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June 11 : Au Sable and Manistee Fishing Report

The Brown Drakes are certainly upon us now. You can find them just about everywhere on the Au Sable system. The North Branch, South Branch, and Mainstream all have bugs and anglers on the Manistee River as well as most of the Northern Tier streams are start starting find drakes as well.

Dave with a whopper. Dave with a whopper.

I’m having a great drake year. Only one skunk on good fish since June 2nd. Be patient out there and you will have that too.

That big fish gets up if you let him. Biker Dave and I almost left the other night after Dave got a big one early. We watched the bugs fly back to the trees and watched the river go silent. Tigers were on and we almost left but for the half can of swill left in our beers. No kidding, we were a couple of sips from leaving and four big ones got up. How we didn’t tangle hooked trout around each other is a lucky feat and a mystery.

That said, avoid the Pigeon River. While the Black and Sturgeon are in good shape, and seeing a few drakes, the Pigeon is too dirty to fish below Song of the Morning Ranch. The dam removal is underway. I went up there to fish this past week and it just can’t happen. While it stings a bit right now (being June), overall this will be a great boon for one of my favorite rivers for the rest of our lives. I’m happy it’s happening, but I wish they would have waited to do a draw down when the water is naturally lower in August. Oh well, what do I know—I’m just a fisherman . . . at least it’s getting done.

Daytimer on a trip with Alex Daytimer on a trip with Alex

While most fishermen are rightly anticipating the main event of a massive mating flight right around dusk, some are also finding success fishing up winged patterns during the daytime. Even if the flies aren’t all over the water, careful anglers are plying all the likely haunts and lies and are fooling a some better trout. The guides had a nice afternoon earlier this week, and caught teen size browns doing just that.

When the fish aren’t freely rising, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fish aren’t hungry, it just means that there aren’t bugs on the water. So your job is to put one on the water. Keep it super close to the cover or just on the inside of the current breaks. This stuff is only one part luck, and two parts skill . . . make them an offer they just can’t refuse. When you’ve got that fly pattern floating perfectly, raise your rod tip just a bit and try to twitch the fly just an inch. Just an inch. There’s lots of product out there to help you do this. Put your Gink on and then buy some powder and douse your fly with that. You do that and you’ll be fishing the fly as a living insect. The strike is often explosive.

Happy couple catching in the daylight! Happy couple catching in the daylight!

Then hang on because the fish are ultra-strong this year. All the high, cold water earlier this Spring put a lot of food in the water and we’re reaping the benefits now with healthy, powerful trout. Trout that normally make three or four runs and thump doggedly toward the bottom on normal years are making six or eight strong runs and even the biggest fish are sometimes giving us a jump or two. I hooked a big one the other day that kept the rod bent to the cork and peeled drag from the reel on half a dozen runs before jumping twice and finally coming to hand.

Be ready for the next hatches to become ever more important over this coming week. Gray Drakes and Isonychia have joined the crowd and as their number increase, so will angling with those patterns. No Hex yet. No Iris blooming. And they’re not on Margerethe. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t keep one or two in my drake box. They’re probably a week to ten days out, anyway from hatching in the Upper River. Sign up to get the newsletter . . . I’ll try to get an alert out as soon as we see one.

If you’re looking to do something a little different during the daytime, head to a Michigan coastline and check out the shallow water carp action. That’s right carp. While not usually considered a prize gamefish, they are a lot of fun. Anlgers wade the flats and sight fish to the big, ugly bruisers. Many call them golden bonefish and approach the game just as they would fishing for bonefish in the Bahamas. Except, of course, the water is way colder and there aren’t any sharks or sting rays to be concerned with. That’s one of the things I love about Michigan, not much bites you other than mosquitos.

The fish are wary, so land your fly four or five feet in front of the cruising behemouths and give it a twitch just as the fish is nearly on it . . . when his gills flare, he’s eaten it and a twenty pounder makes some ripping runs.

Al resting client Dan's whopper for a healthy release. Al resting client Dan's whopper for a healthy release.

As an added bonus, you can often find some huge smallmouth out there as well. And, no kidding, if it weren’t for trout, I’d fish for smallmouth bass with a fly every year at this time. They eat the fly like candy and fight like mules. They’re almost as cool as my friend the bluegill.

On a personal note of pride, I’m becoming a mosquito ninja! Not the slightly odd Tom cruise samurai character in that movie, but more like the sweet Japanese character in that movie that thinks in haikus and kicks ass.
One haiku I found online went:

Mosquito, you tried

The attempt in the end though . . .

Was naught but failure.

Couldn’t find the author, but thank you sir or madam.

My deet regimine become militaristic, lock-step, and precise. My designated fishing hat and shirt are soaked, and though some would say they’re ruined, have become a welcome shield of samurai armor.

Yep they’re still aweful, but I’ve quit flailing at them like an asylum escapee and have developed a zen-like quietness while the audible hum of my bug halo deadens the nicer sounds of nature. Even though my hair is getting grayer and my eyes are getting weaker, I’m at a point where I can snatch them from the air and don’t even have to look at my closed fist to confirm my success with a squished, bug corpse. I snapped one dead with my thumb and forefinger in my car this morning.

Who is that masked man?  When yhou catch a giant brook trout, you have to hide your identity so folks don't follow you to the spot.  The guides take a ton of pics, but Jamie sent htis one out to all of us as soon as his client landed it.  Big brook trout are super special. Who is that masked man? When yhou catch a giant brook trout, you have to hide your identity so folks don't follow you to the spot. The guides take a ton of pics, but Jamie sent htis one out to all of us as soon as his client landed it. Big brook trout are super special.

There’s always a swarm in my car each morning . They invade from through the open tailgate the night before. You can tell the veteran Au Sable Anglers at the landing each night. Not by their stories of fishing success. Not by their scraggly beards. They’re the ones that turn off all the interior lights before take open the all the doors and peel off their waders.

Who is that masked man? When yhou catch a giant brook trout, you have to hide your identity so folks don't follow you to the spot. The guides take a ton of pics, but Jamie sent htis one out to all of us as soon as his client landed it. Big brook trout are super special.

We’ll see you on the river,

Andy

Sean taking a sunset drake pic. Sean taking a sunset drake pic.

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