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Fishing Report

Fishing Report

Free Fly Tying Saturday, this Saturday, February 28, 10 am - 2 pm. Info below Fishing Report...

02/25/15 It wasn't a fine day for fly fishing. But it was a finer day for fly fishing than the others. So we went. Positive double digits means something after a week of negative double digits. So we could overlook the wind and blowing snow, smile while chipping ice from the guides, ignore the fact that I forgot I wasn't wearing waders while launching the boat and soaked my feet, laugh about frozen anchor ropes, and not mind at all that we needed a 100 foot tow rope to yank the boat out of the river at the end of the day.

It's easy to know it's winter still up here. Guide Jimmy told me today that he watched a coyote run right down the frozen North Branch from his house window...trailed by two coyote dogs. Now that's winter.

There isn't a lot of open water up here right now:

The Manistee is frozen bank to bank

So when you know of some open water, you go for it. This meant baptizing my new Stealthcraft Skiff in the Holy Waters, which is in itself sacrilegious to some...but in the winter wood boats are best kept dry, and indoors.

The Holy Waters -- which is that very popular stretch of river from Burton's Landing to Wakeley Landing -- is a remarkably consistent fishery, carrying more trout biomass than the other two branches of the Au Sable. It took a hit last winter, but this winter it has fished well, and yesterday was no exception. We started out fishing copper but it didn't take long to do what we always do in the winter and switch to a mid-sized heavy black streamer fished on floating line.

The trout were sitting in what I think of as nymphing runs. Slow mid-river currents with good depth. They probably were out drift-feeding. In the winter, even a teenaged brown has no qualms with sitting in the wide open in the middle of the day and eating size 14 nymphs. Now if only we could convince them to do this in August...

In a couple hours of fishing we moved eight, and landed three. They were all good fish. The fish Matt caught boiled, disappeared, and then came streaking across the river and torpedoed the streamer, prompting a few simultaneous did-you-see-that's. I can only imagine the effort it takes for a cold-blooded fish to kill a streamer like that in 33 degree water temperatures. Probably like playing basketball in a snowmobile suit.

The mainstream is still very much ice free

Supposedly March and April are supposed to be warmer than average, at least according to long range forecast models. I'm not counting my hendricksons before they hatch, but I am looking forward to seeing some 20 and 30 degree days after a cellar-cold February. As things heat up (the general trend is toward more 20 degree days) and the days get longer, anglers will find fish feeding longer and longer with each week. The river this time of year is full of nymphs, and the trout are ready to eat 'em. The best nymph fishing of the year is typically in March and April. Until the water temperatures jump into the 40s, expect fish to be near the head of their winter pools during mid-afternoon. Size 12, 14 and 16 bead head pheasant tails are a good place to start. No matter my combination of flies, I almost always have something that is brown, and a size 14. There are a LOT of hendrickson nymphs in the river over the next month and a half.

March and April are even more well known as streamer months. This time of year is about fishing big streamers -- even when you're wading -- and working slowly through the good stuff. In a boat, this means lots of backrowing beside a good inside bend, and then cruising through all that fast, deep outside bend water down to a good slow bank, and so on. Until the water temperatures increase, trout will be podded up not because they like to school (well, maybe they do) but because they like a certain feature: slow water, cover, food, a warm spring, and so on.

We're not quite there yet, but the preseason game is just about here. For those who haven't tried early spring fishing, it can be REALLY good... This can be days in the 20s, or days in the 40s. This can be sight nymphing, or indicator nymphing, or Czech nymphing, or swinging streamers, or stripping streamers, or sinking lines and huge streamers. There are so many little technical nuances to subsurface fishing. I know a few guys that have been trying to swing nymphs on sinking line, kind of the Jim Teeny approach, and I think, once the weather warms just a tad, the fish will be there...along with a new technique and a few stories.


Gates Lodge Free Fly Tying Saturdays:

Updated Free Fly Tying Dates Remaining: FEB 28 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 February 28, 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: