How cool is it to have fish rising in a river surrounded by snow? Pretty frickin’ cool! Today the sun burst through the three weeks of funk and burned a hole into the river from which emerged a smattering of blue wing olives and stoneflies. Today I got to text to Verlac, who was floating the south with Pels, that we were “working rising fish on the main”. We had the bugs, but no floatant. We forgot floatant! Who cares?! We had fish rising, we had fish chasing streamers, the ten-day forecast is awesome, and there will be dry fly fishing.
Meanwhile, Jordan and Denny were texting us dry fly pics from the North. Was it great fishing? Nope. Not even close. But it was floating lines and long leaders and mends and, as Jordan might say, surface play.
What this means, going forward into the 60 and even 70 degree weather forecasted, is that yeah, we might have some dry fly fishing. We might have some streamer fishing (morning, late in the day). We might have some dry and dropper fishing. We might have some nymph fishing. You add up all those mights, and it equals this: we will have some fishing.
The South Branch is high but running clear. It should not be waded. The river is semi-open from Chase to Smith. It is blocked from Smith down. The mainstream is in beautiful shape, slightly stained, and a little high. The same goes for the North Branch. Both the North and Main are wadeable, but with typical early-spring care. The Manistee is in good shape and the fish will be rising to stoneflies on our sister river from 612 bridge down to CCC. The Manistee offers some unique early spring dry fly opportunities. I remember once floating that river and blind fishing stoneflies with Terry on a bright, warm April afternoon. We only saw one or two fish rise. But a dozen came to our dry flies.
The warm winter has led to a river that is far more awake than the snow still on the ground might indicate. Today we saw strutting turkeys, red-winged blackbirds, seemingly dozens of deer, a breaching sucker. The light was spring light. The fish that rose seemed enthusiastic, if a bit short on surface food. They won’t be short on surface food for much longer. I’m not going to hazard a guess as to when we might see hendricksons, but I think it’ll be sooner rather than later.
This is the time of year that I love to get out and go. To do a nice long wade with a bunch of flies, a spare reel with a sink-tip, indicators, split shot, floatant…and try to figure it out. That challenge — taking what the river gives you — is so special. It’s at the heart of what we do. And spring is the very best time to do it. The river is full of food. The trout are eating as much as they can. And the water temperature is as good for them as the air temperature is for us. You go to the river as a fisher, and you try, through observation and trial and error, to figure it out. From tight line nymphs to small streamers, to dredging, to dry flies…you just try to find the key into their world. We have more working keys this week than we did last week. And even more on the way. In other words, it’s going to be a lovely week on the Au Sable.
We have a few open rooms this weekend. Come on up and enjoy the sun!
Check out our new Bulletin Board! Stop by here for news and notes. We’ve got an art contest going with cool prizes, and MATCHING FUNDS ON THE TABLE to fight the Fish Farm permit.
Gates Lodge Fly Fishing Schools and Classes: We have an awesome, expanded line of Schools and Classes for 2016. Some are full, many still have a few openings. Check them out here. I just got confirmation that Ed Engle will be here in August to host a small-fly weekend! We’re excited to have Ed coming. This will be a can’t-miss event. Details forthcoming.