AuSable Trip Report June 2015

A few weeks back, I went up for a weekend of fishing with friends and had a fun time.

I stayed in what is my favorite spot along one of the AuSable branches, and targeted brookies mostly.

The first day was a float down the north branch, and I got into a few brookies.

Trout colors

And during that one evening, I got into a really nice brookie.

Nice Brookie

The bugs were REALLY thick that evening. Even my iphone was able to pick up the bugs in the picture. You can even see some bugs mating in this one.
Bugs

We did a pretty fruitless wade down the main branch, but at least the weather was agreeable.

Main

Before we headed back home, we hit the river one last time. It was raining pretty bad, and I started tossing big streamers, but had no luck. Eventually switching to a nymph seemed to do the trick.
Bow

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Au Sable 2014

I made a trip up to the Au Sable River this past weekend with a good group of friends.  The whole Au Sable system is finally recovering from the brutal winter we had this year.  We stayed at a new location, and it put us right in the middle of the whole system.

The big problem was that there was not a whole lot of bugs during the day.  The main action was arriving at dusk, and we didn’t really figure that out until the second night when we were too tired to stay on the water and battle the mosquito swarms. Luckily our cabin had a nice screen room to help keep the buggers out.

riverview_upd

The first day’s outing was pretty much a bust. We hit the Holy Waters right after lunchtime and there was no fish in sight. We stopped into Bear’s Den Pizza for pizza, picked up some supplies and headed to our cabin. That evening we attempted to fish near our cabin, but it was our first time fishing this section of river and we could not find a good place access the water. Combining our lack of access with hordes of mosquitoes, we retreated into the cabin for the night.

The following day we floated the North Branch in our fancy Creek Company Pontoon boats. Putting together four boats, and getting rigged up for a day long trip takes a little work.

gearingup

However, I was quickly rewarded with a pod of rising brookies, and my first trout on a dry fly for the year. This little brookie was enticed by a fly pattern called the Patriot.

brookie

The fishing once again shut down for pretty much the rest of the afternoon. There was another pod of brookies later, but no risers and very little bugs. We were treated to a fly-over by some F15’s screaming past us beyond the sound barrier.

By the time we hit our exit point on the river, we were all tired. It was a long day of floating and fishing. Ironically, as we were getting out of the river, another fisherman was getting in. He knew what time to go fishing. Later that night, behind our cabin we witnessed a huge spinner fall sometime after 9pm, and could hear the fish thrashing at the bugs.

The last day, most folks would have considered it a day of crumby weather, but I thought it was perfect with overcast skies and a slight drizzle. We fished below Mio, and started with tossing nymphs. Eventually, I switched to a streamer and the fun began.

brown2

I didn’t hook any whoppers, but I had fish after fish taking a swipe at my small streamers. A handful of fun little brown trout were caught as the trip came to an end.

brown1

Every time I go out on the water I learn new things. Things to try differently next time. Things not to try.

 

Montana Fly Fishing Trip

Today is January 1st of 2014. 2013 was a busy year, and I know it has been a while since my last post. I was out on the water only twice this whole year. The good news is, this was the year of the “big trip” for me. A co-worker gave me some information on a fly fishing retreat in Montana months ago, and once I heard that the camp included a float trip, and Gary Borger was one of the speakers, I jumped at the opportunity.

My plan was to rent a car, and fly into Bozeman where I would hire a guide to do a half day wade trip on the Gallatin. From there I would drive to the camp, knowing at least one day would be a float trip on the Yellowstone River. Whatever time remained would be split between the retreat and fishing the Boulder River that flowed just past the camp.

Day 1:
I was set to arrive in Bozeman, Montana late at night, and wake up early for the half-day walk and wade trip on the Gallatin River. I booked the wade trip through Wild Trout Outfitters based on a recommendation from a seminar given by Dirk Fischbach of the local fly shop Colton Bay Outfitters. I was also planning on staying at this really cool hotel called the C’Mon Inn, which has a cabin-like feel.

Instead, there ended up being huge storms delaying flights across the country. This was the storm system that caused the major flash flooding in northern Colorado. Luckily, the airline was trying their best to hold the connecting flights for the passengers. Unfortunately for me, it was a mad dash getting off the plane and because of my incorrect interpretation of the flight data posted on the flight status screens, I went to the wrong gate. I missed my connecting flight, and headed to customer service along with half my plane. The next flight available with the airline to Montana was over 24 hours away. Taking this flight, I would miss my guided trip and the first evening of the retreat. I immediately started checking other airlines, and even considered the possibility of driving. I was able to get one of the last seats on a flight into Bozeman the next morning, at about twice the price of what I saved from sleeping on a airport bench instead of my hotel stay. I would be a couple hours late for my wade trip, and I was able to get a hold of the fly shop. Luckily my guide was not booked for the afternoon, and was able to still head out even though I was a couple hours late.

bozeman_airport

Arriving in Bozeman was jaw dropping for me. I stepped off the plane, and Bozeman is surrounded by mountain ranges on every side of the city. The scenery was just amazing. I picked up my car rental, and headed towards the city of Big Sky where my guide was waiting at Wild Trout Outfitters. Before this trip, I had only seen mountains in northern Pennsylvania, and the entire trip I just would stop and stare at mountain after mountain in every direction.

After picking up my car rental, I headed towards Big Sky. I happened to glance over and saw that I was in front of the Simms Headquarters. I didn’t have much time to spare, so I snapped a quick picture and continued on my way.

simms_hq

I drove along the Gallatin River until I reached Big Sky, and the fly shop. I discovered my guide was not only an avid angler, but also a big game hunter. We suited up and headed down the road to a nice wide open spot. It looked like something straight out of the movies…

gallatin

The guide provided me with gear because I had shipped all of my gear directly to the camp, so I did not have to deal with it on the plane ride. That was probably one of the best decisions of my trip planning. I used an indicator setup with two very small nymphs. Within minutes I had my first strike. We waded up and down the same whole for almost two hours, because the fish kept playing nice. I ended up with at least seven fish on, and two that came to the net. I took the standard toothy-grinned “trophy” picture with this nice Cutthroat Rainbow hybrid fish. This was the best fish of the trip.

cutbow

I had to cut the wade trip short a bit to make it to camp before dark. I stopped at a store to pick up some basic supplies and some food to eat (Bozeman is a college town, and I was lucky enough to get some Jimmy Johns). A couple hours later I was at Big Timber Montana, and I passed through town and headed for the camp.

mountain

For a city slicker, it was somewhat nerve racking to drive through such an open space, and then drive straight into the mountains. The road went from paved, to dirt, to worse, and from what I was told eventually would turn into two-tracks up into the mountains about 10 miles past camp. I made it to camp in time to meet a few of the fellow fishermen and grab the tail end of dinner. We were given a run down of what the weekend would look like, and I found out I would be floating the yellow-stone in the morning. That night I met Mark, and found out he liked to fish cane. He showed me some cane rods, and explained that he knew Glenn Brackett. Yep, I was in Montana alright.

morning

Day 2:
My second day in Montana I floated the Yellowstone River. I made some new friends at camp. Sitting in a boat for eight hours with someone will do that. Being a fly fisherman may make it even easier. There were four of us from camp that floated the Yellowstone. Two of my fellow fly fishing floaters were Montana natives, and another was from a remote town in Northern Alberta Canada. I seemed to be the outsider from the “big city” and quickly was given the nickname “Detroit”, even though I am from the burbs of Detroit.

yellowstone_access

Something happened that day to the fish. It was like a switch was flipped. The storms had just passed through, and maybe the fish had bellies full of worms. Maybe the new front switched off internal “feed-ometer.” I’m not sure what happened, but we had a very slow eight hours of fishing on the Yellowstone. Moving from dries, to nymphs, to streamers, we moved a few fish here and there. Once, I even had a huge trout follow out from behind a boulder, only to turn around head back. My only fish of the day was a Montana whitefish:
whitefish

Between the two boats, we ended up with around six or seven fish total. It seemed like we did have the better day however, because the fishermen scheduled for the float the following day had waves of heavy rain pass through, and other than the experience of floating the Yellowstone, they came back skunked.

That night the camp setup a movie screen and played “The Movie” (aka “A River Runs Through It”), but I was too tired from my float trip to stay awake to watch it.

Day 3:
My third day at camp, I became quite popular. My coffee snobbery finally paid off, as I provided several of my fellow fisherman with a great cup of morning coffee. (I had brought my Aeropress along with a brick of Lavazza Italian espresso.) As I sat down for breakfast with a few other gentlemen, Gary Borger sat down with us. It was quite surreal seeing Gary Borger across the table from me. I learned to tie flies by watching a Gary Borger VHS cassette I checked out of the library when I first started fly fishing. Gary Borger was the consultant to Robert Redford for the “The Movie” and his son Jason was used in the film as the stunt-double for Brad Pitt. Ironically, as I was flying into Bozeman I was ready a book I bought with me specifically for the trip. I brought Kathy Scott’s “Brook Trout Forest”, and while flying into Bozeman I read a line in the book that said I wish I knew as much as Gary Borger had forgotten.

borger

That morning, I sat through some “basic training” with Gary, and later that evening I purchased one of the books from his new series, so that I could have him sign it. He really is a “professor” of fly fishing, and has been trained through experience. After our morning seminar, we had lunch, and had the choice of attending a casting workshop or fishing on our own. I chose the latter. While I watched Gary giving an on-stream demonstration a bit downstream, I was casting upstream. I ended up catching a nice little brook trout.

brookie

Later that day, the weather took another turn, and it started raining on and off the rest of the day. Sometimes rain can be a good thing, and this time I think it helped. Just before dinner I had my “Montana Moment.” I was standing on top of a boulder, casting into a deep hole with a hopper dropper setup. I watched as the hopper drifted across a riffle, and I felt the rod twitch. I set the hook, and a nice rainbow leaped into air. I quickly brought the fish in, snapped a picture, and released him back to his rocky home on the Boulder River.

wildrainbow

Later, Mark let me fish with his cane rod. Awesome.

Chapel Time:
Throughout the weekend, I also attended the scheduled chapel times. Our chapel-time speaker was Steve Mathewson. He took a deep dive into the Word, and drew connections between fishing and Christianity. This was combined with his own writings from what I believe was an unpublished collection of short stories about fly fishing and life in Montana.

Added to the various preaching and teaching was awesome praise and worship music as well. The organizer and worship leader for the weekend was Scott Brownson. He was previously in the group Pivitplex, and is a very talented musician. Check out his web site here.

I could probably go further, but I will end with saying it was an amazing trip…

camp

Michigan Fly Fishing Expo 2013

MFFC Expo 2013

I was able to attend the Michigan Fly Fishing Expo on March 9.  It was fun to get out and start dreaming about being on the water again.

My wife brought both my daughters this year, and they had fun making a T-shirt and trying out casting at the casting pond.  I always worry about the casting pond now because they actually have Sage rods set out for the kids. I’m not really sure that I want to chance my girls snapping the tip on a fly rod worth several hundred dollars, but they handled it well and there were no broken fly rods.
Casting Pond

The girls even got to try some rocking trouts:
Rocking Trouts

Seems like our family has been down with some type of illness every couple of weeks since the end of last year.  Taking the illness and coupling it with work, church, and life in general, the last few months have just zipped by. But, I am excited because I am attempting to plan a short trip to Montana later this year. Hopefully, that will force me to stop and smell the roses. In preparation for the trip, I decided to buy a 4-piece fly rod at the show. I ended up at the Colton Bay Outfitters booth where ironically the owner, Dirk Fischbach, was giving a seminar later in the day about traveling to Montana on the cheap. After discussing some packing options, he showed me the 6wt Mystic Reaper fly rod, and I decided to buy it. I know a little bit about Mystic fly rods, and that it is a Michigan-based company, so I was happy to try and support them.

What do I do in the winter?

So what is an angler to do in the winter? There are still some fishing related activities to participate in during the cold months, and even some that go hand-in-hand with what an angler does to keep busy.

We have a two-year-old and another baby on the way, and between responsibilities at home and at work, sometimes I need to stop and smell the roses. My wife is giving me a break on this Saturday evening, so I decided to ponder about some of the things I like to do…

old books
Angling Literature:
There are always some books on my shelf to read. I am always scouring someone the “deal” locations on the web to acquire some of the current and classic literature in relation to the sport of fishing. I just recently finished Thomas McGuane’s “The Longest Silence”, and as of late, I have picked up the following books:

  • “How to Fish From Top to Bottom” by Sid Gordon
  • “I Go A-Fishing” by W.C. Prime
  • “Along New England Roads” by W.C. Prime
  • “Little Rivers” by Henry Van Dyke
  • Tight Lines: Ten Years of the Yale Anglers’ Journal

    Also, if you are interested in the Fly Fishing themed literature, a new web site has been born at RiseForms.com. It is an online magazine for Anglers interested in prose and poetry related to fly fishing.

    Fly Tying:
    I really need to start tying up some flies for next year. My nymph box is greatly lacking, and I gained a better understanding of fishing streamers in the fall last year. With that said, I know what I need to tie, but just need to make some time to do so.

    coffee
    Food:
    There is nothing like a good cup of coffee sitting next to you as you tie a fly, and it is always nice to look forward to a tasty meal when you wake up or at the end of the day. I purchased a smoker this year, and have made smoked turkey and pulled pork. Maybe it is time to move to the next level and try to make a brisket. Also, I just purchased a new dutch oven, this time a small 6-inch 1 quart.

    Coffee is quickly becoming a new favorite past-time for me. I have stumbled onto some web sites that provide insight on how to make the best cup of coffee possible, and have asked for a Chemex coffee maker for Christmas. I have done research on how and where to get “real” coffee beans, and have discovered that coffee beans originating from Africa seem to have complex flavors that I like. Ethiopian Sidamo and Yigracheffe coffees have been my favorite so far.

    music
    Music:
    Lastly, I almost always have some music going. Whether I’m tying up flies, working on something, or baking a batch of granola. Right now there seems to be a large group of artists that are putting out some amazing music lately. Topping my favorite list is a new duo that goes by the name “The Civil Wars.” They have been giving away some free tracks over the last few months and have a new album due out in early 2011. If you want to check out what I am talking about, take a look at this link to an amazing series of live performances. Click here for the live concert footage.

    Well, I do have some Charlie Parker playing in the background, but I really should be tying some flies now… there is always something to do, even after the snow begins to fly.

  • Fishing Trip – September 2010

    There is nothing quite like the Au Sable River in the fall…

    day2_closeup

    Day 1:

    The trip seemed to be off to a bad start as we started unpacking on the first night. We didn’t make it to the cabin before dark, so I wasn’t able to fish. The weather was wet and cold, and the cabin’s furnace was on the fritz. Even better, with a nice chill in the cabin, we had trouble getting the ceiling fan to turn off. We attemtped to light the pilot light on the furance with no luck. I decided to start a fire, but used most of the lighter fluid working on the furnace. After an hour or so of fiddling with kindling, I finally had a fire going. My father-in-law went to watch the television and I forgot to mention that that the dish had been removed removed, and the only movies we had packed were “The Wiggles” for my daughter. Nothing major, but a few inconveniences.

    Waking up in the morning, it was pouring rain and cold. This was streamer weather, but we had to get the furnace working before the rest of family arrived. Our friendly host stopped by, and in between some bacon and eggs, we had the furnace back in action. Things were looking up, but the rain was still heavy.

    day1_papa1

    We decided to head to fly a shop in Lovells, but both Fullers and Hartmans were closed, and our record was just not getting better. By the time we got back to the cabin, the rain had let up and it was time to fish. Things were looking much better.

    The first brookie that I brought to hand made the whole day much better.

    day1_firstfish

    My father-in-law and I moved beetween streamers and dry flies, and were able to get into some nice brookies. A royal coachman streamer seemed to be the hot ticket and caught most of my fish during the weekend.

    day1_nicebrookie

    After a short recharge and some dinner, I headed to my secret place. I went to a small feeder creek, and was disappointed to find the water much lower than my last visit. I hiked upstream with the hopes of a large beaver pond floatingaround in my head. Instead I the water got skinnier and the sky got darker.

    On my way out I decided to let people know I had been there and built small cairn, yes it is called a carin, I checked:
    day1_rocks

    I headed back to my car, went back to home base, jumped in the river and was rewarded with a couple more brookies before the sun disappeared.

    day1_another1

    Day 2:

    We were planning on heading out to a nearby lake once it warmed up a bit, but decided on fishing another lake that was closer to Grayling because we needed to run into town to pick up some groceries and to buy tickets for the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie from the Old AuSable Fly Shop (aka OAFS). We arrived at the lake, which lies inside of a national forest campground, only to find a large set of stairs down to the lake, and no type of boat launch. Carrying all of our gear and a canoe down and back up seemed like too daunting of a task at the time. Instead, we headed into town to take care of business and then back to the home base.

    After a quick lunch, I was on my way back to the river. I noticed several vehicles at my access point, but did not run into another fisherman as I waded downstream. I continued to use my Royal Coachman streamer the entire trip down through the river, and ended up with several nice brookies.
    day2_brookie

    I even ended up with a small brown trout. With a few BWOs coming off the water, I was tempted to try a dry fly, but just kept pounding the banks with my streamer, hoping for that big one to slurp up the streamer.
    day2_brown

    For dinner, we headed to the Lewsiton Lodge in the city of Lewiston. Just past the glamourous Garland Resort lies several lakes. The Lewsiton lodge sits on one of these lakes, and serves really good food at very reasonable prices. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it.

    Back at the ranch, I jumped back in the river with a BWO tied on my 3 weight rod.
    day2_tioeoneon

    A perfect evening to be on the river, even though there were not many trout rising.
    day2_amongthepines

    I was not having much luck on the dry fly, but while searching the water, my father-in-law ended up with a large brookie taken on the same royal coachman streamer which was definitely the fly of choice for the weekend.
    Big brookie:
    day2_bigbrook

    With my BWO, I didn’t get any takers, but noticed larger white flys appearing over the water. I switched to a chunky white wulff, and ended up with two small brookies taken from the same pool.

    day2_brook_on_white

    day2_brookie2

    I was on the river as the moon became more prominent than the sun, and stayed out until it became difficult to tie a fly on my line.
    day2_moonrise

    Day 3:

    After driving all the way up north with a canoe strapped to the top of my vehicle, I decided I really wanted to get some use out of it. I decided to head over to Shupac Lake which is a designated trout lake that holds some warm water fish as well.

    We unloaded the canoe and started paddling out to look for some fish.
    day3_canoe

    We thought there may be some fish up in the weeds along the shore, but we saw nothing and didn’t get a bite until just before leaving. I think we may have picked a bad time of year to try and catch fish in that lake, especially on a fly rod. I finally got what looked like a blue gill about the size of my pinky finger to take a black woolly bugger, and didn’t even get it to the boat, but still had a peaceful morning on the lake.
    day3_weeds

    As we paddled away, we talked to a fisherman cleaning a fish near shore. The fish looked about the size of a decent bass, and he held it up and said, “Look at this blue gill. Eleven inches. I caught it at 40 feet deep, I didn’t think blue gill went that deep.” I asked what he caught it on, and he says… a piece of corn. I guess I had the wrong fly on.

    That evening we headed into Grayling because the Fly Fishing Film Tour just happened to be on the day we were in town. I decided not to pass up the opportunity, and went with my father-in-law. There were some pre-show festivities at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop, but we didn’t make into town in time to head over.

    While my father-in-law and I went into the Rialto Theater, the rest of the family headed into Graying to do some shopping. We caught the last couple songs from the fishing-themed blue grass band Chasin Steel, and then got to watch the movie. Actually, it was a series of short films strung together. Lots of giant trout, lots of beautiful scenery, and lots of places I’ll never be able to afford to travel to. I knew they were having some further festivities back at the fly shop afterwards, but with the whole family in tow, we decided to head over to the Bear’s Den pizza shop. This is another place I highly recommend, as they had some really good pizza.

    Day 4:
    The last day up north is always hard. I hate to leave such an amazing, place, but I know I have to. I woke up and it had gotten really cold. There was a thin film of frost on the deck, and the ground had almost frosted over. The river temps were warmer then the air temps, and it made for some amazing scenery that morning.
    day4_morning

    There was a fog that hung below the trees and covered the all running water upstream and downstream.
    day4_morning2

    That morning, I decided to read the entry for Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” and I just had to smile. The opening of the devotional paraphrased a verse in Isaiah and said, “When thou passest through the rivers, I will be with thee.”

    Soon, the fog disappeared, and the sun began to warm the water. I headed back for one last wade trip down the river. Just to the left of this island is where I had my last catch of the trip.
    day4_island

    I threw several streamers, and again my royal coachman streamer helped me catch this last fish of the trip, a small little brown.
    day4_brown

    While I was wading the river alone, my father-in-law was having luck back at the cabin. He decided to show his nice brook trout to my daughter, who was very curious. Pretty soon, she’ll have a fly rod too.
    day4_daughter

    Another year of memories on my favorite trout water is in the books.
    day2_inthestream