The other day, an accomplished angler was in the shop on what he’d planned to be a two-day night fishing trip with a buddy.  And they night fished, sure.  But what he really loved was the daytime fishing.  I believe he said something like, that %$it is fun!  It really is.  The water temperatures are perfect, the water flows are high and clear, and the river seems as happy as it’s been in 2020.  A few days ago, Katy and Jordan went for a float and they hit it perfectly.  Dry and dropper fishing in the early afternoon has been pretty hot, and Katy “smoked them” (Jordan’s words).  This rainbow was the best of the bunch.

I see a few extra anglers realizing just how much fun there is to “small fish” during the day on the Au Sable and Manistee.  The thing is, of course, is that they aren’t all “small fish”.  But being a wild trout fishery, and not being a tailwater or in New Zealand, the Au Sable holds its own among the nation’s rivers even in September, and boasts a robust population of small to medium-sized trout that do all the things you read about in the fishing magazines.  You have the ant sippers along the banks.  The BWO eaters behind the weeds.  The trout in the pools are nymphing.  And a percentage of all these different fish will chase a small streamer, or rise up to intercept a swinging soft hackle.  And, if in the middle of this take-it-as-it-comes approach you find a big trout willing to chase that small streamer you’ve been fishing…that’s just icing.

Nice trout Anne!

The maples are reddening up here and the fishing pressure is really, really light.  I’ve had a great time just finding spots to wade and working the river for an hour (or less).  Today, which was very windy, my little guy Aaron did pretty well fishing a rubber-legged fly for about a half-hour before he decided that “wind sucks” and, well, I couldn’t argue with him.

The key to success this time of year is subtlety.  Long, fine tippets.  Careful approaches.  Strategy to your wading or floating.  This even goes for streamer fishing.  Fall streamers — and, yes, it’s fall streamer time — are small, slim flies fished on the finest tippet you can justify (this still means, for me, nothing finer than 4x for a really small streamer, and something like 2x for most of the others).  Best flies have been small white winged streamers, like the Coachman, or small coneheads and sparkle minnows.  Nymphs…switch it around, but really if it has a bead and it’s between a size 16 and 20, you’re in the ballpark.  A beadhead pheasant tail is a constant producer, but Copper Johns, Two-Bits, and more all have their day.  Suspension rigs (i.e. dry and dropper) with a dropper of around 20″ allow you to cover the majority of the Au Sable.  Deeper pools will need either a depth adjustment or a different approach.  Dry flies:  We haven’t had the big ant flight I was expecting — not yet anyway — but the blind-fishing has been good with fall Isonychia imitations, a variety of ants, and/or matching the hatch with size 16 caddis (a Klinkhammer is a great fly both as a caddis imitation and to float a nymph).  I did see some of the size 20 BWOs today.  This develops into a reliable hatch through September and on the right day can get the trout really rising through the afternoon.

The DNR crew was here shocking in front of the lodge this year.  They do a 3-year on/off cycle, and we’re back on.  This jam above the bridge was stuffed full of trout.  The soft water above this jam has been the most consistently rising pod of trout around the lodge, and now I see why.  Big cover like this is key in the Au Sable, and during a good hatch or time period, the trout will move into the riffles to feed before retreating back to such refuges.

The campgrounds have finally thinned out after an unprecedentedly busy summer.  People definitely heading north for their own sort of refuge.  Now the woods and rivers seem a bit more quiet, and that’s not a bad thing.  If you want peaceful days on the river, you can’t beat the fall.

Sign up for River Cleanup, September 12

Yep, we’re going to give it a shot in 2020.  Dumpster in the yard, Rusty’s poker sticks.  We need to get this job done.

Sign up here:

This will give real-time data so you know what beats need “help”. The goal is to get as much of the river cleaned as possible, of course, but with a definite focus on the stretch between Wakeley and Mio Pond (this means you, folks with boats!).

Please check the list and email me — [email protected] — with questions.

Fall dates

Fall season is a’coming.  We have open dates for bird hunters and fall fishers, trout guide trips and connections for steelhead guides.  Put together a fall tour.  Shoot me an email at [email protected] to ask about options…