The guy's name is Luke and his photography is pretty sweet. He has a style that appeals to him...and I agree. Not the least important element of his images are the settings where he pulls the trigger, capturing on digital files some of the places that I haunt and some that I just want to.
It didn't take long in the small Midwestern fly fishing circles for our paths to cross.
Last winter at a fly shop gathering I found myself leaning on a fly bin listening with intrigue as he told me about what he was doing and seeing on the south shore.
He's a Southie.
Me a Northie.
He's got sand and sandstone. I had basalt, granite and water washed cobble. I had lake trout, coho, kings and brook trout. He's got those too, plus browns as well as pike, carp, smallmouth , walleye, and other warm water fishes. I had cold water meeting cliffs and unforgiving shorelines dropping off to hundreds of feet of depth. He's go that as well, but with bays, shallows, flats... along with greater fluctuations in water temp and seiche "tides" that create a whole new can of variables. Interesting stuff.
He left me with an invitation to call him when I got up his way.
I'm not one to forget these kinds of things so when my family and I decided to vacation on the south shore, I shot him a message and we put a plan together.
At 8:00 this morning (right on time) he pulled up to the dock after pulling a cool hat trick (remind me to tell you over a beer sometime) that I was sure was meant to impress my wife but that he swears was just plain dumb luck.
He had just finished a multi-mile run from his launch dock and ran the last two miles exposed to the full wave action of Lake Superior in his Ranger that looked for all the world like a flats skiff but handled the chop like a bay boat. Brilliant choice.
I thanked my wife for the shuttle and off we went, headed for the shelter of the big bay he guides and pays attention to all summer long. The water was in the high 60's and low 70's, something a Northie might see for two days on a hot summer up there. We rounded a point and immediately the deep blue gave way to aquamarine gave way to 4' of clear lake over sand. A Lake Superior flat. Without going into too much detail, let me say that trying to figure out where the small mouth bass are on this bay is worth the price of a guide. I consider myself to be an interested and energetic fly fisherman, but chances are good that without Luke's help I would have been floundering over the wrong water for more time than married man with kids on vacation is allowed to fish.
We fished anchored up. I fished as Luke poled. We waded too. Given the backdrop, if our targets had been bonefish or permit it wouldn't have surprised me except that I was pretty sure I hadn't booked a flight to get here.
Mostly sight fishing. Or, in my mind, Nirvana.
I'll admit right now that I represented myself as an adequate angler rather poorly. I farmed a pile of fish and I'm still not sure why they came unpinned. But, between the stunning setting, the graciousness of my host and the enlightening conversation, the fact that I wasn't converting seemed a small price to pay. On one occasion as we waded, I hooked and promptly lost 3 fish that I'll call 17 inchers though I may be wrong either way about their size. The fish in this bay are strong fighters and can pack it on to the tune of 22-23". And that my gentle readers, is a giant small mouth. Luke told me that the big fish here can be as much as 20 years old and mentioned that he may be catching from his skiff, the same fish that he hooked as kid from the dock. Chew on that for a minute.
Somewhere out in the blue water a salmonid of size breached and sent spray flying. It was probably less than 200 yards from where I was double hauling for a small mouth and yet it felt like I was in the Bahamas. This was seemingly all the things I want from a place...all at once.
With a great eye for not only spotting fish but also the sweetness of a resource like this bay, the patience to watch and learn and the conviction to keep the places he loves healthy, I tip my hat to you sir.
For allowing me along to spend the day as a guest on your skiff I say, "Thank You".
You can view some of Luke's photography and his essays at his blog: http://www.freshcoastangling.com/
Spend a day like mine by reaching Luke via Anglers All in Ashland WI: