That’s the saltwater type of bone, courtesy of Matt’s southern adventure.  Here is the Michigan type:

Joyce nymphed up some skeletal remains

We got buried in snow and I’ll bet we have near a foot of powder in the woods.  It’s beautiful in the Au Sable valley.  A lot of the ski trails have been groomed or traveled and the skiing should be excellent all week and that, coupled with a warm weekend of trout fishing, has significantly improved the mood around the lodge.

There have been some fish caught this week, though it hasn’t been easy.  The rivers are low and clear and even the deep nymph runs require a careful approach.  I walked into a run I’ve been meaning to winter fish and nymphed it for at least a half hour with nothing.  I put on a streamer (black, conehead), flipped it out, threw in a mend, and let it swing.  From the very pocket I’d been fishing, a great brown, over twenty inches, ate it and thrashed near the surface for way too long until it rolled the hook out.  Damn!  Last trout of 2018 shook the hook.  It’s these little hours at last light, these winter fish, that make those timeless, gray, winter days seem unexpectedly ripe.

Before the snow, Nethers and Jody with a fine Au Sable pike

With the warm weekend in the forecast, there should be some excellent nymph fishing in the late morning and early afternoon, and some great streamer opportunities from 3 pm onward.  We’ve been varying our nymph rigs to match the water.  Some long-line subtle New Zealand style indicators for the shallower runs, usually fished with a heavy anchor fly and not a lot, if any, split shot…and the more “traditional” Air-Lock indicators and double nymph rigs with one to three BB shot in the deeper runs.  Smaller flies and finer tippets have been the rule.  The trout get a little shy this time of year, so be persistent and careful, watch your shadow, and your wading, use 6x if need-be, and very slim flies.

Adam with a solid winter brown

The South Branch and many of the accesses will be available to those with four-wheel or all-wheel drive and good ground clearance (or you could ski in!) and the streamer fishing on the South Branch can be pretty good in the winter.  Slow retrieves and work the water behind the jams and the deep mid-river slow spots.  This fishing is very much like spey fishing, with a few twitches thrown in.  The takes can be anything from a steady, snag-like weight to a smack to a simple tap, not unlike a ice fishing bite.  We’ve been fishing smaller articulated flies in black and dark brown.  I love that last hour of light after a warm, sunny afternoon.

On a sad note, the ever lovable Drake has passed away.  Drake was the best shop dog that I’ve ever met, and the only good fishing dog I’ve ever met.  He would share a log with you for a spinner fall, or tromp through the snow while you pursued steelhead.  I shared these and many other adventures with Drake and his owner Lance.

There’s plenty to do this week and weekend as the warmth comes in.  We have rooms at the lodge and, as always, we’ll be in the shop from 9 am – 2 pm before hitting the river, or the trails, ourselves.  Get out and enjoy a perfect winter weekend.

We have posted our January 2019 Calendar online here:  2019 January Calendar.  We’ll have dinners, fly tying classes, and Free Fly Tying Saturdays (January 12th and January 26, 9 am – 2 pm).  Time to plan your winter weekend getaway.

Of note we have two great fly tying/dinner events approaching.

January 12th: Tying Dry Flies with John Sheets — Most folks have tied dry flies, but few tie them as well as John Sheets.  John is a fly designer for Gates Lodge as well as Montana Fly Company, and is a prolific commercial tyer.  This class will focus on proportion and technique: mounting wings, splitting tails, dubbing bodies, and hackling.  A lot of folks are good a tying, but this class aims to make you great.  Includes an excellent, family-style dinner from the restaurant, as well as all materials.  You won’t find a better deal, or a better way to begin your post-Christmas fly tying.  Reserve your seat now, and send questions to [email protected]

January 26th: Tying Streamers with Andy Girard — Andy Girard has tied more flies with his vise attached to his car steering wheel than anyone I know.  Andy is an world-class fly tyer who has cranked thousands of nymphs and dries for Gates Lodge.  But his heart is with the streamer.  His flies are some of the cleanest you’ll see displayed anywhere, and this class focuses on proportion, technique, new materials, and most important, improving the “swimmability” of your own streamers.  Includes materials and dinner.  We’ll have a cash bar set up in the Board Room.