"Don't you just love it when the air smells like apples?" asked WWW fall color correspondent Autumn Equinox, drawing in a deep breath for good measure as we walked beneath the branches of apple trees weighed down to the ground with fruit.
"Ordinarily I'd say don't lay under the apple tree with anyone else but me," added Summer Solstice as she and Autumn leaned their shotguns and fishing rods up against the tree and spread out our picnic blanket.
The long-abandoned orchard on the way to Woodtick Crick, now grown over in tall field grasses, wildflowers and ferns, had become a favorite picnic spot for our annual double date of double-dipping a little brookie fishing and bird hunting to celebrate the seasonal changing of the guard; Summer getting off duty and Autumn coming on.
"When one door closes, another opens," Summer waned and waxed philosophical. "Sept. 30 is the last day of brookie season, but this is just the first week of fall."
"You've got us coming and going," she added. "I'm on my way outta town and Autumn just got here. "Like the geese, Summer was heading south, but lingering a while to enjoy some fall fishing, partridge hunting and apple picking."
Over lunch and a bottle of wine, we discussed how gorgeous brookies were all dolled up in their fall spawning colors, how they're hungry and following their appetites around, and the merits of live bait vs. bling to woo them. During the home stretch, I like to worm 'em, or feed them hoppers and crickets, either live and kickin' or a fly that looks like one.
"Call me effulgent," Summer said, "but I'm like a crow, I like shiny things."
"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that bling," Autumn agreed, showing me her pocket-sized jewelry box with its sparkling, shimmering, glimmering collection of tiny Swedish Pimples, Mepps and PM spinners, dressed and undressed.
"They don't call it brookie bling for nothing!" she squealed as a fat brookie pounded her bumblebee Panther Martin and headed for the depths of the overgrown undercut back, intent on spitting the spinner and leaving her hopelessly snagged on a rootwad. "Except I like my bling to wear, not to eat," she added, deftly lifting the wildly writhing 9-inch fish onto the bank.
Just upstream, Summer was reeling in an even bigger fish that smacked her bucktail Mepps spinner.
A moment later, another brookie hammered my hopper. Within the hour, Woodtick Crick had graciously given up seven keepers that had bitten both bait and bling and we were on our way to a fish fry with brookies so fresh they needed to be slapped.
"It won't be long before Copper Harbor turns on with those splake that look like big brookies," Autumn said. "Except they can run nine pounds instead of nine inches."
Taking the bait vs. bling controversy onto the big lake, rumor has it pier fishermen are getting lucky these days hanging a big, juicy crawler 4-6 feet under a drift bobber off the Breakwaters at McLain State Park. Same goes for the piers at South Entry, Eagle Harbor, Big Traverse, Ontonagon, Marquette and Munising. The presentation attracts carousing splake, coho, browns and lake trout, as does snap-jigging a Mepps Syclops or Little Cleo. Take along a camp chair and an ice chest.
"I'm looking forward to celebrating last day of brookie season over on the Big Four-Hearted River next Wednesday," Summer said. "They say the fishin's twice as good as the Two-Hearted."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at email@example.com.
WW&W Outdoor Calendar:
Saturday - Fort Wilkins Historic State Park second annual "GO-Get Outdoors" Geocaching Event. Cache list distributed 10 a.m., treasure hunt begins 2:30 p.m. in pavilion. Prize drawings and cookout, 4 p.m. A campfire social, hot dog & marshmallow roast will follow. For info, call 289-4215 or visit www.michigan.gov /historicfortwilkins.
Wednesday - Last day of brookie season
Oct 2-4. Becoming an Outdoors Woman backcountry camping and hiking trip, three-day/two-night backpacking class at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. $100 per participant includes breakfast, dinner and dessert each day, plus group gear such as tents and cooking utensils. For more info, call 228-6651 or visit www.michigan.gov/bow.