In the sprawling territory between Princeton and Cornell, a storied river cuts and bends its way through land that is as wild today as it was when John Voelker called it “a forgotten region which was virtually ignored in the westward surge of population.” The river is home to the Upper Peninsula’s native bass and brook trout along with its alien brown trout, and one of the river’s splendors is that all of these fish can be caught with a fly rod, though, perhaps, not always in the same way.
One side effect of my recent transition from graphite to bamboo has been a pronounced decline in my use of streamers and sinking lines. It’s not that bamboo rods are incapable of flinging heavy lines with flies the size of small rabbits. Some are designed precisely for that purpose. It’s just that stalking trout with a wooden rod and a tiny floating fly seems to fulfill some deep personal yearning in a way that I have yet to completely comprehend. But, despite my intense yearning, I haven’t found a way to make trout rise when they aren’t in the mood. So, in a small act of self-assualting irreverence, I attached a sink-tip leader and a rabbit-fur feather duster to the end of my line. With a largely indifferent approach, I propelled the furry boat anchor across the river with the hope that my Sweetgrass Mantra rod would—with some semblance of grace—ignore this feat of indiscretion and deposit the whole hairy mess in the general vicinity of a hungry smallmouth bass. One cast. One swing. One tug.
I rewarded the rod for its gallant service by clipping off the streamer and replacing the lead-core leader with 11 feet of knotted monofilament and a 5x tippet attached to a size 16 snowshoe emerger. I then plodded my way through the woods until I arrived at a favorite stretch of river and waited for a trout to feed from or just below the surface. About an hour later it happened. I had guessed correctly. The fish was at the tail of a small pool, picking off emerging flies with a regular rhythm. One cast. One drift. One tug.
Like a non-judgmental old friend, my Sweetgrass rod didn’t care whether I was casting a four-inch-long strip of hair from the hide of a rabbit or a small tuft of fur from its foot. It simply did its job without complaint. Just the way the Boo Boys designed it.
(click the images to enlarge)