December 20th, 2004

Hollow Leg
By James Castwell

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 the fire.

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 dozen.

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 arose.

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

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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