Thursday, May 10, 2007

Muskegeon Monster '04

Tony Barthel and I spent a crazy night/dawn/day chasing steelies up in Michigan with Mark sometime in the spring of 2004. The trip was full of misadventure, hunger, thirst (poor planning) thunderstorms, an inadvertently pulled plug (we nearly sank the boat) and lots of fish, most not surprisingly including this monster-buck were caught by Mark.

Mark has been asking me for this photo for the past several years. I had planned to find it and get him a framed copy for his 30th. Never got around to it. Wish I had.

Mark's battle for this fish was nothing short of incredible, it began with an extremely difficult up and cross stream cast. The fish was active but stubborn. On gravel in about a 3ft section of shallow slow water just down stream from a point/bend. There was a heavy seam to the left of the fish, Mark needed to cast over and along the seam to get a natural drift. An impossibly hard cast. To get a fly to drift naturally, even just for a few feet, and into the feeding zone required about a 35ft cast upstream in fast water with several quick aggressive precise mends. About a 9.9 out of 10 on the scale of difficulty. I remember it so vividly because it was amazing that he nailed it. 99% of all fly fisherman would be incapable of making it, most wouldn't even try, or they'd give up after the first ugly attempt. Including me.

Mark hooked this fish on the 3rd or 4th drift. It took him on a wild down river run through very deep and difficult terrain. It's hard to tell from the photo but Mark was drenched and probably got a little wet inside his waders.

But one epic battle that stands out among dozens that I will always remember. Mark was a ninja with the fly rod, without question the most talented fly fisherman I've ever fished with.

-Graham (looking forward to Tony's memory of this trip)

Apparently when Sarah & Mark were in New Zealand their guide said Mark was, "about a 7 out 10 with the rod." Mark must have been jet-lagged that day, and if their guide was like most he was full of... lets call it hyperbole. He would have revised his statement had he seen Mark catch this steelie.

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