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June 5 : AuSable and Manistee River Report

The nights are getting late for this wading angler. Complex evening flights of various caddis and stoneflies, sulfurs, march browns, mahoganies, and black quills . . . whew! . . . are occurring on all stretches of area rivers and have been joined in some spots by brown drakes.

That’s right, the great drake chase has started!

Bent rod in Jamie's boat Bent rod in Jamie's boat

Water conditions are perfect, so all reaches of all streams are fair game for the chase.

The drakes will start in warmest areas of any given watershed, so that means the lower, bottom stretches of most rivers will be among the first to see brown drakes. But you have to also consider wide shallow stretches of river where the streambed is warmed easily by sunshine and warm ambient temperatures.

Getting on step to the next hot spot. Getting on step to the next hot spot.

Once you get on the bugs, never fish the same spot for more than a couple of days. Your goal is to try to stay on the front edge of the hatch progression and so, on the most eager and less educated fish. Believe me, when the fish get poked at for a few nights, they wise up quickly.

Too often people mistakenly believe that fly fishing is some complex and convoluted approach to fish catching when exactly the opposite is true. The fact is, my goal every night is to make the fishing simple. When you have the right bug and are standing spot, the rest of its pretty simple. You see the fish rise. You know what he’s eating. You quietly position yourself for the simplest possible cast. Then you catch the fish.

That is, of course until things go wrong. Like the first I hit brown drakes the other night. A big one rose. I crept up to an easy position. I hooked the trout. And guess what . . . he didn’t like that at all. He was angry and violently slashed the surface and charged to his woodpile home. I had absolutely no control of that fish and he broke the line clean.

Keep an eye on the River. Keep an eye on the River.

I bet he’s still angry. Lying under his log with that fly lodged in his hooked jaw. A little piece of fishing line hanging back to his belly. I guess I’ll have to get back there and try to retrieve my fly. And he will be wiser this time.

So get out there but be sure to bring your bug spray. The mosquitos are ferocious this year. The worst I’ve ever seen anywhere. I’m spraying down at the truck and bringing a pocket sized bottle with me on the river for frequent touch ups. Very frequent touch ups. And while I’m waiting for the fish to rise, I’m entertaining myself be seeing how many mosquitos I can swat on my waders with one shot. The goal is seven with one blow. But I could see ten being achievable this year.

So we’re chasing drakes, but that doesn’t mean for a second that you should ignore all the other hatches. Anyone that’s spent a lot of time chasing brown drakes knows that they can always stay one step in front of you if you’re constantly trying to make the safe play. Like I said earlier, I’m constantly moving to stay on the front edge of the hatch. And when you do that, you’ll sometimes be just a night early. But you’ll also be out the crowd and fishing virgin dry fly trout. You rarely get the best of anything without taking a chance.

Salmon Fly on my screen . . . yup we get them too. Salmon Fly on my screen . . . yup we get them too.

And don’t sweat it if you are a little early for the drakes. Remember that list of bugs from the top of the page? Well, they’re out there and the fish are taking notice. There’s a lot of great fishing out the rivers right now, so don’t just put all your pennies in the drake bank.

You’ll see caddis and stoneflies on the river and you’d do well to blind fish those patterns in the absence of rising trout. Stoneflies make for wonderful prospecting patterns. They float well and offer a large temptation to wary trout. We’ve got a lot of stoneflies on this river but, too often, we ignore these hatches. Right now we have olive stoneflies, yellow stoneflies, mattress thrashers, brown stoneflies, and even salmon flies. You’ve got to have an assortment of these with you every time you go to the water. Especially, when you have super complex hatches like we do now. You know those fish that you just can’t figure out? Those ones that just keep feeding and feeding but won’t even look at your fly. Well, put a stonefly over them. It can be a real hatch breaker. I’m not saying it works every time, but it does work sometimes.

The Brook Trout are rising! The Brook Trout are rising!

And those salmon flies lay their eggs at dusk and even just after dark. We don’t have tons of them but, hey they’re the size of your pinky and skate and flop around on the surface. Sound like a great night fly? Drag one around after dark and decide for yourself.

Be aware of sulfurs and March Browns both as an emergence and as spinners. And, in the evening, you have to have some dark bodied size 12 and 14 spinners in your arsenal this week as well. There are two different Leptophlebia right now and you can call them mahoganies or black quills or whatever you want but the fish are calling them dinner starting at about 8 p.m.. Fish all of that stuff but keep an eye on the sky to see if the drakes show up. The best drake fishing occurs when the big bugs are a relative surprise—that’s when you know you’ve got a first night.

You won’t need to catch one and count their tails to know if its drakes you’re seeing up there. Believe me, you’ll know them when you see them. They’re just that much meatier. And the spinners fly up, spread their wings, and sort of parachute back toward the river. Unmistakable.

It’s June. Does there really need to be a report longer than those two words. It’s June.

We’ll see you out there,

Andy

Half of our class with Alma College . . . the good half. Half of our class with Alma College . . . the good half.
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