The first fish was the biggest fish I’d have a shot at.  It’s a happy circumstance, sure, but after you’ve been away from the river awhile – be it a week or a three months – it almost seems unfair.  If only I’d had a few trout to warm up on…  It was a good brown trout, a trout in the high teens, and it was sitting behind the same sand swale many other fish have sat behind over the years.  It moved left after my nymph twice in about six casts, and both times a wrinkle of current momentarily concealed the fish so my hookset was a bit of a guess.  And then it bolted to the deep, glowing briefly in the winter water.

The next trout was an easy one, a happy tail-wagging trout further up the same run.  It darted over, ate the nymph, and straightened up in the current.  Set the hook…and on.

That same afternoon, Helmicki and Matt floated further downstream and they saw fish all day, scattering off the sand flats, chasing streamers, and plenty ate the fly as well.  It was one of those great winter fishing days.  Drizzling, 33 degrees.

One of many…

The next day much of the drizzle would turn to ice.  School was canceled. By 4 pm I was on a frozen lake, my shanty threatening to lift off in the wind and sail away.  A lodge guest was out in the river that day, still catching trout.

Ice lake sunset from Jordan’s shanty

Now it’s a light snow.  Twenty degrees.  We have only a few inches of snow on the ground.  And there’s another warm-up headed this way.  A high of 46 on Friday.  That’s short sleeve weather!  And for the next ten days there is nothing I’d look at and say that’s unfishable, at least not in winter.  It’s the tale of two Januarys, the second half being the above-freezing sibling of that cruel first half.  Time to enjoy!

Katrina with a fine winter trout

We’ve done well with almost all winter approaches, from wading and meticulously fishing small streamers, to Czech style nymphing, to indicator nymphing, to sight-nymphing.  As our winter fishing has evolved, so have the techniques.  What had once been a question of float or fish deep water has changed.  There’s a right way to fish most winter water (unless the river is shallow and fast and just not good winter holding water) and it keeps getting refined by new generations of anglers and new thoughts on how to fish the Au Sable.

We’ll be tying flies this Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm (see below).  Last weekend we held a dinner/tying event and it sold out in a matter of days, was probably too much fun, lasted until about 11:30 pm, and there were some pretty great flies tied.  We will be doing this again, focused on a different topic.


See you this Saturday, January 27th, 9 am – 2 pm!