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Ethan Winchester (front) and Tom Menas of Boyne Outfitters cater to fly-fishing fans year-round in Michigan.
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Date published: 2/5/2013
Detroit Free Press
EAST JORDAN, Mich.--Anglers know something tourists don't. You can fly-fish all year round, even in winter.
Beyond skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and winter ziplining, the latest tourist attraction in northern Michigan is getting in a float boat and having an "A River Runs Through It" experience in the dead of winter.
"People say, 'What?' They think the river freezes," says Ethan Winchester of Boyne Outfitters. He is head fly-fishing guide at Boyne Mountain, which for the first time is offering winter fly-fishing as an activity for its guests. "Rivers don't freeze up like a lake. The trout don't leave. They become somewhat dormant and slow down, but they're still in the river."
This time of year, steelhead and trout are theoretically there for the catching--but they are elusive.
Winter fly-fishing has other challenges. If it's sunny and in the 30s, conditions are glorious. Great waterproof waders keep anglers dry. Gourmet lunches and hot coffee keep them warm.
"But a lot of times when you come out here and it's 10 or 20 degrees, the rods get covered up with ice, and the reels freeze," says Tom Menas, another guide. "It adds a different element to it."
Which may be the understatement of the year.
On a January day, we start at Chestonia Bridge, a few miles south of East Jordan.
We are lucky. It is above freezing. And it is sunny.
Winchester backs up the Jeep and its trailer to a snowy embankment and slides the boat downhill like a sled, where it gathers speed and splashes into the water of the Jordan River. Soon, we are floating in the drift boat, with paddles like a river raft. Winchester guides the boat past low-hanging branches, eddies, swirls, minor rapids, sharp limbs and fallen trees. We dodge hollers and shadows, dark water and open areas.
We fish at holes the anglers know, murky spots called Two Logs, Brown Trout Alley, Lawyer's Lounge, Sucker Hole.
We fish. We fish. No bites yet.