Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gates Au Sable Lodge June 2012

NIFT member Harry Blessing wrote a comment about his experience at Gates Lodge;

Last Saturday through Wednesday I went to the Au Sable River near Grayling, Michigan to stay at Gates Lodge with eight other NIFTY club members. This made 30 years that I've stayed at Gates on club trips. I rode with Ed Miller, industrial tool salesman and Mel Robinson, Patent Lawyer and Electrical Engineer. One of Mell's other hobby's is astronomy. Tuesday, Ed Cargill and Ed Miller drove me 30 miles East, below Mio Dam, to fish with Mike Bachelder, the top guide at fishing author Bob Linsenmen's fly shop in Mio, Michigan. We drove downstream to a launch ramp and started fishing at 3:30 PM until we quit at midnight. Fishing was slow in the afternoon as we drifted about 3 miles. But our goal was to fish the world famous Hexigenia Limbata Mayfly spinner fall after dark. The hex flys are the largest mayflys and big brown trout will come to the surface after dark to chow down on the egg laying spinners of this super hatch. They are burrowing mayflies and you fish for them in silty areas. We drifted downstream until twilight and then anchored at a favorite spot to wait for the Isonychias. Iso's are large mayflys, although not as large as the hex flys. Their were only a few Iso's on the water. I hooked a big brown on my five weight Loomis rod and broke the 5X five pound tippet trying to strip it in instead of playing it off my disc drag reel. While we were parked there, four other drift boats, a Jon boat, and some Native Americans in a small boat passed us by. When it started to get dark we rowed downstream past most of the boats to where the river went through a Cedar swamp. We anchored and waited until it got dark. Then we heard the big fish start to splash, rising to the hex flys. I was using my six weight Sage rod and Mike had cut the light tapered leader until it was short, about 2X, very strong and tied on a huge Hex spinner fly pattern. The short 2X leader was needed to turn over the big Hex flys at the end of each cast. There was no moon and I couldn't see my fly on the water. We waited until it was pitch black and cast only to fish close to the boat that we could rear rising. Because I couldn't see the rises I was casting blind. I managed to scare the fish there and so we tried two other spots in the cedar swamp with the same result. When leaving the last spot we shined a flashlight on the water and it was covered with Hex flys. At times I could feel them bump into my fly rod. We rowed out of the cedar swamp and the giant shoreline pines and cedars so darkened the river I don't know how Mike was able to row down to the landing. But he knew that section of the Au Sable like the back of his hand. He drove me 30 miles back to the Lodge and I gave him a big tip. Next time I fish the Hex hatch I'll try to do it when there is some moonlight. On past night fishing occasions I've always done better when I could find a moonbeam on the water to help me see my fly. The weather was warm and the daytime fishing was slow. There were only a few Caddis flys, Brown Drake flys and small, yellow, Sulphur flys. The typical catch was only a couple of trout in a half day. Jim Gould, Sports Authority Group Asset Manager, outfished us all. Jim was fishing fast, stripping streamer flys in every nook and crannie. He probably averaged three or four casts to most guys one cast. I watched dentist Chuck Bagdade catch two in front of Gates with his bamboo rod and a Prince Nymph fly. Chuck Bagdade's son, paramedic fireman Greg, caught a beautiful wide bodied 15" brown. He and retired plumber Ed Cargill serenaded us with their bagpipes. Ed Miller brought his new Ukulele and played us several tunes. Two evenings we had a big campfire in front of the lodge. Other members were NIFTY president Dave Gibbony and semi retired CPA Marty Mack. Marty roomed with me and became ill and left a day early. Dave went on to the Upper Peninsula to photograph some of the beautiful spots around the Two Hearted River made famous in Hemingway's short story. We drove home via Traverse City and stopped at a big roadside fruit stand. I bought three quarts of beautiful ripe Michigan strawberries, two pounds of black cherries, a pound of Yellow cherries, a jar of sugar free cherry jelly and a Racine, Wisconsin Danish Kringle coffeecake. It is my belief that when the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness for forty years and eating something called Manna, that it was actually Kringle coffeecake. We also stopped at a fudge shop to buy some chocolate fudge for our wives to assuage our guilt for leaving them alone. Then we stopped at a downtown Traverse City pie restaurant to fortify ourselves for the journey home. Our journey was further enabled by some of Ed's Ukulele CD's and enlightened with Mel's explanation of the Aurora Borealis Northern Lights we've seen a few times during our Gates trips. Thirty years of NIFTY (Northern Illinois Fly Tyers) club trips to Gates Lodge on the AuSable have given me wonderful memories: good times, good friends, a good lodge with good food on a beautiful world class river. Some of my friends have passed, some have moved, and I've made many new friends. Memories sustain me through the year and hope encourages me to fish again.
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