By Janina Parrott Jacobs
We may not wish to admit this, but golfers and fishermen are a lot alike: we prefer good weather but will tolerate the bad and downright inhospitable; we tackle the well-known venues but search out our own little secret places; we can play by ourselves yet having a trusted buddy or two along for the angling encourages unspoken silence which bonds friendships; we pour over new toys and tweak our equipment to get that little extra bit of performance; we exaggerate the events of our rounds and the size of the ones that got away; golfers and anglers are both approachable. What fisherman has ever not answered ‘having any luck?’ with an honest answer or quip? Golfers will offer the same courteous small talk – but don’t ask after you’ve seen someone four-putt the 18th.
Michigan astronaut Jerry Linenger said there were few landmarks that stood out while orbiting the Earth aboard Russian space station Mir. One was the Great Wall of China; another was the outline of Michigan, resplendent in greens and blues as well as the sapphire circles and streaks of over 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, which prompted his move to Traverse City once he landed. That’s reason enough to look at two nearby destinations, one south and one north.
Manistee National Golf Club is part of a relatively new consortium, Osprey Recreational Properties whose tagline is "We Are Michigan Golf”. A bold statement, yes, but Osprey meets the challenge with the two courses at Manistee seemingly named after golf faults, Cutter’s Ridge and Canthooke Valley, though one would hope Canthooke would not apply to the nearby angling as well.
Architect Jerry Matthews’ Cutter’s Ridge and Canthooke Valley, designed by Gary Pulsipher are quite different in design but are both environmentally sensitive; Canthooke Valley is more traditional and playable with few forced carries and minimal wetlands – though the 14th hole has guardian waste bunkers and ‘canthooke’ transforms into ‘must-hook’ in order to negotiate the hole. Cutter’s Ridge has the wetlands Canthooke lacks and GAM Women’s Senior contestants may be grateful that their championship on August 25-26 will be held on the gentler of the two courses.
If you’ve had it with trying to stay out of wetlands and water while playing golf, the Manistee area provides superb opportunities to submerge yourself for great fishing on the Manistee River, which is famous for brown, rainbow (Steelhead) and brook trout, smallmouth and rock bass. Its Indian name, Manistiqweita means ‘crooked’, a characteristic which translates into great fishing because of the constant flow and movement with pooling at the bends and twists bringing an abundance of food. Fish love when their dinner comes to them.
The Manistee is regarded as one of the country’s best and most stable rivers. What makes it so special? Fishing expert Ray Schmidt, of Schmidt Outfitters in Wellston, explains:
“The water quality of the Manistee remains excellent despite any bad rains or natural disasters because of the flood plains and soil type. Also, there is no industry or man-made pollution along the river. More importantly, the Manistee is protected by two government programs: The U.S. Forest Service deems it a ‘Wild and Scenic River’ and the state claims it for the Natural River Act”.
Trout love the cool and clear waters of the Manistee. Other unique migratory fish like prehistoric White Lake sturgeon and Chinook Salmon swim in from Lake Michigan continuing up toward the Tippy Dam.
Complete guide services for catch-and-release only are available. Schmidt Outfitters is located in the heart of the Michigan Century Circle, a 100 mile radius of wildlife, rivers, ponds, streams, and backwoods. Owners Ray and Angie Schmidt can be reached at 888-221-9056 or 231-848-4191. Their website, www.schmidtoutfitters.com, is a wealth of information including river conditions, reports, equipment, what’s biting and when.
Manistee National Golf and Resort is located at 4797 US-31 S., Manistee, MI 49660; or call 231-723-8874; Check out the ‘Slam’ packages at Manistee National’s website, www.manisteenational.com. If you have college-bound kids, look for the scholarship program for junior golfers Osprey has created with GAM.
Meandering up toward the Big Mac a truly ‘hidden’ gem awaits in Brutus: Hidden River Golf and Casting Club. The ‘Golf’ may be on the premises but professional fishing guide Tony Dunaske prefers the nearby Pigeon River State Forest for great fishing, nature watching, and solitude. Limited fly-fishing is permitted on the Maple River, which runs through Hidden River in spectacular fashion, but to catch trophy fish, you need to get off the beaten path.
“I take a lot of dirt roads, really two-tracks, to get to my favorite spots. You don’t find fish off of a paved road,” said Dunaske, who spent 3½ years in Alaska and 45 years as a guide and teacher. “People in Michigan are spoiled because we have so much more access here than in Alaska, where you have few roads and have to fly most places to get good fishing. The weather plays a big factor and it is expensive.”
Dunaske charges about $150 - $200 per person for half-day excursions, lasting 4-6 hours. All fishing gear, tackle, bait, and food are provided. You need to bring a one-day fishing license, polarized sunglasses, billed hat ideally covering the neck and ears, khaki slacks and a long-sleeve shirt. Shorts are not recommended because you’ll be donning waders and bugs will eat your arms alive if left exposed. Other items suggested include a first aid kit, insect repellent, plastic garbage bags, an extra knife, rain gear, and a source of fire.
The biggest mistake people make?
“People believe too much of what they read in books and see on TV about where to place the fly. Fly-fishing isn’t like A River Runs Through It and doesn’t require big muscles and major throwing. It’s a gentle action which can be picked up,” said Dunaske.
About 70% of his clients are novices; women are much better students than men. He added, “They listen better and are not driven by a quantity quest; however the frustration level is the same as men if they aren’t catching anything.” Looks like another similar golf comparison, Tony!
When you’ve had enough water action, check out the W. Bruce Matthews III designed Hidden River course, rated 4½ stars from Golf Digest. The Maple River is prominent as 1.5 miles of it winds through the 7101 yard layout. Great conditioning, a nice mix of pines, links and dunes on the middle holes, and hardwoods with some elevation mixed in provide a perfect venue for a challenging yet relaxing round. After golf, the Rainbow Room terrace overlooks the river, where you will enjoy fine northern Michigan cuisine (translated: fresh fish) as you watch the anglers try to catch some. On Tuesdays, sit outside and enjoy the entertainment or ‘Music on the Maple’.
If you are one of those who eschews good advice and thinks using a guide is a waste of money, consider this: would you take up golf on your own – with no professional help - and expect to shoot par immediately? Then you probably shouldn’t go fishing without using the services of a qualified guide like the ones mentioned here. If you are a true novice at either sport, the maze of equipment, terminology, and advice will have your head spinning like a power slice or a screaming 10-lb. test line with a 30 pound trophy attached. You may think you’re playing or fishing for fun, but you need something to show for your toils. If you still won’t pay for expert help to achieve that, here are a few tips to get you through:
• you can’t catch fish that aren’t there; know your species and where they hang out;
• fish don’t like light (no eyelids, remember?) and don’t want to be seen - or eaten, so they’ll hang out under shelter, in weeds, or near rocks;
• dawn and dusk are the best times to fish
• if fish don’t like what’s on the menu they won’t bite; fish are energy efficient and want food to come to them; it is vital to have the right bait, whether it is alive or artificial.
• In the end, it’s acceptable to tread Michigan’s bountiful waters knowing little. Ray Schmidt will gladly take novices on an excursion instead of forcing them into fishing school. He adds, “You know, in Germany you must complete a course which covers environmental issues and proper etiquette before they’ll ever let you out in the real fishing world….but that’s OK. I don’t mind taking inexperienced anglers out for ‘playing lessons’. Who cares? I have the greatest job on the planet.”
Doesn’t sound like a bad idea for golfers either. But wait – I thought I had the greatest job on the planet.
Ask about the Adventure packages which include golf, fly-fishing, meals, and lodging. Hidden River G&CC is located at 7688 Maple River Rd., Brutus, MI 49716; call 231-529-GOLF (4653) or log onto the website at www.hiddenriver.com.
Crossing Big Mac and heading west toward Iron Mountain, two famous watering holes await: The Whitefish River, which flows into Little Bay de Noc. The Whitefish is legendary for catching brook and rainbow trout, has dependable runs of steelhead and Chinook salmon and is also good for brown and coaster brook trout. White bass traditionally run in June. In Little Bay, walleye fishing is the best it has been in 30 years; cloudy, windy days bring them out in droves; other fish to scout out are yellow perch, smelt, bass, northern pike, trout and salmon.
For expert help in these parts, there is none better than Tom Gursky, who not only knows how and where to find the fish but who is also a musician and entertainer. Tom has never been skunked on any fish-quest. You’ll also learn angling tips and tricks to impress your friends.
Tom Gursky can be contacted via website, www.northwoodsadventures.net or by phone, 906-774-9728.
40 minutes after leaving Tom’s boat, you can be on the first tee at Timberstone Golf Course at Pine Mountain Resort in Iron Mountain. Selected as the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association’s 2004 Course of the Year, explore for yourself why there is nowhere else like it on earth. The new clubhouse is open, complete with pro shop and practice area – all the better to tackle the championship course which captured Golf Digest’s 5-star and 8th Best in State ratings. Timberstone GC is located at N 3332 Pine Mountain Rd., Iron Mountain, MI 49801; call 877-553-PINE or go to their website, www.timberstonegolf.com.
Not all great fishing spots are ‘up north’. To comprehend the incredible natural beauty of Bucks Run Golf Club in Mt. Pleasant one must take a quick peek at the true love of its creator, prolific Michigan course architect Jerry Matthews, who originally set out to be a conservation officer.
“I just love being outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. I could spend days doing nothing else, coming inside only when I had to,” Jerry mused. In 1988 Jerry changed the name of his architectural company to Natural Course Design to reflect his continuing philosophy of blending design with nature and making it appear as if the course was always there. Golf Digest Magazine’s Places to Play gives Bucks Run 4.5 stars proving it’s the golfers who love the mix of natural wetlands, lakes, and woodlands.
Who can fathom how anyone can play Bucks Run and not want to immediately go fishing? Seeing about 1.5 miles of the amazingly brisk waters of the Chippewa roiling by on seven holes and then conversely, the peaceful serenity of Fisher Lake on the 9th and 18th holes evoke widely differing emotions; in the end, it’s all about gettin’ and nettin’ the fish. Head Professional Mitch Bos said the river is loaded with smallmouth bass and steelhead trout. While you are not allowed to fish the river from the golf course, there are still public entries where you can get to the banks and wade in alongside the 12th and 17th holes. Mitch added, “tons of smallmouths have been caught by anglers who are tubing and canoeing down the river”. Eighty-acre Lake Fisher is home to walleye, trout, perch, and bluegill where you can fish off the dock, the boathouse or the pontoon. Anyone is welcome but no gear is provided, so you must bring your own.
Bucks Run is located at 1559 Chippewa Rd., Mt. Pleasant 48858; for more information call 989-773-6830 or go to the website, www.bucksrun.com.