03/08/2016 Not every year do we get such a dramatic and uplifting thaw. As I write this, the rivers are rising (mildly), the snow is retreating (rapidly), and the first larger stoneflies have been sighted on both the Au Sable and Manistee. All signs — and forecasts — point to an abrupt, early spring…YESSSS! Having the hatches arrive sooner steals no thunder from the fall — the BWOs of October will still hatch into November, whether the hendricksons start on April 10 or May 10. And so I tend to think of early springs as the prerequisite component of a longer season.
In 2016, spring is sooner rather than later.
This weekend is the 2016 Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, a grandiose event put on (expertly) by the Michigan Fly Fishing Club. This is a HUGE show, with so much fly fishing diversity, that it’s worth the road trip. It is also, to me, the start of the trout season. And this year, unlike the last two, when the we take down our booth and load up the trucks and head home, we’ll be driving into a river very much in the process of waking up.
In other words, it’s time for more of this:
And less of this:
Today was copper streamer day. The fish were few and far between but the ones that attacked did so with a vengeance (one launched itself clear from the water!) We saw stones and midges and herds of deer sniffing around the uncovered old grass on the south facing slopes. We spooked an eagle that had been feasting on something once frozen, now thawed, on the side of the river. And while we were enjoying the streamer fishing, we were talking spring spring spring. It would be annoying to almost anyone else to hear one of us say, for the tenth time, how gosh darn nice it was outside. But it was pretty darn nice. And the next ten days, at least, look pretty darn nice as well. This is as good a time as any to head north. The fish won’t be rising yet (maybe a few, here and there, to black stones…but this is not something to count on), but if you like fishing nymphs and streamers, if you like standing in beautiful rivers, and if you like walking through a melting northern pine forest…it’s time. Think of it as a surprise appetizer before main course that another table bought for you! We can’t count on such weather in March. But we can certainly enjoy every single minute of it.
Streamers both large and small in a variety of colors will move fish. Contrary to convention, I like to fish black or copper on sunny days and white, off-white, yellow, and copper on cloudy days. Of course, you might think differently…and you’d probably be correct as well. So much of streamer fishing is location, luck, and perseverance. As for nymphs, size 14-16 mayfly style nymphs and size 14 black stone nymphs will do good business in these warm water temperatures. The river is full of nymphs this time of year, because nothing has actually hatched yet. Concentrate on any runs over thigh deep. The fish are going to start moving around with the warmer water temperatures, sliding into better feeding stations, and making the most of the different drift periods (warm mornings can be particularly good). Here is a fine trout Chris G. found on a sunny Monday with a hendrickson nymph:
We’ll see many of you at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo this weekend!
Midwest Fly Fishing Expo: We’re renting a truck and coming down to the show. We’ll have a pile of stuff, most of it on sale! We’ll also have the new Patagonia waders, the sweet new Orvis Hydros reel, the Scott Meridian, all the new Simms packs, Hatch nippers and pliers, and lots more. Walk to the second aisle, and make a right. We’re right next to the Simms booth. If you’re not on our email list, join now (on home page) and be privy to our Midwest Fly Fishing Show Expo email Thursday morning with package deals and additional discounts. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!
Winter Rates: 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.
Help Wanted: Gates Lodge has job openings in the restaurant! Especially looking for folks with some food prep or cooking experience but really will consider anyone with a good attitude. We’re open from April 15 thru the end of October. We do have options for housing. If you’re a whiz cook and want to spend your afternoons trout fishing this summer, give us a call or send me an email.
Anglers of the Au Sable: 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]