In summer, the fly-fisher is unbound by can’t-miss hatches, other than the morning tricos, which are viewed, unfortunately, as not exactly can’t-miss. The choose-your-own-adventure nature of a lazy summer day forces a series of decisions as to what to do, though it doesn’t seem that there is any one right or wrong decision. A few days ago I went night fishing with Tanker and it was really good. The river was low and clear and had cooled off considerably and the trout had moved to the soft-sides of the river, or the long tail-outs, and were hungry. We landed the first four trout that ate. It was one of those perfect starry nights, punctuated only once by the slap of a beavertail…about a foot from Tanker. It’s one of the only times I’ve seen him step backward from something unexplainable in the night. The other punctuation was a very large trout that boiled at Tanker’s fly but didn’t eat, and then rose twice (night caddis? A tardy hex?), but couldn’t be tempted to any of the usual night flies. Around 12:30 we decided to call it a night. Night fishing is just attractor fishing at night, so you can call it quits whenever you want. 11 pm. 5 am. We’d caught some nice fish but not the trout I found during brown drakes that, in the high spring water, I couldn’t quite reach. I hope to find that trout sometime this summer. I have an idea what it looks like, but want to catch it just to be sure.
The tricos have been consistently inconsistent with the swings we’ve had in overnight lows and daytime highs. The water temperatures soared for a week or so, particularly in the lower river and the upper North Branch, and have returned to fishable levels in much, but not all, of the river system. The Holy Waters have been in the high 50s every morning when we get to the lodge. The best practice is to call or visit the fly-shop: we generally know where the coldest water is, and we’ll tell you if something won’t be safe for the trout. Aside from a brief heat snap this weekend, the extended forecast looks good for the trout and the trout fisher.
In general, the best dry-fly/hatch-matching will be in the morning. Usually this goes from tricos to BWOs (the 18s), to some excellent dry-and-dropper fishing, to afternoon attractor fishing (Holden and I did well the other afternoon on deer flies, but also blind-fishing Isonychias), some small streamer fishing, and even some nymph fishing, before the tiny olives begin hatching in the later afternoon and early evening, and then are trumped by the spinnerfalls of the last of the Isonychia, the 18 olives, and the tiny, size 24 olives. The fishing hasn’t been great. It’s been tough at times. But in general you can expect nice days of fishing for predominately small trout…but surprises do occur, even in the daytime.
A couple tips for this time of year: fluorocarbon, fine tippets, and change your approach. Change your technique, fish upstream instead of down, try a dry and dropper, try a small streamer, swing wet flies. If the water temperatures are good…there’s a trout feeding somewhere, somehow. Raise a fish on a cinnamon ant? Drop a tippet size. Drop a fly size. Keep whittling down to listening to the river until you find what they want, best. Pinch your barbs and have fun. It’s summer. Time to explore, experiment, and enjoy.
This is one of my favorite times of the year to be in a boat just covering water. The Au Sable is a target-rich environment and blind fishing the Au Sable on a beautiful summer day is pure fly-fishing fun. We have guides available for much of the rest of the summer and fall, morning, noon or night. This is also a great time to learn the sport of fly-fishing, with a lot of little trout providing positive reinforcement for a proper cast and drift.