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> > Please indulge Spence here...

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OldredbarnJuly 29th, 2010, 7:44 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
Somehow I went to post this and only the pictures appeared. I'm going to try this again.

It looks like a photo of Spence holding a largish Au Sable Brown trout, but "every picture tells a story don't it?" It was taken in late May of 2003 below the Mio dam on the Mainstream Au Sable.

What this actually is, is a small tribute to an old Au Sable river guide and friend to the "old-school" anglers that hang around Gates' Au Sable Lodge near Grayling. I am told that everything placed on the web will always be there and cannot be erased so, here's to you mister! Your bit of the eternal.

I first met Craig Perry in 1991. He was a hard working guide who was serious about making sure his clients had a wonderful day or evening on the river.

At first he had the traditional Au Sable Riverboat and floated the storied waters up near Grayling. As the water began to improve below the Mio dam and more and more guys wanted to fish down there he purchased a McKensie style boat.

For years I had hassled him to give me some ideas of where I should be down that way and he always replied, "Spence. You are just going to have to go down there yourself and explore it on your own!" He knew I was a wading dry-fly guy and the chances of me heading down that way and leaving the "Holy Water" was slim.

One night, at the infamous Two-Track "Lounge" 10 miles east of Grayling, as he and I watched our Wings win the third game of the Cup Finals, that they would go on to win a few nights later against the Washington Capitals, I decided I would book a float with him at the Lodge and when I did so I told Rusty not to let on that I did. It was for the following year.

On the day of the float I remember him coming down to get me as I sat on the dock at Rusty's and I called to him, "Hey old-man...What do you know?" His reply was, "I know I have a fisherman in my boat today!"

He showed me a couple ways to rig up for nymph fishing and promised me that as soon as we saw any rises we could switch over. I wasn't use to the bump, bump of the shot along the bottom and would raise my rod thinking it was a fish. He told me I needed to do this because one time it just may be a fish. So it was "another rock", "another rock", etc as we headed downstream.

Finally he pulled the boat over and showed me how he wanted me to work a nice bend in the river and he sat down on the bank for a smoke. I cast up and let it work down through the run and would move down a bit and do it again. The picture of Mr. Big was the result and as I sat the hook I turned to Craig and said, "I don't think this ones a rock!" He said, "Spence. It's a rock with shoulders!"

Afterwards we sat down for a nice streamside lunch and had a chat about how we became attracted to fishing and the woods. It turns out that as I was learning my love of the woods in the 60's near Marion with my grandfather, Craig was equal distance on the other side of Cadillac in Manton doing the same with his grandfather...Thank god for grandfathers!

Craig had worked for our DNR here in Michigan before he started guiding and had been the care-taker at the Barbless Hook. The Barbless Hook was the cabin of George Griffith and was where TU was formed in 1959. In his book, "For the Love of Trout" Griffith mentions Craig.

I headed back to Detroit and a few days later realized I had forgot to book my week for the following year at the Lodge. I emailed Rusty and also told him to remember to "tell the old-man not to forget my Mr. Big picture" which he had taken on a throwaway camera. Rusty emailed me back that Craig had passed away the day before while preparing to head out on the river with some clients. His heart gave out right there in the drive at Gates' and by the time doctors got to him it was too late.

Rusty sent me the photos along with a nice note and I put them away until last night when I happened to be fishing through an old photo box looking for something else...

I am not in any way a spiritual person, but it has always felt odd to me that Craig and I knew each other for so long, we finally get to spend a day together, just before he passed away...

This is just a nod to an old river guide...Thanks for indulging Spence!


The photo of Craig was lifted years ago from Gates' Au Sable Lodge guide page and I don't know when it was taken or the story behind that fish.

It looks like Spence is really craddling that trout...a real "Trout Hugger", but that's how he looked before his back operations...I couldn't stand any straighter...Riding in that boat all day was no help...This was just about the time that the hockey-star (only in his own warped brain) called it quits and hung up his skates...I finally woke up enough to realized that the need for Darvoset's before each game may mean somethings wrong here...I had the first operation in June 2005 and then again in Feb 2007 and all is well now...I'm back! And the trout in Crawford County hug the banks a little closer again when they sense I've crossed in to the county! :)

Re the back pain...On this particular day at the particular moment in the photo Spence was feeling no pain. Transendent!

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
SofthackleJuly 29th, 2010, 11:53 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
A tip of the fly fishing cap to both you and Graig. I have fishing friends that have moved on as well. We miss them still.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
EntomanJanuary 25th, 2011, 11:38 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Hey Spence,

This story really hit me. Very special... Makes you wonder a little about providence doesn't it? In any event, you have to have great memories! Nice tribute to a friend and mentor. I lost my best fishing buddy a 8 years ago (my dad). We used to argue about bugs and fish endlessly. I miss him terribly. That whole thing about "closure" is a bunch of crap. The truth is, you just move on and learn to live with the holes they leave and enter into relationships with other people, create new memories. I guess the "lucky" end up looking like swiss cheese towards the end. You know that stupid saw about "Life is a game, and he who dies with the most toys wins"? Substitute memories for toys and its true... In any event, thanks for sharing.

Best regards,

"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
OldredbarnJune 19th, 2014, 1:08 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
After my last post on the Manistee I mentioned Craig Perry and this fish...That pic here of Craig was the promo pic they used to use at the shop on their web page to advertise the Guide service there...That fish wasn't caught on our trip, just the only photo I had of Craig.

I'm bringing this back up for a moment so you can see how weird I looked with a screwed up back...That's not that heavy of a fish, that's how I was bent...It got worse and I had my first operation June 2005 and then again in Feb 2007...

Been fine since thankfully and you don't know how happy I've been being able to get back in the river! :)

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Kschaefer3June 19th, 2014, 1:51 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Thanks for bringing this back up, Spence. I was not a Troutnutter when this was posted originally.

I really enjoy your writing. It tends to be very to the point and is always very relatable. You have a certain way of describing relationships, with people, with the water, with fish etc. I always know exactly what you mean and always feel like I'm there.

Glad you are back in full swing and enjoying every minute of it!

OldredbarnJune 19th, 2014, 7:01 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
Glad you are back in full swing and enjoying every minute of it!

Thank you, sir! We really shouldn't take much for granted I guess...Every day we get to chase trout is a wonderful one.

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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