03/02/2016 What a whirlwind week. Friday — a cold, windy, snowy day — the trout chased well for Matt’s boat and they landed two dandies. The beautiful Saturday and Sunday were slower than expected (bright days, clear water). I spent Monday down in Lansing testifying in the farm farm case. On Tuesday, it snowed 6 inches. And by next Tuesday, it’s supposed to be 50 degrees. That’s March in a week, less the whole testimony thing (being cross-examined is like standing on an unfamiliar diving board above an unfamiliar pool, without any number to indicate the depth awaiting your plunge).
My friend Randy sent me a picture of a stonefly on the Pere Marquette. Which of course got me thinking about my favorite slow stonefly bends on the Manistee, 5-weight rods, dry fly lines, size 12 flies, floatant, and all that good stuff.
We’ve been fluctuating between cold and warm, from unwanted snowstorm to brilliant bluebird 40+degree days. Watching the ten-day forecast in March is like watching a pendulum. But man, when it swings the way you want, it feels so right.
The warm-up is approaching quickly: 30s by Friday, and 50s by early next week. And there’s no better time for the streamer angler to start thinking about playing hooky. Warm pre-run-off conditions are typically excellent streamer conditions. Fish big flies slowly through the soft water — be it in the center of the river, or on the edges. At some point the river level will probably rise: There is plenty of snow in the woods — well over a foot — and perhaps more like two feet in spots. I find that as the water rises the fishing becomes more difficult in big water and better in smaller water. That’s a pretty general rule of thumb, but it can help save a day. If you’re going to error, error upstream.
The boat launches are pretty crappy (bring a rope, and a friend), and the Mason Tract is not worth the adventure unless you have a tank or a Hummer. But one can certainly trek into some underfished water and enjoy a day free of any potential company other than the deer and ducks and trout.
March, to many, is a streamer fishing month. And that’s with good reason. But March is a month that offers some diversity. For instance, I think of it as one of the best nymph-fishing months of the year…and also the month of the black stones. The nymph-fishing is great because the nymphs are mature, the river is full of them, and the water temperatures are warm enough to make the trout want to stay in the current eating. Warmer weather does great things for a trout. A big cold trout plays the lottery every day, hoping for that sculpin jackpot. The winter streamer angler does much the same. But make that same trout warmer, and while he certainly won’t turn down a wayward sculpin, he’ll eat a bunch of nymphs in the meantime. This means that any given warm day in March will have more windows of opportunity both in time of day, and in method of presentation.
As the water warms and starts to color with run-off, fishing pretty large nymphs deep through the runs will catch trout. The key to nymph fishing is to stick with the pool. Take the time to work through your collection of flies. It’s worth switching from the Prince to the Pheasant Tail to the Yellow Stone. It’s worth adding a split shot. It’s worth removing the indicator and trying some tight-line nymphing. It’s worth swinging a streamer slow and deep, just to see what happens.
If the sun pops out, the stoneflies will too. I doubt anyone will see a rising fish next week — it’s a bit early, even after a warm winter — but that doesn’t mean one won’t rise. If it happens to rise in front of you, then just remember your good fortune this March when, you know, the spinners don’t come down some May evening.
We’re so excited by spring. The garage is full of boxes, and boxes, and boxes…and the water starts getting turned on to the various buildings this weekend…and the new central heat/air unit is currently being installed in the fly-shop, kitchen, restaurant. It’s more or less the same drill every year. But when all the new goodies start showing up, there’s a sense of formality: now it is happening. Next weekend is the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo. We’ll be there with all sorts of new stuff, and an even larger pile of old stuff that will be on sale that must go. We’ll have a full update and email blast next week about the fly show, sales, and our new calendar of events, as well as what this much anticipated warm-up brings this weekend and early next week in the way of trout, and of bugs and conditions.
If you need to play hooky, give us a call. We have guides and rooms available. Our winter weekend room rates are $50/single and $75/double.
Visit ausableanglers.org, join or contribute, and receive fish farm updates as we enter our third week in court. All donations go 100% toward our efforts in overturning the DEQ permit. If you have questions about the case, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]