The upper stretch of the Manistee River, above Tippy Dam, is sometimes called home-run water.
It’s not a place to catch dozens of little trout — akin to banging out a bunch of singles in baseball — but if you get lucky, you can hit a home run by landing a trophy trout.
Last weekend, I joined four friends for a two-day float down this stretch of the Manistee.
A year ago, on the same trip, it was my friend Hugo who hit the home run, hauling in a monster 22-inch rainbow trout just an hour into the float.
His bait of choice? A big gaudy blaze orange jointed Rapala he dug out of my tackle box.
This year, Hugo — who’s not a hard-core fisherman by any stretch of the imagination — nearly hit a grand slam.
I had caught a chunky 17-inch smallmouth and a beautiful 19-inch brown trout on Day 1 of our float, so I found myself on the oars for most of Day 2. When you were raised rowing little aluminum boats around the local bayous, maneuvering a drift boat down a fast-flowing river loaded with rocks, logs and big sweeping bends.
As I started to get the hang of it, Hugo reached into his tackle box and selected a green and chartreuse Rattle-Trap — basically a sinking lipless crank bait.
I was thinking it was better suited to a bass lake than a trout stream, but what do I know?
Not much, because a few casts later, the bait was destroyed by a huge brown trout. The fish immediately flashed to the surface, where it thrashed back and forth for a few moments before snapping the line.
We sat in stunned silence, mouths hanging open in shock and dismay.
Upon further review, we found his line — brand new 8-lb. test mono — was nicked up from rubbing against rocks, branches and whatever else over the course of two days of casting.
We had landed a 19-inch brown the day before, and this fish was way bigger, easily 24 inches long and full of fight and fury.
It’s funny how the fish we catch remain with us for a long time, but those monsters that get away are the ones we remember forever.