by William Burr
One of the first streams Hemingway fished was School Creek, not far from Walloon Lake. As his skill with a fly rod improved and he became older, he would venture to other streams on weekends. These weekend excursions were also camping trips. He would pack his tent, a change of clothes, some food and be on his way. His transportation was his thumb since he hitchhiked and walked where he wanted to go.
These camping and fishing trips were usually by himself, solidifying his loner status, but as he grew older, he would invite fishing friends to accompany him.
The author also enjoyed cooking. He liked to roll his Trout catch in corn meal and fry them in bacon grease.
The first major fishing trip was at the end of a school year. His destination was Bear Creek, a Trout stream, which is not far from Brethren, Michigan. The Bear starts near the little town of Copemish and joins the Big Manistee River between the Tippy Dam and Lake Michigan.
Bear Creek, just north of Brethren, is where Hemingway fished by accessing the Creek from a bridge on Kerry Road. The Creek itself is more like a river; its width is about 30 to 45 feet wide at this section of the stream. The bottom is a gravel sand mixture with high banks, twisting curves and deep cold dark holes running through a mature forest.
In the spring and fall, this stream has excellent runs of Steelhead, but the writer was after Brook Trout. He camped in this area for about 3 days and then moved on.
Hemingway’s next stop was at the Boardman River. At this location Brook and Rainbow Trout filled the stream thus he camped and fished this river at about where Schecks Campground is now located. He fished this location for a few days and left for Walloon Lake.
There are 3 rivers that Hemingway fished often, the Sturgeon, Black and the Pigeon. They are in the north-central part of Michigan, southeast of Horton Bay. In his day, these rivers were located in what was called The Pine Barrens. But nowadays the area is known as Pigeon River Country, located near Gaylord and the little settlement of Vanderbilt. Years ago The Pine Barrens were reached by rail, stopping in the town of Wolverine or driving up M-27. When the author wanted to fish the Sturgeon River, he usually took the train to Wolverine and camped where the main branch of the Sturgeon meets the west branch near the town of Wolverine; or he hiked to one of the other rivers to camp and fish, since all three rivers are fairly close to one another.
When Hemingway fished the Black River, his favorite, he usually followed the Vanderbilt road from Gaylord to Tin Shanty Road and camped where the Black crosses Tin Shanty Road. There used to be a campground not far from the bridge over the Black on Tin Shanty road, but it was closed years ago (this was one of Hemingway’s camping spots). Another place he camped was off Chandler Road, not far from Tin Shanty Bridge; the river at this location is 30 to 45 feet wide, sand and gravel bottom out with lots of deep holes. The Black River during Hemingway’s time was noted as the best Brook Trout stream in Michigan, and it’s still a good Brook Trout stream, but not like it was in earlier days.
The Pigeon River, although in The Pine Barrens, resembles the Sturgeon and the Black in its make-up. It was not fished much by Hemingway, and as to why I don’t know and I doubt if anyone else does. He just seemed to favor the other two rivers.
In Hemingway’s day, there were many railroads operating in almost every little settlement in Michigan. A person could just about go anywhere in the state by rail, and roads in Michigan were not the best. It was easy for the author to take a train close to where he wanted to fish, then hike to a nice spot on the river and camp and fish.
If Hemingway was a true fisherman, which I think he was, he would have traveled many a back road to find a glory hole with lots of trout and a swell place to camp.