High Water makes for mysteries

It’s been a long, dry calendar year, and we all knew after a largely snow-less winter that we’d need some rain to make for a better spring/summer than 2023.  Well, we got some water.  And we’re supposed to get some more tomorrow.  The Au Sable is currently pretty high and dirty, especially the mainstream and lower North Branch.  The South Branch weathered this first rain pretty well and is sitting at a very healthy (some would say perfect) 260 cfs.  More rain is in the forecast for Friday, followed by a brief cold snap.  Then, next week the weather shoots into the 50s and stays there for a few days.  These early spring weather see-saws are pretty common.  With every warm up we’ll see a few more bugs, maybe the first BWOs next week (and maybe not), and certainly some stoneflies.  The high water will make surface feeding less likely, and that’s okay.

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High water at Wakeley Bridge

The trout love these high water events especially when the water temperatures are in the 40s and the river is full of nearly adult nymphs (and eggs from spawning rainbows).  The fish will emerge from these “floods” fat and sassy.  High water in the spring can definitely be a damper to the trout angler, but a little high water is not only good for the trout…it’s also really good for us.  I think the dirty water in the spring is the concealer of great mysteries.  Matt and I fished a few days ago (right before the overnight rain) and the remark was made that “some people say you don’t step into the same river twice, but we’ve been stepping into almost the same river everyday for a whole year!”  Yep, the lack of run-off the last two years has meant the river has looked pretty much the same every single day.  What a welcome change it was to see the river high and dirty, with mystery lurking everywhere.  My friend Tom and I floated the day after the rain — a short float, just a late afternoon two-hour thing — and it was so fun to throw bright streamers way up into the shallows.  The water was so dirty we couldn’t see the bottom anywhere, and the big fish that ate came from water that was probably two inches deep and barren just 24 hours before.

In summary, this rain got me pumped for spring!

We are all stacked and packed and ready for the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo this weekend.  We are bringing just about everything — a whole rental box truck worth of stuff.  Per usual we’ll have blow-out sales, package deals, and lots of brand new stuff.  It’s a bit of a culture shock coming from a Grayling winter to the Big Show so if we have that deer in a headlights look its because we’re seeing more people in five minutes than we’ve seen in six months.  The Big Show is the beginning of the fly-fishers season.  We’ll be looking for upright wings in no time…and rises not soon after.

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Before the rain…a good trout sitting in front of a bridge on a closed section of river

March is moving month for us.  We have the show, and we have to get ready for the main season.  But if you want a low-pressure, fun weekend, I wouldn’t overlook the opportunities of the next month.  We have guides and rooms available pretty much everyday  and there are going to be some great afternoons of fishing.  With the pressure spreading throughout the steelhead rivers, the Au Sable and Manistee stay pretty quiet until mid-April.  Our guides run a 3/4 day  special in the winter to embrace the warmer parts of the day.  Rain, snow, sleet, and sunshine…there is fishing to be had.  It’s the pre-season season.  And 2024 looks like a good one.


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

Read More »


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

Read More »

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