This isn’t an old-fashioned winter.  The snow isn’t piled into dusty billows, the evening air doesn’t whine with snowmobiles, the woodstove is cold, the pipes haven’t frozen, and there hasn’t been a major power outage.  There are lots of lakes just south of us that don’t have safe ice for the ice fishers.  I heard that nine people fell through the ice at Tip-Up Town, but this could be rumor.  Already, Au Sable rainbows are moving up from the big water and Mio pond to stage in the Holy Waters before spawning.  This has been a warm winter.  It lacks a bit of the throw-another-log-on-the-fire romanticism of previous winters.  A small part of me does miss the desolation of a truly cold season, sipping an old-fashioned and listening to the house crack with the cold.  But it’s okay.  We probably had this coming.

Still enough snow for some skiing

Our last decent snowfall has been baked into crust and ice, which can lead to some slapstick pratfalls.  The river is free of shelf-ice, clear, and still a bit high.  The South Branch has been flowing at or above 300 cfs all winter.  High flow for the winter, but still wadeable.  The trout fishing has been good with the streamer and okay with the nymph.  I’ve had luck with nymphs in the 14-16 size range.  Most of my trout have been shallow water, at least shallower winter water than normal.  Thigh-deep runs, inside shelves, and the tail-outs have been better than the middle of the deep pools for me.  Recently, anyway.   I think these things can change.

For instance, I’ve been having good luck on a particular inside bend.  There would be fish on the sand for some sight fishing.  And, after catching or spooking those, I’d find fish on the shelf just off the sand.  Then, last week…nothing.  I forded the river, and lined up another sandy-inside, and it was littered with fish.  The first, a rainbow, was high in the column.  The second, a brown, was sliding in and out of a dark line in the bottom, which meant I could only see him occasionally.  The rest of the trout were just off the edge.  They ate a nymph like they were eating the streamer, starting their fight before I even set the hook.

When I’ve gone streamer fishing it’s been good, and I have plans to go again as yet another nice warm-up is headed our way this weekend.    Black has been pretty reliable, but we’ve done well with just about every color lately.  I like flies I can see swimming through the water: yellow, light olive, etc.  But if you find yourself striking out with bright colors, chances are black will bail you out.  Christiaan found this dandy (and lost another big trout) after some fruitless nymph fishing. Small black streamer, fished slow.  A fish that makes the winter.   

Sorry for the bad audio…camera malfunction.  By special request: a stand-by summer pattern.

Upcoming events and announcements:

The February 8th Free Fly Tying Saturday is canceled, sorry for the late notice.

We’ll be tying this Saturday, February 1, as well as Saturday, February 15.  These free “classes” stretch from 9 am – 1 pm, and include food and hands-on instruction.

Check out our dinner menu for this weekend here, as well as our dinner and breakfast hours.

We’ve got some sweet classes coming your way:

February 8: Tying Nymphs with Dennis Nelson — Learn to tie nymphs that work on the Au Sable with a real nymphing guru.  Denny is a great nymph angler and fly designer.  You’ll learn the patterns that he employs throughout the “nymphing season.” Includes dinner, and all tying materials.  Denny is a great teacher.  5 pm – 9 pm.  $60/person.

February 29: Tying Hex — a team of tyers will show some of our favorite hex, from emerger thru spinner.  Most importantly, this class will help you tie better, big dries.  Includes dinner, and all tying materials.  Gonna be a fun evening.  5 pm – 9 pm.  $60/person.

March 7: Tying Terrestrials — what terrestrials do we like on the Au Sable?  Hoppers?  Yes, but…  Flying ants, beetles, deerflies.  Prepare for the “Second Season” and make the most of those summer afternoons.  Includes dinner, and all tying materials.  5 pm – 9 pm.  $60/person.