Fishing falls hatches can produce surprisingly pleasant results. The bigger
Michigan brown trout are notorious night-time feeders, not often hooked with dry flies
during daylight hours. However, the low-light conditions on overcast fall days and
reduced river activity can bring these better fish to the surface.
Late last September I floated and fished with a friend on the lower half of the
AuSable's renowned "holy water," a classic gravel bottom, easy-to-wade 8 mile
section of river just east of Grayling. The lower third of the holy water has more deep
runs and pools that are good holding water for bigger browns than the upper section -
which has long riffles, punctuated by some deeper runs on the outside bends.
Misty rain, occasional showers and tentative appearances by the sun alternated
throughout the day, not at all uncomfortable with low to mid 60 degree temperatures.
On this day we benefitted by drifting in the riverboat and covering more miles of
stream than we would have if we'd waded. Size 20-22 baetis were hatching sporadically
and there was occasional, but not sustained, feeding activity through much of the trip.
We were pleasantly surprised to find four or five decent fish steadily working a narrow
feeding lane in a 5 foot deep, eddy-filled run along the outside of the bend.
After watching the feeding patterns for a few minutes, we spotted what appeared to
be one of the nicer fish in this pod regularly sipping olive duns at the tail end of a small
eddy, where the currents re-converged. A traditional hackle-tip olive was floated
through the feeding location, the drifts timed to the trout's feeding rhythm. On the third
drift, a natural riding next to our imitator disappeared into a small swirl. A signal to
After changing to a #20 paradun, the final 10 inches of 6x tippet was treated with
leader mud to make the leader less visible to our wary target. On the first cast, the fly
drifted through untouched. The second drift brought results - the fly drifted
downstream along the outside of the eddy edge and, reaching the converging current
lines at the lower end of the eddy, paused for just a moment before being swept away.
There was a splashy rise and the 4 weight rod flexed under a heavy load. After a ten
minute battle, holding the trout away from heavy cover just a foot or two away, we slid
the riverboat downstream to land (and then release) a nicely colored 19-inch brown.
Several smaller browns and brook trout were landed and released through the trip on a
day when this section of the AuSable was ours alone to enjoy, we didn't pass another
person on the stream.
Tips From the Guide!
The cooler days, splashes of color and hatches of the early fall season have
returned to the upper AuSable and Manistee Rivers. You can be sure that the Olive
Paraduns will be in my flybox as I re-visit some favorite stream sections before
general trout season closes on September 30th.
And during the extended season of many miles of nearbly flies-only water through
the month of October. This "holy water," the mainstream of the AuSable is open year
around to flies only fishing.
~ Steve Southard
About Steve Southard:
Steve has spent time on and along the upper AuSable River for most of his 46
years. His parents began fly-fishing the McMasters Bridge area (20 miles east of
Grayling) in 1939. Frequent camping trips gave way to a riverside cabin and lengthy
summer fishing vacations in 1960. In 1979, Steve left an executive position with
National Bank of Detroit and joined other family members to purchase and operate
Ray's Canoeing & The Fly Factory. Subsequently, Steve, wife Cecelia and their three
children became the owners and operators; they have re-established and emphasized
the history and tradition of The Fly Factory as a premier fly shop and The AuSable
River's Original Fly Shop and Guide Service. Steve regularly guides on the upper
AuSable and Manistee rivers in his tradional 24 foot cedar plank AuSable Riverboat.
Our sincere thanks to Steve for sharing his knowledge and love of the river with us.