Way back in midwinter, good buddy Joe Cermele sent me a message-
“How would you like to do ‘MeatEater’ episode?”
As a northern Michigan guide/angler, how does one respond to this ??
“Heck YES!!! Some logistics and timing need to be worked out, but I would love to.” I responded.
I had some dates blocked out for sales meetings in Denver, but in the coming months an unforeseen pandemic would suddenly open up my schedule. Covid-19 was a blessing and curse that would free up time for filming in northern Michigan third week in June, which would theoretically be optimum for some great late night Hexagenia limbata action for the crew out of Montana.
Logistic nightmare one- permits. Making sure the production crew has clearance from DNR/FWS and all the proper channels months in advance during a pandemic when much of the state was on lockdown and/or furlough. We had glorious visons of Janis and I sitting around a campfire in the midst of tall white pines and hemlock somewhere lost in the Pigeon State Forest as we contemplated our day on the water and ate fresh caught brook trout- BUT where’s the BOAT? Right~ we need bigger water, but want brook trout. We can search some good sections of the Manistee/Au Sable River and work the mouths of feeder creeks for some fontinalis love- but no such luck.
Apparently, I would have been wise to barter with the fly fishing Muses in May to hope for a better deal. But the weather would prove to do what it often does when a great hatch gets rolling in the Mitten state- it was quickly shut down. Two days into Hex season, we received 1.75″ of rain near the 45th parallel that would gush into our river systems and swell the banks along with satiating most hungry trout with a plethora of annelids & other dislodged macroinvertebrates. We saw a few Hex duns on the first night of shooting, very few rises in the 50 degree wet evening on our inaugural float with the Big Green Machine, but Janis was an absolute trooper. We trudged on, as fly anglers often do- hoping for a better second day, filled with plenty of beautiful B-roll footage catching small trout and some gorgeous scenery, but it was no prelude to the evening that was ahead. Zero bugs, zero fish, mucky, dark Black Rifle Coffee stained water and empty nets. We needed a 20+ inch toad for Janis- perhaps I wanted it too badly and didn’t let it happen. But we couldn’t change our path once the permits were in place. Even given the choice months post facto, I would not have changed a thing.
Day three- We need a fish to grill and have a culinary experience that will rival any street sausage Mr Anthony Bourdain would have discovered in Cuba. So we opt for alternate species- smallmouth in Lake Charlevoix, plentiful, voracious and large. In retrospect, actually a better option than 24″ Salmo trutta, which in many regards would have generated more hate mail than some bikini clad blonde bombshell improperly holding a Spin rod and largemouth bass gets ‘Likes’. Honestly, the smallmouth actually tasted much better than anticipated- next time, some garlic butter and Lawry’s or Old Bay Seasoning. I was grateful for the experience, hanging with Janis Putelis, RA Beattie and the film crew- the crepes at the bakery and working out kinks in filming boat modifications, sharing a little slice of Boyne with this crew will always be a lasting memory. #meateater #fueledbynature