Happy Opener Everyone!  Yeah, this one is going to be a bit different, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s Opening Day.  This year more than others, Opening Day is going to be more of an idea than an event.  To me, Opening Day is all about hope and expectation.  In that capacity, perhaps Opener 2020 is the most important Opening Day of all.

I thought I’d just sort of keep doing what I was doing, shutdown and all.  But somehow I just couldn’t stop going to the lodge this week, getting ready for a season that really isn’t going to come anytime soon.  Old habits die hard.  I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way, be it Opener on the Au Sable, your home water, or a secret stream.  Wherever you are, find yourself a nearby fishing spot and cast a fly.

The rivers and tributaries are low and clear for this time of year and the first mayflies of the season are hatching consistently and in increasing numbers.  The rising trout so far have been mostly small browns between 7 and 12 inches.  There seem to be vast quantities of such trout in 2020.  A few larger trout have come to the surface, but so far there haven’t been enough bugs to consistently tempt the larger trout.  Except for this one a local angler caught:

That’s a big trout! 

Most days I’ve waded very short stretches of river and enjoyed some lighthearted fishing for the limited afternoon rise.  I got out a few times this week, and besides a searing wind burn, found some trout rising the backwaters.  My favorite day of wading was a blustery and cold day in the high 30s.  When I got to the river the BWOs were all over the river, and the first pool had a half-dozen trout rising in it.  They all looked pretty much like this.

After a good half-hour of fishing, I waded downstream and didn’t see another rise through the big flat.  I had high hopes for the big flat.   Oh well.

Below the big flat, the river splits around an island and the left channel has a sweet cut I’d been wanting to nymph all winter and this seemed as good a time as any to give it a shot.  A few hendricksons had begun to mix in with the olives but nothing was rising at the sweet cut.  I reworked my leader — the indicator rig and all that — and then a trout rose.  And then another trout rose.  And another.  Each upstream of the other.  Until, as if someone was throwing rocks in the river, five trout had risen, from the bottom of the pool to the top.  They got kind of serious, and so I undid my nymphing leader and they quit rising, though I tagged the bottom fish.

Now there was a trickle of hendricksons so I worked my way back upriver just kind of looking around.  I went all the way back up to the first pool, but the only thing eating the bugs was this duck.  She worked the bubble line like a pro:

With nothing rising, I went back to the nymphing rig, set it for shallow, and blind fished back down to the island.  I found one more fish doing that.  I kept hearing words in the wind as I was fishing, but it wasn’t until I turned and looked at the far bank that I saw my old friend Don was hollering at me.

“What?!”

Garble.

“What!!!!???”

“Hendricksons?!!!”

“YES!”

It was pretty windy.  And aside from one sweet small trout rising in a big trout spot, I had no more luck.

The next day was windy as well but warmer.  Holden I did a quick float and, once again, the BWOs hatched excellently and the trout rose in pods.  Again, most of the trout looked like this:

But we worked a few better ones.

A half hour later the hendricksons began hatching.  At a little cedar-shaded run I anchored and Holden fished to a couple of rising trout.  Then the hendricksons really started hatching.  For about five minutes, trout came out of the woodwork in that little run.  Hooked three.  Landed one.  There must have been eight trout rising for about five minutes, including two nice ones under the cedars the kid couldn’t get his fly to.  Then the bugs thinned out.  But just for a moment, as we spoke in excited whispers — there’s one, oooohhh that’s a nice one — the season displayed the upcoming fecundity that will, in a month, seem commonplace.  Perhaps, even before then, we’ll all get a taste of it.  I hope so.

I pushed downriver and we saw a fantastic scene: a local fellow I know was casting at a rising fish.  Further downstream, maybe fifty yards, a teenager was also casting at a rising fish.  Both were riveted.  Neither was paying attention to the other.  And then, identically, they both set the hook and…fishes on!  It was awesome.

We skirted through them, exchanging hellos, and then, below them, we never saw another rise.  It was over.  A short taste of just how good it can be, like going to a great restaurant but getting kicked out after the first plate.

This woodcock wasn’t going to move

Here’s one of the quintessential Au Sable patterns:


Opening Weekend Notes

The Restaurant is Back: Our restaurant will be open for PICK-UP orders on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 am – 2 pm!  You can preorder on our online store (and add flies, leaders, tippets, and anything else you might want), email in an order, or call in an order.  We’re happy to be back to feeding and outfitting in this very limited, and safe, capacity for the folks that are up here.

-For Online Orders: Select your sandwich, customize it from the dropdown menus, choose pickup, and in the comment section at checkout, provide us with the time and day of pick-up, as well as any additional notes for how you’d like your sandwich prepared.  Pick-up times are between 10 am and 2 pm, Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26.

-Phone orders and pick up:  Orders can be called in and paid for at the fly shop window at our new outside CC terminal.  For safety and logistical reasons, all orders must be called in, emailed or entered online.  Please consider pre-ordering and pre-paying to help us make this work smoothly and avoid all lines.  The number to call is 989 348 8462 to order, or place order via emailing [email protected]

The Fly Shop

Opening Day Sale: We’ve entered a bunch of new products, expanded our fly selection, added all manner of leader and tippet, posted a bunch of new Fishpond and Orvis, and more keeps coming on the big trucks.

Enter OPENER10 at checkout and save 10% off your entire order…now thru Sunday, midnight.

The Fly Shop: Well, it’s essential to us, but still we’re closed by rule: zero entry.  But we are happy to have items waiting for you to pick up, and are filling online orders everyday: it’s keeping us busy doing what we love.  Our fly shop team will be here helping the restaurant team so please call 989 348 8462 if you have questions regarding sizing on anything, or want to place an order for the fly shop.  We’ll be here.

2020 Fishing Licenses:  Please help us — and you — stay safe!  Purchase your 2020 Fishing License online.  The DNR has greatly improved their online license system and it’s easy to get your license electronically:  https://www.mdnr-elicense.com/   Takes only a few minutes in the new system, and you can print multiple copies and save the image on your phone.


The 2020 Shutdown Tying “Contest”

  1. Tie a great fly
  2. Take a great picture of your great fly
  3. Send the picture to [email protected]
  4. Win a brand new SA fly line of your choice

Winner announced at the end of the shutdown — May 1, or whenever.

We’ve seen some great flies so far…Keep those entries a’coming!  I’ll tell you what, the collective fly tying skill in Michigan is just unbelievable.  These are randomly selected from the many entries so don’t freak out if yours isn’t here.  I’m not the judge, anyway.  Well done everyone.  Keep them coming…