12/30/2015 I don’t think of the new year beginning until winter has ended. This winter has just begun. On Tuesday, we received nearly a foot of snow (I’m told that the cities to our north received significantly more). People are skiing. Snowmobiles are muttering. Snow is a fun, annual house guest that almost always stays a month too long. I’m beat from a day of upstream wading through the swollen creek, and then lugging two kids up the sled hill, repeatedly, until darkness mercifully saved me from collapse.
That upstream slog was great…but then again we had an omen motivating us. While on the phone in the restaurant/ winter shipping center around 10 am, I watched Robb cast and come tight to a nearly-black brown trout from the wood cover on the north bank. This was a fish that never met a shadow it didn’t like. I ran outside into the snow and took a poor picture. That’s my log, man, he said. There’s nothing like stealing a trout from winter’s jaws. Definitely an omen.
So Jordan and I rounded out some gear and we went fishing. A few boxes of flies, and some fine river to wade. Jordan has been experimenting with a new Rio Czech-style nymph leader and I wanted to see it in action, and also to try spotting some trout on the sand. I’ve been experimenting with some new Patagonia waders, and these are wicked: they even have two streamer box pockets built into the interior of the waders. In the summer, these will work for liquid refreshments. For now, a streamer box on one side, and spare gloves in the other.
We didn’t find much out on the sand. The problem wasn’t necessarily the water clarity or the glare, but a little group of domesticated ducks that couldn’t fly, and instead puttered around spooking trout. I don’t know where they came from, but I do know I had to trash an entire pool trying to get in front of them. The more time you spend outside, the more times you’ll do battle with the metaphorical ducks. My mother-in-law, in the process of going birding, was once attacked by a sharp-shinned hawk. By the time my overdressed self finally stood on the other side of the ducks I was a fogged-glass mess. I let them know what I thought of their domesticated selves and they let me know what they thought of me. It’s hard to blame a flightless duck for being angry. Winter won’t be easy on the river now that the summer folks have left, along with their bird seed and corn.
Ducks in our wake, we found one good pool with some sight fishing opportunity and scored on those. Then Jordan busted out the Czech rig and worked an inside dark-water bucket and found a couple more. The beauty of the Czech rig for winter fishing is one can fish all the water, from shallow to deep to shallow, from sighted fish to blind fish, with one fly or two flies, without endlessly pinching on split shots and adjusting indicators. This leader is sweet, the system works, and will be on a truck this way early in the New Year.
The trout were small, fresh fighters of an age class that seems especially thick in the river right now: 8-10 inches, not a leech or blemish on them. Not old hook-jaw…not yet, anyway. On a Holy Waters float on Sunday with my friend Jeff Hubbard from Outfitters North, we moved a lot of trout between 8 and 14 inches. And some much larger ones.
This winter has been for fishing. This winter will still be for fishing. Another week of daytime highs over 25 and a few days at or above the freezing mark. The trout will continue to chase streamers and feed on nymphs, and with miles of water to choose from, this mild winter makes for a nice mix of subsurface opportunity. Copper Johns (I had to switch from an olive Copper John to a copper Copper John, both size #14s, to catch a snooty shallow water trout. Color matters), Prince Nymphs and Pheasant Tails. Streamers have been everything: strange not for it only to be olive and black. We have done especially well on dirty yellow and olive, white and olive, copper and, yes, olive and black. Most fish are chasing from the mucky black slack water along the banks.
We have rooms available all winter for $50/single and $75/double. Winter is quiet up here, but just right for some. We are the perfect location for a cross-country/fishing weekend. Need to put the river out your back window, just send us an email.
Thanks for the morning coffees, hilarious stories, and foggy midnight mysteries…
Here’s to that first trout of 2016!
Free Fly Tying Saturday: January 9, 9 am – 1 pm
Don’t let the winter be fish-free. We have four Free Fly-Tying Saturdays lined up, starting next Saturday. These “classes” are so cool! Show up with nothing, or everything, and we’ll show you how to tie, or learn something from you. This is a give-and-take, share and learn, eat chili and chill, tying event that has been enormously popular. Bring what you have and we’ll provide the rest. Suitable for folks who have never tied, or tie all their flies. Our schedule, and more information, is available here:
Matching Grant #1 is Fulfilled: on to Round #2!
We raced through Round #1 of the No Fish Poop Matching Grant to help fund our legal opposition to the permit for a fish farm located at the old Grayling Fish Hatchery. Another anonymous donor has stepped up and offered $10,000 more in matching funds! We’re racing toward that goal now. This has been a humbling experience, and Katy and I are backlogged processing thank you notes. We need A LOT to make this happen — it starts with all of us saying no to a permit that aims to treat the Au Sable like a septic field.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Mail check to:
Anglers of the Au Sable, PO Box 200, Grayling, MI 49738
Memo: NFP or FISH FARM MATCH
2. Donate online:
Go to “One-Time Donation”. In the box entitled “If you would like this gift to go towards a certain cause The Anglers are working on , please note below” type “FISH FARM MATCH”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FISH FARM:
Watch this video or check out the Anglers of the Au Sable’s new website (www.ausableanglers.org), and learn about the fish farm and what a bad idea it is.