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Black Bass Fishing on the Saginaw River
-- Early fishing was was good inspite of polution from lumbering.

1889 Black Bass. - Added July, 2009.

The American Angler, by William Charles Harris, 1889

Fly Fishing for Black Bass in Deep, Muddy Water.
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In writing about the use of the artificial fly, W. C. Prime says: “For fly fishing the water should be reasonably clear, for a fish takes a fly only because it sees it moving and supposes it to be a living, active animal.”

There is no doubt that fishes which rise to flies suppose the same to be living, active animals, and that clear water in many instances proves the best for fly fishing, but I can relate an instance that will go to show that cloudy roiled water, affords excellent fly fishing.

There is a large combined individual and wagon bridge crossing the Saginaw River in Northern Michigan between Bay City and West Bay City. Upon this bridge in the evening stand fully fifty anglers during the black bass season and all of them cast flies for black bass, ranging in weight from one to four pounds. The water of this river is at all times muddy, and its color much resembles that of Chatham Square coffee. The river is lined with booms of green pine logs, and rafts of pine logs are constantly passing to and from the Saginaw Bay. The water is, in every sense of the word, dirty, and yet black bass rise to the fly in great numbers. Strings of thirty and forty are frequently taken in an evening between 5 and 8 o'clock. Frank Durell is the is principle angling fiend of the town, and he fishes every day during the summer. Durell is an angler of the Walton school, and he prides himself upon being gentle and generous.

Mr. Prime will be interested, no doubt, in learning that this water, besides being dirty and dark, is very deep, and that, though “the fish take a fly only because they see it moving and suppose it to be a living, active animal,” they must her be very near the surface to “see and suppose,” for, owing to the water's condition and depth, it would be impossible for them to see anything on the surface from the bottom or from one foot to two feet from the bottom, where black bass are under ordinary circumstances. Besides, I know the fish can be and are taken after darkness has set in. This and the fact that th e water is so filty with circulating black mud, dark in color from pine bark stain and at least fifteen feet deep, proves that fish – the black bass, at least – do rise in water that is not clear. Durell tells me that the fish swim near the surface insearch of the flies, and during June, July and August they can be seen leaping all about. The water during this hottest weather is covered with a bug which is known by the names “June Bug,” “May fly,” “lamp locust,” “gaslight caterpillar” and other local or vulgar names. These bugs are so thick about the corner lamp lights evenings during hot weather that anyone could easily gather a million in a little time. Black bass in Bay City during “June bug” time can be had for nothing. They are caught and thrown back into the water by many persons, and are often taken on the fly-rod by women, who fish from the bridge and small boats anchored about the structure. The white miller, scarlet ibis, Seth Green, Rueben Wood, and several common gray, white, brown, yellow and dark ash-colored flies are Durell's favorites.

Chas. Barker Bradford,
New York, May 18.

Related References & Pages

{1877 Scalable MI Map}


By 1889 the Saginaw River had seen two decades of lumbering, from the early days when logs were floated down the Saginaw River to the mills in Bay City and Saginaw, to later years when barges filled with logs were hauled in from forests in northern Michigan and Canada.
-- The bridge referenced in this article was most likely the Third Steet Bridge, which connected on the west at Midland Street and on east at Third Street.
Related Links:
Grayling Fishing
Saginaw River Fishing
People Referenced
Bradford, Charles B.
Durell, Frank
Prime, W.C.
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI Bay County, MI
Saginaw Bay, MI
Saginaw River, MI
West Bay City, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.