A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a well deserved week-long trip to a favourite destination of ours on the banks of Au Sable River in Grayling, Michigan.
Grayling is a fly fishing paradise. I won’t go into detail on why this is such a great fly fishing town, but suffice it to say that it’s surrounded by several blue ribbon trout rivers, it’s host to river stretches with nicknames like the “Holy Water”, it’s got more fly shops than most towns have gas stations and it’s the birthplace of Trout Unlimited… you get the idea.
I made an effort not to spend too much time on the water this trip, since my wife doesn’t fish and we had other things planned for the week. Most of the time I didn’t stray too far from the place we were staying. Located on the Holy Water, one of (if not the) best stretches of trout water on the entire Au Sable, it’s just too convenient.
The main hatches for the week included Tricos in the mornings, terrestrials (mostly ants) in the afternoons and some sporadic BWO hatches in the evenings. No overly large trout were had during this trip, but a nice assortment of brown, rainbow and brook trout were caught. That’s one of the things I love about the Au Sable in this stretch… all three trout species are very plentiful and on any given day it’s entirely possible to hook up with trophy sizes in all of these fish.
And then there’s the night fishing…
This is somewhat of a craze in the area. So much so that Gates Au Sable Lodge, a local lodge and fly shop in the area, hosted a midnight derby this year. It just so happened that this was prime night fishing time on the Au Sable. I’d done a bit of night fishing in the past on this river, with one unforgettable night where I was stalked by an angry Bobcat on shore for about 30 minutes. This year though, I wanted to target BIG browns… something I hadn’t previously focused on while night fishing. A bit of poking around revealed a couple flies that have landed numerous trophy browns after dark on this river: Gartside Gurglers and Mice. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring exactly the materials needed to tie these, but I did manage to tie a couple make-shift versions:
I spent two nights tossing big flies like this blindly in the dark. Both of the above patterns worked quite well, but sadly I didn’t land the monster I was after. I had several vicious hits on the gurgler, but missed all of them. As for the mouse pattern above, I tied this only for the second night, which I fished for a total of about 10 minutes before hooking up with a big brown which somehow managed to snap it off with 4x tippet! That was a sad time indeed as I felt I might have caught my new record brown trout. I must say though, from the few minutes I fished this, I absolutely loved it. It pushes water amazingly… which is good for getting the attention of those big predatory browns at night. It’s very simple to tie as well, so I might just post some tying instructions for it later.
I also spent a few hours at Wakeley Lake, a non-motorized, catch-and-release only lake that is only accessible via a 1/4 mile hike. Because of the restrictions and the fact that it’s not easily accessible to more casual anglers, it’s a super lake to fly fish from either a float tube, pontoon boat or canoe. I brought my float tube and in the few hours I spent there, I hooked up with a bunch of decent pike and bass.
Oh and lastly (and perhaps least importantly), they have lots of big ugly spiders in Grayling. Maybe only slightly more than I’m used to in the GTA, but for some reason they tend to sneak up on me more up there. This one crawled out of my waders onto my arm when I put them on one morning, after leaving them outside to dry overnight.