I got to the parking lot at 6:30am, ten minutes before sunrise. I gulped down my coffee while I got the courage to get out of my car into the cold ripping wind.
Was I really going to go fishing in this? Fly fishing? Wading?
I suited up, attached some new 4 pound mono to my psuedo-furled leader, and tied on a #12 wet fly I tied a few days ago. I headed into the woods toward the creek.

That’s the fly I used today- the “orange and patridge”-style wet fly

Buck Creek is a small stream that flows through suburban Grand Rapids, eventually emptying into the Grand River. Supposedly there are steelhead in there sometimes, and the Michigan DNR used to stock it with brown trout until February of this year. The website says they stopped for two reasons: “Lack of survival rates” and “lack of angler effort.”
Speak for yourself DNR. I’ve tried super hard to catch fish in that creek! It happens to be pretty close to my in-laws, so it’s convenient for short trips. Much closer than the Rogue. This was my third trip to the stream; my first and second were unsuccessful in terms of fish caught, although I did have something on a spinner for a second.
I was sure it was a trout. At least I wanted it to be.
In my exploring, I’d found a really nice stretch, definitely the place I would be if I were a fish in that stream. A set of two little pools, riffles, and some deeper darker water. Lots of wood, rocks… real fishy. Instead of fishing the other water, perhaps “dead water”, I headed straight for the set of pools. I wasn’t sure if local trout would be doing their winter thing yet, but I figured I’d see if anybody was home.
The nice spot I found

I realized recently every time I fish for trout, I look for them in smallie spots. It occurred to me that I really don’t quite get where trout actually hang out, so until I do I should just fish everywhere so I can learn where they like to be.
To that end, I fished pretty much every inch of those pools with my little wet fly. I really liked the feel of my 4 pound tippet and the little fly. I decided early on to just fish with that one fly, unless I had some reason to switch. I looked under some underwater rocks to see if there were any nymphs around, but I didn’t see any. I kept my little fly on.
I’ve been reading a lot about tenkara lately, and it’s made me really think about some things… Many tenkara fishers only use one fly, as they believe it’s all about presentation. I figured I’d use just one fly today, try many different presentations and see how it worked out. After all, I’d spend countless hours with a green tube jig tied to the end of my line; I was no stranger to sticking to one lure.
I tried floating the fly in the surface film, swinging it in the current, fishing upstream, downstream; I tried casting way upstream and allowing the fly to ride through the riffles and get pushed down into the water. I wasn’t catching anything, but I was enjoying the experience. Taking the fly choice out of the occasion definitely made me focus more on how I manipulated the fly.
And then, bringing my fly through a little eddy right off the main current, under a tree, I realized I had a fish on. I’d dead-drifted the fly, letting the current take it as naturally as possible; I didn’t even set the hook. I just suddenly had a fish on!
I pulled line in and the fish swam around ferociously. Like a missile, it flew into the air, spraying water everywhere. It’s orange fins still “swimming” through the air, before it landed back in the water with another splash. I swore and giggled, my fly rod bent over; I tried so hard to keep the tension on my line, keep the hook in the fish. Many of my flies have crushed barbs, I couldn’t remember if this one did.
The fish jumped at least two more times; it happened so quickly I wasn’t sure what the fish was… At first I thought it was a big chub- which would have been awesome- but when it came closer I knew what it was.
It’s beautiful spots shone through the top of the water as it bounced my rod up and down. Holding the rod with my right hand, I grabbed my net with my left, and in a uncharacteristically graceful motion I brought the net up around the fish.
A Buck Creek brown trout!

I knew it! I knew there were fish in there! Whoohooo! I shouted and giggled, admiring the fish. The hook simply fell out of the fish’s mouth, making me glad I somehow managed to keep tension on my line. I kept the fish in the water, just like a good fly fisherman is supposed to do, and took about 300 pictures.
Then, I simply brought my net down lower and let the pretty fish swim out back into the creek.
Awesome. Mission accomplished. I was completely satisfied with my trip. My numb hands were suddenly warm; I didn’t notice the ice cold wind anymore. The snowflakes that started to fall were invisible to me; all I could think of was that beautiful fish.
The fish I caught on a fly I tied myself, with some guinea feathers I got from Michael’s for super cheap, and a thorax made of light blue drier lint from our very own drier. It’s so incredibly awesome to catch any fish on flies I tie, but somehow it seems like more of an achievement to trick one of those picky trouts.
Especially when I tied the fly with some “less-than-premium” materials. And found the spot myself. And nobody seemed to believe me that there were fish in there.
By the time I fished many other square inches of the creek, looking for more trout, my hands were completely frozen and the snow was starting to really come down. I decided to call it a day- an awesome, great, super day.

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