WELLSTON — Tired of waiting for the St. Joseph River to clear up — and having postponed our annual St. Patrick’s Day (or thereabouts) steelhead sojourn already into April — Jim Romine made the call: We were going to the Manistee River instead.
And within minutes after we started, as soon as we cleared the first bend below Tippy Dam, Romine was at complete peace with the decision.
“I love the Joe,” he said as he rowed the drift boat slowly against the current. “But this scenery is hard to beat.”
He’s got that right. Is there any place prettier than where the north woods meet the river? Anywhere?
And within an hour, the decision paid off in the currency we were seeking.
I saw the rod tip bounce on one of the four plug rods were using as we drifted downstream, and leaned to grab it.
“Oh, oh,” Romine said, “Bob’s on point.”
But when the rod failed to load, I settled back into my seat — only to lean forward again a second later when the rod tip repeated its unusual gyration. Obviously (in retrospect) the fish had taken the plug and charged upstream with it. I grabbed it, reeled, and was fast into a steelhead.
Before I could gain much ground, Romine hollered to Rick Behr, who was in the seat next to me: “Fish on four.”
A double. Nice way to start.
I reeled in my fish, about a four-pound, colored-up buck, and brought it in. Romine, who’d dropped the anchor, netted my fish. But Behr’s took a little while. It was a highly colored fish, too, but it could have eaten mine. Easily double digits.
We were running Fatfish, from Yakima Bait Company, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the lure, is similar to a Wiggle Wart. We had two gold ones and two nickel ones — custom accent-painted by Romine as is always his way — and both fish took the nickel lures.