Every year just before drakes I get to write about this great week of fishing. Marred this year by high water and inconsistent weather, the typical week of brown bugs begins around May 10 and extends to May 20. This year, the brown bug week is now…and the forecast looks right for a good week at that. Tonight (Wednesday) I had a strong spinnerfall of the Borchers Drakes, March Browns and last of the Hendricksons that fell atop the hatching sulphurs and stole the show. The high water pushed the trout toward the backwaters. The last trout I cast at was in a large whirlpool, silver with evening glare. The trout was cruising with its dorsal fin exposed. It was a magical evening sight during a spring that has been short on magical evening sights.
A hard pulling rainbow, stolen from a bubble line
The other night young Andy from the shop and I ended up on the South Branch. This was right before the Monday rain, and the river was alive. The sulphurs paraded down the middle of the river and we split up immediately. I tied on a Roberts Yellow Drake and had a great evening working upstream. Andy stayed locked in on the first fish he found. I kept looking back and he was a statue in three poses. Casting. Observing. Changing flies. It grew dark and I waded past him and the trout he’d been working rose as I went by. Two hours. Fifteen fly changes. Just shy of 20″.
“That was my last cast, I swear, that was going to be my last cast,” he said. Then, later, he said. “It was just about to be a terrible night. Now it’s a great night.”
And then, the next morning, he said, “I’m really glad I caught that fish.”
A very rare South Branch rainbow
So, yes…the bugs are here and the trout are responding in spurts, but there is some high water to contend with, and it will disrupt some fishing. In short, the North Branch downstream of Dam 4, the entire South Branch, and the entire mainstream are high. Fishable, but high. The Manistee is much the same. The river is now dropping at Parmalee. While the river will clear and drop, and the trout will rise, this is not an ordinary spring and therefore your approach must be different as well. Rule out some of your favorite long wades. Use techniques that allow you to make the most of the river that you can fish. Nymph a run. Work through the far bank with several different dries. Swing wet flies. Then fish the streamer. Make the most of the water you can fish.
One of several pics from folks that embraced the high water and chucked the streamer
With the first mild forecast of the year — should it hold (fingers crossed, etc) — expect an explosion of bugs including the Borchers Drakes, two sizes of sulphurs (16s and 18s), popcorn caddis, yellow stones, thrasher stones, March Browns and, at some point soon, the Brown Drakes and the bugs of June.
March Brown…not a Brown Drake
Take the high water into consideration but work with it, not against it. The trout will school up and rise near the banks and slow stretches. Find one…and you’ll probably find even more. Fish carefully, and look even more carefully. Dusk should be a special time through this weekend. Enjoy the quiet battles between you and a rising trout. Small, medium or large. Lots of bugs. Little bugs. They are all good nights.
A beautiful evening sipper
Casting is undoubtedly one of the most important of all the fly-fishing skills. You must be able to present the fly to the spot in which the fish is located in order to be successful. Although fly-casting may appear to be difficult, it’s really not. There are a few basic things that you need to know about fly-casting in order to cast efficiently and they’re a lot easier to learn than you might think. This class is for both beginners as well as those with some casting experience. FFF Certified Instructor Mark Hendricks is one of the best casting instructors in the midwest. Class limit is 6 people, call the shop to get your spot! 989-348-8462