If July and August are the second season, then this is the quiet season. You drink coffee in the morning, 6 am and it’s still dark, moon flickering between clouds carried by the new fall winds. Summer regains its footing by noon. 4 pm and the olives are hatching and the shadows are already stretching toward the middle of the river. Fall finds itself by dinner. 8 pm and it’s dark again.
The cottonwoods are shedding their leaves too early it seems. They fall still green or just stained yellow. A few of the oaks are reddening. Same with the maples. Tomorrow is the opening day of grouse season, and after a good afternoon of streamer and hopper fishing with PB today, I’m ready to hit the woods tomorrow morning. To a person that loves both fowl and fish, it seems there is no season greater than this one.
The rivers are low and clear and will likely stay the way. There is good streamer fishing to be had already, and even better streamer fishing to come with the first fall weather. Small, sleek streamers fished on a longer leader and a floating line will tempt even large fish to chase across the stream on the right day. This is pinpoint casting, and it requires careful thought to how the fly is retrieved. It’s as close to dry fly fishing as streamer fishing gets.
Today, along a shallow undercut, PB had a good brown — a mid-teen brown — chase a size 6 all the way across the river…right to the boat. It never came close to eating, but that didn’t stop the electric excitement that accompanies the charge of a predatory pre-spawn brown. In the clear water, on a sunny day, the fish seemed enormous. We caught fish. But I remember that quiet chase the best.
What I also saw today, that clearly marks the change of season, was the arrival of the size 20 blue wing olives. They hatched from 3 to 5 pm, in somewhat good numbers. On a good, cloudy September day, this hatch is awesome, and it will last right into November, overlapping with the much smaller olives that carry right on into the snow season. On a sunny day, it gets the fish looking up, which means that pitching a small Adams or Patriot will do just fine. As will throwing hoppers (we like the parachute hopper), orange sedge (a nocturnal caddis that is a fine daytime searching pattern), and, above all, the flying ant in both cinnamon and black. On a cloudy day, the olives will stay on the water longer, and the trout will line up in the bubble lines to feed. This is the last, best hatch matching of the year.
The river cleanup went way better than expected. Well, we expected lightning and instead stayed dry until about 2 pm when a wall of water fell on us. No big deal, and the river is clean. This was one of our biggest turnouts ever, and one of our smallest garbage loads. I would bet that the Au Sable is one of the cleanest, heavily used rivers in the country. For 22 years people have sacrificed a Saturday to drive to the river, clean it, and then drive back. That’s cool.
There’s more to do…Karen Harrison of Mason-Griffith TU sent me this list of excellent upcoming events:
Saturday, 17 September: Rifle River cleanup. Volunteers will assemble at Mike Bachelder’s home by 8:30 a.m for coffee and donuts: Mike’s address is 1040 Gerald Miller Road, West Branch 48661. Mike, and Todd Zwetzig, will assign beats and spot cars: please consider bringing your own canoe or kayak. Note that Troll Landing canoe livery is a sponsor, but NOT an assembly point. At around 1:00 p.m. we all will have lunch at Mike’s, and some prizes will be awarded to randomly-selected people. Please REGISTER at either 989-225-2478, or [email protected]
Saturday, 24 September: The Manistee River cleanup and project day. Volunteers will meet at nine a.m. at the former Ole Barn (now Tinkers Junction) west of Grayling at the M72/M93 stop light. Contact Dave Boberg at [email protected] or 248-515-2738 for more information. Lunch will be served following the clean up and projects at Tinkers Junction.
On September 26th and 27th (Monday/Tuesday) Mason Griffith TU will be conducting repairs to the MDNR river accesses at Smith and Chase Bridges on the Au Sables South Branch. Projects will begin at ten a.m. each day and go until one or two at the latest. There will be a lunch and refreshments. Respond to Bob Andrus at: [email protected] and copy Karen Harrison at [email protected] if you might be available to assist on one or both of these projects.
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 [email protected] to get on the list!