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Fly Fishing, Grouse Hunting and Fine Bird Dogs Spoken Here!

Fish Car


“Old Blue” or “Babe the Blue Truck” is the closest thing I’ve ever had that could qualify as a fish car. It’s gone now, and I miss it. It was a 1998 Dodge ram 150, v-8 that mostly worked. By that I mean, it ran, but not all of its features worked, like the cruise control or back-up lights. But it’s was a good truck and got me where I wanted to go and had plenty of power if I feel the need to use it. (I don’t have the same affinity for speed I once did).

I don’t know why guys like pickups. Most who own one never use the bed for hauling anything more than “stuff” they could fit in a big trunk. Most have covers on them that make reaching to spots behind the cab a pain and they get terrible mileage compared to other types of vehicles. Of course there are small pickups, but what’s the use in having a small truck? It’s a guy thing.

I never gave much thought to a “fish car” until I saw a movie trailer about the movie “Anatomy of a Murder” written by John Volker, aka Robert Traver. Volker, of course, was a Michigan Supreme Court Justice who happened to be a fly fisherman. (You could argue it was the other way around.) He lived in the Upper Peninsula and wrote extensively about fly fishing for brook trout on his beloved Frenchman’s Pond. In the trailer, which was shown at a Michigan Fly Fishing Club meeting by a friend of Volker who fished with him, the focus was on Volker and his dogged passion for fishing – fly fishing – for brookies on Frenchman’s Pond to be more specific.

It was circa 1950’s and Volker’s “fish car” was a Jeep station wagon type model that you don’t see around anymore. It certainly wasn’t like my Grand Cherokee. This car was a monster, and in its belly was an entire sporting goods store. Volker kept everything he needed to satisfy every whim depending on what the occasion called for: He had camping gear, cooking utensils, rods, reels and everything that goes with them; folding chairs and table, and of course a tin cup to sip bourbon while eating fresh caught and fried brook trout from Frenchman’s Pond.

After viewing the trailer and listening to the speaker, I couldn’t stop thinking about that car. Here was a man who could have gone anywhere in the world to fish, but chose to stay close to home and fish the beaver ponds and streams of the Upper Peninsula … more times than not, ending up at “Frenchman’s Pond” and doing it in all the splendor and comfort of an Orvis endorsed outfitter. I was hooked on the concept of a “fish car” and realized others had adopted the notion too.

My friend Bob Facca, a local chiropractor who puts me back together when I get stupid and try to be 25 again, has a “fish and grouse” car he outfits when the season’s and his busy schedule allow. Being a chiropractor, he’s organized and aligns everything in its proper place (no pun intended). To make a long story short, I decided to make “Old Blue” my “fish car”.

Keeping in the Volker tradition, I think I could rummage around behind the seat, under the seat and in various pockets and come up with most anything I need to go fishing. Not being a chiropractor, it just takes me a little longer to find what I’m looking for. During grouse season “Old Blue” becomes the “grouse car” with Seamus riding shotgun. (Actually Seamus rides shotgun all year-long, it’s just that his status is elevated during grouse season and he knows it.)

As I said, “Old Blue” is gone now and the Cherokee is the replacement. One Sunday as I hit the two tracks through the Jordan Valley, discovering new beaver impoundment that will require further investigation, I kept going over the inventory of what I stocked the Cherokee with. I knew I hadn’t transferred everything but had enough to get me through the weekend’s fishing requirements. Finally reaching the spot I scoped out last fall, I strung my rod, put on my waders and reached for my vest……ooops!

Shaking my head in disgust it dawned on me I was never without a fly pattern or two. After digging the barb out of the bill of my ball cap, I tied the stone pattern on the tippet and headed to the water’s edge. The brookies must have been waiting for a meal all day because that size 12 stone produced enough action to make me forget about my oversight until I hung it up on a branch and snapped the tippet.

I would never have been in that predicament if I had “Old Blue”. Now if only the price of gas would have dropped  to a buck a gallon, I could afford to replace it.


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