The week between (is for Isos)

It seems every year the hex almost arrive, and then it gets cold and gray for about four or five days and this is what we call Iso week.  Iso week is awesome.  Iso week is fishing size 10 and 12 dry flies through the heavier runs of the Au Sable, often through the daylight hours, for trout that are rising or, just as importantly, for trout that are willing to rise.  My biggest fish last year on any fly was on an Iso at 8 pm.  The Isonychia is a strong swimming mayfly.  It must taste like King Crab legs.  It hatches gray/green and spins in a color I describe as Merlot.  Both stages of this mayfly are important.  A double-dry rig is often in order:  A big foamy/high floating Iso in front, and a Dust Bunny in back.  The takes can be vicious.  They can be subtle.  But big fish eat Isos.

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A big, beautiful early evening Iso eater from this week. 

We were ready for this weather-change.  The drakes have come and mostly-gone on the Au Sable.  On the Manistee, especially upstream of Yellowtrees, they are going to be at or near their peak for the next four or five days.  If you want drakes, head west.  If Isos, head east.  Some purists are chasing sulphurs — I’ve been one of them — lured by their consistent nature and close-to-home appeal.  It would be a flat-out lie to say that the fishing has been awesome these past few days.  It hasn’t.  But fortune has smiled just enough.  Each of the last three nights I’ve been presented with a nice opportunity right at dusk.  The Sunday fish refused six different flies — never caught that one.  The Monday fish ate on the second drift.  And the Tuesday fish the hook pulled out.  All three were nice fish.  All were on size 16s.  Drakes are fun to chase but I was happy to stay close to home and to find some trout.  But nothing has come easy since the drakes left.  So, like I said, I’m welcoming this cooler, grayer weather.  And starting to plan my Iso attack.

I approach Isonychia fishing, be it on foot or in a boat, differently than I do any other fishing on the Au Sable.  For one, I’m much more likely to fish from 6 pm – 9 pm, blind fishing the fast water very methodically.  Big trout, I’ve learned, follow the food.  They don’t just sit in a big tangle of logs and feed there.  Small fish do that, yes.  Big fish, I think, are much more likely to wait until there is enough food in the drift before leaving their home and moving, with purpose, to their preferred feeding spot.  Our Au Sable telemetry projects reinforced this notion.  And where a trout feeds is dependent on water flows, water temperatures, and the type of food they are hunting.  Isonychia eaters will usually be in the fastest water in the river system.  This means that instead of targeting some sweet spinner-fall tailout, I’m focused on pinch-points and the faster bubble lines.  This change of pace is refreshing.

If I’m blind-fishing and see a bunch of Isos start to hatch and, better yet, a few fish begin rising, I’ll usually quit blind fishing and start hunting for the bigger trout.  Iso eaters can be hard!  Downstream, slack-line casts that allow to fly get to the fish before the leader does really do make a difference on this tricky hatch.  Changing flies quickly — and having a lot of patterns (so says the fly shop owner, ha ha) — is actually important.  Dropping an Iso nymph, employing a twitch, and resting a trout after a half-dozen casts can make the difference.  The Iso is its own unique experience.  The fact that they hatch for a month on the Au Sable make them important to both us and the trout.

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A secret sulphur eater…tucked under the alders

We got really close to the hex hatching on the Au Sable.  They have started on the nearby lakes and on the very warmest edges of the river but they should stall now.  Next week’s report will have something to do with hex, I’m certain.  But that’s next week.  As for this week, besides the Isonychia, I think anglers will see yellow stones, olive stones and this weird size 14 brown stone that we fished last year, size 16 and 18 sulphurs, #12 March Browns, #14 Borcher’s Drakes, a few gray drakes if you know where to look, maybe a few cahills, a smattering of golden stones and thrasher stones, and #14 carpenter ants.  Any one of these hatches can be important, especially those stoneflies.  Trout eat stoneflies in a splashy way that can fool an angler — like the angler writing this report — into thinking Iso.  Nope, it’s the stone.

We have a couple of events on the horizon.

June 15:  Winston and Bauer Demo Day — Test cast darn near the entire fleet of “green sticks.”  We are known first as a Winston dealer.  These are rods made for the dry fly Au Sable angler, and the Bauer reel is one of the very best at protecting fine tippet.  Purchases of either enter you to win a brand-new Winston.  Not a bad deal.  Peter will be on site 11 am – 4 pm on Saturday, June 15.  If your heart desires either a Winston or a Bauer, this is the day to to do it.

June 15:  Tying Hex with John Sheets — Space is becoming limited on this one.  Three hours of tying hex with master tyer John Sheets.  Use what you tie that very same evening!  Materials provided.  $75/tyer.  1 pm – 4 pm.  Email [email protected] to sign up.  What else are you going to do whilst waiting for the bugs?


New to You…Used Rods and Reels

Aside from what you see here, we have a slew of rods in the $150-$300 price range.  Need something?  [email protected]

We have some excellent used rods on the shelf right now…and a lot easier to get from us than on Ebay.  

Winston IM6 8’ 5 wt, 2-piece:  Rare cork handle, half wells grip, this rod is an Au Sable classic.  Belonged to a well-known guide.  $550

Sage Salt 9’ 10 wt, 4-piece:  An excellent condition Sage Salt 9’ 10-weight.  Cork is just slightly stained.  Some microscopic imperfections in the finish.  This rod and tube look very close to brand new.  Well-qualified for everything from permit to muskie.  If you’re planning a trip and need a headliner rod or a top-end backup, this is a great deal.  An exceptionally good big-game fly rod from Sage.  $600

Sage Method 9’ 6 wt, 4-piece:  For sale is a Sage Method in good condition.  Stained cork, some microscopic imperfections in the finish.  3rd section down from tip has a chip in the finish that is about 4 millimeters long and 1 millimeter wide.  This rod is otherwise ready to fish.  Streamers, nymphs rigs, stonefly rigs in high winds.  Very well-reviewed when it was released in 2014.  $475

Winston BIIIX Super 10 10’ 4 wt 4-piece: This very versatile rod from R.L. Winston enjoys something like a cult following.  Micro-spey, long-line dry fly fishing, trouty indicator rigs and an underrated small streamer fly rod.  A jack-of-all trades to the modern fly angler.  This rod has a slightly stained cork, a few very small marks in the finish.  Serial number 21158.  Rod tube shows minor signs of wear.  $500

Scott Sector 9’ 7wt, 4-piece:  This highly-rated streamer/saltwater rod from Scott has tons of feel and appeal, and is one of the most popular big-water rods in our neck of the woods.  This rod has a stained cork, and superficial damage on the first female ferrule up from the bottom section (we have fished rods with this damage for years without incident, but it’s worth noting that the lines in the finish are from a rod being fished that wasn’t properly seated to the male ferrule).  Because of this, we are offering this rod for $450. 

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

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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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