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updated: 8/7/2014 12:39 PM

Crossing the lake, and crossing off another bucket list item

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  • Ethan Winchester displays the kind of big nighttime brown trout that has made the rivers of northern Michigan famous.

    Ethan Winchester displays the kind of big nighttime brown trout that has made the rivers of northern Michigan famous.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson


BOYNE MOUNTAIN, Mich. -- The weight of my bucket list is getting lighter.

I finally made it to the far northern reaches of this state's lower peninsula after years of promising myself I would make the trip.

Ethan Winchester manages Boyne Outfitters on the Boyne Mountain Resort property. This 27-year-old is one of the key figures in a vast matrix of a five-star resort complex, as he manages the fly shop and outfitting service. And it was easy for me to recognize the makings of a laid-back fly fishing expert guide and river steward.

Instead of a longer drive along the south end of Lake Michigan and into Michigan itself, I went across the lake by using the ultramodern Lake Express Ferry Boat. I drove to Milwaukee and then inched my truck on to the catamaran-like vessel for the 2½-hour crossing to Muskegon, Mich. From there it was another two hours northward to Boyne Mountain.

The lodge itself was created by noted and late outdoor sportsman Everett Kircher. His dream was to provide exceptional snow skiing and trout fishing. He succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, and this place is one of the great, 12-months-of-the-year destinations. But I was here for the fabulous trout fly-fishing.

Ethan started us off on a section of the Jordan River. This beautiful stream is home to brook and brown trout, as well as rainbows.

My 4-weight fly rod did its due diligence as I kept teasing brook trout to strike a dry fly just outside the current flow.

And then we sat on one bank and exchanged pleasantries for close to a half-hour.

Winchester has close to 300-miles of blue-ribbon trout fishing available to himself and his guiding clients. He considers the Jordan River his home-base stream.

When it comes to primo fishing locales, other anglers back home such as Harry Blessing have discovered great catching on Michigan's famous Au Sable, Boardman, Pigeon, and a host of other clear rivers.

"We're going to chase big brown trout at night when -- and if -- there's hatches of the Hex flies," Winchester.

The Hex is the last stage of the short-lived Hexagenia Limbata mayfly.

"These are the big babies," Winchester said. "Sometimes these bugs are so big they could appear to the uninitiated as small birds."

As seasoned fly fishermen know, many species of trout will tend to forego smaller mayflies and wait for the smorgasbord of these giants to appear on a hot and humid summer night.

On this trip we didn't have those steamy evenings, so the pickings were quite lean. But when the hatch is in full swing, you don't have to make long casts, but rather a slight flick of the wrist and arm to send your offering a mere few feet away. The real fun begins when you hear the telltale surface strike and feel your line tightening. The sound is something akin to a slurp, almost like a cork pop.

It's unfortunate for fly anglers that we do not have cold and clean streams in Illinois able to support a native crop of trout. So we load up our vehicles and head north.

In the mid-1960s, when I lived in Elkhart, Ind., I discovered stream and trout fishing in the middle of Michigan. Now I've rediscovered northern Michigan and the Boyne Mountain Resort and Outfitter, where my adventures seem to be like an amusement park thrill ride.

When you fish with Ethan Winchester, you'll quickly find out there's absolutely no shortage of adrenaline rushes.

And later, when I laid my head down on one of the ultra-comfortable pillows in my room at the main lodge and closed my eyes, I relived the day's stream jaunts as if I was right back in the water.

If you go

Where: Boyne Mountain Resort, northern Michigan (lower peninsula)

Cost: Approximately $288 per night

Boyne Outfitters: For two people, up to 6 hours with food included, $500

Contact: 1-800-462-6963

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and podcast at

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