The perfect fall day has been hard to come by this fall.  Today, however, was one such perfect day.  Last night the air temperature was 75 degrees and it rained, and rained, and this morning it was dark and damp and the air smelled of fallen leaves, along with that wild thing that fall mornings smell like.  Last night, I’m told, the night fishing was spectacular.  This morning, I’m certain, the streamer fishing was spectacular.  I missed all that.  By the time I finished my last preseason order of the day, the drizzle had quit and the overcast seemed poised to break.  Jordan and I rushed into a boat and started floating.

Pre-spawn streamer fishing on the Au Sable has more to do with the action than the casting.  A good set of polarized glasses will reveal a lot of trouty flashes, shadowy chases, and other non-committal pursuits of your fly.  Today, only a few hooked up.  The browns were dark.  The brook trout were as bright as the leaves.  The trout chased just about every color, though black and copper seemed to be the best.  This isn’t big streamer fishing.   A 2-4″ streamer seems to be about right.  In a long flat a few trout rose.  We thought to change, but then the sun came out and the fish quit rising.

One of several old sunken riverboats along the way…

Near the end I hooked and lost a good trout.

“Did you see it?” Jordan said from the back.

“No.  Big?”

He held his hands like forty inches apart.  “Eighteen anyway.”

By late afternoon the clouds were gone and the river valley was aflame in color and we still moved a trout. I think there are two times a year when just taking deep breaths is enough: the first warm days in March when the snow is still under the cedars, and the entire month of October.  And maybe at dusk just after an evening of hendrickson spinners.

Kevin with one of many nice fish he caught on a long wade this week

After fishing, and after consulting with the time, my family, and my calendar, I decided to try to squeeze in a bird hunt.  I’ve been squeezing in a lot of those lately.  Everyone feels puppy fever, but no one quite feels puppy fever like a bird hunter in October when said puppy, now just over a year old, begins to “get it.”  The birds were sparse but the dogs did better than me, and I didn’t do half bad (for me).  The end was a perfect double point on a grouse, and an excellent retrieve on a lucky shot.  I had been just about to take the picture of the two dogs on point when the bird flushed.  I threw the phone down and shot the bird.  I miss an awful lot so this was somewhat unexpected.  Pity the missed picture, but glad for the dinner.

There’s so much good stuff yet to come this season.  Fall goes quick, but as the temperatures continue to cool the afternoon blue wing olives will begin to hatch with more predictability.  The size 24s can be quite good on some of the shallow stretches of all three branches, though I think the North and South Branches are best.  The size 20s, though, are a gray-olive bug that is a strong hatcher in October afternoons and are particularly good on the Holy Waters.  The best days are the worst: light drizzle, maybe a cold wind, and eventually even a few early snow flakes.  This larger olive is big enough to allow for some pretty great nymph fishing as well.  Pairing a small nymph with a size 16 attractor fly, fished in very fine fluorocarbon, can provide some excellent fishing.

This is also the season of the soft hackle, the wet fly, the small to mid-sized streamer.  My general rule is the bigger the fly, the faster you must move it.  So a size 14 orange soft hackle — a brook trout killer this time of year — should be fished on a slow swing with upstream mends to further slow the drift.  A size 6 Coachman streamer, which is a required fly for the fall, can be fished with either small twitches or healthy strips.  A size 2 woolly bugger or black leech, however, should be cast accurately and retrieved pretty rapidly in foot-long bursts.

Gates Lodge traditionally closes at the end of October.  Our last meal service will be breakfast on October 29th.  After that, we remain open, but play by winter rules…with a few new offerings.  We’ll continue to keep four rooms open and the fly shop open from 9 am – 2 pm everyday except holidays and Michigan rifle season opener.  But we’ll also be offering some weekend dinners and food events, our free fly tying classes, demos and presentations, and whatever else we think sounds like fun.  I’ve heard rumors of a sausage making and beer making classes.  Emily will be selling holiday pies for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Our fall catalog is currently under construction, as is an updated online store for holiday shopping.  We will be posting a complete winter calendar towards the end of the month.

Hope to see some of you at the Celebrate Michigan Rivers event this Saturday (see below):

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.  

Sign up for our Fall Catalog: 

This will be our third fall catalog…and we love to put it together!  Sign up to get gear reviews, stories, a calendar of events.  There are a ton of new products out there and we’ll give you our honest take on where they succeed and fail.  This is a print catalog, so please email your shipping address to [email protected]  Once you’re on the list, you’ll get the spring catalog as well!