Keep on the sunny side

Heat wave!   This winter has been a little wimpy, but that doesn’t mean that the angler’s heart doesn’t jump at the idea of five days in a row over 40 degrees.  The first black stones of the year.   The chases of brown trout through copper water.  The hidden pull of a trout hooked on a nymph.   The sound of a dripping forest, hidden streams under the white crust.  The smell, at dusk, of melting snow.  As far as weeks in February go, this is going to be exemplary.

So, finally, a fishing report about the fishing.  Well, first, logistics.  This weekend I expect the river to rise slightly, but to stay relatively clear.  Most of the boat launches on the Au Sable are okay if you have four-wheel drive and a rope.  I’d also bring a shovel, but that’s just me.  Conners Flat has been blocked by a wayward snowplow that left a six-foot pyramid of snow in the middle of the two-track.  I don’t think it was on purpose, I think the plower simply realized the snow was too heavy and quit trying.  The stretches of river that I’ve floated haven’t been badly blocked, a few underwater logs, etc.   We will be running car shuttles this weekend as best we can.  Please call ahead to make sure we can spot you.

The default streamer color right now is black.  But as the water temperatures warm, trout will respond to a variety of colors and retrieves.  I particularly like copper this time of year.  Now, with all the melting snow, I don’t think you’re going to see huge spikes in water temperature.  But it’s gonna feel good out there for both people and trout.  I’ve been fishing floating lines in the upper river and sinking lines in the lower river.  I don’t grip it and rip it this time of year.  A gentle retrieve that moves the fly in deliberate 1-2 foot bursts, with a nice long breath in between, is perfect.  If you see a trout in pursuit, don’t strip it away from him.  A winter trout usually only chases what it wishes to devour.  No need to tease a trout like you do in May, or September.  Let the big boy eat!

The nymph fishing has been quite awesome as well because there are a lot of fish in the river between 5 and 14 inches.  This sort of population trend is good for the nymph angler, as  the fish will stack up on drop-offs and eat.  This is the best time of the year to nymph fish. The occasional big, surprise, rainbow is definitely a possibility now as well.  These trout spend their early years in the Holy Waters before dropping down into the bigger river.  They return in mid-winter big and fat and in the mood for love and sparkly nymphs.  The Au Sable rainbow is a ghostly, powerful, awesome fish that eats gently but will leap, run, and break tippet.  Their pursuit is highly recommended this time of year.  I think there are one or more in most of the big pools between Keystone and Townline Road.  Try a variety of nymphs in sizes 12-18.  Two split shots and an indicator is a good technique, but now is a fine time to practice your tight line nymphing as well.

Img 3670 e1487210150467

Jordan with one of many nymph-eating trout from Monday 

Due to the excellent forecast we’re going to attempt to open four more rooms tomorrow for a total of eight rooms (presuming the pipes aren’t broken and the drains aren’t frozen) open for this weekend.   So if you’d like to come stay at a place with a good river view and some trouty ethos, as well as free fly tying lessons on Saturday and some great chili…give me a shout or an email!

The last Free Fly Tying Saturday of 2017 is Saturday, February 18, from 9 am – 2 pm…

Bring what you have — even if it’s just yourself — and we’ll provide the rest.  Never tied a fly: we’ll teach you.  Want to learn to spin deer hair: we’ll teach you.  Want to just come eat some chili and tie some flies: have at it.  Want to help others: the more the merrier.  These free-form sessions are great fun, and have introduced countless people to the craft of fly-tying.  Some have gone on to be first-rate fly tyers!  All the info is available here.

Sign up for our Spring 2017 Catalog

Img 3529

Full of new, cool stuff, a few trouty meditations, and our events calendar for 2017.  If you’re already on our catalog list, you’ll get this one too.  If you’re not, send me your mailing address to sign up!  Our new events section on this website will be updated shortly as well.  From George Daniel’s streamer class to fly tying with Alex Lafkas, we have a great season of events, schools and classes fast approaching.



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

Read More »

Upcoming Events

Gates Lodge on YouTube

Want more fly tying videos? Click above to visit our YouTube channel.