"Did you see those pinks milling around in the shallows at the edge of that pool?" asked my fishing partner Frank Parker. He cast a small bumblebee Panther Martin and I pitched a small spawn-colored Mepps right in front of their noses but they ignored us repeatedly. As we headed upstream we ran into another avid angler, Justin Nettell, whom the salmon hadn't ignored. I noticed he had the same orange PM spinner we were fishing hooked to his rod.
I also noticed he was carrying a good-sized king and a couple of coho so chrome-bright they couldn't have been in the river more than a few hours. Not too shabby for a morning's catch.
They don't call it the Falls River for nothing. A spectacular stair-step cascade of falls, plunge pools, slate ledges, rapids, riffles, tailouts, slicks, slots and boulder gardens provide some of the prettiest, fishiest-looking water you've ever seen with a flow tailor-made for quartering a spinner across the current or drifting a crawler, single egg or yarnfly through a deep, foam-covered pool, anticipating the take in the tailout.
Seeing that silver streak emerge from the dark coffee water and smack your spinner makes your rod tip tingle and your heart throb. My favorite lures are the ones with teeth marks in them.
The Falls was our first stop on a whirlwind tour of five of Baraga County's finest rivers that host fall salmon runs, and each is as pretty as the next; the Silver, Slate, Ravine and Big Huron. It was an ambitious angling agenda, but we whistle-stopped them all, finding a couple of cooperative coho, then drove the rugged Triple A Road up to Big Bay, fishing the Little Huron and a couple of remote no-name cricks and beaver dams enroute. The early salmon weren't the only ones snapping, the late-season brookie bite was on as well.
Houghton anglers Don Savera and Bill Deephouse have been doing well with last chance brookies, browns and rainbows on the Sturgeon River, enticing them with worms, small rapalas, spinners and KO Wobblers. Trout season ends Sept. 30.
The Triple A is a rough and tumble, pothole and boulder-strewn two-track that personifies the joys of backroading and taking the road less traveled as it winds a serpentine 33-mile route from Big Erik's Bridge through the fabulous fall foliage of the Huron Mountains to Big Bay, then lunch and refreshments at the Thunder Bay Inn and Lumberjack Tavern. Riding shotgun and watching for deer, Boston College professor, fisherman and John Voelker fan, Frank Parker, wanted a fishing trip with a touch of "Anatomy of a Murder" thrown in for good measure. He did a good job, counting 21 deer with several trophy bucks among them, a few plump partridge, and a pair of great blue herons.
"The fish are in the rivers early this year," said salmon guru Steve Koski, Indian Country Sports, L'Anse (524-6518). "The humpies (pink salmon) have been in the Falls for the past week or so, and a few kings are starting to move upstream. Same goes for the Silver and the mouth of the Huron," he added. "The fall bite is an aggravation bite more than a feeding bite, most fish are being taken on spinners and spoons. The intrusion aggravates them and they're not gentle about removing foreign objects contaminating their spawning redds."
You might say that's how they get caught redd-handed. Although some anglers swear by drifting spawnbags, crawlers, single eggs and yarnflies, nothing seems to seduce these feisty anadromous fish like jewelry, the flash of Mepps and PM spinners, Swedish Pimples, Little Cleos and KO Wobblers.
"It looks like a banner year for coho," Koski said. "They're already in, and the main run doesn't hit the rivers til October month." The Falls tumbles into Keweenaw Bay within casting distance of his store so he keeps pretty close tabs on the spawning runs. Coho, kings, pinks and browns are in the Falls and other rivers now, or staging off the mouths.
Closer to home, Houghton County Rivers with lake-run fish currently running up or staging off them are the Salmon Trout, Graveraet, Pilgrim, Coles Crick and McGunn's Crick. Or try the moutha the Gratiot, Montreal or Tobacco River in Keweenaw County.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.