I remember the big discussion about the
flies only blue ribbon designation of the
great trout stream in Michigan, the Au Sable.
The river seems to average a couple of feet
deep and is terrific for wading. You can go
right down the middle and poke casts into
pockets on both edges. Challenging casting
and lots of fish, both big browns and smaller
The dottering heads from all over the state
had opinions and when it was all over, it
happened. The Main stream was designated 'flies
only.' A stretch down from the town is even
nick-named the 'Holy Water.' So what does this
all mean? The idea was to protect the fishery
from over use. Most of the land was privately
owned, but there were many access points where
one could park and enter the water and wade to
the next point and get a ride back to his car,
Bank erosion was not a major concern and the
overall ecology was not an issue, it was just
that the numbers of fish was declining. Having
once in the past screwed up royally and losing
all of the fish the city on it was named for
(Grayling) someone thought it might be prudent
to do something. Trash along the banks showed
many bait cans, beer cans and lure wrappers. It
was perceived that if they improved the access
points, made primitive camping available and put
in 'johns' and trash barrels things might improve.
A better class of people I guess is what they
Many of the locals knew of the stream as had
their fathers and used to fish big lures at
night, systematically removing all the large
fish, both brown and brook trout. Immediately
after the new designation, this practice picked
up even thought surveillance was intensified.
It took a couple of years of enforcement to dry
up the violators somewhat. However, at about the
same time, fly fishers from other parts of the
state, converged on the 'Flies Only' section as
there had to be wonderful fishing if it had been
designated 'Blue-Ribbon' trout fishing.
With the immediate reduction of large fish
and the secondary reduction of many fish by
the influx of new fishers, slot limits were
suggested. These met with maniacal rejection.
This was 'Gods Country,' and by God, no one
was going to keep some of these guys from
keeping a few "fer the pan." Funny, how
sometimes there just seems to be no way to
actually correct things and make everyone
happy at the same time.
Today it's still "Blue Ribbon" trout fishing.
It is still "Flies Only." And yes, the "Holy
Water" is still there. Oh, by the way, it is all
'Catch and Release.' That is, of what few fully
mature five inch brookies are left. ~ JC