Where the River Monsters Lurk Part I

Where the River Monsters Lurk Part I

Words by Matt Hartman (@mattjhartman) and Images by Justin Faunce (@jdfaunce)

Editors Note: This is Part I of a two part series.  Stay tuned for Part II coming soon...

This is a trip I thought would never happen. My past few years have been plagued by failed trips. Several planned musky camps never materialized. A Utah trip fell through the year before last and who could forget landing in Anchorage for a steelhead week and immediately buying a return ticket home?

When we finally hit the road heading north, I rolled my window down to grab a breath of crisp October air and enjoyed a long overdue exhale. Four friends joined me for a drive that would take us over the Mackinac Bridge and into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Armed with ten and eleven weight rods, Tommy, Jake, Justin, Joe, and I were convinced we would return heroes.

A River Quiver 4-Banger Supporting This Fly Fishing Adventure..Somewhere in Musky Country

Rolling into the campground we had all to ourselves, it was pretty clear we all needed this trip. After setting up tents, we quickly rigged up our rods, peered into each other's fly boxes, and double-checked the map.

This would be our shortest float of the trip, but we were all excited to see the water. The plan was to motor up from the boat launch with the drift boat towing our raft. We’d stagger the boats and switch occasionally as we floated back to the ramp. That was the plan, at least... I wasn’t too surprised when I couldn’t get the outboard started, and Joe and I had to row ourselves upstream. When we took a break to try the motor again, I sheepishly remembered I hadn’t opened the fuel line back up after the drive. For the next fifteen minutes, none of us could stop laughing as the drift boat motored upstream with the raft in tow. It worked remarkably well and in the skinny water resembled something you’d probably see on the show Jackass. Tommy manned the helm, Justin took pictures and I tossed beers back to Jake and Joe in the raft as they worked to steer around stumps and obstacles.

Working our way slowly back to the ramp, the scenery was unbelievable. It was a golden hour that never seemed to end. Jake and Tommy caught a few pike as we learned how to fish this slow, narrow water.

It was different than any of us had envisioned. This was water you’d expect to be fishing for brook trout if you didn’t know better. Instead, we were throwing brook trout-sized flies, hoping to see a wake emerge from the tall grassy banks.

That evening around the fire we looked up to see a sky completely full of stars. After the first afternoon on the water, there was a collective group exhale. We were here. No responsibilities. No worries. Just three days of fun and fishing. This is exactly the Musky Camp I had envisioned.

Saturday would be our longest day on the water. As our coffee brought us back to life, Joe cooked us a hot breakfast and we talked about our plan. All we needed to do was rig up, hit the water, and catch a musky.

Easy, right?  Well, in case you haven’t heard, these fish are not easy to find, let alone catch...

Editors Note: Stay tuned for Part II of this photo essay... coming soon.

Matt Hartman is an angler, photographer, and shop manager based in Traverse City. He's also a Riversmith Ambassador.  To learn more about Matt or to read his full bio CLICK HERE.  


  • Jose T DeSousa

    Love the part about taking pictures while tossing the beer cans, hopefully you captured one falling out of someone’s hands.

  • Michael Puzio

    Love the fuel problem!! We are all only human. Chasing musky is not for the faint of heart!!

  • Mike DeClue

    Great story can’t wait for the next episode

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