The first of the flying ants

Au Sable River Cleanup Sign Up: It’s time to sign up for river cleanup 2015!  This is a family friendly and fun event that covers all three branches of the Au Sable, and the big waters below Mio dam.  The date is Saturday, September 12.  The upper river cleanup is held at Gates Au Sable Lodge.  Please call (989-348-8462) or email ([email protected]) to sign up, or to find out more, or click here.  The lower water cleanup is held below Mio.  To sign up, or for further info on the big water cleanup, contact Tom Buhr at [email protected]

Grab a friend, spouse, or the entire family, and head to the river.  Together we can make the river better for everyone.


08/26/2015  Usually when I get a day off with another guide/shop worker the urge is to go somewhere new and different.  But a cool, crisp day punctuated by Lake Michigan-spawned rain showers whispered nothing if not South Branch.  It felt like fall but it wasn’t, really.  A few of the river maples had some red leaves, but the air was still August air…just cold August air.  And the brookies, though aggressive, weren’t fully in spawning dress.  And the browns were simply non-responsive.  When a South Branch brown doesn’t want to feed, they are simply GONE.  “As hidden as a South Branch brown” could be a new saying, applied to almost any situation involving concealment.

In fact, the only adult brown we saw came from this strange clay pool in the middle of the float.  There the river is pushed into a steep bank by an enormous log jam (one of two log jams on the Mason Tract we call The Big Jam as in “no not that big jam.  The other big jam!”) and has carved into the clay bottom a bottomless, normally fishless cavern.  It was from this same swift, deep pool that I once saved my drowning dog Rua one cold October day.  He would have drowned had some canoers not happened by and yelled up to us hunters in the woods that our dog — which I presumed was drinking — was fruitlessly trying to climb the clay bank.

“Your dog is drowning,” they said, almost matter-of-factly.  When I got down to the river the canoers were around the bend and my dog was indeed drowning.  It was eerie.

Anyway, Matt cast down in front of the boat and swam his streamer over the cavern and a fine trout appeared from the depths and destroyed it.  It was one of only four brown trout we saw that day…lonely among the many dozens of brook trout that swiped, chased, and often committed to eating our streamers.  It was non-stop fun.  A smallmouth-like day, except for trout.


The key ingredient to the day was white.  White legs.  White marabou.  White flash.  It didn’t matter, so long as white was involved.  The brook trout were stupid for them.  We launched into a spinnerfall of tricos and were able to fool a bunch of fussy rising fish not by switching to 8x, but by stripping a streamer in front of them (there’s a trout rising in the top picture, I noticed).  Heresy?  Absolutely.  Fun?  Absolutely.  There are a lot of very fine brook trout in the system right now, on all three branches, an upshot to the depressed numbers of 12-18 inch brown trout.


The fish of the day was a big pike that cut my tippet and took my brook trout fly.  I hurriedly clipped back to the Maxima and tied on the biggest streamer in my box.  The third heave-ho with the five-weight, and the fish took in a huge turn.  I know this isn’t much of a pike on some Canadian lake, but on the tiny South Branch during low water, this looked like a whale leaping out of Lake Margarethe.


I normally release pike from the lower river but pike are rather tasty and, well, it was in there with all those cute brook trout.  Later dissections eased my guilt: a half-decomposed brookie sat alone in that gullet.

It was a fine day on a special section of river.  One that saw a little of everything: tricos, olives, a few Isonychia, some cahills, an orange sedge.  Further downriver, reports were of white flies below Mio dam.  By this weekend, the white flies should be hatching in good numbers with the warm-up, and the water temperatures are, and will be, back in the go fishing zone.  Couple that with the key ingredients for flying ants (August or September, rain followed by sun) and the willingness of the brook trout to chase small streamers, and you have the makings of a beautiful and also fishy weekend.



We’ve been thinking about it, and thinking about it…now we’re going to do it:  a simple, fun, homespun fly-fishing catalog.  If you want in, send an email to me at [email protected] with your mailing address. We’ll also have sign-up forms at the shop on Saturday and beyond. We’re looking forward to making it, and we hope you’re looking forward to reading it.  So far the response has been HUGE!  We can’t wait to stumble through issue #1!