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Fishing Report

Fishing Report

Free Fly Tying Saturday this Saturday, January 31, 10 am - 2 pm (details below report)

01/28/15 There are winter river sounds: my wading wake forcing the thin gauze of shelf ice to crack; the sound of two ice floes grinding into each other; the knocking of a woodpecker that would typically be lost to the sounds of bugs or canoeists. There is the sound of line grinding past ice in the guides. Of releasing a frozen reel by reefing on the handle. And after the fishing, the crunch of old snow, and the even crunchier sound of a pair of frozen waders being peeled like a tin banana skin from the equally frozen body inside.

I spent an afternoon on the Pere Marquette today swinging flies with my friend Jeff Hubbard. So far this year I've been bringing the wrong kind of luck. Today was no different. I managed one soft pull from a fish, species undetermined. The only other evidence of aquatic life today was an ancient frozen salmon carcass hauled into the snow by an otter, a couple darting sculpins, and the reports from another guide of a small steelhead he'd landed from the tail-end of a pool.

He seemed pleased. I was pleased for him.

My friend Todd's first winter foray was this past Saturday. He's been threatening to come winter fishing for ages and Saturday he was able to sneak away. We kicked tires for awhile in the fly shop, chatted with a few other anglers heading toward the river, and Todd talked himself into a game plan and departed. About a half-hour later the shop phone rings.

"Josh, it's Todd. I just moved a fish on my first cast," he said. I could hear it in his voice: I'm standing in the middle of the river, in the middle of the winter, and a trout just tried to eat my streamer!

"You should try another cast," I said.

That same afternoon I went fishing with a couple of buddies and, though we moved some fish, never brought one to hand. Jordan, Denny and Grant were floating as well. They too didn't land a trout. But they did find this:

Grant with a nice pike

Meanwhile, Todd, alone on his chosen stretch of water, dutifully flung casts toward the cover and slow-stripped his favorite black streamer across the river. He'd picked a beautiful stretch of river -- a beat for which we share an affinity -- and he'd worked through the double riffles, and past the rock, and was headed into a big slow glide before the deep pool that marked the end of the run.

"He was right before the deep water, on those last few covers. One of my lasts casts of the day. Just over nineteen inches," he said the next day. The picture had binged my inbox an hour before. "I'll be waiting for the next warm-up."

One day, seven anglers, one trout...a fine day of fishing indeed.

Gates Lodge Free Fly Tying Saturdays: See you this Saturday!

Updated Free Fly Tying Dates Remaining: Jan 31, FEB 28 (date has changed) and March 7

Free Fly Tying Saturdays are back!!!! Four times a year we meet in the Board Room for an afternoon spent fly tying. We have a woodstove, and chili, and plenty of vises and tying materials. This is a come one, come all. If YOU'VE NEVER EVER TIED A FLY BEFORE, come. We'll teach you. If you can tie flies in your sleep, come show us how. This is a free form, free exchange sort of event. One of the best aspects is that you can learn to tie almost anything. If you love fishing big streamers, we can show you how to tie them. The same for tricos. We have professional, commercial tyers ready to help. Our next Saturday is January 31, from 10 am - 2 pm.


Winter Rooms for Rent: Need a nice quiet place to stay? Want to SERIOUSLY get away from it all? For the last few years we've kept a few rooms open in the winter. It's a great getaway, even if you just need somewhere to get some work done. Our winter rates are a steal at $50 for one or two people, with nice views of the river included in the price. Call or email to book.


The River: a movie all about the Au Sable

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Truthfully, I wasn't really interested in writing a fishing book, but I had the opportunity to do something with Lyons Press, which had been a dream of mine in high school. Dreams and feelings change, but four years ago there was little indication I'd be owning a fly fishing lodge and lots of indications that I wouldn't. So I signed on for a book. Several extensions and kids later, it's done. And I hope those that buy it feel I did this very special region proud. It's available now with free shipping on the Gates Fly Shop website: