Au Sable River Fly Fishing Report

April 16, 2014

Sean . . . oops!
Just when Spring looked like a guarantee, old mother nature stepped in with a scowl on her face and gave us another wintry poke this past week. She gave us one more and, hopefully, the last cool down as well as a couple of inches of snow and a hard, cold rain. Not only did that get my woodstove filled up again, but the rain filled the river right up to the banks.   We had water right over the dock. It has dropped off fast, though. The river is well below our boardwalk and steadily falling. We’ve dropped a foot since peak flows and you can see the bottom of the river with your polarized glasses.
Strutting Means Spring
This isn’t so true on the South Branch of the Au Sable. The South took things a step further and is out of its banks. The water is literally in the woods.  Anglers would do well to leave that river alone for the week anyway.
Both the Mainstream and the North Branch of the Au Sable took their licks as well. Each river got plenty swollen but each has crested so careful, well advised anglers can find some wadable water to give the trout that old college try. Definitely stop by or call the shop for the latest river conditions. We’re out there every day plying the waters. 
The same goes for the Manistee River. The water is running high and heavily stained below the M-72 Bridge but limited opportunities do exist to chuck a fly in the headwaters. We’d be happy to tell you what we know daily.
And that’s just it . . . conditions are changing daily here. The water in the Upper Rivers is dropping nicely and the water temperature is improving with each warm weather event.   In the ten day forecast we have multiple days in the 60 degree range. We’re optimistic. As fishermen should be.
If you do get a chance to wet a fly around the Easter Holiday, make it a wet fly. Streamers and nymphs are the tools of choice. Your streamer selection should be of various colors and certainly weighted. Use bigger flies tied 3-5 inches long and match the colors to the conditions. The idea of using on a dark fly on a dark day and a bright fly on a bright day have merit, but also consider the water condition. Fishing isn’t great right now so your choices matter. If the water is simply stained to with a couple of feet of visabilty, then natural colors like black, olive, or tan may just be the ticket. But if you can’t see your wader boots when you step in then have fun with colors like white or yellow. Simply put, if you can’t see it then neither can the brown trout. Streamer fishing is a visual game to play.   
If you like to nymph fish, fish them two at a time. Make your lead fly loud and proud. Fish something bigger and brighter than your dropper fly. Try a big stonefly nymph or a something like a size ten prince nymph. Maybe even fish a bright trout egg pattern . . . orange, red, or yellow like sucker spawn. Make your goal on that first fly to get the trout’s attention. Make your second fly something more natural like a pheasant tail nymph in a fourteen that will mimic the now active Hendrickson nymphs.
The boys did their annual Mio hit for a few days.  They didn't catch a bunch but did find a couple of dandies.
Barring any more major rain events, fishing is shaping up for a solid Opener. Opening day is April 26th this year. We’ll have, at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop, on April 25th our annual pre-opening day party. The food is free and the drinks are cold and everyone is invited. 

On another note . . . like everything in Northern Michigan, the struggle is the glory. This long winter with lots of snow is threatening to have rewards.   A late ice out on the trout lakes may just coincide with opener. That’s great news.   For many years we’ve had an early Spring and by the time opening days arrives the trout on the lakes have already gone deep. This year they should still be in the shallows and offer angler a rare and fantastic opportunity.
Steelhead fishing is a whole ‘nother can of worms. With river temperatures warmer than the lake temps, and all this water, expect every fish in the great lakes to swim the tribs over the next week. The fish are big this year and have just started to find gravel. This is a perfect storm for those anadromous fishes. They’ll be in the rivers well into May. They’ll bight and they’ll jump and they’ll be huge.  
There’s a lot of scuddle butt about the hatches . . . specifically when will the Hendricksons be here. I think it may be closer than many folks believe. Though this cool down has slowed the hatches, we have already had some good stonefly days and a couple of decent blue-winged olive hatches. The next hatch in the progression is Hendricksons. I’m guessing May 1 plus or minus. I wouldn’t be surpised to see them over opener. We’ll see.
Another bright note is that we’ve been seeing the occasional fish rise even during the high, cold water we just experienced.
There are lots of warm days ahead—try to get out if you can and have a happy Easter.
See you soon,
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