You know when you’ve earned something.  Maybe it was a week of fishing when, after 4 days of wretched luck but hard effort, a giant fish is found at the last hour of the trip.  That’s earning it.  Or maybe it’s trying all week to fool one difficult trout and, after hours at the vise, crazy leader experiments, questioning the meaning of life or at least why you spend so much time and money fly fishing, you finally stick the hook into the bastard…that’s earning it.  And then there’s luck.  I got lucky yesterday.

After a week of mostly not fishing, I wandered down to the South Branch and sat on the bank.  Sunny day.  A few hendricksons.  I took out my phone and turned on the Merlin app to identify some bird calls.  Chickadee.  “Yeah, knew that one.”  Kinglet.  “Might not have known that one.”  And then I heard a trout rise (which the Merlin app recognized as sound but couldn’t identify…maybe we need an app for trout rises!)  I looked up quickly but couldn’t find the rings.  But the fish was definitely upstream.  I wandered upstream to the approximate location of the rise and stood there for about ten seconds.  The chickadees and merlins sang.  And then the fish rose again.  Far side of the river, on the seam coming off a branch.

I stepped into the river, worked out some line, threw a cast, and caught the trout.  It wasn’t a giant trout, but it was a fine trout on a sunny day and my first hendrickson trout of the year.  It was also, it would turn out after talking to several anglers who hadn’t seen a rise, a very lucky trout.

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Spring is springing on the Au Sable but the hendricksons are kind of doing a slow burn.  I expect that change over the next five days.  The Holy Water section has the most hendricksons and the North Branch won’t be far behind.  The South Branch will be holding it’s own this weekend and through next week, and Mio is kicking on as well.  What this means is that the peak of the hendrickson hatch is coming into focus.  This took longer than I predicted it would — I think the cold nights and occasional rain dampened the hatch a bit — but things are looking good on the Au Sable for the dry fly angler.

Looking at the forecast, don’t write off a cold Saturday — it could be amazing, or it could be a bust.  A little sun in the afternoon would greatly improve fortunes.  Don’t write off spinners on a 64 degree day.  Don’t be afraid to bring a streamer box, a nymph box, and a dry fly box.  This past week, and the next two are perhaps the three weeks that ask the most of the angler all year.  Stay versatile and fish carefully and well.  It can feel a bit tedious.  Some may call it a grind.  But the more tricks you have in your bag the more likely you are to find a fish.  The river is waking up in fits and starts, from the brook trout that are taking part in the festivities, to the first hints of leaves in the treetops.

After I got lucky on that brown trout, I thought to quit — you know, one cast/one fish is hard to beat in April — but I couldn’t.  I worked slowly upstream trying out some new flies.  My new flies disappointed (one in a particular was so pretty and seemed so perfect) on a pod of brook trout.  I switched back to the old bunny emerger and first cast with it, a plucky little brook trout that had refused my perfect prototype.  Well, back to the drawing board with that one.

Our river are flowing just about perfectly — wadeable but also carrying a bit of color.  The rain has recharged us nicely.  This week, anglers will want black stones to float smaller bead head nymphs; small white streamers to go with the usual streamer fare; a good variety of BWOs; and an even better variety of hendricksons.   Streamer fish the mornings and, maybe, the evenings.  Fish the nymphs around lunch.  But whatever you do…if you aren’t on the water between 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm (or later if the bugs dictate), you’ve made a big mistake.  Find a log or patch of bank to sit on and wait for the bugs to start hatching…and then begin your hunt.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and maybe you won’t.  But luck, and skill, are somewhat beside the point.  It’s dry-fly fishing…and we’ve waited all winter for it.  That’s not luck:  We’ve earned it.



Previous Fishing Reports

Brown Bugs

Brown bugs:  The mixed bag of spinners on mid-May evenings.   It used to be that we tried to identify all of them, but our old friend Dennis B just called

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Catching Colds

It’s been a week of bugs.  Hendricksons are something of a solo performance.  They can be awesome…or they can cancel the show all together.  But now that we’re well into

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