The absence of snowy pictures is purposeful. There’ll be plenty of those soon enough. But even before the snow fell over the weekend – an inch or two around here – the woods felt absent something, a void that seemed to say: insert snow here. Fall is over on the Au Sable. The leaves are down. The birds that migrate have migrated. Most of the brown trout have finished spawning and are in their winter spots. I always look forward to the winter. It’s time off. It’s beautiful. I like to fly fish in the winter when the river is empty and quiet and the game is different, confined by the elements. There’s skiing. Eventually, ice fishing. But what I forgot about was the feeling one has at noon on a Saturday when the snow is blowing sideways and the house feels small and you’re just not quite sure what to do with yourself, or your two panting children, for the next eight or so hours.
Rob with a dandy from his streamer camp
The first two weeks of November were warm and sunny but once the trout had finished spawning the streamer fishing was pretty good. Our annual streamer camp was surprisingly productive and we didn’t freeze our asses off.
When you’re fishing for three straight days, you tend to think of each day separately, but after a week or two the days are lost to scenes.
The Coho that chased halfway across the Big Manistee and ate with big-lake gusto and, to my salmon-ignorant eye, looked for the briefest of moments like a humongous brown trout. I was not disappointed that it was otherwise.
Greg’s brief encounter with a chrome male steelhead that broke all our hearts, except the steelhead’s.
The wind that had little trouble pushing us upriver.
Now back to the Au Sable, the GIANT rainbow that rolled like a porpoise over Andy’s streamer, disappeared, and then reappeared next to the boat and porpoised again. It was an immense silver fish that dwarfed the oar blade as it lazily stared at the dangling streamer. It seemed to have swam out of one river – the Rangitikei perhaps – and into ours.
Redemption for Andy came two hours later, along an undercut, beaver-ridden grassy bank, when both he and I hooked, nearly simultaneously, two giant brown trout. It was the biggest double of my life, and I lost mine on the jump. He didn’t lose his. This was preceded by a comment by one of us, maybe me, that we rarely hooked fish next to beaver houses. So of course we had to hook the two biggest of streamer camp right next to a beaver house.
An isolated stand of birch trees that I hadn’t noticed. Sometimes you gotta just stop casting…
Greg retrieving his streamer to the boat, stopping to scan his next cast, and a trout eating his inert fly and me yelling strip strip strip! and he stripping, hooking the fish, and saying, matter of factly, oh gosh.
And on the last hour of the last day, watching the super moon rise above our take out as flocks of waterfowl rose in waves – out of sync and haphazard – before finding their formation away, and soon, south. It was a fine end to the fall.
Rather than prepare for hibernation, I start thinking of winter fishing now. Of smaller floats, or afternoon wades, frozen waders and unexpected jolts from trout. Jordan has been sending me pictures of all his new nymphs – including the mop fly, tests forthcoming – and soon I’ll sneak out with him to share a couple of pools and see what we can find. In the winter, you don’t have to find much to have found enough.
Katy and I are working on our online store – www.gatesflyshop.com — and we’ll be adding to it throughout the holiday season, including some sales and specials. Chef Emily is even offering gift-wrapping this year! Our fall catalog is at the printer and will ship from there. We truly enjoy helping you find the perfect Christmas gift, even if it’s for yourself (see below).
You pick the rod, you pick the reel. Starts Friday, November 25th. You may take advantage of this promo through our online store, or by sending us an email, or giving us a call. Thinking about a new 3 weight, but also need an 7 weight reel? Easy: Helios 2 8’4″ 3 weight and Hydros SL IV. If ordering online, let us know what reel you’d like in the comments section of the order form. If you pick out the line, we’ll load the reel with backing and send the whole thing your way. Available with the Helios 2 or the new Helios 2 Covert rods.
Get it gift wrapped! Emily can wrap your gift, or gifts…$10 minimum, or $5/item.