A Henny Opener

Well, thar she blows!  The hendricksons hatch is now roaring across much of the river system.  It happened in mere days, a shotgun start unlike any hendrickson hatch I can remember on the river.  The North?  Got ’em.  The South?  Got ’em.  The Main, middle river, below Mio, the Manistee…got ’em.  Will everyday be as good as Thursday, Friday and today?  Nope.  But it’s worth interrupting this evening to update the report.  If you like hendricksons, the upcoming days will provide, more or less, the perfect conditions for afternoon hatches of this marquee mayfly.  A few days might be too cold, but the difference between a blanket hatch and nothing is, sadly, a few degrees in water temperature.   It’s a calculated gamble that’s worth taking.

Jordan and Kim enjoying an afternoon at an especially good bubble line

So, yes, I expect peak hendricksons right through Opening Day and beyond.  The forecast is positive, and the rivers are in good shape, with what I’ll call “normal spring flows.”  The South Branch is wadable for those who know their way around the river, and the same for the Manistee.  The Main and North are in beautiful shape.  There might be a dud afternoon or two — there always are — but when I look at that forecast, I see mayfly afternoons from now through at least Saturday, and maybe well beyond.

The mornings this time of year are best spent nymphing and fishing streamers.  The nymph fishing tends to slow down right before the emergence, most likely because tens of thousands of hendrickson nymphs are detaching from the river bottom and rising up toward the surface, thus occluding our own imitations.  If this happens, fish a small streamer or, as many of us do, just sit on a log and wait for the first rise.


Kim with a dandy from this Monday afternoon

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John was glad he decided to go fishing today

As luck would have it, I was able to fish Thursday and Friday afternoons.  Thursday was really good: a gray, nasty, drizzly day with bugs all over the water and fish rising in pods.  Good fun.  Lots of trout.  Friday, however, is what I crave most:  A big stretch of river, sparser bugs, and, after what seemed to be miles of walking, three good targets.

The three fish were spaced about fifty yards apart.  The wind was coming in from the south and blowing the bugs against the north bank and, not surprisingly, the trout were there.  It was a long enough straightaway that I could see, from the upstream trout, the rises of the furthest downstream trout.  The downstream trout was pretty happy, throwing spray, moving around a wide bubble line, and I decided to start there and fish my way back up.  I intended, of course, to catch all three of them.  But it’s still early spring, and I flubbed the first trout.  I picked a bad casting position, and by the time my fly got to the fish a slight bit of drag had perverted the drift.  The fish swirled but refused, sinking my fly in the process.  I struck, and the fish quit rising.  0 for 1.

The middle trout was the best of the bunch, clearly.  A real big fish.  And totally unfair.  I sat crouched behind it and it didn’t rise for fifteen minutes.  I went upstream to pester the top fish, and then the middle fish rose.  I went back downstream…15 more minutes wasted.  To hell with the middle fish!  I returned to the top fish and slipped into the river about twenty feet below it.   The downstream fish rose again.  Damn!  But no.  Not falling for that.

The upstream fish was doing nothing but dimpling on a current seam trailing from a small peninsula formed by the roots of a lone alder.  I wonder, often, just how many good fish like it are passed by on this river.  Once, a few years ago, my friends took me to see a big fish they’d found on another stretch of river, a fish that rose with the dimple of a chub but, upon its capture, had a mouth like an alligator.  This fish made the same sort of dimple.  No bubble.  Nothing.  Just a tiny little ring.  It could have been a 5-inch chub and I would have shrugged, laughed, and gone for the middle fish.  I threw the wrong fly — the dun, though clearly this fish was eating nymphs — above the dimple and the fish gifted me with a beautiful head-tail rise and a fantastic just-felt-the-hook leap.  It was the moment I’d waited for all winter.  Just like you.  Just like all of us.

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Previous Fishing Reports

Fits and starts

The last few (beautiful) days we’ve seen a little bit of everything on the Au Sable.  Strong BWO hatches that, due to the sunny conditions, haven’t been of much use

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The first mayflies of the season mean something every spring, even if only serving as a sign of spring itself.  For two of the last three days, the mayflies have also meant

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