One of the pleasures of streamer fishing small water is the variety of casts required by the angler. No two casts are the same. The trout are in the wood cover, and the angler, through fly placement and mending, must tease them from it. My typical gear is simple: 6-weight rod, floating line, 7′-8′ leader, weighted fly. Most of my flies for this type of winter fishing are tied on a jig shank with the hook off the back. Until the water is warmer and/or stained, most of my flies are black. In the clear water, they are easy to see. Cast, mend, tease, tease, tease.
We knew yesterday would be a good day of fishing. Warm southwest wind, herds of deer moving through the trees, a few midges hatching — but the smaller river can be fickle. The water is clear, shallow, and if the angler spooks one fish, there is the possibility of a chain reaction. And that, truly, seemed to be the case. Almost every fish we caught or had chase (or, yesterday, hooked and lost!) came from a 45-degree log structure with sand in front of it. The sand is a by-product of the current speed the trout found most comfortable. As has been the case this year on the upper rivers, the trout were modest, healthy, and full of fight.
Later in the afternoon, we began moving trout from the ledges — which means they’d switched to eating nymphs. In fact, while anchored eating a sandwich, we saw nymphs in the water. Coincidence? Odd midday behavioral drift? Who knows?
There are another 4-5 days of good fishing with this most recent warmup before the cold returns. Spring begins in fits and starts — each start outlasting the last. We finally have some snow up here, and some of the accesses could be a tad-messy. As for the long range prospects — I mean, when will the hendricksons begin? April 15 is only a month and a half away! Well…a lot can happen between now and then. But it’s fair to say that on days like yesterday, when the afternoon light seems more spring than it does winter, and the birds are singing from the tree-tops, and the eagles are riding thermals, and the trout are chasing with spring speed, the mind wanders toward the dry fly. It’s around this time of year that I start to budget my spring time. Meetings in April/May are never made in the afternoon, for fear I might miss a hatch. Later in May — and into June — the evenings are kept perfectly clear. I have to establish my own ambush spot, after all. Abstract now, but coming into focus when the bugs are hatching. From calendar work in March, to the patch of flat water I’m crouched beside in late April, everything sort of funnels down to that one river inch in which the trouts mouth closes around a dry fly…and the trout season, for me, truly begins.
Fly Shop Closed Friday, 3/10 – Monday 3/13: We are headed to the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo! We have lots of stuff on sale, per usual — gotta make room for the new gear. We will also have great stock in waders and boots…over the years, a lot of folks use the nice big space to find the waders and boots that they want for spring. Rods, reels, line deals. You know…expo stuff. More importantly, we’re looking forward to seeing everyone. The season, in many ways, begins with the show.
The Pocketguide to Upper Midwest Hatches, by Ann Miller
It’s kinda, sorta feeling a little spring-ish on the Au Sable. And while the curtain won’t close on this winter for at least another month or two, the excitement for the season is building. This year it begins with a book. A classic, re-printed and expanded by the author (for instance, this one includes terrestrials). This is definitely our most requested book in the fly shop. You can’t find the original because it was just that good. This version is updated. We will sell out of this repeatedly.
Order online: https://www.gatesflyshop.com/the-pocketguide-to-upper-midwest-hatches-by-ann-mi.html