Monday, July 06, 2009

Holy Waters

I has been a pretty slow season for me as far as fly fishing goes, both because I haven't caught nearly as many trout as I usually to but also because I haven't been out nearly as much. Having a puppy at home was a big contributor to this. I'm hoping to make up for this a little bit with a trip to the "Holy Waters" of the Au Sable River near Grayling Michigan. I'm planning to meet up with a buddy there in mid-September for close to a week of fly fishing.

In fly fishing circles, few trout streams in the world are any more renowned than Michigan's Au Sable River. A state-designated Natural River as well as a Department of Natural Resources-dubbed "Blue Ribbon Trout Stream," the Au Sable is not only one of the eastern United States' most legendary streams, but it also is the birth place of Trout Unlimited, a national conservation group that soon will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Yet within the Au Sable River system, which encompasses several branches and numerous stretches of varying character, there is one portion of the river that stands out from the rest -- a stretch known as "The Holy Water." An 8.7-mile reach on the mainstream that begins just east of the city of Grayling in Crawford County, the Holy Water meanders from Burton's Landing to Wakeley Bridge and is known for its wadable water, dependable insect hatches and quality trout fishing.

The name Holy Waters was coined in the early 1970s by the late Cal Gates, owner of Gates' Au Sable Lodge, a fly fishing mecca located on the south bank of the famed stream.

I fished there once before, a few years ago. It was June and it was blistering heat and no self-respecting trout would rise to a fly. I checked out the various branches and a couple other nearby streams as well, but no trout. I also experienced the famed "canoe hatch", when some 500 often drunken canoeists float down the river each day. As one local fellow told me, the way to fish the stream is to fish the bottom end in the early morning before the canoes get there, then go find a nice spot for an afternoon nap. In the late afternoon, head for the upper sections, since all the canoes have already launched for the day and are below these areas. I'm hoping that by September the canoe hatch will have subsided some.

I don't expect to get on many rivers during the heat of July and part of August, but I'll be out looking for isonychias later in August and into September.


Anonymous haveflywillfish said...

What a great idea for a trip.
I've heard many folks who swear by the fishing in Michigan, and it strikes me as being down to earth kind of place compared to a trip to, say Montana :-)
There was a story I read about a well known river keeper, guide, storeowner on the Au Sauble in a fishing magazine. I believe it was the son of Cal Gates.
Always blame the cats :-)

8:27 AM  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

I go to the UP from time to time as well. There are some nice brook trout streams up there. My experience has been feast or famine, but I've always enjoyed fishing those waters.

9:50 AM  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

Well, it turns out my buddy can't make the trip, so I decided to modify my plans and fish the river here instead in the afternoons, perhaps after some mornings in my favourite mushroom forests.

5:23 PM  

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