February 1, 2018
The Old Au Sable Fly Shop Fishing Report
I had a beautiful winter break to enjoy wonderful winter weather this past week. Snow wasn’t cooperative so pursuits like skiing and snowshoeing got pushed aside. And the warm up had turned everything to glare ice, but after buying some cleats for my boots, ice fishing was on the docket.
Jack and I slid out onto the hard water for his first ever ice fishing trip. I was being lazy and tried to talk him out of it, but like a great fishing partner he turned up the heat and egged me into the adventure. I’m glad he did. That boy was so excited. We had the ice to ourselves and everything from drilling the holes to flipping up the shanty was amzing to him. It was perfect.
Then we gathered up the boys and went on a man sized adventure to Saginaw Bay. I had never been and have always wanted to go. The Bay is a world class fishery but it is enormous and, frankly, a little intimidating. I mean “where to begin?” and “what to use?” seem like huge questions. So like any modern angler I spent plenty of time on social media and asked questions like a true tourist at the local shops. And, of course, once we got down there the conditions were not perfect.
On many bodies of water that means that the fishing probably won’t cooperate. On the Bay it means you could die. The ice heaved up pressure cracks in some places taller than a grown man and opened up other crevices thirty feet wide. Most of the advice we got was that all of the best fishing was across the cracks and that it just wasn’t worth going anywhere else. One super nice clerk smiled at us and said we should go out there to look at the seven foot high heaved ice because it is “something to see” and “you’re here anyway and what else are you gonna do?”.
It was a real let down to an eager angler like me, and I got a good dose of what it can feel like on the other side of the counter when conditions are tough. It was a deflating. But we pulled into the mostly vacant parking spot and geared up between folks pulling over to bend our ear about how bad it was “out there”. Just the same, we pulled the rope on the snowmobile anyway and stepped over the seat in a cloud a blue smoke and roared out onto the big ice knowing well we’d be forced to fish the shallow water on the safe side of things. That was fine by me. I was on the Bay.
We literally drove out, parked, drilled two holes, set up the tent, and got to getting our jig on. And then the fish showed up and bit in a frenzy on lures that were the wrong color in water that was too shallow. After a couple hours of chaos, we went home just after dark with a limit of walleyes that topped out at twenty-four inches. It was some of the best fishing I’d ever had for any species. It was a bucket list deal for me. And it was nothing other than dumb luck that we only helped along by actually going. I had never caught a walleye jigging through the ice in my entire life. What a fishery. What a time.
And what a week. The rivers trout fished like mad on the last warm up. If we can hold on to decent winter conditions and get enough snowpack to keep the rivers flowing in late Summer, we should be in for a fantastic season on the Au Sable. Strange as it may seem, that ice fishing trip has me remembering that day on the South Branch during drakes with Dave and that Hendrickson hatch again with Dave and that Sulphur spinner fall with Rusty and all of those other fine, fine times in the woods and waters of Northern Michigan. I love this place.
Trips dates are getting thin in May and June for our guides, so if you want a chance at the best of what the Au Sable has to offer, call your friends and get one in the books and cross your fingers for the weather and live a clean life for the trout karma. You know—open doors for folks at the gas station and pick up that bobble some kid dropped to the left while his parent had something to do on the right. Get straight with nature because it’s all going to come back to you in May. Also, I’m going to do a few trips again this year but I can only get in the boat once or twice a week so if you want to go just give me a shout. My river boat only has space for one angler at a time but I plan on keeping full.
Free fly tying classes on Saturday at The Old Au Sable have been well attended and well taught. Al Borchers is kicking ass as a patient and attentive instructor and he gives the students a guide’s edge to craft of fly tying. You should come. Bring your own beer.
There’s a spectacular season on the horizon.
Hope you all fill up you hours nicely until Spring,