Turtle luck

My mother-in-law says that every day you see a turtle is a good day, and I’ve taken that to heart and it has proven, as self-fulfilling prophecies often do, to be true.  Conversely, every day that you accidentally run over a turtle will prove to be a bad day.  The turtle death happened on the way to fishing and I tried to revive it but there was nothing to be done.   I knew I should have turned around then but I didn’t.  I carried on, met some friends, split from then and went down to Bad News Bend.  There, the drakes fell early and the only good fish I found quit rising after one, singular, and in my opinion, perfect cast.  More stuff went wrong, but it’s too painful to discuss.  I quit early, frustrated, and crashed through the brush, unknowingly knocking my spare flashlight from its cord.  Back home, Katy asked how it went.  “I should not have gone fishing,” I said, and explained about the turtle.

Enter, then, Monday evening.  On the drive to the river I saw a sleek hump in the road.  A turtle!  I leapt from the truck, checked both ways, and rescued it.  I didn’t just move it to the side of the road.  I carried him all the way through the woods, doing a little trespassing, and released it near a creek.

It’s because of this I think that Monday evening happened.   Wedged within an already marvelous evening of fishing was the best ten minutes of trout fishing I think I’ve ever had anywhere, anytime.   Everyone loves the drakes and that night, yes, I had drakes.  But only the Isonychia can make two giant trout rise at 8:30 pm in the same tail-out of a drought-stricken river.  The eastern Isonychia may well hatch on the banks, but ours hatch right out of the middle of the river, and they do so early in the evening and the big fish jam the fast chutes and riffles and fast tail-outs and they pound those flies like jacks schooling mullet.   The Isos hatch for a month.  I love them.  They will continue to be the most overlooked hatch on the Au Sable, almost always playing second fiddle to some borrowing mayfly, be it drakes or hex.  The only week that the Isos take the lead is this week coming up, the week we call, unfortunately, “the week between.”  The drakes are winding down and the hex aren’t cranking yet.  But this isn’t the week between.  This is Iso week.  And when I see the much-needed rain in the forecast, and air temperatures in the 60s, I see some of the very best dry fly days of the year that will lead, almost certainly, right into the hex hatch.

So the drakes blew through, as drakes in high heat will do.  But there’ll remain a few lonely bouncers through the weekend, and more on the Manistee, mixing with the similarly-sized Isonychia spinners, the yellow stones, the sulphurs, the march brown spinners, the Iso hatchers, the big golden stones.  Big foam flies will work as prospecting flies now, especially when they are followed by an Iso nymph dropper.  Or you might just fish a Roberts Yellow Drake or White Knot.  Dennis and I floated on Friday and we blind-fished along the Holy Water logs with a size 12 White Knot and the fishing was fantastic.  The drakes get the fish looking, that’s for sure.  The low, clear water makes stealth and long leaders more important.  The first cast counts, even when blind fishing.  But most folks are finding some very good fishing even with the low-water conditions.  This has been a mega-drought.  Enough to spawn a forest fire that started just southwest of the lodge and, thankfully for us, burned its way west.  But when it comes to the actual fishing, I’d say that overall it’s been a fine week since my last report.

Img 2460

Baby sandhill crane!  

Back to Monday.  After possibly the best ten minutes of trout fishing I’ve ever had, which involved the capture of two great daytime-ish Iso-eating trout on back-to-back casts, filled waders, deep net lurches, and plenty of solo hooting…I hit the brown drake spinners.  The fall was quick, but I found that enough bugs had collected in the backwaters to interest some big nocturnal trout.  None were easy, but none were so difficult as to get me to throw in the towel.   “I’m fishing pretty darn well,” I said to myself.  The last backwater had one big fish rising at the head of it.  I had my line in the water waiting for the trout to rise again when…my line went tight.  An unseen, unheard trout had eaten my fly as it dragged below me.  Yes, that is to say I caught it completely by luck.  I didn’t even hear it rise.  I lifted to cast, and there was a big old brown hooked to it.  A really big one, in fact.  It wasn’t skill, I realized happily.  Just luck.  Turtle luck.

Earlier this week Brent sent me a pic of his son Luke’s first trout:

20230527 201302

A few days later, he emailed me again to report that he’d found a flashlight in the middle of the woods and had heard that it might be mine.  It’s hard to escape the karmic implications of life, especially the trout fishing life.  June is like that.  Fireflies in the weeds, whippoorwills and woodcocks churning and twirling, bats and night hawks whirring, and even a few sandhill cranes leading their little ones through the world.  It’s the season of magic, voodoo, and bounty.  Fly-fishers can be a bit analytical at times, but deep down we’re all just casting our flies into the mystery.

Img 2453


Scott Fly Rods, Abel and Ross Demo Day, this Saturday, 10 am – 2 pm

Join our friend, and expert Au Sable angler Phil Cook as he goes over the ins and outs of all things Scott, Abel and Ross.  These are three great companies that produce made-in-America products that we are proud to sell and recommend.  Demo and test cast, great package deals, hang, ask questions, drink coffee.  Buy any Scott, Abel and Ross product, and enter to win a free Ross reel.  This is going to be a fun day on a great weekend.  We look forward to seeing you there.


Each year Michigan Trout Unlimited holds a Youth Conservation and Trout Camp for campers 13-16 years of age in the Grayling area.  A highlight of the camp experience is a riverboat float for the campers.

We need a couple of additional local owners of Au Sable riverboats to float the campers between Burton’s Landing to Stephan Bridge on the evening of Wednesday, June 21st.  The float will begin at 6:00 pm and finish at 10:00 pm.

The Camp Counselors will assist with the loading and unloading of the campers. The Camp Counselors will help you with the loading and unloading of your riverboat. Your job as captain is to share your river knowledge and your experience with the campers during the float. The campers will be fishing; however, the experience of their time on the river with you will be remembered for a lifetime.

Please contact Howard Johnson directly at 989-280-0381 or [email protected] with questions and intentions.

 

Previous Fishing Reports

Scorcher (and the reprieve)

It has been terrifically hot not only in northern Michigan, but across great swaths of the Midwest.  It culminated today in cancelled guide trips and, I think, a fair amount

Read More »

And so it begins

After a few false starts, the hex have come to the Au Sable.  Not wanting to fall victim to rumor, I made it to the river tonight for some first-person

Read More »

Upcoming Events

Gates Lodge on YouTube

Want more fly tying videos? Click above to visit our YouTube channel.

Gates' Catalog