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Old AuSable Fly Shop


Currently in Grayling, MI:


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River Flows:

Mio Dam
1030 ft³/s
Smith Bridge
213 ft³/s
Parmalee Bridge
928 ft³/s

April 16 : Au Sable & Manistee River Report

Old Au Sable Fly Shop River Report

We’re just over a week away from the opening day of Michigan’s trout season.  We’re fortunate in this great state to have a couple of hundred miles of specially regulated trout stream that remains open for the entire year to catch and release fishing.  But on the last Saturday in April every year, over eleven thousand more miles of trout stream becomes available to anglers.

It’s shaping up to be a good one this year.  Openers are, more often than not, about tradition and act as a social affair more than a fishing event.  Often, the cold, early Spring time lingers into that weekend and spoils the fishing fun.  In the past, I’ve woken up in a tent with the sides pushed in from snow.   I’ve turned excitedly into landings and rushed to streams only to see the river out of its banks and black with run-off and completely unfishable.  We always have fun; we just don’t always have great fishing.

This year it looks like things will be different.  This year it looks like we’ll have plenty of both.  The trout opener is designed to coincide with the first of the aquatic insect emergences and the beginning of the trout feeding activity.  And while the bugs generally show up and the fish generally get to feeding, as I’ve mentioned, the conditions don’t always allow us fisherfolks to take advantage of the event.  Right now, though, the rivers are shaping up nicely and look to promise some good fishing.

Most of Michigan’s trout streams are at fishable levels already.  Even the South Branch of the Au Sable is at a fishable flow and for this time of year, that is a rare happening.  Better yet, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that we have another big push of run-off.  So barring any huge rains, we should have fine fishing for opener and the week leading up to it.

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Not without trials and tribulations, but the shop’s coming together, believe it or not.  What an enormous job.  The crew is busting it out and Jeff’s aged a year or so but it’s happening.  We’ll be ready for our Annual Day Before the Opener Trout Season Celebration on Friday April 24, so stop in by and we’ll show you our brand new fly shop.  Bring that tax return, because I bet you may just find something you can’t live without.  This year we’ve got a great deal on bootfooted waders at $250, but supplies are limited so jump on them if you need them.  We’re also souping up our lay-a-way program—with only 10% down and 12 months same as cash, it’s going to be tough resist.  Exciting year.

You folks really should also consider jumping in a boat with one of the guides pretty soon.  If I’m right, this is shaping up to be one of the really good dry fly years.  It could be the first time the South Branch has been fishable for Hendricksons in a couple of years.  None of us have enough time to wait for the next one.

On the plus side of not having the shop quite ready yet, all of us got to get in a bunch of fishing.  Donny and Alex had a nice day on some big water and I hit the upper river a bunch this week.  I guess that’s why my yard is always so unruly—there’s just more important stuff to do.  We’ve mostly been streamer fishing and it’s been pretty good.  I was lucky enough to get a big fish on a trip last week.  But that’s not what sticks in my mind from that float trip.  What haunts me is the truly nice fish that we saw rise twice to a stonefly as we launched the boat.  We never got him to eat but that rising trout was a true sign of things to come and aren’t the ones you didn’t catch the ones that stay with you the longest?

That was all I needed to see.  I was on the dry fly hunt the very next day.  While the Manistee is, notoriously, the best early season stonefly river . . . meaning the fish eat them better over there than on the Au Sable, Biker Dave and I ran up to the North Branch and with a 51 degree water temperature and stoneflies flapping around, hope bloomed.

I jerked on my waders and snatched up my fool’s tool and went to work on the logjams and riffles with a number 12 black stone.  I rolled that fuzz ball down the seams and rubbed it against the wood.  I skittered it across the thick bubble lines and poked it into the sneaky nooks.  I didn’t trick any trout, but man was it great to fish the floating fly.  I truly like all of fly fishing’s games but, for me, there just isn’t anything like pitching the dry.  It was shoulder lowering and well, just peaceful.  When it became clear that I probably wasn’t going catch a fish on the stonefly this trip, on this stretch of river, I just took joy in refining my technique.  I worked on bending line.  I love bending line but no matter how good you are at it, you always have to work on accuracy.  After all, we’ll need that first cast to go right very soon.

Anyway, it should be a fine opener and a great year to start a tradition of your own.

Thanks for checking in and get ready for another fantastic trout season,



  • Rob Woodland

    Can't wait to see the new shop.

  • Robert Balderrama

    I'm glad I found these reports! I haven't fly fished in almost 20 years but I ponied up when I got my taxes and bought a decent combo. I was able to take the whole opening weekend off from work (which isn't anything short of a miracle, being that I'm a chef) and I'm heading up to buttercup, a campground right on the au sable in mckinley, mi. I look forward to more reports!

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