Every morning I do a “trico report” – which basically involves taking a break from the shop with a cup of coffee and walking down the bank checking on the different fish we have marked around the lodge. It’s been cool watched the trico hatch build at the lodge. Yesterday morning was good upstream, but the lodge stretch was slow. This morning, the fish woke up. So far I’ve got two good pods of trout and one dandy fish located. It rises in the last morning shadow on a shallow gravel tail-out. I’m not sure how big it is – maybe a foot long, maybe even 14” – and while this won’t mean much on some rivers, on the Au Sable that’s a fine trout on a trico. It’s a nice fish that rises head-to-tail – complete with a taunting waving fin – and it is very easily spooked. Unlike most big trout, it is ready to rise as soon as the spinners hitting the water. Some morning I’ll find a way into the river…maybe with the lodge phone hooked to my belt.
A great brook trout from a perfect hopper bank on a remote creek
In the spring, most of the fish in the river seem to be doing the same things. There are major hatches for the trout to tune into. There are cold days when nothing is happening. The best fishing times are typically well known and predictable.
One of the delights of this season is that none of that applies. I’d just as soon go fishing right now at 10:24 pm as I would 10:24 am with the assurance that something would be going on, no matter how subtle.
This one jumped in the boat during the fight
The other day, as if to celebrate the complexity of this unique season, we floated the Holy Waters on a high sky, east wind day. We launched at 1 pm knowing that there wouldn’t be a main event. The anticipation we felt was solving that riddle, instead of the usual riddles. It was so much fun. There were still tricos in the backwaters of the river and there were fish quietly sipping back there. Olives hatched from the weedbeds. We fished a variety of dries with a beadhead olive nymph on 6x fluoro 22-24″ below. Eighteen inches didn’t work. Other nymphs didn’t work. But as often happens in the summer, once we were dialed in, there were some trout.
At around 4 pm the trout started eating the dry fly and so we cut off the nymph and caught a few on top. Even then we had to search for the right fly. Size 16 Adams parachute. Sometimes complexity is solved by simplicity.
Along the way we passed Sheets and Jordan who were tightline nymphing a few runs and had done well. After we passed them, the shadows grew long and the fish started chasing a small streamer.
We pulled the boat out early so I could go chase the evening smallmouth “rise”, but Joe Guild and his buddy floated the same stretch later in the day and hooked two big trout: one on a hopper and one at dusk on a deer fly. That same night, Matt’s client and friend caught this one:
Mike took a break from chasing snook to return home for some trout!
There is a lot happening on the river right now, including a gigantic canoe race on Saturday. It’s the weekend of the Canoe Marathon. Expect the river to be crowded with recreational canoes on Saturday afternoon, with professional canoes on Saturday night, and for the river to be pretty muddy on Sunday and even a bit on Monday. The North and South branches of the Au Sable and Manistee will offer solitude on what is the busiest weekend for the Au Sable River. Try fishing hoppers, deer flies and other attractors during the sunny days, and if that doesn’t work, drop a nymph below it. Or, if that doesn’t work, go far and fine off with a long leader, 7x tippet, and a small terrestrial or tiny attractor next to the banks and log covers. Watch for late-afternoon tiny olives and a mixed bag of spinners at dusk, including two sizes of olives (size 18 and 24) as well as cahills, Isonychias, a small white mayfly called a hebe, size 18 dark gray caddis. And if that doesn’t work, try a small streamer stripped quickly. Or wait for dark, and fish a gurgler. Watch your back casts:
And enjoy the many great opportunities of summer.
Trout Fest: Sure we promote catch-and-release, but we know how to cook trout. We’ll have trout prepared a variety of ways – an old-fashioned trout picnic!
The Kids One Fly (Box) Challenge: The Anglers of the Au Sable sponsors this annual event. This is our 5th Kids One-Fly (Box) Challenge for anglers 17 years and younger. All participants will receive a complimentary fly box with donated flies and, if needed, volunteer chaperones to take them to the river (or pond, or lake, or creek) for a morning of fishing. Awards! Prizes! Anglers must use the flies in their box of choice. We do this because kids are awesome, and a kid fly-fishing is even awesomer. Our favorite event of the year. We’ll meet at the lodge at 9 a.m.. Kids receive instruction and a casting lesson from FFF Certified Instructor Mark Hendricks. At 10:30 a.m., we go fishing! Meet back at the lodge between 12 and 2 p.m. for lunch, drinks and awards. We try to have enough rods and waders for youth participants, but encourage those that have their own to bring them.
Have you ever seen so many people who think going fishing at midnight with a box full of mice is cool? Neither have we. So we celebrate it: a night fishing one-fly “competition.” Every year we raise well over $1000 for the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. This is a fun event. Not a serious competition…though we do offer some real prizes through our partnerships with Hatch Reels and Sunrise Distributors. Includes a huge barbecue at 7 p.m., music, and the infamous mailbox challenge. The bell rings at 8 p.m. Anglers may fish anywhere on the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers, but must return to the lodge by 3 a.m. with a picture of their RELEASED trophy. The Derby is open to everyone and anyone, from guides, to those being guided, to folks casting off their docks, and anyone else who wants to go night fishing for a good cause. $50 per team of two people.