Photo and Story: A Summer Steelhead on a Mouse Pattern

Written by: Devon Carr, H20 Charters

Baptiste had come a long way to catch such a stunning fish on a mouse pattern.
Photo by Devon Carr

As fly fishers, we often believe that we deserve a fish. Perhaps you deserve that fish because you made so many great casts and drifts. or you believe that your bad luck is due to run out. This was definitely the case for my man, Baptiste.

It was a beautiful day–80 degrees, sun shining, and low clear water—but those aren’t the best conditions for fishing. Not to mention that we were going to have a full moon that night. As I waited for my clients to arrive, I went through all of the guide stuff in my mind: what flies we should use, where we should float, what spots to fish, what technique to use, etc.

I looked up to see my clients, Grant and Baptiste, walking towards. Grant, who is from Chicago, has fished the Pere Marquette River for many years, while Baptiste is new to fly fishing the States. A native of France, Baptiste has been living in London for a couple years, and he was in the U.S. for a convention in Chicago. He had come a couple of days early, so he could get a day of fishing in. As I was getting the ready to push the boat off the trailer, Grant told me, “Baptiste, has never caught a large trout before, and I told him this was the place to do it.” So the pressure was on. I put Baptiste in the front of the boat so he could have first chance at everything.

Soon, Grant was hammering the trout from the back of the boat, but Baptiste couldn’t catch one. He was using the same flies as Grant, making great casts and drifts, but the trout showed him no love. As the day went on and we all shared stories, it seemed that Baptiste’s stories were all the same: He was there at the wrong time, bad weather, off day for the fish, etc. It became apparent that this was a great fisherman suffering a long streak of bad luck. However, despite this bad luck, he had a positive attitude, which made him a great to be around.

A little more than half way through our trip, he finally landed his first fish in the U.S.: a beautiful 6-inch steelhead smolt. For someone who had struggled as long as he had, it was a great thing. Then he followed up with a couple more before darkness settled in. Neither Grant nor Baptiste had ever moused before, so I explained the technique and told them that our first two spots were going to be the most important because once the full moon got above the trees, the brown trout would not want to come out and play.

We dropped anchor in the first spot and fished it hard, but the bad luck streak continued. We pulled anchor and moved into our second spot. It was a peaceful night, super quite, warm, and the fireflies were going crazy, making it seem as if we were fishing in electric forest. Baptiste pull off a good chunk of line, and I said, “ Just watch out for that log jam right of the front of the boat.” Hhis mouse splatted on the surface of the water, and then it begans to swim. All of a sudden, we heard a sound that would scare the devil himslef, and the water erupted. Baptiste waited two seconds, made a perfect strip set, and yelled, “I GOT HIM.”

The fish started to peel line and headed into the darkness. Baptiste was able to turn her, and he started to gain line. When the fish got within a couple of feet from the boat, I turned on my headlamp. All we got was a giant flash of silver. I could not believe my eyes. I quickly grabbed the net and jumped into the water. The fight went on for another minute, and as the fish made one more run for the logjam in front of the boat, I dropped the net and scooped her up. The sounds of cheering and laughter awoke the woods. As I walked back up to the boat, we were all stunned by what Baptiste had just caught: a gorgeous, 7-pound summer-run steelhead.

As we took pictures and Baptiste released the beautiful fish, we all came to the conclusion that no one deserved that fish more than he did.

Catching a summer-run steelhead on the Pere Marquette River is a rare thing these days, and something that many people will never even do in a lifetime. Baptiste is a prime example of a person who deserved a rare honor.

Devon Carr is the owner of H20 Charters and a guide at Pere Marquette River Lodge in Baldwin, Michigan.

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