Went to both Goose Island campgrounds on the flies-only stretch of the Manistee. Sand sand sand. If it rains, you're stuck. Here I was lucky and escaped. I'd say it requires a pick-up or non-cross-over SUV.
I then backtracked to the Chase bridge entrance to the Mason tract for the south branch of the Au Sable.
The road is paved all the way to Chase bridge. There is a nice parking spot for half-a-dozen cars though there is a canoe launch so spots on weekends in summer are going to be tough to find.
I idled down the two-track Mason Trail Road which was in fine shape for a good 1/3 of a mile into the Mason track. It was "family sedan on picnic" worthy with several pull-outs for one or two vehicles. As you see in the pictures it too is not a place to be is a rain squall blows through.
That said - here are the recon photos:
The road about 20 yards past where I pulled over. Full-sized SUV or Jeep. No doubt. The ruts are about a foot deep. The mud is slippery as snot. I almost fell in a little spot off camera as I walked up!
Example trail segment. Nice pathways. Minimum walk-around or widening. Easy passage.
Trail marker. Map. Very clear. This spot marks the intersection of the Mason trail with a designated pathway leading to the river.
The river from the access point above. Lovely wading section.
Hendrickson and caddis on the water. Caddis rising slowly from rippled sections. Hendricksons dive bombing.
I fished soft hackle flies that I tied. I hooked four fish. Had two to hand.
Three small browns (2 in the 8-inch variety and 1 smaller 6-ish) and a 10+ inch bookie. It was a blast.
The brookie I caught two minutes after entering the water, spotted him feeding, fished to him, hooked him. Right out of the chute. Had him to hand for a wet release - barbless.
I fished an 88" adaption of a Leonard taper by a local builder. It's a nice 4 wt bamboo which is to say it is a solid rod able to roll and mend and carry a lot of line (nearly the whole fly line at one point). I fished a 5x then 6x and finally 7x flouro tippet and managed to get good drifts on fish I targeted.
I was lazy and fished downstream or nearly downstream about half the time. I used the long line to help spread my drift without wading into sight range. It paid in terms of active takes during the drift but too much line let me miss more fish than I hooked.
I knew what was happening but I was having fun just feeling the thrashing fish on my fly even when he only barely hooked-up (just enough to know I had a fish but not enough to even see or say "hooked").
The breeze ran maybe 3 mph. Mosquitoes are out in force. Ticks are out in force. They'll be some bug spray and too-frequent showering at trout camp in a couple weeks.
I'll try not an be so lazy next time and wade upstream to stalk my fish. This was a two-brew and cigar outing. Ate my sandwich in the car on the way up. Spikeburger at Spike's Keg O' Nails and then home.
Best news of the day? Waffle fries are back at Spike's.
Chase bridge is a wonderful piece of preserved timber and worth many more visits. A nice gentleman who has retired to those parts gave me the clue on the wading here. Locals love it. There are good four miles that are nearly always passable with only a couple tricky parts.
For the Au Sable, that's pretty good!
Great day on the water. Just what I needed.
Of course, Sunday I stopped at the local shop and bought just what I don't need. Hey - it was a deal.