Monday, April 13, 2015

North Branch Report

I'll let the pictures tell the big story.

Lovells. This is where I went. This is the scenic side of the road. No, I'm not kidding.

This is the ice on the trail of grass and pine needles on the way to the water.

This is the river: the North Branch of the Au Sable around Powerline.  That's about 100' wide.

Pretty typical lateral cover. There is a lot of this sort of thing. The woods are still late-winter ugly. I like it but I don't see color very well.

The bottom: a mix of gravel, organic drift,  and small cobble in places. A little edge muck - very little.

This is the flag of the north country at the moment. Everything is for sale. Pick a property, make an offer.

Amber guys could buy a cabin if our wives wouldn't kill us. Some of the Amber guys have cabins. They're social and entertaining cabins, though. They're not fish cabins. (I.E. no smoking cigars or meats inside).

Typical North Branch cabin.

One of many DNR signs replaced for spring denoting the area as flies-only, open year round.

I swear I didn't see the branch when I took the picture.

Four weight 8' Steffen Bros. glass blank built out for me by Mark McKellip of McKellip Bros. here in Michigan. First rate job. Yes, that's a custom stacked leather handle. Mark does the best in the business with these.

That's a Scientific Anglers System One 456/ Daiwa 706 click-and-pawl Hardy Marquis clone. Best clone made for the money. Lovely line holder. I have a whole collection of these. Haven't paid over $45 for any of them.

They're rugged and easy to love. Wulff TT line in 4wt. Rio Versileader in 10' 2ips sink rate.

Handy little device stolen from my Walleye fishing gear.

I can't see to tie-up size 18 or multi-fly rigs at dusk. So: Tackle Buddy. This is the small 5" model is about 1" in diameter. Holds 8 pre-rigged gear set-ups with just a little perfection loop on the bitter end and a wrap from the little rubber nipple.

When it comes time to tie-in, I nipper the loop, put it in my catch-all pocket, and tie on to a sacrifice piece of flouro from the versileader with a Seagar knot. (Seagar Knot). I tie subsurface flies on flouro tippet and leader.

I tried to make my own very nice wood-and-felt rig jimmys over the winter. They're not so good. The glue for felt gets hard and the felt isn't thick enough and ... I'm not going into the gear manufacturing business.

Smith Fly has a new rig-patch and there is my favorite: the Rig Jimmy. I went with the Tackle Buddy - I think I gave $5 for 2 in a package. I still have one with my walleye gear. I could be persuaded to dig it out if someone wants it.

For class, the Rig Jimmy is nicer (but about 6x as expensive for 1/2 the utility).  Nice, though. Lovely.

This is an upstream from the start of my wade that gives a good perspective of the river here above Lovells.

Car temperature as I left. This is probably when I should have gone onto the water; but, it was Sunday and it's seven hours round trip to get here. Nice drive though (my trout car is fun to drive). 69 degrees.

Street sign adjacent to the DNY access point which is an easy place to get in or come out of the river. Powerline is an access point at ... a powerline. It's easy to find. The DNR site is unmarked from the road. Look for this marker on the adjacent property.

Fish? Two on hook. Neither to hand. I'm going barbless this year and the first I flipped on hook-set and the second I pulled free in a little over-aggressive surface action flippty-do before getting to the net. Very nice fish on the second loss.

I had trouble managing the sink tip.  I didn't roll strong enough to get it up. I might have liked a 9' graphite instead for the conditions. I had one, but used the 8' glass because I had it, too.

I also fished downstream on the swing. The wind was up and it wasn't a nice day for easy casting. Wind was coming down the river and so I too went down rather than trying to fish structured lies going upstream.

I did make some nice casts after the first half hour. I did a lot of snap-T one handed but the tip would plow before I shot the roll out over the water. I ended up making a lot of overhead casts in mid-stream. Lost two flies - one to tree trying to sneak under it, one on a break off.

I did poorly on hook set. I have some very hard hits and either pulled the hook or didn't get a solid set on a 16 soft-hackled fly.

I traded to a size 14 pheasant tail and had no hits on tight-line nymphing. All the action - and there was good action - came on the soft-hackled fly.

All the action also came in the bottom-third of the water column on - surprise - good drift segments.

So, great day. Not great catching. The issue? Me.

I don't have a downstream hook-set down for soft-hackled swing. I do better upstream to individual lies. I'll get better.


  1. The Au Sable is intriguing. Mythic, when I was a kid reading about it. Bummer, those 'northern flags' are popping up everywhere -- then the cabin hatch.

    The glass 4wt outfit is exquisite (love the grip!). Perfect for fishing dries & soft-hackles on top, but a 4wt doesn't turn over sink-tips very well. But, just going by the pics, the river looks like it could be approached with full-floating line, 10' to12' leader & a depthcharge rig (a splitshot's worth of lead wrap under the body of a #10 Partridge & Peacock or similar AP, trailing a wee soft-hackle on a 12" to 20" tippet tied to the depthcharge hook bend) which that rod would handle okay. The weighted fly is tied on a down-eye caddis style hook which will ride point-up when weighted -- snags less than a split shot & casts better too, also hooks fish.

    Hey, I'm tempted to spew like a parking lot expert about the swing/hookset/barbless hooks too, but I'll spare you that unless asked. Miles is still the best teacher anyway.

    May lots of new synapses hook up.


  2. I'm tying tonight exactly for that sort of fly. When I got to the river, I didn't have any wire-wrapped and thus the leader.

    Thanks for the advice. I'm going to tie some weighted versions tonight and give my local stream a poke tomorrow evening!