The trees are just leafing out, the hendricksons are still trickling off, the first good caddis hatches are filling the afternoon, the morel hunters are scratching their heads, and the yellow bugs have begun.  First week of May, right?

Well it’s not.  It has been a tough spring, though I don’t think of it as terrible.  But it has been a different spring.   When the weather shows you everything from 20 degrees to 70 degrees, winds from all directions, what constitutes good fishing depends on what lengths you’re willing to go.  This could mean dawn fishing streamers, or lots of hiking, or no hiking at all.  Occasionally — less than most Mays of years past — it comes together in 2019.

Folks found trout by nymphing, by swinging caddis wets, by tight lining, by dry fly fishing, dry and dropper, streamers, and all of the above, sometime in the same day.  I spent Tuesday afternoon on the South Branch and I did most of the above in less than three hours.  I caught trout dredging caddis pupae, henny spinners, caddis dries, and light hennies.  It was a technical and fun afternoon of fishing.  And if you wonder why the trout are hesitant to rise, it’s because even the little ones look like this:

Mini-Fatty

Trout don’t decide to eat every ten (or one hundred) naturals that float over them just to screw with our heads…they just do what their body tells them.  I don’t mean finicky, pressured trout zeroing in on one type of insect, or even one stage of that type of insect: those trout exist, as we all know.  Instead, I mean the trout who, due to cold, high water and lots of food, are both satiated and sporting a slower metabolism.  They just rise at the rhythm their body tells them.

Eric with a dandy

The forecast: rain on Friday (but not much?), eighty degrees on Saturday, and then  beautiful through Memorial Day.  These will be the first warm days of the spring.  Anglers can expect to see: Hendrickson spinners, mahoganies, mahogany spinners, light hendricksons, light hendrickson spinners, popcorn caddis, yellow stones, Siphloplectons (aka “neverfalls”), black caddis, Borchers Drakes, and probably some other bugs that I’m forgetting.  The river has begun to bloom this spring, and I’ve heard good reports now from all three branches of the Au Sable, the entire mainstream down to Alcona pond, the Manistee, and all the surrounding creeks.  There are some stretches fishing better than others, but I think all this will even out as we enjoy the first nights of 2019 in which the overnight low is above fifty degrees (hasn’t happened yet!).  In short, don’t count on brown drakes this weekend.  But count on some rising fish.

Heard some good stories this weekend.  My favorite was via text from my friend Joe about a trout that another buddy had lost when, after hookup, the line wrapped around the reel knob.  The corresponding video was great.  You see the angler set the hook and then begin running madly upriver after the trout.  Well, a few days later, Joe found the same trout:  Eating in bright sun in slow water, moving around.  Ate my bug finally.  Ran.  Swam all the way back over to my feet.  I see the fly is in its tail, two feet from its mouth.  Then it just swam away.  Love it.

Lance saw a bobcat swim across the river…hard not to love that too.

I found a nice spinner flight on the South Branch a few days ago with my friend Tanker and worked my way up a bubble line, capturing a few hefty trout, and educating a few others: one that shook the hook, and one that toothed my tippet.  That last one…that was a big one (and in my head he’s twenty or so, hook jawed, big teeth, resting as I type this beneath that undercut tag alder bank).  And while it seems late in the spring, we know it’s still early.  I’ll have a few more shots at that one.


Big events this weekend…

Orvis 101 Free Fly Fishing Class, This Saturday, 9 am – 12 pm

Orvis and TU have teamed up with dealers to offer FREE instruction for everyone. Mason-Griffith Founders TU volunteers (guides themselves) and MGFTU board member and Gates Lodge lead instructor Mark Hendricks are here to make fly fishing fun and accessible. No wading or waders required. This is the easiest way to get started. Please bring appropriate clothing, as well as anything you might want to drink or snack on. Bugspray and sunglasses are recommended.

Please RSVP: Call the shop to sign up, 989-348-8462-


Demo Days: Simms, G. Loomis, Hatch Reels, Scientific Anglers

Join us for a stroll thru some incredibly diverse product lines. We’ll have sales, combos, deals. Spend the day demoing, learning about new products, and chasing the bugs of May. From Simms’ G3 Waders and Boots to the full spectrum of G. Loomis fly rods, this’ll be a fun day of kicking tires and tossing loops. We’ll accept trade-ins of rods and reels as credit toward new products.


Barbecue?  If the weather is right, we’re going to fire up the tow-behind grill and cook some delicious food on Saturday and Sunday for lunch.  Price, and even menu, yet to be determined.