouse and fish for Brook trout.
My favorite area south of the bridge is the Pigeon River State Forest. This is the largest tract of wild land in the Northern Lower Peninsula and is the core area of Michigan's wild Elk herd. The Elk are scattered throughout this huge tract of land and one of my favorite Brook trout rivers, the Black River, runs through the heart of a traditional rutting area. To fish the river in the fall of the year is a pleasant adventure that I look forward to for the fish themselves....the bonus is to have Elk bugling in the early morning at first light in the surrounding hills.
I have spent many mornings through the years at this time of year in this very special place fly fishing for Brook trout in their spectacular fall spawning colors, while several bulls announce their presence in the hills and meadow along the river. I have had the privilege to have an entire stretch of river to myself with the sound of Elk seemingly surrounding me to create an atmosphere that suggests you could be in a western state or Province, while a mere three hours from home.
Then there are the Trout themselves, which is what lead you to this river valley in the first place, and are reason enough for the short pilgrimage north.
If you have never had the pleasure to look at a male Brook Trout in the fall, you Are missing out on a different kind of 'color tour 'that takes place along with the changing of the leaves in the hardwoods. The other color tour I am referring to takes place under water, and is a sight that only a fisherman is privy to. A beautiful fish to admire all year long, now transforms into a painting, with exaggerated markings and a sunset orange belly that no doubt helped it to achieve the lofty status of our State Fish.
After the music of the Elk has subsided in late morning and you have held in your hand and admired enough Brook trout to hopefully sustain you for another year, you can slip off your waders and pull on your favorite hunting boots and head for the Aspen thickets in search of grouse and woodcock.
If you are lucky, you will look in the game pouch you have not visited for a year and find among the year old twigs and leaves a few grouse feathers from a successful past hunt that brings a smile to your face and gives you pause.
This could be the reason a bird hunter never cleans out the bottom of his or her hunting vest. Maybe If we were to clean out our pockets and game pouch and throw away the twigs and sticks that have accumulated there along with the feathers, we may be throwing away a memory from the recent past that leads us to the present ,and fills us with anticipation which truthfully is the force that drives us.
To be in a wild place in the fall such as the Pigeon River forest gives the sportsman more options than time allows for in a busy world that always pulls at you with domestic chores and general commitments with a perpetual 'to do list ' that waits for us very patiently back at home. At some point the 'to do' list creeps into your head and reminds us that this escape to the wild to fulfill our passion is a temporary fix that has some consequence, big or small, depending on how your personal world turns.
Regardless, we push ahead through yet another poplar stand with intense anticipation of the thunderous flush of a grouse, we wade around just one more bend in the river with a promise to ourselves that we will stop after just one more cast, because we want to hold one more Brook trout in our hand and sit on the river bank and admire the scarlet maple tree before turning away to succumb to the 'list' at home. By now the list is moving to the forefront of your thoughts, and at this point in your life you have learned to accept the balance of duty and wanderlust to chase trout and birds and elk because if things all work out as in the past......you will be back next year to this very spot, and if history does in fact repeat itself, nothing will have changed in the woods and river, and you will be a full year older and just maybe, the 'list' has gotten smaller and leaves you to be quiet and still to hear the Elk bugle with even more clarity.