In an effort to avoid the Salmon crowds and take advantage of the end of trout season on many Michigan waters, Laurent and I headed up to fish the Rifle on Sunday.
We had some luck with Steelhead. But these were smolts. We managed to get the attention of a few native browns on BWO's and some wets. It was beautiful as the trees are just starting to show their fall colors. Another week and the colors should really begin to turn.
Fishing was slow on the Rifle and we decided to change our destination and move on up to Mio. There we would fish the Au Sable river below Mio pond. This turned out to be a great choice.
I took Laurent to frequent spot of mine. I was unloading my gear to get ready and Laurent headed to the river to take a look. I heard "they're rising" from Laurent as he surveyed the stream.
I was going to swing some big streamers through the water and had been rigging up my 8 weight with full sinking line and a zoo cougar. I paused and thought about fishing dry flies to rising trout and quickly put my 8 weight back into the truck and grabbed my favorite trout rod, a 5 weight 8'6" Winston WT.
Blue wing olives were evident and rises to them were frequent all over this section of the river. We saw no other anglers and rejoiced in our fortune. Laurent had the first fish on, a nice 12 inch brown that quickly inhaled his offering. He worked over towards me and I shot a picture for the record. Beautiful little fish.
I had no BWO's in my vest , only in the truck, which was only 30 yards away. But with the activity going on, that seemed too far away. So I tied up a sulfur emerger that quickly started doing the trick anyway. We managed to hook about 5 fish, both browns and bows, in the first 15 minutes.
We ended up seeing about 5 boats in the 4 hours we where on that section of river. The first one had a solo angler. As he was coming downstream towards the flats we where working, with fish rising around us, he dropped and dragged his anchor as he decided he would fish right there. He was 25-30 yards from us when he dropped that anchor and the fish stopped rising almost instantaneous. Both Laurent and I looked at each other and stared back at him. The whole river, I thought to myself. I guess some people just are missing a few cylinders. We maintained our composure and after about 10 minutes he pulled and drifted through.
About thirty minutes later the fish resumed feeding and soon rewarded our drag free drifts. My casting arm had been working that five weight a little strong. It was now conditioned for a bigger rod since that is what I had been using, chasing Salmon these last couple of weeks. I got it back into the dry fly mode quickly and hooked almost every rising fish I targeted. Laurent was having no problems of his own and was really on target. A small epheron hatch started later just before dusk and flying red ants had added themselves into the mix all afternoon.
All the boats we saw were working larger streamers. Casting for the trophy browns that live in this area. We were the only anglers working dries from what we had seen.
Our little bonanza lasted until dark and in the process we caught and released about 15-20 fish. None of these fish were the monsters you hear about from here, but all were very respectable river residents.
We quit fishing after dark and headed back to truck to de-gear and get ready for our drive back to the burbs. Laurent and I discussed the afternoon and evening events and shared the patterns that had been working for us. This day really came into its own that afternoon, and it turned out to be a perfect day to work waters that would be closed until the opener next year.
This section of river should really be opened for a special catch and release only period from Oct 1 till the last Saturday in April. You can help put some pressure on the DNR by emailing Kelly Smith, Chief of Inland Fisheries DNR, and letting him know.
All the "Flies Only" water on the upper Au Sable river, the North Branch, South Branch, and Mainstream remain open to fishing with a catch and release season starting Oct 1st till the last Saturday in April. There are still larger BWO's and some red flying ants on the water for the dry guys and gals. Streamer fishing should be great this fall as well.
In my opinion, the biggest challenge in these parts, is to decide where to go and what to target. We have so many choices. Sometimes it pays to be a little creative. It did for us. Hope you enjoyed this weekend too.