Orvis the dog watched intently as professional fishing guide Chris “Uber” Raines defied the wintry weather to fly-fish for steelhead on a flies-only stretch of the Pere Marquette River near Baldwin. The stretch of the National Wild and Scenic River known as Claybanks looked like a winter wonderland as the biggest, stickiest snowflakes I had ever seen clung to everything in sight. “There’s something almost magical about standing in the river as the water sweeps past you and the snow is coming down; it’s mesmerizing,” Raines shared.
This was a perfect day for die-hard fishermen, Labrador retrievers, and photographers. It didn’t start out that way. It started with pouring rain. Brad, my son, and I had committed to a year-long book project, photographing Michigan all day each Tuesday of the year, so we had to find a way to make good images despite the ugly weather.
I spotted and photographed misty-looking Emerson Lake near Walhalla; a giant weeping willow in the foreground made the scene appear more mystic. Ten miles down the road, Brad spotted a scene sure to brighten the gloomiest shooting day: bright red winterberries amidst cattails. The rain and mist softened the swampy background and made the winterberries rocket out of the scene far more than they would on a sunny day.
By mid-morning we’d worked our way to the Pere Marquette Lodge Orvis fishing shop south of Baldwin, hoping to learn where we could photograph some trout fishermen. While the owner, Frank, was obliging us by arranging for us to rendezvous with one of his guides who’d be doing some off-duty fishing, we noticed the rain was turning to snow. A half-hour later, when we started hiking a wooded trail to the river at Claybanks, the world had been transformed into a fairyland. Chris was hoping the fishing would be good. Brad and I knew, at that point, that we were going to catch some magical moments. This image wound up being my favorite shot of the entire year-long project, during which I tripped the shutter more than 20,000 times. I sure was glad we overcame our gloomy attitudes at the start of that rainy morning and kept on keeping on.
P.S. The Pere Marquette National Scenic River is a 66-mile stretch from the junction of the Middle and Little South branches east of Baldwin to Ludington’s Old Highway 31 Bridge located on Pere Marquette Highway. More information on the Pere Marquette River Lodge can be found at pmlodge.com.
This Postcard excerpt was edited from the book, “Todd Reed: 50 Years Seeing Michigan Through a Lens.” Learn more about the book at toddandbradreed.com. Reed has explored 50 years of Michigan’s beauty in his photography art book, first through his eyes as a photojournalist, then as a distinguished Coast Guardsman, and since 1975 as an award-winning outdoor photographer.