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River Report - May 8, 2019

The Old Au Sable Fly Shop Fishing Report

Every Spring of every trout season there’s a great fish story. This time it’s mine.

We’ve been struggling Up North to get the 2019 Michigan trout season kicked into gear. Each time the conditions get right and the weather looks like it’ll let us find fish rising to our legendary Hendrickson hatch, Mother Nature puts on her steel toed boots and kicks us between the legs.

Our trout fishing can be as good as anywhere, but the stars and conditions have to align. We are, on the Au Sable, best when we’re hatch match dry fly fishing.  Our fishing depends on the hatches and our hatches depend on the weather and here we are in Northern Michigan.  A place were the weather’s mood is unstable at best.

This Spring has been a cold, wet affair punctuated by a mere two days a week of sun and warm. And so, water temperatures and levels have fluctuated wildly.  The graphs tracking both are mountains and valleys.   Fishing predictability has been dubious at best.  The science behind what makes bugs hatch is vastly incomplete.  And the measurable factors that make trout rise is a moving target of water levels and worms and trout par and insect nymphs in the flow.  Simply, no one really knows or can control the fishing.

But sometimes it all comes together and luck conquers all. You can only make that luck by honing your skills and by being out there as much as possible.

I caught a big one on an all wrong day. It was a sunny Tuesday and luck was everything.

I walked down a set of steps to a dock that I’ve stood hundreds of time before to see if bugs were hatching. Normally I trudge right out onto the platform, but this time I inexplicably stopped on the last step before the dock.  Bugs.  Small fish rose sporadically in the riffle.  A good sign.  And then a heavy, plopping slurp came from under the catwalk perpendicularly to the current.  A huge trout was under the dock and right against the bank.  She was almost directly under my feet.

There was no cast upstream to the trout—the dock was only inches from the stream’s surface. The only option was to float a one-time shot from upstream.  I’d need a take and luck to land it.

One cast. One chance.  If the trout doesn’t eat it, you’ve got to drag the fly unnaturally upstream and the fish knows the game.  It nearly never works out.

The fly landed cleanly and floated freely. The fish gulped.  My only hope was that the trout would run upstream or down.  I supposed it would turn into the dock pilings and break me off.  My brown trout peeled line downstream, away from me and under the catwalk.  Pulling that fish upstream, under the dock and back to me was impossible.  Downstream my line stretched under the walk between me and the trout.

I kept the line tight and ran to the catwalk as the fish arced line to the center of the river. The line was bellied some and tight in river flow.  So I dropped my rod and let it float under the dock as I clambered over the weathered boards to the other side.  As my rod drifted under the currents unattended, the trout started to jump.  My fancy rod and reel floated above the bottom and I plunged an arm into the river and grabbed it and tightened the line again.  It jumped more.

The rest is a fish picture. Crazy.  I’ll remember it forever.

Sometimes fish stories are real.

I normally don’t take these sort of fish pictures. They’re too hard on the trout.  But a story that sounds like bullshit needs a picture.

Go make your own luck.

Thanks for checking in, and I’ll see you on the River.