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Weather and Moon Phase
Weather and Moon


Stream Flow Data
Stream Flow Data

Fishing Report

Fishing Report

Me Like Foam

07/23/14 Good things: hugs, 4-wheel drive, and cloudy days in July. Today we ditched the weekend heat. The clouds were forecast to burn off by noon, but they hung around until 5 pm. From dawn streamers to six hours of rising trout to some partly-cloudy foam fly fishing (see above) today was the sort of day where rising trout become a given. Ah, if it were always so good.

The thing it, it has been so good. From some first time night fishers from Ohio who proudly showed the tooth marks in their gurgler, to the small fly fanatics that are running around the skinny water, to the skunking purists that will fish anything as long as it has rubber legs ("flies made by Goodyear," as Rusty liked to say), to the guys who have eschewed sleep completely for the pleasure of July, which is fishing that extends from dawn to dawn, punctuated only by hurried hours at the vise to either fill boxes or pay for more time on the water. What a fine time to be a trout bum. What a fine time to enjoy partly cloudy skies and mostly empty rivers.

It's also a great time to work in a fly shop. The pace slows. Trout trips can leave at anytime in July, from 5 am to 5 pm, for fish eating everything from #28s to #2/0s.

Over noon coffee, Terry gave his report on the morning rise, while Scott shared his night fishing story:

"John fell in, Colin's rod got broken, and I hooked a muskrat."

I love this sort of thing.

The summer is a time for new anglers to become better at what they do. The trout, while usually smaller during the day, are willing risers and offer positive reinforcement. Cast, mend, follow with the rod, and...

The morning olives are as good as they get, hatching throughout these cooler days and returning to the water just after dinner. They are mingling with the hatches and often simultaneous spinnerfalls of the Fly-Formerly-Known-As-Psuedocleon, always known as the green curse, and otherwise known as a #24-#28 blue wing olive. They are being joined by tricos on all three branches of river, light cahills, plenty of Isonychia, some yellow sallies, a few backwater caddis (the likely explanation for any cartwheeling small fish near the bank), and the hebe (a light colored mayfly that hatches out of the puckerbrush).

Night fishers were enjoying the heat and dark nights, but even the cooler nights can be good just after dark. Gurglers, Houghton Lake Specials, and a variety of mouse and frog imitations have been moving fish. The key to night fishing isn't the fly, I don't think. It's careful casting and even more careful wading and faith that every cast matters, is important, and could get eaten. There appear to be a lot of big fish in the system this year, with several reported near, at or beyond the two-foot mark these last two weeks.

I've been sticking with the daytime "skunking" -- hitting the wood, bubble lines and undercut banks. I just enjoy the challenge of a day on our rivers: from casting, to the drift, to the fly (or, as is often the case, flies: dry and dropper, or double dry). To twitch or not to twitch? To go big and swing for the fences, or split the difference with something smaller? To match the hatch or fish the wrong, highly visible fly right through it? These are precisely the kind of questions that don't keep me up at night. Not because they aren't fun to think about, but because they are!

2014 is and will be a special summer. And one only has to remember 2012 to remember just how difficult the "second season" can be, with high temperatures, low water, and nervous trout. This summer has been precisely the opposite. Wake up and fish dawn streamers. Grab a coffee and hit the morning rise. Take a wade and twitch flies along the banks. Spend some time by the water for sunset and the evening spinner fall. Or hit the water just after dark for a night of mousing. Sleep is for the winter.


Canoe Race Weekend Warning: This Saturday is the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon, which follows the mainstream of the Au Sable from Grayling to Huron. A lot of people will say it's not a good weekend to fish. But I say blah. Fish the South Branch. No one will be there except a few other anglers and some trout. The race runs from 9 pm - 12 am in the upper water. Many of the bridge roads are closed after 8 pm. If this race is anything like the Spike's Challenge, which was this past Sunday, the wake from the canoes will stir up the mainstream to the point that Sunday morning and afternoon would be best spent by fly anglers on the North, South or Manistee.


Upcoming Fly Fishing Schools

August 3: "Fishing through the Hatch and Non-Hatch Periods"

August 22-24: Weekend Fly Fishing School

Our schools have been a huge hit and well-reviewed. They are also very affordable. For more information visit: To sign up, email or call the shop 989 348 8462.


The Midnight Derby, and the Kids One Fly (Box) Challenge
We have two super events coming soon, both on August 9th. First we have the Kid's One Fly Box Challenge -- an awesome morning that includes free casting lessons for kids up to 17 years old. This is followed by time on the river with a chaperone guide (parents usually accompany kids and chaperones to the river), a free lunch back at the lodge, casting games and prizes. Later that same night, we'll be hosting the 3rd Annual Midnight Derby: a now annual fundraising one-fly competiton that begins at 7 pm and ends at 3 am. Some folks take this seriously. Some are just there to be a part of something cool that is raising money for a TU Chapter that has worked against all odds to have a destructive dam removed from the Pigeon River. A huge barbecue, live music, prizes, and a long-burning campfire make this annual event a night to remember.


The Midnight Derby, August 9, 2014

The Third Annual Midnight Derby: "The Full Moon Year", August 9th: It's time to sign up for the Midnight Derby, our tongue in cheek night-fishing competition. From the hardcore to the "don't-care", this is can't miss fun and entertainment. Some folks fish til 3 AM. Some fish for fifteen minutes and call it good. Either way, good times are had. Teams of two -- each teammate gets one fly -- hit the river in search of big fish that feed in the dark. It's truly a Michigan event.

The Midnight Derby has raised thousands of dollars for the Pigeon River as it recovers from the Song of the Morning Ranch dam malfunction. Well now the dam is gone thanks to solid conservation work and tenacious efforts by river heroes, and as the river clears and defines itself, these extra funds will go toward helping the Pigeon River recover. Every team makes a difference, and even if you've never night fished before, get out there, make a few casts, and help the Pigeon. It's a terrific event.

Who: Teams of two. $50 per team. One fly per teammate.
When: Gates Lodge, August 9th, 7pm - 3am. Dinner and prizes and games from 7-8pm (or later). Teams can fish anywhere on the Au Sable and Manistee (and tributaries) but all teams must return to the lodge before 3 am with ethical photographic evidence to qualify.
What prizes: Best Fly, First Fish Reported, Largest Fish, Best Picture.
To sign up: [email protected]

The One Fly Box Challenge, August 9th
The Anglers of the Au Sable is pleased to announce the 2nd Annual One Fly Box Challenge for young anglers 17 years and younger. All participants will receive a complimentary fly box with donated flies and, if needed, volunteer chaperones to take them to the river (or pond, or lake, or creek) for a morning of fishing. Awards! Prizes! Anglers must use the flies in their box of choice.

9 am: Meet at Gates Lodge/announcements/free casting lessons
10:30 am: Go fishing!
2 pm: Lunch, drinks, awards

This is one very best ways for young anglers to experience fly fishing. We will provide as many waders as possible (we can't satisfy every need, but wet wading isn't so bad that time of year either!) and fly rods as well.

To sign your kids up, or to volunteer to take a kid fishing, please send emails to [email protected]


The River: a movie all about the Au Sable

To View the Trailer:

To order, visit our online store at:


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: