Jack Pine Savages

Sometimes a bad turn in the weather works out just fine. // Illustration by Glenn Wolff
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Jack Pine - Illustrated by Glenn Wolff

We had such big plans. It was the opening weekend of trout season, and our friends, Kevin and Sharon in California, invited us to spend it in their log cabin in the jack pines along the upper Manistee River. They call it a “cabin,” but they’re being modest. Kevin invited us also to float the river in his wooden riverboat. He invited us to use it last year, too, but it’s so splendid and pristine that I was worried about scratching it. Kevin told me to quit being a wuss. The boat’s a tool, he said, it needs to be used. Scratches and gouges are not only permitted, they’re required.

We were excited to be on this stretch of the Manistee for the traditional trout opener. Many trout rivers in Michigan are open for extended seasons, which is fine, but I still look forward to the ritual of the last Saturday in April. We planned to fish all morning — Jim and I in the riverboat, Gail and Mary Ann in kayaks. The women like to fish sometimes, but this weekend, they were more interested in migratory songbirds and would carry binoculars and field guides instead of fly rods. In the afternoon, the four of us would try to hunt up some morels for dinner.

I’ve enjoyed many opening days in rain and snow, and a few times, they’ve been among the best fishing days of the year. But this morning, the four of us agreed it would be fine to stay inside and wait for the weather to improve.

But Friday night, the weather changed. The temperature had been near 70 all week and promised to bring on a buffet of mayflies. Now, it plunged. So did the barometer — never a good sign. The wind was out of the south at dawn, but within minutes, it veered dead north and started blowing whitecaps down the river. The temperature dropped 10 degrees and then dropped another 10 degrees. Dark clouds rushed by, just above the jack pines. And then the rain began.

I’ve enjoyed many opening days in rain and snow, and a few times, they’ve been among the best fishing days of the year. But this morning, the four of us agreed it would be fine to stay inside and wait for the weather to improve. Jim built a fire in the fireplace and Gail, Mary Ann, and I threw together a breakfast hearty enough to feed lumberjacks and football players. Then we plundered Kevin and Sharon’s bookshelves and stretched out on the couches to read. The rain turned to sleet that rattled against the windows. I read two Elmore Leonard novels back-to-back. We napped. We played Yahtzee. The sleet turned to snow.

It doesn’t take much effort to make a weekend in a cabin successful. In fact, the less effort the better. The weather craps out, so what? Build a fire and crack open a book. Serve up a heart-attack breakfast and, while eating it, discuss what to make for lunch. It’ll require wine, of course, and a little later, you can sample the single-malt scotch that a friend sent along as a gift.

Maybe there won’t be morels for dinner, but somehow, you’ll get by.


Writer Jerry Dennis and artist Glenn Wolff have been collaborating on books and other creative projects for many years. See what they’re up to at bigmaplepress.com

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