Mixed Bag

To put it lightly:  Mixed bag.  It’s drake season on the Au Sable.  I’m feeling it.  I felt it when a brief rainstorm killed the spinner fall at the top of this report.  I felt it when an all day rain provided some of the best day-time draking I’ve ever had.  And now I feel it when I see the high water in front of the lodge from the aforementioned all-day rain.   It’s a mixed-bag of drake fishing all the way around.  It’s kept us chasing trout through thick and thin, rain and sun, across all the river systems.  Like I said, it’s drake season.

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Brown Drake Dun

So back to that all-day rain, which really defines this fishing report.  The main branch of the river, and the North Branch below Big Creek, are flowing high.  The South Branch is wadeable.  The Manistee is clearing.  Everything should be in pretty good shape by the weekend.  The drakes are system-wide and should last, in spurts, through early next week.  The water temperatures are cold right now and getting colder overnight tonight (Wednesday).  But warm sunny days and rebounding temperatures through the weekend should jumpstart some more bugs and provide off and on hatching and spinner action.  Mixing with the drakes are the always welcome, perpetually underrated, and in some ways more significant Isonychias.  This makes for some great fishing with Iso eaters in the riffles and drake spinner eaters in the tailouts and drake hatcher eaters in the backwaters.  Rarely does that all happen at once, but it can happen all in one night.  That’s a different, better sort of mixed bag than the weather.

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Iso Dun

The trout are fat and healthy and numerous people have commented that the fish have been pulling REALLY hard.  A combination of 55-60 degree water temps, a glut of bugs, high water full of worms and other goodies, will do that.  Last night I got fooled twice by fish that pulled several inches harder than they measured.  In deer hunting they call that ground shrinkage (by which a deer’s antlers seem to shrink upon recovery vs. how they looked on the living animal).  In trout fishing, it’s net shrinkage!  I love to have these trout so healthy and fighting so hard.  As much as the rain can hurt our short-term vision of what a drake week will be, the long-term impacts are excellent.  And no drake week is ever the same, that’s for sure.  Some anglers are crisscrossing the county just trying to have one good night of fishing.  Others are taking a night off because they’ve hit it every time.  There is a fair amount of luck involved when it comes to chasing drakes.  Oh, and dedication:

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Two sleeping kids, and a boat full of drakes!

Other bugs?  Oh, tons of them…but the big hitters are sulphurs, yellow and olive stones, thrasher stones, and golden stones.  It’s a good time of year to blind fish a big bug.  In this dirtier water, you never know when and where a big fish will eat.  The brown drakes are more of an infestation than they are a hatch.  When you hit them head-on, they are everywhere.  In the trees and bankside grasses, hatching sporadically, just dripping into the water.  This can make for some great blind fishing.  When you mix in the bigger stones and the Isos, you have great searching with size 10 dry flies.  Fish them way up into the banks, and don’t be afraid to twitch them.  One of our guides has a saying:  Don’t Dead Drift Drakes.  He likes the twitch, especially at the top of the drift, above the suspected fish lair.  It’s an active, exciting sort of prospecting, and it’s at it’s best right now.

The tales of adventure this time of year are incredible.  I’ll leave you with this one, shared with me an hour ago.  We’ll pick it up mid-story:

…No more than 20 yds downstream from the boat, a brown blew up on a surface eat and I immediately dropped anchor knowing it had to be a solid fish. He cast once and it was short of the feeding lane so I had him quickly strip his line back in. He cast again, landed perfectly, and with his inadvertently perfect mend the fish subtly sipped his fly. I hesitated to have him set the hook as the eat was so subtle, but I gave him the direction to set it and the fight was on. The fish nearly ripped the rod out of his hand but Henry did an awesome job of hanging on as he worked to get the line on the reel.

After a 3-4 min fight, me making several adjustments to the drag, and him following my “reel, reel, reel” or “rod tip down to the side… rod tip up” commands, we landed the fish. I knew as he brought the fish to the surface right before netting it that it was a great fish. It only got better as we brought it into the boat for a closer look. Henry couldn’t believe how big it was and neither could I. We immediately hugged and it’s probably the coolest moment we’ve ever shared together.

On a related note:  We are back to accepting select trade-in rods and reels:  We typically take trades for higher end rods and reels and try to match value with what they sell for on Ebay.  Trade in, and trade up!

Didymo…there’s so much we don’t know…

As almost everyone has heard, there is Didymo in the Au Sable.  Most everyone I’ve spoken to has seen this as a foregone conclusion.  It hasn’t bloomed.  It’s in the river in a microscopic form.  It might have been there five years…or a month.  But, it’s here.  What we can do is be mindful.  We have a wader cleaning station at the lodge.  We have 409 and Dawn dish soap.  Please use it.  Anchors, anchor ropes, wading boots.  I wish we had a cure-all for this so we could fish without worry, but we don’t.  We can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  It’s better to not spread it up and down the Au Sable and Manistee than it is to spread it…so that’s the new goal.


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

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