There are a very few who know the exact
location of Hollow Leg. Most are old men
now, doddering about on legs as rubbery as
the waders they wore in those days of high
expectations and delicious evenings of fish
catching. Oh my, weren't they grand times
indeed. Our clan of piscators would assemble
in a late Friday afternoon or early evening
at Keystone Landing on Michigan's Au Sable
river. Prime country for comfortable sized
brookies and browns.
Ideally set between three streams actually,
the Main, the South Branch and the North Branch.
Each one as different as possible and yet all
merging into one of the most famous streams
in the annuls of angling.
The South Branch, rugged heavy water, tea
stained from tannin as it surged recklessly
through gnarled cedar swamps as it drove on
to join the Main. The delicate North Branch,
dainty, tinkling waters, at times wide enough
to fish both sides by wading the center of the
stream, but not often. And the namesake, the
Main Stream. Driving directly out of Grayling
hell bent for the eastern shore of lake Huron,
taking no prisoners, digging deeper and wider
as it continued to pick up creeks and creeklets
on it's charge for big waters.
A very predictable host of insects, not too
many but always enough to make the trouts
poke their noses out and sniff our offerings.
Over the years we learned their tricks and
honed our trade and the plan often came
together very well indeed.
There were not many of us, these Friday
fleeing fly flingers, but we were as
stubbornly consistent as whiskers. Each
weekend would find a high percentage of
our rag-tag bunch assembled at the campground.
One main campfire, not big, small enough so
a few could pull up a folding stool, log,
hunk of firewood, cooler or nothing and
hunker around it. A well blackened coffee
pot always sat on a rock at the edge of
Over time we came to know each twist and
turn of what became our favorite stretches
of water. And we did not all have the same
favorites either, which is I guess understandable
considering the diverse make up of our group.
It's been a while but let me try as best I
can. We had Bob, an over the road long-range trucker,
tall and pleasant guy, great with camp duties.
Seemed to take to splitting wood with a vengeance,
good man to have around.
There was Pat, he came all the way from the
Chicago area, slept in his V.W. bug. Must
have been a terrible way to spend the weekend
but he never once squawked about it. He fished
a Payne or a Leonard, can't remember which,
had a huge reel on the thing, said it just
rocked back and forth in his hand. I always
figured he was at least one Adams short of a
Neil was there of course. Neil the naturalist,
the botanist, the entomologist. College trained
he was, Cranbrook Inst. down by Detroit I think.
If it was outdoors, animal, mineral or vegetable,
he knew all about it. We became the best of friends
for many years. He had a wife, she fished a little
but mostly 'kept camp' for the rest of us.
There was an ad executive for a big agency in
Detroit, Tom would make it about every other
weekend. Kept to himself a bit, fine man with
his Leonard, smooth caster and always could be depended
upon to annoy a trout or two when the occasion
Dean of course. Who could ever forget Dean. He
wore a goatee when they were not as fashionable
as these days. And one of those Tyrolean hats
with the little feather on the side. Flashy guy.
He was a band director for a small high school.
One day, we were camped about thirty feet above
the river, he came leaping through camp in high
pirouettes and sailed right over the brush
covered bank. Nasty way to go but we figured
it would not kill him. There was dead silence
for a few moments as we all held our breath
and strained our ears for any indications
of life. Quite soon though a robust voice
came up through the darkened woods
edge. "I think I hurt myself!"
Well, we all breathed a sigh of relief to know
he was indeed perfectly fine and returned to our
campfire discussions. Directly he emerged from
the brush, in perfect condition, but a bit more
contrite. We suspected a bit of silly-water had
been involved sometime before the event which he
vehemently denied however. There were other
near-do wells too, one had no car at all, but
convinced some nice girl to let him borrow her
car if he would bring her monstrous dog with him
for the weekend. Huge thing it was, Bourliegh,
Brueleigh, Bouviegh, something like that, French
I think, never did know for sure. The dog was a
dud, not good for anything that I could see, like
flushing pheasants or retrieving downed ducks.
Howard was his name, the guy, not the dog. Not
even sure if the dog had a name, probably one
of those screwy long fancy ones if it did have
one at all. I liked Howard. One hell of a caster.
Power guy. As pennyless a chap I have ever
known, but he sure could handle a fly rod. Connections
too, got into the business, hooked up with a big
name company and ended up with a top executive
fly-fishing slot with 3M.
There was of course, my wife and I to fill
in the more normal side of the equation.
We offered the stable influence to the stew. The
cohesiveness, the glue as it were. Hell, we needed
adult leadership and someone had to do it. Oh yes,
about Hollow leg. Let me tell you about how that
came to be.
As our group grew more cohesive, one evening, Pat
actually, suggested that he thought he was going
to go down to 'Hollow-leg' for the evening on the
South Branch. Well, of course none of us had ever
heard of the place and asked about it. He informed
us that it was about high time that we changed the
names of the places we talked about so as to not
tip off any eves-droppers. Well, there were none
about that I could see or had ever seen. But, Pat
was resolute and the more he called it that, the
better we all liked the idea.
We could make up our own names for many of the
exact runs, riffles and pools we liked to haunt.
So we did. From then after many were given silly
names to 'protect our invested interests.' What
it did in reality was to give us even more
cohesiveness and general comradery. So therefore
I suggest this to you.
If you have a usual bunch of renegades you fish
with give some thought to renaming a few of your
favorite places. Try it, it might be fun. It was
for us. In fact many of the places had no names
at all other than such as 'the riffle below the
big pool just below the old iron bridge.'
Much better to romanticize it with a name like
'Hollow-Leg.' ~ JC