Ahh yes...the beautiful northwoods of Michigan; great place to spend a weekend. Before I realized that it was Easter weekend I scheduled a trip up to hit the AuSable for a couple of days and see if I could find some fish willing to play. Friday morning I got up with the wife and, as she headed to work, I hit the road. It was a gorgeous sunny day for a drive and the time passed easily as I went from Ohio farm, to Toledo, through lower Michigan farm/flatland, and finally to where 75 splits and the north woods start.
I got there in time to stop in at Old Au Sable Flyshop to say hey and then headed over to Gates as well. After a few words I headed off to hit the water and relax. I decided to hit Thendara and luckily found only one car there as I arrived. There were Hennies and some caddis around so I strung up a dry/dropper rig and headed upstream.
About ninety minutes into the two and a half hours I was out I saw my first rising fish. It was of course in one of those near impossible spots...about a two foot square piece of water guarded by overhanging trees, a side sweeper in front, and stump above. I took a minute to try and figure out how to get a cast in there and settled on a very awkward roll cast. Lucky for me it was a none-to-bright brookie and, on my third attempt, it came up and splashily took to dry which was definitely not at a dead drift. My first of the season on the dry! I did not really intend to get out like this so the only net in my car had holes much larger than this fish so I had left it and was netless. Landing the pretty little guys was not a problem, but keeping him around for a quick picture was not in the cards.
I did manage one more really little guy, this one on the dropper, before getting out for the day. That first rising fish ended up being the only one that I saw, but that was all it took. I celebrated by heading up to Spikes and rocking down 17 fillets of all you can eat Alaskan Haddock...it was glorious.
On Saturday morning I woke up early and had breakfast then took the day and hung around Old Au Sable Fly Shop waiting for the water temperature to recover after the nights low of 17 degrees. The longer I stuck around the more sunny it got, but did not really have a choice...wasn't about to travel that far and not go out! Around noon Alex Lafkas dropped in to pick up fellow guide Justin and myself, and we were off to the river. I turned the first fish not too far in to the float, seemed to be a solid five inches wide at the shoulder, but it was Alex that had the hot hand on the day. Seemed the fish were looking for more of a vertical jig style retrieve and he had that down pat. Really dug the big dark spots on this one.
Towards the very end of our float he bagged this respectable fish with a chunk of it's tail having been removed by something.
As the float wound down I was thinking back on a great day on the water with the guys, despite the glaring sun, and realizing that I had another to go yet!
For Easter Sunday I met up with brothers Erik and Adam Peterson from Streamside Custom Rod and Guide Service. We met up not long after first light for a long float. Lucky for us there were a few clouds around for at least some of the day and we had the river all to ourselves. I started off the action about an hour in with this guy that made a meal of a big nasty fly.
As we moved the fly selection was pondered over and decisions made as to what would be thrown next.
Each fish I found throughout the day was in a classic holding spot; right off the back some sort of cover and coming out of deeper water to ambush the fly as it came out of shallower water. They were all about yellow swum flies this day.
That is an eight inch fly in it's mouth still... Not a whole lot more than twice the size of the fly this fish hit like a freight train and almost got back in the wood before I put the brakes on him.
Great color and shape!
Erik got in on the act with a very solid fish at the 20 mark. This fish also had a ferocious take right off some wood and it was game on.
I really dig the camo body, long jaw, shoulders, and wide tail on this guy. These fish are made for attack and kill!
Had the camera in the case so since the sun was high and the water cold and clear we took advantage of it and got a few underwater shots. I have to tell you that these half and half shots are not easy to line up blind...really wish that the housing would allow for a fisheye lens!
The aftermath.... That fish absolutely crushed this fly at top speed and went straight in to a hard roll, there was no way his prey was getting away. Once the hook was set it was hell bent on escape. We did get him to hand but he made sure we would not be using that fly again!
Looking forward to the next time I can get up there...can never spend enough time on that wonderful river. Next time up will surely involve camping to go along with the fishing!