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.

Fishing Trip – September 2010

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


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.


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.


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.


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:

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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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.



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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

Au Sable River Fishing – My 2010 Fishing Opener


I headed out to the Au Sable this past weekend, even though trout season started a week before. My hope was that I would pick a good weekend with less people on the water, good weather, and more fish. The river did seem fairly empty on Friday, but Saturday was like an angler traffic jam. The weather was not that bad, but after a large thunderstorm rolled through Friday evening, the fish seemed to stop biting the rest of the weekend.

A couple of my friends were meeting me at a cabin near Lovells, and I got there a couple hours before they did. I saw bugs coming off the water and unloaded only what I had to before slipping my waders on. When I got on the water I was amazed. The hendrickson hatch was very thick, but there were not many fish rising. Both Thursday and Friday evenings had a pretty big hennie spinner fall, and I was able to get some video of it:

While I caught several brookies throughout the trip, most were only four to six inches long. My biggest fish of the trip was a brookie I caught during the spinner fall:

My friends and I brought up canoes with the plan to float sections of the river, and fish along the way. The first day was on the North Branch of the Au Sable. Right off the bat, my friend (who was new to fly fishing) picked up a nice brook trout on a dry fly:

A canoe is great for getting you through the skinny shallow water on the North Branch, but we still a had a couple incidents. First, when trying to head under a footbridge, we ran into the high bank and actually lost a tip top on one of the fly rods. Later, at the very end of the trip, I misjudged the water depth when getting out of the canoe and ended up dunking myself under the water and floated my hat. Luckily I didn’t flip the whole canoe.

The following day we floated the tail end of the Holy Water section. It was a great trip, and I was abl.e lto learn a new piece of water. However, the wind picked up Saturday and what little bugs were on the water were usually being gusted away.


The good part was that even though not many fish were caught, I got to be out on the water on a beautiful weekend. I also learned some new spots to fish in the future, and got to have fun with friends.

Rusty Gates

Rusty Gates passed away today. The Anglers of the Au Sable home page and the Gates Lodge fishing report page bears the sad news:

Just a couple of months ago, I was on my September fishing outing and my cheap wading boots actually fell apart while floating the North Branch. I drove to Gates Lodge the next morning, and bought a new pair of boots. Rusty was working at the counter, and nothing seemed any different from all my other visits. As one of the most adamant protectors of the Au Sable, a prolific fly fisherman, and a generally nice guy – he will be missed in more ways than one.

Here are some links to read and remember him by:


Recent articles: