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August 7 : Au Sable and Manistee River Report

It’s no secret that big trout like to hunt under the cover of darkness.  In Michigan trout streams, brown trout are the apex predators.

The lunkers hunker in log tangled lairs all day long just waiting for nightfall to blanket the earth.  Once it does, the browns become the kings of their watery world.

They slip out into the main river and stalk the currents for anything that can fit into their mouth.

Of course, smaller trout, chubs, and crayfish fit that bill, but that’s not all that sets the table.

Frogs and mice make for meaty treats on a trophy trout’s menu.  Frogs, being water centric may seem obvious fare, but mice might sound strange fodder to the occasional angler.

For the seasoned, trophy trout, fly angler, they are essential tools.  You might wonder how often could mice really be out swimming the river and available for trout to eat.

Well, one taxidermist friend of mine, once pulled four black voles out of the belly of a beastly brown trout that a client turned in to be immortalized.

It happens more than you think.

Why are the mice in the river?  Well, one reason may be that they eat the tender shoots and bases of the riverside grasses and sometimes get washed into the water.

But that happenstance doesn’t explain the regularity of an event that put four mice in the gullet of one trout.  And a small chance encounter doesn’t explain why trout seem to be targeting the furry critters.  The fact is that mice cross the river.  I’ve seen it.

IMG_20140807_102528_046For whatever reason, a mouse started out into the river, slid out into the current, and sputtered across the stream slowly sometimes and then in gurgly fits until it reached the other bank.  That one made it. Many don’t.  Why did he do it?  Maybe like the proverbial chicken, he just wanted to get to the other side.

One of the great benefits of fly fishing is that you don’t have to deal with bait.  It’s nice enough not having to deal with the “Oooo” factor of a leech or the worm crap under your fingernails, but it’s certainly true with this sort of fishing—I can’t imagine going out there with a bucket full of field mice.  Not sure how that rig would look or if it’s even legal.

Regardless, if you want to try your hand at landing a truly big trout this time of year, mousing is your surest bet.

You’ll want to gear up for this type of fishing.  Six or seven weights are perfectly acceptable, but some guys will even shoot up to an eight weight.  And you want a rod that has a soft enough tip to load at close distance, but retains a stout mid-section and butt for hook setting power and fish fighting ability.

I’ve got lots of suggestions here . . . just ask.  I’m a huge proponent of the right rod for the right situation.  Rod size is important here for two reasons.  First, you’ll want a rod that can handle the battle of a trout that is not only big, but rarely hooked and will be angry once he pinned.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll want a line heavy enough to punch a really big fly into the darkest shadows.  You’ve gotta think about fly lines as weight.

IMG952014080695172759It doesn’t matter if they float or sink, all fly lines have weight.  Think of weight as inertia.  Once you get something big moving, it can move something else big.  It’s sorta like the idea that a big hammer moves a big nail better.  You would frame a house with a tack hammer, after all.  And they’re not all created equally.

Any line you have will work, but if you want to really hone your game fish a taper that is engineered to specifically push big stuff over.  Powerfly tapers, nymph tapers, bass and pike tapers all work equally well and will serve you better in your warm water endeavors.  If you just don’t have the dough to fork over for such a line, chop the tip off a line you don’t really use much . . . get back into the taper and it’ll help turn over the beefy chunks of fly you’ll be using.  It won’t be perfect and you’ll ruin the line (and hurt the line designer’s feelings) but it’ll help.

Then you’ve gotta think about leaders and tippet.  This isn’t 3x stuff.  This is aggressive fishing for aggressive trout.  You have to go big.  I say the heavier the better.  Get on 0x.  And make it something stiff with very little stretch.

Not only do you have to try to pull a bug trout away from the brush, you’ve got to set a stout hook.   A low stretch leader will help with that.  Fluorocarbon isn’t a bad choice.  It allows for positive hook sets and lasts forever.  Just mind you knots.  Flouro requires extra care and even extra turns when it comes to knots.

Knots are always important and that’s especially true when trophy fishing.  You don’t want a knot to slip when you’ve got your best trout of the year on the line.  A good improved clinch is a great knot, jut use extra turns with the clinch.

But there are better options.  A palomar knot is a good one.  Even a great one.  Any good loop knot should be considered.  One of the advantages of using a loop knot with heavy tippet on a big eyed hooklike the hooks we use to tie night flies, is that the heavy material will retain the shape of the loop and let the fly swing back and forth more naturally.

Then it just comes down to retrieve and when to go.  I’ll always say that the best time to go is when you can.  But if you could choose, you’d book a guide on the new moon swings.  The rule of thumb is the darker the night, the better the fishing.   This August that means plus or minus the 25th.  Full moons are worthwhile too, though.  You’ll just change your patterns a bit.  We tend to like lighter or brighter colored flies then.  And we’ll go underwater some as well.

The retrieve is on you.  This is where you have to be an angler.  Slowly swinging flies work.  Dead drifted flies work.  Flies blooped here and there elicit strikes.  And I’ve even had luck actively popping bugs.  You’ve just got to try everything and see what works for you on any given night.

So that’s night fishing.  Get out after dark and stay all night if you can.

You’ll either wonder why you never did it before or you’ll wonder why you ever did it this this time.  Its rewards are great, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

If it’s not your thing, you’re in luck . . . there’s lots to do up here right now.

This is about as good as late Summer fishing gets.  We’ve got tricos and olives on all branches in the mornings and good olive and cahill spinners in the evenings.  Plus we’re still seeing some yellow stoneflies and caddis in the evenings as well.  You get out there, especially in the mornings, and you’ll have rising fish and targets of opportunity.

Hopper and attractor dry fly fishing during the day continues to hold up, especially if you cover lots of water.  I can’t say we’re wearing them out, but we’re finding our share.  Donnie and I hit a short stretch the other day and had maybe 20 bites and landing half as many.  Most were brookies but Donnie did hook up with a solid 12 inch brown.  Not bad during the heat of an 80 degree day.  I know I had a great time.  I just love pushing those rubber legged bugs around.

And don’t forget to wet fly fish.  We disregard it too much.  If you fish a dropper, you’ll increase your catch.  Take that to heart during tiny olive and trico hatches.  You can fish a caddis or #16 olive with a tiny little trico or olive nymph and catch many more fish.

White flies in Mio are on the horizon.  I’ve heard a few reports but the main event is in front of us.

Well that’s it for this time.  Thanks for taking the time to check in.

Take a little more time and poke around the website.  It’s pretty cool.  We’ve got miles to go before it’s perfect, but we’re always working on it.

Hope to see you soon—season is going by so fast.

Andy

 

 AUDIO REPORT

OrsonWells OLD AU SABLE REPORT 0807

Click Orson or here for the audio report!

Comments

  • Marv Miller

    Andy, Nice write up as always. Always gets me pumped and looking forward to my next trip.

    Reply
  • mike byrd

    Nice article Andy. Time to get the night thing going.

    Reply
  • Pat Humphrey

    I love your new website. It is well organized, easy to navigate, and full of interesting and helpful information ... Including the fishing reports... Thanks also for your personal and friendly service in the shop. Thanks for everything!

    Reply
    • Pat, thanks for the kind words, its a big project for us that we're just getting going on. The thanks need to go to you and your brother for being such good friends & clients.

      Reply
  • Tim Cronk

    Great write up Andy! You are right, mousing can be very productive. Just before leaving for Afghanistan in mid June, I was on the Manistee south of 612 one night and hooked 4 respectable Browns in the span of 2 hours on a mouse. What a hoot!

    Reply
    • Tim, it sounds crazy to some but it really is a great way to catch a trout of your life. See you soon.

      Reply
  • Old Au Sable

    Hey Guys, We had trouble posting the report last Thursday and while we're still working on getting it up, I'd be happy to e-mail you a copy. Just shoot me a message at andy@oldausable.com and I'll get you the August 14th report. On another note, the white flies have started to a degree . . . Thank you, Andy

    Reply
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