There’s something solemn and resolute about the last cast of the day. It’s the cast that must be perfect: it must land where it is intended, it must be fished out with heightened intensity, and the angler must whisper come on come on come on. These restrictions are what make for so many “last casts” in a day of fishing. If the cast is a flub, it is not the last cast. If a fish rises or chases the fly and isn’t landed, it is not the last cast. At its worse, the last cast is a fruitless but well-thought out exercise. At its best:

Twice this week on guide trips the last cast resulted in fish over twenty inches. One in the middle of the day, and one in the middle of the night. These were high points in a very tough week of fishing. The heat and sun became simply too much. The trout became nocturnal, which was great if you were fishing nocturnally. Like Curtis and Tank and others:

And a rock bass to boot:

But it was difficult out there during the day. The tricos (yep, still going) were sparse, the trout picky, the ants non-existent. A lot of folks came into the shop wondering what to do. The answer was probably unsatisfactory. When the air temperatures are at record highs in September, we are in uncharted territory. I’ve never fished in ninety-degree air temps in September. The best advice I could give was to wet wade and enjoy the cool water, fish fluorocarbon, fish sparse flies. I did best with a black ant on 7x. It was tough fishing. I enjoy tough fishing, but I don’t enjoy it as much when it is oven-hot.

Luckily the heat left today. Highs in the low 60s. Fall wind. Fluttering leaves. As the trout get accustomed to the cool down, the fishing should improve over the next few days. The size 20 olives should hatch in the afternoon, along with the fall Isos. The trout should eat nymphs off the gravel drop-offs. But what we look forward to in the last week of September is the small streamer fishing. Size 1-8 streamers, with and without weight, fished on a floating line, cast at the cover, and retrieved quickly. You are trying to tempt the bigger browns from the wood. But you are also fishing the drop offs and bumpy water for the aggressive fall brook trout. In the upper water, I try to size my flies so that they are just big enough to tempt a large trout, but not so big as to prevent medium trout from chasing. This usually means a conehead streamer in about a size 4. In the lower river, this usually means articulated fly on a light sink-tip fly line. The next few days look promising. The weekend looks like it’ll be dry fly fishing. By early next week, with highs in the low 70s, there should be some good afternoon dry fly fishing.

With the change in the weather it is impossible not to think of October. Most of us think of October as the end of the season. It is when the cabin owners drain the water from their cabin pipes so they don’t freeze. It is when the brook and brown trout will begin spawning. It is when — on the right cool, misty, overcast day — the fall olives (two sizes: #20 and #24) will be so thick that the surface of the river seems fuzzy. It is when great trout will chase a streamer across a river at 2 pm. When the air is as cool and fresh as the first warm March days. And when the night, always early, seems unfairly so. It’s also a particularly sweet season on the river. I’m rarely bored, but I’m never bored in October. It’s the last cast of the calendar year, and one must carve out time to get it right.

Celebrate Michigan Rivers, October 7th, 2017:

Fall is the right time to think about what we love.  If you love Michigan rivers, you’ll greatly enjoy the 2nd annual Celebrate Michigan Rivers event at the RAM Center on October 7th, 2017.  You’ll learn history, share stories, drink and be merry.  Topics ranging from the history of Grayling to Jim Harrison will be discussed by local historians and authors.  Tickets are $100 and include food and drink and a night of entertainment and all proceeds go to Anglers of the Au Sable.  This was a great event last year.  Get your tickets at this link.  

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