Betsie River: Summer Kings

This quick trip up to Betsie River started with promise, but ended with some bad luck and horrible camera work. This is why you should always have a friend to fish with, or at least someone to row the boat and take pictures!


Unlike my trips the last two summers and my trip earlier this year, there were actually fish to be had in the river. My timing hasn’t been great and with the weaker runs of salmon the last few years timing has been everything.


This season I am armed with my 13′ Stealthcraft drift boat, so I am covering some new water. It rained the day before we got up north, so I decided to float a lower stretch of the river hoping to find the fish that came in due to the added flow. I launched from the Grace Rd access and ended at the first River Rd bridge. There is a lot of fish-able water in this stretch and its only about an hour to an hour and a half float without stops, but I have a preference for the first few holes when the fish aren’t in thick.


Chuck-n-Duck is the best method to cover the deep sand holes. With no gravel to speak of in this section, and it still being early in the run due to the warm weather, I was not running any straight egg patterns. Instead I was opting for a dual egg-sucking leech setup. I was running a purple leech with pink head, and a black leech with an orange head. I am also looking to check off hooking a King on the swing from my bucket list, so I also had my switch rod rigged with a jointed Great Lakes Deceiver.


As I started my float I passed a group of anglers who already had 2-3 fish on a stringer. This should have been a clue for me to be ready for some action, but I neglected to turn on the camera when I stopped at my first hole. On my third cast my reel was screaming with a large fresh silver King. I got a few good jumps and then broke him off trying to pry him out of a log jam. The purple leech was the fly missing when i pulled in what was left of my rig.


Rather than re-rig I quickly grabbed my switch rod and started pounding the bank and swinging through the holes. I also thought I turned the camera on. Towards the bottom end of the likely water I felt a bump, but couldn’t entice a strike. I went back to the boat and switched back to the two leeches.


After another bump in the same spot, I caught a glimpse of the fish that was teasing me. Another large fresh King was moving in and out of the shadows. After a couple bad drifts I finally put one on the money and watched this fish come out of the shadows and hit that purple leech aggressively. I gave it my best hook-set and held on tight. This fish was hot! It almost beached itself upstream by the boat and gave me a couple jumps in what seemed to be a perfect spot to be on camera. Eventually, I lost this one too. The hook just decided to pop out, and I was 0-2. I also realized once I got home and started reviewing the footage that the camera was not on.


I moved down river to the next hole and quickly got to work. First cast in this spot got me another aggressive strike with another short fight before I was 0-3. This fish was significantly smaller and darker than the first two, but he threw the hook all the same. But this time at least I had video evidence. The short video below shows the strike and hook set, a little jump, and then my frustration.



At this point the sun came up over the trees and there wasn’t a cloud or fish in my view for the rest of the day.


Family time took up the rest of my day, and I didn’t get back on the water until dusk. Once the baby was asleep in the tent I decided to go down to the river and fish a hole up by the Kuerick Rd. bridge. A full moon made for a pretty night, and as I moved down around the bend I noticed a nice King shoot past me into the heart of the pool. I circled back and a few casts later my line was being pulled out again. This time however I am pretty sure I lined the fish in the tail, and quickly lost him.


After running back to the tent for my headlamp, and giving the hole a break I was back in the water. My first cast was short of my target, but as it was dangling on the hang I got an unexpected grab. In an instant the fish had run around the bend and I was struggling to keep the line out of the bushes. The fish tired quickly and I was able to bring it to shore. In the moonlight I struggled to get my camera off my bag and ready to take a picture of a very large rainbow trout. In my struggle I failed to get the flash activated on the camera, so all I’m left with for proof of this fish are the “big foot”-esque blurry photos below. I would put this trout between 3-4lbs, and it was bright chrome. It was a little late for a Skamania (summer run) steelhead, and a little early for a fall run steelhead to be that high in the river with little to no spawning action. But it was quite a bit larger than any resident trout I have seen in this stretch, and no colors to speak of, so I don’t really know if this was a small lake run, or a large resident fish.


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So, a little bad luck, a little poor camera work, and one unexpected gem of a fish, and this trip was over. I’m hoping to get back up before the salmon run is over. I’ll likely be trying to chase some Coho on the Platte before shifting my focus to Steelhead.

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