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September 9, 2017, 10 am, Gates Lodge
Yesterday the air was cool and the clouds heavy and spitting rain and the wind whipped in from the north. The humidity had lifted from the river and the air felt great. It seemed like a streamer day. It kinda was. The trout chased across the river but just…wouldn’t…eat. A few were pretty good and one was really quite large. I’m not sure there is anything more exciting than a big trout chasing a small streamer across the river…especially after a month of trico fishing (really, really small) and night fishing (really, really dark).
We’d actually picked that float because the day before (“shoulda been here yesterday”) the flying ants had flown from their terrestrial homes and lit upon the river and Steve and his clients were lucky enough to find three big midday fish rising, and managed to hook one of them — a great big one, according to the fly shop story the next day — which made quick work of the fine tippet necessary to fool the fish in the first place.
The season of the flying ant usually lasts about a month or so and isn’t like any other trout event. The flying ants love humid, warm, gray fall days. They also like when the sun comes out after an overnight shower. There are days when the ants cover the water in multiple sizes and the trout — even the big trout — eat them all through the afternoon and right up to dark. Those are the big days, the sort of days that people remember. And not just the people that hit it, but the friends of the people that hit it. Then there are the days when the trout (as it has been noted through several centuries of fishing lore, trout love ants) are willing to eat our imitations when there isn’t an ant on the water.
Well, the day Mikey and I went, the wind howled and not a fish rose…hence the streamer.
Mikey and I had actually planned to fish below Mio dam but the weather had changed and the night before had been nearly devoid of white flies. They’re not done, but the white fly — otherwise known as the Epherons — is an odd bug for several reasons, most importantly that they hatch and spin on the same day, so you don’t get that common double opportunity of other mayfly hatches (well the hatch sucked, but the spinnerfall was awesome). My dad and I chased them on Sunday but bailed when the bugs didn’t come, stopping at a Holy Water access on the way back to do a little night fishing.
“We just drove sixty miles to fish 800 yards from home,” my dad noted.
The night fishing has been pretty awesome all summer and especially so during the new moon. The end of the night fishing season is usually around the middle of September, and this is some of the best of it right now, though overnight lows became a problem (tonight is going to be in the low 40s).
Tom Baird with a trout from the last pool of our float. Almost skunked means something different at night.
So, the taste of fall has all of us a little motivated for the changing of the seasons, but also getting the last of the summer in as well. This means that our breakfast guy is soaking up the last trico mornings of the season on his days away from the grill, and chef Haley is chasing bass in flat water, and Verlac and Nethers are both out tonight going night fishing, and I’ve been making sure the dogs still know what a grouse smells like while compiling a hit list of creeks to explore before the end of September. This is yet another season when there is so much to do. Too much. The days get shorter precisely when it seems they should be getting longer.
With the short days and colder nights, an angler’s dreams begin to shift back to the middle of the day. There’ll be tricos in the mornings for another month, though now it’s a 9 am – 11 am deal (or later…several reports today of tricos on the water right through the afternoon hours because of the cold), small olives hatching through the afternoon (though I like to fish attractor patterns on fine tippet), the first fall Isonychia beginning to hatch, the elusive white flies I have yet to hit in 2017 (but those Mio fish will rise to the two sizes of olives that are there in the evenings), the small streamer fishing on the cloudy days, and the end of the night fishing season.
The rivers are low and crystal clear, as they should be this time of year. The dry and dropper fishing, and the soft hackle fishing, has saved some sunny afternoons for folks. This can be a very technical month or so of fishing. Fine, fluorocarbon tippet and quiet wading are probably more important than the fly of choice…but I still like fishing ants, Missing Links, and the old fashioned parachute Adams through the late afternoon bubble lines. The trout have been rising sporadically, though with discernment, throughout the heat of the day. You won’t always catch many in these conditions, but you won’t be bored.
Project Healing Waters Banquet: Come on over for barbecue and fundraising on August 26th at the lodge. Your attendance will help Project Healing Waters’ important mission: to aid in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing. This is a program worth supporting in Michigan, and we are honored to be the hosts. Tickets are $100 and available thru the lodge. Here is the link.