Since I started out talking about the river. I will write about several of the rivers I have fished in Michigan. I will start where it all started for me, The Rogue River.
The Rogue empties into the Grand River near the corner of Northland Drive and West River Drive. The river is slightly colored and with some rain it can get a tea like coloring to it. Since a kid I have spent many days fishing on this river from suckers, Smallies, Steelies and Salmon.
When I first was introduced to this river it was during a Salmon run in the fall of 1982. Some local kids a few years older than me where catching Salmon and when I asked what the were catching them on. They snickered and said "spoons...right in the side."
I was a little confused until I watched for a while longer and they cast to where the Salmon where spawning and let the spoon settle on the gravel near a fish and when it swam by they jerked, sometimes hooking the fish. I befriended one of the kids who lived across the street from my Grandparents who had just moved there.
After having several discussion with this kid, I was under the impression that Salmon do not feed and the only way to catch them was to snag them. I was young and naive at the time so I went along, but something inside of me told me it wasn't right.
So I went on a few excursions with them and played the game, catching some fish as well. Something happened on one of these trips that changes the way I would fish forever. On a cast in front of a bed loaded with kids my 2/3 oz little cleo spoon fluttered near the bed and a large male bolted towards the lure and struck it with such savageness that it it shocked me. the fish was hooked by it's own strike and in the MOUTH! The other kids whooped and hollered as I fought this magnificent fish. It ran a good 100 yards downstream and I gave chase. I didn't even own waders and the cold river chilled me to the bone as I was soaked from my waist down to my feet. My rod felt electric as I could feel it's massive head shaking as it sought to free itself of my lure. After about a 10 minute battle an older fellow fishing downstream netted the fish for me.
The fish was gasping for oxygen as I was gasping for air. The adrenaline was flowing through me and I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. I felt incredible!!!
The old man said something to me that was lost in the roaring sound of the river and my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. I asked him to repeat it and he said " now that is the way it's done boy, looks to be close to 20 lbs!" and he walked up to me and shook my hand. He then said "you should set him free." At first I was a little stunned, but I sat looking at this incredible fish that showed me a joy in my life I would never forget and figured it was only right.
So I said "OK!" and the old man smiled. I pulled the hook out of the Kings mouth with my needle nose pliers and untangled him from the net. The old man showed me how to resuscitate the exhausted fish and the feeling of setting him free was almost as great as catching him.
The old man patted me on the shoulder as we both watched the mighty fish swim into the dark depths on a deep run and out of our vision. He told me "they do bite ya know" I was a believer!
I talked to the old man and he told me a great many things about Kings, their life cycle, ways to catch them, how you can tail one. We must have talked about a good half hour because my friends came looking for me. They saw I had no fish and consoled me that I lost it. When I told them they I let it go they told me I was stupid idiot, that was a good smoker fish!
Needless to say I didn't fish with them much anymore and went on my own, trying to do it the right way. Although I never saw the old man again I will always remember that day and the talk we had. I never even got his name or properly thanked him. I will always try to honor best I can......
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