By Julie McQueen, Co-host of Brotherhood Outdoors
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website brings together union men and women from all around the country who have similar interests in the outdoors and conservation. Back in 2008, the member forum section of the website introduced two sportsmen, both named Mike, to a friendship that would span years and thousands of forum posts.
Mike Higgins, a member of USW Local 449 in Maine, and Mike Strickland, a member of SMART Local 85 in Georgia, have enlightened and entertained one another for years. When one would have a great day of fishing, the other would know about it almost immediately. When one had a question about the differences between hunting and fishing in the North versus the South, the other was always there to answer with a friendly response for all to see. Thus began a long-distance brotherhood.
Each season, Brotherhood Outdoors takes dedicated union sportsmen and women on their adventures of a lifetime. We simply couldn’t take one Mike without including the other. While Higgins had offered to give his coveted moose tag to Strickland if he was drawn, we decided to take them on a trip that would allow them to stand side by side and build their friendship. So we invited them on a Brotherhood Outdoors fishing trip to Baldwin, Michigan to fly fish for steelhead.
When Higgins and Strickland finally met face to face in the airport, their first handshake was actually a bear hug, and the drive to the lodge gave them some time to connect in person.
In today’s digital world, we sometimes feel connected to people we have never met. We feel a bond or a connection with someone because we have similar interests and common goals. And for two men from different parts of the country to share that long-distance friendship is a wonderful thing, especially when the bond is formed over union brotherhood, the great outdoors and mutual respect.
The Pere Marquette River in Michigan is a historic landmark known the world over for its year round fishing and world-class salmon and steelhead runs, so we expected some fantastic fishing. What we didn’t expect was frigid temperatures and snowfall on our first day of our spring fishing trip. While an outdoorsman from Maine might be somewhat uses to those temperatures, it was quite a shock for a guy from Georgia!
There was never a dull moment on this trip with Mike and Mike as we all shared stories, tips and triumphs; photos of our families; laughter on the water; and steaks by the campfire. With some coaching and cheerleading from their newfound friends, each managed to hook into beautiful steelhead and gently persuade them through the chilly water to the waiting net.
Mike Higgins is one of the most level headed and driven union brothers that we have met through Brotherhood Outdoors, and Mike “Big Bird” Strickland is likely the biggest personality with the biggest heart. Bringing the two of them together to star in their very own episode of Brotherhood Outdoors was as rewarding to those of us watching from the banks as it was for the guys pulling in the massive steelhead.
Watch what ensues when two union brothers from the North and the South finally meet for an epic fishing adventure on the Pere Marquette River. Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sunday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel.