Thursday, June 11, 2015

Season Two - Part VI

Waiting for drakes in painted-on waders

There's one thing that has always terrified me about guiding women, and that is wader rentals. I can't stock 80 sizes of waders and boots, so I work with an area fly shop. I get the client's measurements, pick waders up the day before, and hope like hell they fit. I had a half-dozen women rent waders last year and no issues regarding fit, so it was just a matter of time before I ran into problems.

I met Claire and Rob at a little diner east of town, locally famous for its breakfast menu and homemade pies. It was Rob's birthday and Claire decided to get him an "experience" instead of another "thing."

When we got to the river, I rigged rods while they investigated their waders. Claire struggled. I pretended not to notice, hoping she'd get them over her gut. Then I looked at Rob who already had his on. Rob looked at Claire, Claire looked at her husband, and then they both looked at me. No one spoke. Mick Jagger's leather pants couldn't have been tighter. I was mortified and can't imagine how embarrassed she must have felt. Fortunately, she fit in Rob's waders. He fit in hers. And all was forgotten when we started catching backcountry brookies on dries.

A couple of days later I had John and Lloyd in the boat on the mainstream, hoping to run into brown drakes. Judging by the empty trailers at the takeout, we had at least a half-dozen boats ahead of us, and I let three pass us earlier. I tried to shrug it off, saying, "Let 'em pass, they're all douchebags anyway, we'll pick their pockets."

Just as it started to get dark, I back-rowed up a large trib and dropped anchor. Not a minute later, we had what sounded like a good fish working close to the boat. Lloyd went first and hung up on an invisible overhanging branch. Gloop! John got stuck in a tree. Gloop! Lloyd got stuck again. Gloop!
John found the same tree. Gloop! I grabbed my rod and got hung up. Gloop! John lost another fly. Gloop! I got stuck. Gloop! Lloyd gave up. Gloop! John gave up. Gloop! I gave up.

I turned my light on to see what we were up against and the fish rose again. There was a steady stream of drake duns floating past a skeletal shrub sticking straight out off the bank. You couldn't cast upstream or above. We lifted anchor and continued back into the mainstream, defeated.

By that time, there were fish going everywhere, and other boats on every bend or logjam. The fish we found were super shy, and we pulled out at 2 a.m.

The next night Bob and Nate joined me for a trip. To avoid crowds and find unmolested fish, we covered more water on a longer float and it worked out great. Bob, who's been flyfishing longer than I've been alive, said he'd never seen so many drakes in the air. In between fish, we listened to owls, whip-poor-wills, and howling coyotes. "Look up," I told Bob. The bugs were gone, but every star in the sky was out, flanked by silhouetted trees on each side of the river.

Being a textbook introvert, this is where I leave the Au Sable to chase drakes on less pressured waters. I'll be back in a couple weeks for hex, but only for a few days until word gets out on them, too. This is your June, and it'll end soon, no sense wasting it in the circle-jerk of leap-frogging boats.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Season Two - Part V

June is king

The growing pile of paper plates and gas station food wrappers on my car's floor hint at my daily routine over the past couple weeks. Wake up at 6:30 a.m., 40-minute commute, 9-hour work day, 40-minute drive to go watch my son at either baseball, track, or golf, stay as long as I can, hit the river or lake, get home around midnight, put the boat away, shower, go to bed....

A lot of people really love late-May fishing, and it's pretty good. But June is king. Brown drakes arrived a couple nights ago. Isos will come any day. Salmonflies and dark green drakes are going. The dragon nymph migration is at its peak. And oh yeah, sulphurs are hatching everywhere. Weather-wise, it's that time of year when you drive to work with the heat blasting, drive to the river with the A/C on high, then bust the winter hat back out when you start seeing your breath after sunset.

There was a light cloud of brown drake spinners hovering high above the parking lot when we arrived at the river last night. I was fishing with my friend, Lloyd, a local mechanic I used to ride the bus with in high school. We hiked down to the river where we were enveloped by water from the waist down, and a Pink Floyd "Welcome to the Machine" swirling mass of bugs from the waist up. Several smaller fish rose on the inside of a long bend, but we left them alone, as the bigger fish usually don't come out to play until the last hour of light and won't come out at all if you mess with the little guys.

A good fish rose after I lit a cigarette and I couldn't help myself from half-heartedly roll-casting a sulphur over it. The fish ate. Another good fish rose 3-feet upstream of where the first fish was as I released it. Lloyd set up and after tweaking the drift got it to take but missed the hookset. At the same time, two solid fish rose up and downstream of us. Lloyd went after the lower and I want after the upper. A few drifts later I netted the first, then Lloyd missed the hookset on the second.

"You're cut off!" I laughed.

Lloyd missed another hookset a few minutes later, and all at once, the bugs disappeared and the fish stopped rising.

When we got back in the car, the display said it was 38-degrees. "No wonder I was so cold," I said. I've had the same pair of waders for the last five years. A few pinhole leaks sprung last year, and then while taking my right leg out this spring, one of the seams came with it. I can't afford new ones yet, but they're still better than wet wading and do a good job keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

On the way home, we made a quick stop at a bridge going over the river to see what bugs were hatching. Bugs love bridges and it's crazy how closely you can keep tabs on what's going on just by bridge hopping. I walked underneath through tall dew-covered grass and spooked a newborn fawn as I was about to step on it. Only I didn't realize what it was at first and screamed like a little girl as I jumped three feet backward, hitting my head on the bridge in the process.

I joined Lloyd in laughing at myself.

June Recap

And just like that, its July.  June 2018 was everything a northern Michigan trout angler could ask for.  The bugs showed up and the fish ...