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> > Au Sable River Fishing Report: Combined

Oldredbarn has attached these 18 pictures. The message is below.
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This guy must of been on my hat when I came in the first night up. He was spinning under the light over the table.
This guy must of been on my hat when I came in the first night up. He was spinning under the light over the table.
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George tying on another somewhere on the Holy Water. I made him hike a mile to get to this "secret spot", threatened to have to poke out his eyes because it was such a secret, only to see us catch nothing of size there. :) I guess I'm safe. ;)
George tying on another somewhere on the Holy Water. I made him hike a mile to get to this "secret spot", threatened to have to poke out his eyes because it was such a secret, only to see us catch nothing of size there. :) I guess I'm safe. ;)
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Spencer's favorite blossom the Marsh Marigold.
Spencer's favorite blossom the Marsh Marigold.
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A "stick-boat" or Au Sable River boat...The father and son team have been up the same week as me for some years now.
A "stick-boat" or Au Sable River boat...The father and son team have been up the same week as me for some years now.
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Hmmm...Time to tie on a sulpher!
Hmmm...Time to tie on a sulpher!
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Hmmm....Again! :)
Hmmm....Again! :)
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Small Mainstream Brown caught in a run where Ernie used to fish.
Small Mainstream Brown caught in a run where Ernie used to fish.
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Mainstream Au Sable...The Holy Water.
Mainstream Au Sable...The Holy Water.
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Hmmm...a third time!
Hmmm...a third time!
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Don't stare too long at this one...I'll have to poke your eyes out as well!
Don't stare too long at this one...I'll have to poke your eyes out as well!
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End of part one. The upper North Branch of the Au Sable. This stretch looks like the UP. This is below the Lodge where Henry Ford and Edison used to stay. During the logging days this was a lake behind a dam that would freeze over in winter when they stacked the logs on the ice. Then they would blow up the dam in spring driving the logs downstream to market.
End of part one. The upper North Branch of the Au Sable. This stretch looks like the UP. This is below the Lodge where Henry Ford and Edison used to stay. During the logging days this was a lake behind a dam that would freeze over in winter when they stacked the logs on the ice. Then they would blow up the dam in spring driving the logs downstream to market.
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A nice North Branch Brook Trout...If I weren't a vegetarian we would of had some pan fryers...This boy is still swimning around up there somewhere.
A nice North Branch Brook Trout...If I weren't a vegetarian we would of had some pan fryers...This boy is still swimning around up there somewhere.
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Upper Manistee
Upper Manistee
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A friend landing a 16"er. At "Spencer's Stoop".
A friend landing a 16"er. At "Spencer's Stoop".
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My friend George and his dry-fly 14"er.
My friend George and his dry-fly 14"er.
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North Branch Au Sable
North Branch Au Sable
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Upper Manistee
Upper Manistee
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A small North Branch Brookie
A small North Branch Brookie
OldredbarnJune 10th, 2013, 4:59 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
It has been a wonderfully hectic fishing season for me. April was spent with "those Pennsylvania Boys" in piscatorial bliss, in Thunder Road like runs over hill and dale,in pursuit of rising trout. Then a small mouth outing hooked to my annual visit to Grayling, followed again, this past week, by another trip to Grayling chasing Brown Drakes, Iso's, dorothea's, Gray Drakes, Leptophlebia nebulosa/cupida, March Browns...Just to name a few of the usual suspects.

Part 1: May 19th-26th...This was a really weird week for me. I had spent the prior weekend slamming smallies with a 7 weight and the Saturday evening I was up at the tip of the thumb, I got a call from my wife and just about everyone else telling me that my sister had passed away.

I drove to Grayling a bit distracted...Trying to console my mother on the phone while I was driving up I-75 a couple hundred miles away from her.

Sun/Mon May 19 & 20, 2013: The first two nights of fishing were wonderful...I fished with a good friend, Mike (Gear & Theory here), that I haven't fished with in maybe 10 years...Back in the early 90's when Mike was in college and tied for Cal Gates senior (Rusty's dad) my fishing buddy Bill, and I fished together with him. We called him Mikey then because he was the younger brother of another friend Jim who is one of the senior guides on the Au Sable...I would tell you that Jim is the best dry-fly guide on the Au Sable, he has the same clients every year book him straight through the Hex and forget Brown Drakes as well, but I'd get hell from the other guides there. ;)

Flies...We had the left over Henny spinners, with the lighter invaria version both hatching and spinning along with the P adoptiva and just about every other late May bugs...We caught fish but the action was short lived...Maybe an hour or so in the evening.

Then it started to rain early Tuesday morning...The river ended up 4-6" over its already high state...The water temps dropped from 61 to 50 degrees in what seemed like a blink...The fish were sulky to say the least...One friend told me he had a fat Brown puking up green caddis larvae...Why bother to rise to the top when the high water had dislodged enough food for the little pigs to pig out?!

The week became tough after that.

I ended the week with a float on the North Branch with Mike's brother Jim...I pulled up some Brooks, who were finally looking up, with a flashy Yellow Sally pattern that I bounced around on the water to get their attention.

Part Two: June 5-9, 2013: This was the Rayburn Outing for the Michigan Fly Fishing Club...Probably our last since the place is changing hands.

I snuck up a day early since I was floating Thursday with Alex Lafkas. Mike let me crash with him at a cabin he is spending the month of June in...We fished the upper North Branch and had Brown Drake spinners that were out of this world. Mike had headed downstream and me up and I found a sheltered area between an island and the north shore woods where the bugs were going at it in a frenzy. I did something I told myself I'd never do. I texted Mike, "There are Brown Drakes up here in numbers I can't believe, doing it at eye level with March Browns and hatching sulphers! Get your ass up here!" He actually got this message and I heard him sloshing upstream 5-10 mins later. :)

These bugs were copulating :) and flying in the air at head level...We had hatching March Brown's and the little dorothea's...The number of Drakes was mind blowing. As soon as the sun set and the temps dropped it stopped.

My float with Alex was incredible...We floated way below the Holy Water...The first half of the float was just that...A nice float on a beautiful day...The biggest trout about a foot long. After we stopped for dinner everything changed and we had Iso's and Brown Drakes and feeding fish.

The first nice fish was north of 22" and nearly tore my arm off...It ached after...He made a run, I was a bit slow in halting his progress, and I could feel that squeaky feeling you get in your hand when a nicer fish is running against underwater tree limbs...He got free.

We caught a bunch of nice fish, at one point we had a pod of 6-10 nice fish feeding in one run!, including a 15" Bow that fought like a bulldog. I lost an 18"er+ in another sunk tree...We could see it spinning like a crock until it came free and we hooked the tree...3x isnt the easiest thing to break off when you have too. :)

I had a smaller fish do this spinning thing to the point it had mummified itself wrapped in my leader and tippet. I had to remove the fly and undo it around the maxilary, around the operculum, the pectoral fin, etc...It looked like a sausage! :)

I wish I had remembered my camera. This water is beautiful. We joked that it was the first time I've seen this stretch during the daylight since it is night fishing water...In a few weeks it will look like the Lodge freeway in downtown Detroit during rush hour...Hex-O-Mania!!! We saw only one other guide boat and near the access site a kayak and one belly boat. It was our river on this evening.

I have known Alex a very long time and our conversations don't always include fish related stuff...He is a very thoughtful younger man and our lunch was quite philosophical...The future of our sport, getting more youngsters interested, manufactured experiences for the gents who have everything who want to fly from NY & Chicago and golf in the afternoon in TC and chase big fish in the evening with a Bourbon in the left hand and a rare cane in the other...Pose for a pic with a 20+er to show the boys back in the office Monday morning. :)

Alex is a great angler and guides in Arkansas on the White in the winter...Last winter he sent me pics of 11 pound Browns caught down there at midight on mouse patterns...Wow!

Friday June 7th 2013...Someone blew the horn telling anglers everywhere that the Brown Drakes were everywhere on the river...Damn whoever that was! :) I had a great night floating the day before and decided, when I saw all the cars in Gates' parking lot, that I needed to be alone. :) A friend in the shop sent my friend George and I to the upper Manistee...It was a Bluebird beautiful day with no bugs.

We fished for a bit and my friend and I sat down and ate some GORP and talked about how lucky we were to be in that spot at that time...Yes, no feeding fish, but nature at her finest.

George wanted to have me take him to "Spencer's Stoop" on the South Branch. This was a place I sat a great deal during my bad back problems. Rusty and the guides knew right where they could find me. This drive from the upper Manistee to the South is a longish one, but we made it.

Everywhere we stopped had at least three anglers at it...Cars were 4 deep at every access site. Where I normally get in the river there were two guys. I asked them what they were up to and they said they were going to hang there at the access site and it was ok with them for us to jump in and move downstream to my spot. I told my friend that even if we saw a hog feed we were not to fish to it until we were out of the two angler's sight..."This stretch is theirs!"

Well...I was chatting with my friend as we hiked out of sight and when we finally arrived at "Spencer's Stoop" another angler stepped from the bank downstream to let us know he was there..."Damn!" Then I heard something that made my heart speed up and a smile cross my face, "Spence! Is that you? I thought I recognised your voice." It was a guy I had cleaned the river with a couple years earlier and may have shared my spot with someone I knew was the real deal. :)

This guys name was Mike as well and he invited us to share the run with him...This was great since as I was approaching the place I saw a couple nice fish feed in the bubble stream. Mike took a 16" Brown, my friend George who normally fishes for King Salmon in the fall and not with dry flies caught a 14"er, and I caught one a hair over 18. We missed a couple other nice fish...I was so happy for my friend George, he almost hooked what may have been Mr Big there but nicked him.

The fish were chasing Iso nymphs...The slashing rises are something to see. It would be easy to mistake them as fish chasing up caddis, but the Iso's swim like minnows.

My last day up I fished with the Mike I fished with earlier (Gear & Theory)...We fished in one really nice spot in the early afternoon...It was cloud covered and we had hoped for daytime spinners...We went in to Luzerne for dinner and decided to continue down the road to what is called the "Big Water" or "Trophy Water" below the dam in Mio...Except for the company and the experience of a new spot, it was a wasted drive. We saw some Brown Drake spinners that hardly made it to the river before it got colder and dark, and some of the dorothea's hatching along with a larger "sulpher" that almost looked like a Cahill? It was maybe a 16/14 and had solid gray wings, but who knows...Down there the water can be warmer and they even get Ephoron in the fall down there...

Life birds: On my first trip a Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) spotted in the Mason Tract near Thayer Creek...This time up I took the long way home and stopped at the flooding on the west side of Houghton Lake and saw a lot of birds, but a new one as well, the Black Tern (Chlidonias niger). I saw a lot of birds but I'll only hassle you fish-brains with the new ones. :)
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123June 10th, 2013, 6:34 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2369
WOW Spence, you have been busy! Good for you! Love the brookie photos (who doesn't??)! And I didn't know that marsh marigold was your favorite. Perhaps because it's always blooming around opening day, hmm? And that's some beautiful looking water you are fishing too!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Kschaefer3June 11th, 2013, 9:09 am
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Sorry to hear about your sister, Spence.

Your pictures are fantastic! Some of them look similar to my favorite river, and it sounds like they hold nice fish similar to my favorite river too...I won't tell anyone, I promise ;) The pictures make me want to come that way and fish sometime. So many rivers, so little time. Glad you've been able to get out fishing a bunch and get into some really nice fish while you're at it!

OldredbarnJune 11th, 2013, 1:27 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Thanks Kyle.

Like you guys over there we are blessed with more water to fish than we know what to do with. I do fish other places, but I fell in love with the Au Sable around 17 and she still has a hold on me. From the fishing education side of it, I like that I know this river, have spent a great deal of time on it, but its still teaching me things.

After so many years it is also nice that I have made a great many friends up there. They do try to spoil me for some reason...You know how a waitress will bring guys coffee when they first sit down for breakfast? Kelli at Gates' sees me walk in and she grabs me a hot water and an Earl Grey tea bag...Just like home.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
TNEALJune 11th, 2013, 3:42 pm
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 275
Nice photos, Spence. Is that a Roberts Drake in the jaw of the edible size brookie?









Tim
OldredbarnJune 11th, 2013, 11:17 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Nice photos, Spence. Is that a Roberts Drake in the jaw of the edible size brookie?


:) I was taught by the pros, sir! Way back in 1991 I bought a few from a box at Caid's in Lovell's with a little card attached that said Flies Tied by Tim Neal...Hasn't left my box since. ;)

Thanks again for the models...

Didn't run in to our pal JR this time up, though I stopped and spoke with Andy at The Old Au Sable...I floated with Alex...Conner's Flat to Parmalee. We had a blast. That kid has the fishing gene. You would almost think he grew up in Grayling.

That Brook was caught upstream of Lovell's...I was roll castings behind cedars as I walked downstream...Right next to where the dark silty area ran along the current flow and there he was. Are you surprised? I don't think so.

The Drakes that night were wonderful...March Brown hatchers mixed in with the little sulpher...That part of the stream up there looks good with a little water in it.

The 18" Brown on the South took a Bobby D as well but with a dark deer hair wing.

I need to work on keeping my fish under control right away in the boat...I lost some nice trout in the bush...and I ended the evening at 3x!

First part of the float we banged around the old Yarn Fly...why does that soggy old fly work?!

I hope you are finding a moment or two to get out there over the last week or so...Iso's were everywhere as well...

Good hearing from you! Take Care.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
CrepuscularJune 12th, 2013, 1:41 pm
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
OK, I have a question for you Michiganders. What is the purpose of the flared deer hair on the ass end of the Roberts Drake?
TNEALJune 12th, 2013, 6:45 pm
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 275
Excellent question. It's tied with a clump of pheasant tail at the bend; this along with the slightly flared deer hair make a nice representation of a trailing shuck. This fly was originally tied by Clarence Roberts, one of our conservation officers years ago. It was intended to imitate "hatchers" as they called the emerging flies then. This is the single most effective dry fly ever to come out of Michigan (sorry Lenny Halliday) as it can represent about 90% of insect emergences when tied in a variety of sizes and shades.It is generally taken by even large fish without hesitation.


Tight lines,

Tim
CrepuscularJune 12th, 2013, 9:13 pm
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Thanks Tim. I hope to someday make it up to your part of the trout fishing world. I will be sure to have a variety of sizes and colors of the Robert's Drake with me. Unfortunately I will be the tying them so hopefully those AuSable fish will take pitty on me.
TNEALJune 13th, 2013, 4:50 pm
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 275
Let me know if you need tying tips. I've tied them by the tens of thousands over the years.




Tight lines,

Tim
WillyJune 13th, 2013, 11:39 pm
Chicago, IL

Posts: 47
Awesome report Spence. I'm headed up on Sunday for a week with my Dad.
Check out my fishing pictures on Instagram.
OldredbarnJune 13th, 2013, 11:40 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Now this is a wonderful exchange! Take care now Tim or JR will run you out of Grayling on a rail! :) Lets take those tips private. ;)

Tim...Eric is a sponge and a serious tier...We sat up together till 1:30 in the morning, above a fly shop on Penn's Creek in PA, in April, arguing fly tying...He'll wear you out! :) He's also the guy you want with you after a storm and you're trying to get out of the woods.

I told him about the models you sent me earlier in the year...The Robert's Drake tied from the Hex to the Brown Drake, to the Iso, to the Gray Drake, to the White Fly, all the way down to a size 18...Ouch!

:)

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
OldredbarnJune 13th, 2013, 11:46 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
I'm headed up on Sunday for a week with my Dad.


Willy...The river system is in great shape...The fish are healthy and well fed. ;)

Good luck and have some fun! You need to take Pops in to Gates' for breakfast and order the French toast made with a croissant! Yum! Yum!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
WillyJune 14th, 2013, 1:08 am
Chicago, IL

Posts: 47
I'm headed up on Sunday for a week with my Dad.


Willy...The river system is in great shape...The fish are healthy and well fed. ;)

Good luck and have some fun! You need to take Pops in to Gates' for breakfast and order the French toast made with a croissant! Yum! Yum!

Spence


Mom called me today to tell me that I should let my Dad fish in my spot on the South as a Father's Day present. We get pretty competitive, so it pains me to do it, but I think I might. I guess it means I get to fish his spot, which is just as good.

I'm hoping we see at least a few Hex, but its looking dicey. At least I love Iso fishing.
Check out my fishing pictures on Instagram.
CrepuscularJune 14th, 2013, 9:57 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Eric is a sponge and a serious tier


Ha! Eric is more like a sieve and always playing serious catch up tying.

Tim/Spence, do you ever bother with two colors (or more) of deer hair for the bodies of the Robert's Drake? Say a dark dorsal side and lighter ventral? How about the parachute wing, I'm VERY partial to deer hair. Seems to be very durable for me. Really the only deer hair bodied fly I tie is for the late Hex's H. atrocaudata that we have here in August and September.And for those I use a darker dorsal side and I mix a couple colors for the belly. Probably stupid as most if not all of the fishing I do with that fly is after dark. I think I saw a recipe for the fly that said not to stack the deer hair, is this what you guys do? if so why not? One can always clip the butt ends even, if they are long enough for the body of the fly.
AdirmanJune 15th, 2013, 9:34 am
Monticello, NY

Posts: 490
That is a beautiful river!! Gotta make it out there someday, thanks for the pics!
OldredbarnJune 15th, 2013, 10:35 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
and always playing serious catch up tying.


Lets see...Job, wife, two children to raise...Don't sound like too much free time to me. You do alright kid-o...All things considered. :) I still owe the wife and kids for stealing their Pop for a week or so in April.

Mom called me today to tell me that I should let my Dad fish in my spot on the South as a Father's Day present.


Yes you should...and take a couple pics of the old man and post them here.

Adirman...It's a nice place to disconnect for a week or so...



"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
TNEALJune 17th, 2013, 7:50 am
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 275
Eric,


I've never used two colors for the Roberts Drake body; seems like it could make the process a bit clumsy. As for the wing, yes, deer hair works best in all ways. I've experimented with everything else; nothing compares to deer hair. It lasts, and I believe, fishes better than other materials. Maybe I'm a bit prejudiced after all these years, but a lot of experimenting has gone into that conclusion.

Hex (immediately) around the corner...

Tight lines, Tim
CrepuscularJune 17th, 2013, 8:09 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Thanks Tim! Using two colors for the body does make it a bit unruly. I'm sure I do it more for me than the fish. I'll try and post a photo of one. Hex's you say? Let the mayhem begin. from
What I understand a few people show up to fish that bug up your way. They are around right now here. I pulled this one off the gas pump While filling my truck up the other morning.

PaulRobertsJune 20th, 2013, 4:55 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
So sorry to hear about your sister, Spence.

Wonderful images as usual. Wonderful country -that always helps.
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