I broke off the first trout rising trout…I swear I do this every year.  I know I do this every year.  I told myself not to snap the wrist.  Feel for the resistance.  The hook is set into the jaw…set, not snag.  I didn’t break the wrist.  It felt like a light hook set.  Video replay reveals otherwise.  It wasn’t that light.  Also confirming: the fact the fly was in the trout and my tippet was fluttering behind me.

I hate breaking off trout.  It’s bad for the trout and bad for the angler.

It was a big trout.  The wind was piling the olives into a backwater beneath a tamarack and this trout, which I think was a rainbow, was moving around through the wide current seam eating about one out of every five naturals.  Still, it was not a difficult situation.  Wait for the gap in the bugs, cast, mend.  After a few good drifts, switch.  It finally ate a fly called a Steve’s Sipper — a little curved hook comparadun, wing of mixed deer hair and cdc.  I feel like, should this situation have presented itself next week, after a few dry fly afternoons, it would have gone differently.  The good news is…this situation will present itself next week.  Because it’s Opening Day this Saturday, and all the good stuff has only begun.

Not a good pic, but that fuzziness in that back bay is actually hundreds of blue wing olives

Ah yes, it’s been a fun week.  It has been a spring rollercoaster.  Red flag fire warnings, blanket olive hatches, terrible days, good days, days saved by nymphs, days made on streamers.  The BWOs are at their peak and the hendricksons are just starting in a few sections of the river.  The next two warm(ish) days will get them going here and there before the chill Saturday slows it down.  My Opening Day forecast?  Put your nymph box in one pocket and your streamer box in the other.  Keep your dry fly box somewhere accessible but not, you know, high in the rotation.

The good news is the North, Main and Manistee are in excellent shape.  I wish the Holy Waters looked like this all year: stained, filled to the brim, with tantalizing bubble lines down each bank.  And it’s within these slack bubble lines that the hopeful dry fly angler should spend careful study.  The nymph angler should look in toward the middle seams and little shelves.  I think the tightline approach will outproduce indicator or dry and dropper tactics in this higher water but the dry and dropper is so easy and fun to fish: I like a couple feet between the dry and the dropper in the spring, and tungsten flies help get to the right depth quickly.  If anyone asks, you’re fishing a dry.

A nymph eater from Monday

The South Branch is flowing a 478 cfs.  That’s too high for wading.  It’s not bad for the boat anglers but a trip down the South Branch this time of year is almost guaranteed to be an adventure.  Make sure you’re ready for it.

Opening Day is a tradition based not on the present — most of the famous rivers are open year-round in Michigan — but on the past, when trout season had a definitive beginning and end.  So we gather and kick off the season and there is usually a fair amount of hijinks and a fair amount of fishing and at some point it can be difficult to differentiate between the two and probably not worth trying.  Have fun, yes.  But go out fishing if you can, even on a cold opening Saturday…because this would be a warm day to the winter angler.  The trout will feed on Saturday.  The trick, of course, is figuring on what, and how.  And that’s what makes it fishing.

We are open at Gates Lodge: the rooms are ready, the dining room is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the fly shop is stuffed full and the overstock garage is stuffed even fuller.  We have piles of flies and more piles of flies tucked away.  We have expanded our tying wall until I don’t think there’s another tying tidbit to be put on it.  The guides are now floating everyday.  It’s a zero-to-sixty event for us…and for the trout who, after marveling at all the new natural mayflies showing up on the surface, are also learning something about the fake ones.

Is this wading or bank fishing? 


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Demo Days: R.L. Winston Rod Company

R.L. Winston Rod Rep Dirk Fischbach will be onsite for a chilly Saturday test cast.  But you’ll want to try the Winston Pure, if only because someone who test casts Winston rods this Saturday will go home with a brand new Tom Morgan Favorite.  But also because the Pure is on par with the very finest rods Winston has produced.


Click here for a list of Spring 2019 Events