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River Report - July 15, 2015

The Old Au Sable Fly Shop Fishing Report
I’ll tell you what, if anyone thinks that a bluegill isn’t an absolutely fine fish, I’ll have to poke them in the eye.  In the group you’ve got bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish, longear sunfish, rockbass, and pumpkinseeds.  It’s an all-star line-up of fish that turn sideways to the pull, fight hard and just simply bite.  They are a young fisherman’s rite of passage and an older angler’s fountain of youth.  Let’s face it, it’s just fun to catch fish and this class participates willingly.  And they are everywhere.

We’re lucking in this North Country, as we are with all inland angling, as we have lots of water to fish.  We have the shallows and weedbeds of Lake Margerethe, Manistee Lake, and Lake Otsego and we have little, uninhabited puddle lakes in the guard range as well as Bright and Glory Lake in Hartwick Pines State Park.  Then, of course, we have the catch and release gems of Jones and Wakely Lake.

There’s willing bluegill in all of them.

I always try to give good advice but too often I don’t take it myself.  Advice like, “clean your fly line regularly and clean and dry your waders” is good stuff.  Those acts will make your gear perform like new and make your gear last much longer.  It’s easy to do.  Hand wash your waders in a mild detergent soap like Ivory, rinse them thoroughly, and air dry.  Grab a single use Rio fly line cleaner from the shop and your line will slide through the guides like it’s brand new.  It’s great advice that I rarely take.  My waders are usually muck laden and scrunched into a mildewed ball in the back of my truck and my fly lines are sticky with dirt.

I’ve also been saying that you should take a youngster fishing for bluegill.  I took that advice this week.  Jack and I hiked into Wakely the other day.  He was a champ, taking three steps for my one.  Swatting mosquitos on the back of his neck automatically and without complaining (those all natural bug sprays just don’t work as well as good ol’ deet).   I carried the backpack and the rods and the butterfly net.  You take a nearly three year old kid out there and you’ve gotta have a plan to keep him busy if the fish won’t bite.  Catching bugs with a butterfly net is a great back up plan.

We had a great time before we even got to the water.

I gave Jack a fly reel when he was about two years old.   Gave him the top half of a broken rod shortly after.  He waved that half rod into the driveway pavement all Spring, raking the line guides over the scrabble and proclaiming that he was fishing  He twisted the handle on that old click-pawl like a New Year’s Eve party favor to the point that we had to hide it from him.  All the time he wanted to go fishing with Daddy.

So he had a general idea about how to work the goods.   But he had no idea about what was really about to happen.  Neither did I, really.  I actually started out tossing a spinning rod for him.  I knew I could cast and he could reel fast enough.  But that just didn’t work for us.  I cast and he reeled but the fish just didn’t participate.  That lasted for about five casts.  Maybe spin fishing isn’t my game anymore or maybe fly fishing for bluegills is just a great way to catch fish.  All I know is that when we switched to the willow stick, things got interesting.

We waded into the shallows and I tied on a rubber-legged something or another, flopped it out onto the smooth lake, and gave it a twitch.  The gills thumped at it but just wouldn’t quite commit.  Those fish in Wakely have seen a trick or two.  One thing about catch and release fishing is that it gives fish an education.  So I dropped a sunken ant off the back and when the first little bluegill sucked it in, I set the hook, handed Jack the rod and told him to reel.  He knew what was up right away.  “I got one! I got one!  I got one Daddy!”  He just kept right on reeling until the knot nail knot was well into the guide and we tipped the rod back and, just like that, Jack caught a fish.

He waved when I took his picture.

Nothing quite like a bluegill.

He’ll learn to cast soon.   And then, I bet that next fish will be a brook trout.

On to the Fishing Report . . .

The rivers are in great shape.  Knock on wood and cross your fingers, but it looks like the long, cold winter and cold Spring are paying off with a cool and relatively wet Summer.  There is plenty of water in the rivers and temperatures are good.  So far, it is shaping up to be another great Summer trout season.

Tricos and olives are hatching in the mornings on the North and Upper South Branches and while it’s just been olives so far on the Holy Waters, I’d expect both hatches to get going on all stretches by the weekend.  It is small fly and terrestrial time on the Au Sable.

We’re not seeing many bigger fish on the Au Sable during the daylight right now, but we are catching just about as many smaller trout as anyone could want.  That is especially true on the Holy Waters—the bottom of that stream must just be squirming with little browns and brook trout.

The Manistee is a bit of a different story.  If you ply that river with terrestrials, you may not catch as many trout, but you may just find a better age class.

The mouse bite has been pretty good as well.  If a big brown trout is on your agenda, this is absolutely the easiest way to put one in the net.  There’s really not much to it.  The methodology is simple and you don’t have to depend on a hatch—the mouse hatch always happens.  All you have to do is get out there after dark and swing, chug, and gurgle big flies around on heavy leaders.  All you need are some trout that are willing to play the game.

I would make just another suggestion or two about night fishing, though . . .  in order to help your odds.  Fish very heavy fluorocarbon after dark.  Not because the fish might see it, but because it has a very low stretch and when you’re trying to make a big hook land, that positive connection to the fly can make the difference.  Also, if you’re missing a bunch of fish, it’s actually probably the fish missing the fly.  You’re probably moving the fly too quickly and the trout are having trouble tracking it, so slow down your retrieve and maybe even mend a little more often.  One last tip . . . tie loop knots to big flies that you’re fishing on heavy tippet.  When the fly is in a dead drift, the loop will let it move more naturally with the currents.

What a great time of year on the trout stream.  There are lots of ways to play the game and you could fish all twenty four hours of the day.

The guides are hitting the streams regularly on all sorts of trips.  We’re doing a bunch of instructionals for new and moderate anglers, as well as morning small fly trips, and afternoon terrestrial trips.  We’re also taking folks out late and poking around after dark and pitching gurglers to the soft spots for big browns.  Whatever the trip, we can get you on the water.

We’re going to host our Grand Re-Opening party on Saturday August 1st.  We’ll have some exciting news, fun games, and sales on just about everything.  We might not know a lot about everything, but we know how to fish and we know how to throw a party.

Hope to see you all soon at our shop on the River,