We’ve got about one week left to get your Christmas stuff shipped out. Our online store is packed with cool things: www.gatesflyshop.com, and if you don’t see, it we can get it for you. We’re happy to help put together unique gift packages. Please note that our online store has new “hours” 9 am – 9 pm. This means if you have a question or want to place an order at 8 pm, just give us a call and we’ll either answer, or call you right back. Thanks for including us in your holiday shopping.
The other morning I was up early and in the boardroom cranking flies. Stars were out. Air temps were about 10 degrees. The sun came up over the swamp behind the lodge. I went outside and it was perfectly quiet until I couldn’t take the cold and retreated. Most days, the sunrise is the only time you see the sun. By 9 am, it’s clouds. Being east of the snowbelt, we usually get lake effect clouds instead of lake effect snow.
Still, like much of the state, Grayling is covered in some perfect powder courtesy of some cold westerlies and Lake Michigan. We’re suppose to get another 6-10 inches by Saturday…areas in the snowbelt will receive plenty more. The overnight lows in the Au Sable valley should be below zero for the next few nights (the rule is, if the forecasted low in Grayling is 10 degrees, the lodge will be 0 degrees.) So, not much fishing until next week’s warm-up. We’ll suffice on fly-tying and skiing. But come next week…it’s going to warm up. And what is cold and inhospitable one day, is very trouty the next.
Yeah, we like to winter trout fish. Jordan has been trying his favorite nymphs in new places and everyday he texts me new and exciting pictures. Matt and I got out Monday. It was an ideal day: the forest was shrouded in snow, the high was just at 32 degrees, the water was clear but not low, the ice was only on the slowest of backwaters, and the trout were willing to chase yellow all the way across the river. We were the only tracks at the put-in, and the only tracks at the take-out. We saw no one. We fished in and out of a few flurries.
The trout were in lake-like spots. Off points, drop-offs, sand bars. It occurred to me that fishing bigger water in the winter you work these kind of wider spots. It’s not a specific log like it is on the upper river. Instead, it might be a great big inside bend. A 20’x40′ mid-river trench. In and around a gravel shoal. It’s not rocket science, but it helped me concentrate on staying in the zone. You figure on one big fish in each likely hunting spot on a winter afternoon. This day they were.
We landed our first trout within sight of the launch and landed five others within two hours and then had to boogie out of there before dark. There are perfect winter days. They can happen on a single nymph run, or on an all day float. The winter is the off-season — there’s no doubt about that — but when the trout are chasing streamers and the woods are highlighted in snow, it doesn’t feel that “off.”
The key to finding some trout in the winter is to be an opportunist: look for sudden warm-ups, even if the high only goes from the teens to the twenties. Be versatile, expect to nymph fish, dredge streamers, swing and strip streamers, sight nymph, tight line nymph, indicator nymph. Expect to work a lot of different types and speeds of water…though most of the good water will be the deep water. Enjoy the cold wind, the gray skies, the quick loss of light, the sound of snow under wading boots, the way winter wedges between you and your clothes and ultimately will win, every time.
Winter Lodging at Gates…$60/single, $75/double
We have rooms available this winter at a discounted rate ($60/single and $75/double), and guides available most days. Make it a ski and fish weekend: several of us our avid cross-country skiers and know all the local trails and can help direct you to the right one, be it Olympic quality or backwoods single track. As always, we will draw maps, help rig you up, and otherwise get you best positioned to try to find some winter trout.
More winter fly tying…
Alongside our Free Fly Tying Saturdays (January 7, 21, and February 4, 18) there are other great tying events up north. Headwaters TU has a fun one…check it out here:
We just got these new Hatch reels in…
Gates Lodge custom, limited edition. Matte gray, bright green trim. Would look pretty fine on a Winston! I think Hatch reels are one of the finest things in fly-fishing. Locally, the company helps us raise money for the river through a variety of fundraisers. Technically, they are simple, sealed drag reels that are perfectly machined in the USA. Love salt and fresh water. The 4+ will handle a 4,5,6 weight. The 5+ a 5,6,7 weight. And the 7+ a 7,8,9 weight.
Here is our catalog if you didn’t get yours in the mail. Click on the pic!