Just fishing

It’s been a wild week on the river.  A huge rain today bumped the water levels (but, also, it came and went so quickly now the South Branch is on its way back down).  The Holy Waters were clear this evening when I checked.  It’s 65 degrees air temp right now.  High of 88 degrees on Sunday, they say.  It was in the 40s a few nights ago.  I’ve been night fishing, but also took the family down to Mio to chase the white flies, which are hatching below Mio.  It was a perfect evening.  Sparse bugs but just enough.  I’d forgotten that I only had one bottle of floatant so I spent my entire evening running between family members drying and dressing flies.  It was a high speed caddying gig, hindered by the fact that my kids are old enough to wander the river and the fact that all the trout were rising on the far bank and so of course they had to wade out to a point this dad though too far and launch long casts at the far bank, with some success.

Img 3013

It’s our typical night fishing, dark-of-the-moon week here on the Au Sable.  Given an unexpectedly busy schedule, night fishing is about all I’ve had time for.  Holden has really got into the night fishing thing, and it’s been fun watching him learn just how damn fun and damn frustrating it can be.  All year I’ve been telling him about this big fish a few of the guides have seen on a good bend that is hard to get to.  Well, the other night we snuck in there, ignoring the low growl from a nearby beaver den, and started fishing through the big fish bend.  The thing is, it’s always a mistake to tell a 12 year-old about a big fish in the bend you’re fishing because inevitably, when any big fish eats, it has to be the big fish.  “How big did you say that fish was again, Dad?”  He asked between casts.  “Real big.  Like real big,” I said. While swinging his fly near a perfect grassy bank on the inside of a hard seam coming off a log, a tremendous fish grabbed his fly and…didn’t move.  We were hooked up, solid, and the big fish did nothing for a moment, before just slowly starting upstream.  Holden:  “Got him, got him.  NO!!!!”  The hook pulled.  The fish was lost.  “Do you think that was him?”  Uhm.  Uhm.   “No way to tell,” I said.  But he knows.  And I know.  Yeah…that was him.

We’ve caught some redeemers, but the big ones have been hooked and lost…for now.

Img 2986

I’m expecting we’ll see our first good flight of ants pretty soon.  Maybe even tomorrow.  Until then, the ants have been catching some fish, especially in the late afternoons.  Mid-August is not for the bean counters.  It’s tough out there, and the good angler must adapt quickly.  Tricos in the morning provide the longest sustained rise of the day.  After that, very delicate dry/dropper fishing will catch fish through the lunch hour, as will persistent searching with smaller attractor flies.  You can doggedly fish bigger flies — hoppers and such — and raise some good fish if that’s your thing (it is mine, and I’m dying to twitch some rubber legged flies in the nooks and crannies of the mainstream), but I find a nice size 14 parachute Purple Daze or Adams will do more business.  You can also start to fish small streamers on all three branches of the river…and move an awful lot of trout!  August is the very beginning of the “moving months” when the trout are starting to fuel up for spawn, and some of that fall stuff (brighter droppers, small streamers, afternoon BWOs) can creep into the August afternoons.

We are getting excited for River Cleanup.  It’s our last big event of the season, and also the most important event of the season:

It’s Time to Clean the River:  Au Sable River Cleanup, September 9th, 10 am – 3 pm

Every year on the first Saturday after labor Day, hundred of Au Sable devotees pick a beat, slip into waders and clean the river.  We need you to make this work.  Visitors often remark that Au Sable is “so clean” and it is, it’s true, but only because of the decades long efforts of fly-fishers and river lovers alike to keep it that way.   We get better every year, adding recycling, and minimizing the amount of trash we produce to get the river clean.

Along with the Cleanup, we will be planting and maintaining cedar trees along the river.  This important project needs volunteers!

Questions, or to sign up, email me at [email protected] or sign up on this link:


What you need to know:

Meet at 9:45 AM

Get your cleaning assignment (if you’re new to the cleanup…welcome, and don’t worry, you’ll be paired with folks who know their way around)

Pose for a group picture

Clean the River.

Lunch starts at noon and festivities last until 3 pm.

This year’s cleanup has been sponsored by Two Arrows Wealth Management, owned and operated by Nick Venlet.  Nick has been attending the Au Sable River Cleanup since he was nine years old.  The name of the family trout camp:  Two Arrows.  Time passed, and now, in 2023, Nick is making it happen for the 2023 cleanup.  Thanks Nick!


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