Sewage, tricos, and how is the river?

It’s time to sign up for the Anglers of the Au Sable’s River Cleanup, Saturday, Sept 10.  We clean both the upper and lower rivers.  Please email [email protected] or call 989 348 8462 to sign up!  

It’s surreal: there is a Public Health Advisory on exposure to the Au Sable.  The contaminated area is from the downstream bridge in Grayling to one mile downstream, and is the result of a malfunctioning city sewage system that spilled somewhere between 15,000 and 80,000 — reports vary — gallons of dirty water into the river.  The trout seem fine, though this does increase the phosphorous base in the system.  For humans, the word is that down in the more popular trout water, dilution has been the solution to the pollution.   I don’t know how much testing has been done down here.  Is this a case of ignorance is bliss?  I do know that we’re digging into the story a bit to find out what’s really in the water, and what can be done to prevent this from happening again.  But I’m here to fish, so I just went fishing in it — whatever it is.  The bugs hatched.  The trout rose.  The water was as clear as the late August air.  I don’t think there’s an issue down in the flies-only water.  I wet-waded the last two days.  So for the rumor that the river is ruined, well:


It’s not.  But for those that are worried.  Absolutely.  Yes.  I have this niggling sense that this was mechanical error, and something that had a definitive start and stop.  It sucks.  I hate it.  And I want to be a part of whatever ultimately stops this from happening again.  But the fish farm will be pumping crap into the river 24/7.  And that is not an error, but a decision, with lots of oversight.

So, you’re gonna hear more about this story.  And I need to learn more, once there is more to learn.  This weekend I was interviewed about the spill and I didn’t know any real details, and I don’t think anybody did.  The water hadn’t been tested.  No one knew the amount of discharge.  The canoe liveries were launching people right into the contamination zone.  My guess is by the time the story is fully-understood, everyone will have lost interest except us trout people, who kinda care about this type of thing not just once, but over the long haul.

So that’s my take on it….at least for now.

The fishing has been more or less very good these past few weeks, morning, noon and night.  Well…noon has been a little tough on the bluebird days because the water is still, despite the rain, clear as crystal.  The Holy Waters is just beautiful in the late summer, full of waving water weeds, dark red and yellow pebbles, and white sand…and lots and lots of darting little trout.  The tricos are at their peak on the mainstream, and the second brood has started on the North Branch.  The South Branch tricos tend to be sparse, but this can work to the anglers advantage, as the trout are rarely very picky in the mornings.  I remember one September morning last year Verlac and I wanted to try out some little streamers.  We launched into a sparse trico spinnerfall and caught a surprising number of the risers just by casting streamers at them.  Hearsay?  Undoubtedly.  But still fun.


Checking cobwebs for tricos…just a smattering in this one

We’ve seen a few flights of ants, but not many yet on the water.  This will change, I’d wager, by early next week.  Saturday looks like a nasty day full of lightning and rain.  Rain, followed by sun, equals ants with wings.  This is typically a late afternoon “hatch”, and is at its best given the following conditions: overnight rain, followed by late morning sun, followed by a warm hazy evening…and then lots of luck, trout gods, and whatnot.  If the ants don’t show up, the tiny afternoon olives have had the trout looking.  Mysteriously, the best afternoon fly has been caddis imitations, size 14-18, along with the Hippie Stomper, with or without a beadhead trailing below it, and a size 16 Adams parachute.

The after dark fishing has been good this entire week.  Tanker, Jordan and Denny had a big night in some bigger water.  Tanker nearly fell asleep holding this trout:


The cooler forecast should meant that anglers will have reason to return to the waters below Mio soon.  This broad stretch of river gets hot in the summer, but can be awesome in September with a mix of white flies, olives and fall Isonychia…along with being as close as we get to western style nymph water.  Fishing streamers can be a lot of fun as well.

Keep an eye on the weather, and enjoy the first cool days in quite some time.  A high in the 60s on Sunday…I can’t wait!

Small Flies with Ed Engle, Aug 20 and 21:  This is the best opportunity for anyone that wants to truly improve their small fly fishing to learn from, and fish with, a small fly master.  On Saturday, Ed will demonstrate how he ties his tricos, as well as his thoughts and theories on successful small fly fishing.  On Sunday morning, you’ll fish with Ed and see the flies and techniques in action.  This is a can’t miss class with the guy who wrote the book(s) on tying and fishing small flies.  Click here for more info.  


This will be our second year of producing a print catalog for those that still check their mailboxes!  Good back of the toilet material, if nothing else.  This is a print catalog, so we’ll need your mailing address.  Email it to me at [email protected] to get on the list!


Previous Fishing Reports


It really is 92 in the shade.  We’re poling riverboats, not flats skiffs, and the trout don’t like the heat any more than any of us do.   The hex is

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