#1 On The River!
Since our founding in 2006, no other company in Michigan has dedicated themselves to the marketing and sale of riverfront property. Over that time we've sold more riverfront than any other ﬁrm and it's not even close. By any measure, HomeWaters is THE Michigan Riverfront brokerage. In 2022 we once again dominated the markets we service and it didn't happen by chance. We built our company from the ground up to be the ﬁnest resource for those looking to purchase or sell waterfront, and riverfront in particular. We've invested heavily in our online presence and in person relationships within the ﬂy ﬁshing community. No other group of agents has the knowledge base, experience or passion for Michigan's prime trout water. We'd truly appreciate the opportunity to put these skills to your beneﬁt if you, or anyone you know, has been considering the purchase or sale of northern Michigan real estate. From Midland to Muskegon to the bridge, you'll be in great hands.
Michigan TU aims to secure clean and healthy streams and rivers that sustain flourishing populations of wild trout and salmon for future generations to cherish, in the very state where Trout Unlimited was founded.
MICHIGAN TROUT MAGAZINE
P.O. Box 442
Dewitt, Michigan 48820-8820 (517) 599-5238
Joe Barker (586) 206-1414
Fisheye Internet Solutions & Hosting LLC (248) 909-2916
Gregory Walz (231) 409-3345 email@example.com
MICHIGAN TROUT UNLIMITED
Chairman: Tom Mundt
Vice Chairman: Gabe Schneider
Treasurer: Robb Smith Sr.
Secretary: Mike Lagowski
Executive Director: Dr. Bryan Burroughs
Aquatic Biologist: Kristin Thomas
Past Chairman: Gregory Walz
NLC Representative: Gregory Walz
Development: Jim Cantril
Operations & Finance: Tom Mundt
Education: Greg Potter
Chapter Assistance: Jason Davis
Communications: Ron Peckens
Conservation: Al Woody
MICHIGAN TROUT is the official publication of Michigan Trout Unlimited. Copyright 2023.
Issues are mailed to all members of Trout Unlimited Chapters throughout Michigan.
Send all editorial correspondence to the editor.
Advertising rate card is available at the following address https://bit.ly/3kPLoCf
Michigan Trout and Michigan Trout Unlimited reserves the right to accept or reject proposed advertisements at their sole discretion.
Cover Photo by Jeff Bacon.
Michigan Trout Unlimited just completed a successful fieldwork season. Aquatic Ecologist Kristin Thomas led a major riparian/instream habitat improvement initiative in the upper Manistee River - installing over 150 trees via helicopter to reshape an overly broad, shallow, and sandy 2.5-mile stretch between Yellow Trees and Roger’s Landings. This project was funded by large contributions from an individual donor, the Upper Manistee River Association, and through grants from the Michigan DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. To all the donors, stakeholders, and contractors who flew the helicopter, piloted the boats, and cut and anchored the trees - Great Job, Thank you!
This past year Michigan TU also removed a dam within a tributary of Big Creek near Luzerne and partnered with the Anglers of the Au Sable to develop a plan, which received MDNR approval, to improve fish passage around the Grayling Fish Hatchery.
Michigan TU was proactive on the policy and legislative front, addressing a broad, growing, and ever-changing list of issues facing Michigan’s coldwater habitat. Examples from this past year include:
• Developing and publishing programs to deal with invasive aquatic species such as New Zealand mudsnails and the microscopic alga called Didymo (a/k/a rock snot).
• Assessing Consumers Energy’s recent announcement that it is evaluating the long-term viability of the 13 hydroelectric dams it owns around the state.
• Highlighting problems and risks of splake stocking in Lake Superior and emphasizing the need to do more for coaster brook trout.
• Opposing the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling based on its magnitude and the need for more formal documentation details.
As this list shows, our stream restoration initiatives are growing in size, scope, and complexity each year. During the next fiscal year, your Michigan TU team will be engaged in two conservation projects with a combined cost of more than $1 million. The first, with MDNR funding, will be working with the Anglers of the Au Sable to eliminate barriersby Tom Mundt
within and around the Grayling hatchery, thus allowing fish to move freely in the entire length of the East Branch of the Au Sable River. The second will implement the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s “America the Beautiful Challenge.” This initiative will be funded through the MDNR and is focused on dam removals around the state.
This growing workload has led Michigan TU to search for an additional staff member, specifically a stream restoration project manager. This individual will be responsible for managing and supporting stream enhancement projects (e.g., in-stream habitat enhancements, roadstream crossing replacements, dam removals, and resource assessments), including all phases from project identification, partner collaboration, grant acquisition and management, design, permitting, oversight, monitoring, and reporting. The position has been posted with appropriate agencies and universities. Applications have been received, and the vetting process is underway. We expect to have the new team member in place in advance of the summer fieldwork season. This position will be partly funded by a benevolent donor and grants Michigan TU receives to execute the aforementioned conservation initiatives.
Michigan TU will also be rolling out TU National’s “Shared Priority Waters” initiative in the fiscal year 2024. This initiative creates a framework to direct our conservation efforts and define metrics to measure success. This initiative aims to create a strategic portfolio of watersheds where the TU team can make positive changes on a meaningful scale. This was not an easy task as our state is blessed with over 35,000 miles of coldwater rivers and streams. But our team, in partnership with the Michigan-based TU national staff, got the job done.
Over the past six months, a workgroup employed a Geographic Information System mapping tool to capture and analyze scientific/socioeconomic data and develop the Shared Priority Waters watersheds list. In the Lower Peninsula, the list includes the Au Sable, Manistee, White, and Pere Marquette River watersheds. In the Upper Peninsula, Michigan TU identified coastal Lake Superior (coaster brook trout protection/ restoration), the Manistique River watershed, and the western UP Wild Trout Area (East Branch of the Ontonagon, Brule, Paint, and Cooks Run rivers) as Priority Waters. You will hear more about this initiative in future issues of Michigan Trout. I must add that I participated in this process and was impressed as well as humbled by the Priority Waters workgroup’s combined mental horsepower and work ethic. I thank each one of you for your contributions to this daunting process.
In closing, thanks to all our grantors and donors for providing Michigan TU with the resources to make a real difference. We have much to do with a team up to the task. I look forward to reporting on the team’s progress in future issues of Michigan Trout. In the meantime, get out on a river and please enjoy this issue of the magazine.
Trout Unlimited Field Crew Stream Surveysby Kyle Dankert, Trout Unlimited Great Lakes Field Coordinator
The sun was rising high on a brisk September morning. Field crews were halfway through a survey on a northeast Michigan stream where Blue Wing Olives danced on the water’s surface near drying ironweed and seedling carex draped over the stream’s riparian zone. Trout Unlimited’s aquatic resource technicians carefully navigated around decaying wood from surrounding cedar, jack pine, and hemlock communities, searching for trout species populations within the stream.
The team members “shock” the water and collect stunned fish that includes western black nose dace, mottled sculpin, brown trout, and brook trout; astonishing to this survey, a surprise was identified as a tiger trout (shown in the photo above). An oddity, this rare species hasn’t been seen by TU field crews for the past few years. Tiger trout are a spectacle. Its occurrence is due to the hybridization of brown and brook trout (Salmo trutta × Salvelinus fontinalis). This phenotype exhibits pronounced vermiculations in the fish’s pattern evoking a tiger’s stripes.
Although TU completes several fish surveys throughout many Great Lakes watersheds where both brown and brook trout coincide, the presence of these hybrids is often unseen. The captured tiger trout anomaly and another individual were found in Silver Creek. This small coldwater stream is located in the northeast region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and part of the Tawas River/Lake watershed. This stretch of Silver Creek is part of an old sand trap that caused a long reach to deposit excess sediment, becoming unnaturally shallow and wide. This covers up key habitats like wood vegetation for native aquatic species.
TU and the USDA Forest Service will be restoring the degraded stretch of Silver Creek, using large wood and whole trees to narrow the channel back to its natural width and embody that of an unimpaired section of the stream. TU and the Forest Service are working in partnership to restore and reconnect habitat in Silver Creek and other coldwater streams in this region.
TU collects pre and post fish data to help evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration project. This site required our team to hike half a mile with gear to the middle of the Corsair trail network to access the survey reach. The USDA Forest Service maintains the Corsair trail system and has excellent stream access. In the fall, this location housed the densest perennial and herbaceous plant communities of ironweed, Alexander goldenrod, and New England aster.
With no cellular connection and low traffic, this is a unique experience in the Lower Peninsula as it evokes a sense of wilderness and solidarity. Remote areas usually mean longer hikes to sites and additional effort, such as bushwhacking. However, it brings the unique experiences of wildlife and rich examples of thriving flora and fauna, which created deep streaks of yellow and purple up and down the water’s edge throughout the
sample area of the survey. This watershed’s autumnal showcase of colors was superior.
Like any other conducted by TU, the Silver Creek electro-fishing survey is completed both above and below the intended road/stream reconstruction site. This standardized approach allows a study at both a controlled (unimpacted) and impacted section of a stream. The fish data is collected by completing three consecutive passes with a backpack shocker and a team of three-plus individuals in the water. Collected fish are then identified, weighed, and measured in length, making sure to keep individuals organized by the pass number in which they were collected. Soon after accounting for the number of fish, the team holds the fish in coldwater tanks maintained by bubblers, which oxygenate the water, before release back into the stream once the survey is completed.
Many hours were spent weighing large and restless fish, looking closely at the hundreds of minnow species to identify known species and find anomalies like the tiger trout. A single site, both upstream and downstream surveys, is notorious for taking an entire day. TU was fortunate to have additional hands on deck at this site to collect data, identify species, and haul gear. Forest Service employees from the Mio station helped complete fish surveys in this region, proving incredibly helpful.
The Forest Service and TU have become an efficient team for road-stream crossing reconstruction projects and fish surveys in national forests throughout the state, especially near the Tawas and Oscoda watersheds. TU and Huron Manistee National Forest have maintained a strong partnership working together to protect and conserve habitat. There is strong communication on both sides throughout the year for planning future surveys and restoration projects. Biologists, Forest Service employees, and TU staff meet in the field during the summer to lend a hand and carry out fieldwork.
TU field teams have benefitted significantly from the helping hands of the Forest Service from the Mio station, especially the local biologist of the region who oversees fisheries management in the Huron Manistee National Forest east zone.
As a long-time established team with similar goals in mind to conserve and restore high-quality habitat, TU and the Huron Manistee Forest Service plan to keep working together in this region of the South Branch Pine, Thunder Bay, and Au Sable watersheds for future projects. TU can increase the quality of work and reconnect more cold water through partnerships like this and looks forward to seeing more habitats like Silver Creek restored.
Tie-A-Thon and the Michigan TU Chapter Challenge
The Tie-A-Thon mission is “To provide quality flies tied by volunteers to non-profit groups and organizations that use fly fishing as therapy or education.” Tie-A-Thon is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that Tim Scott and Terry Wittorp co-founded in 2006.
The inspiration for Tie-A-Thon came when Tim and Terry attended a Kalamazoo Valley Chapter membership meeting. During the meeting, members were asked to contribute flies to be used by the campers at Michigan TU’s Youth Conservation and Trout Camp, hosted by KCVTU. A signup sheet was passed around so members could commit to the number of flies they would tie. When the sheet came to Tim, he saw some KVCTU members had volunteered to tie 10, 12, or maybe 20 flies.
On the drive home, Tim told Terry he might know a few guys willing to tie 100 flies each for the camp. Terry and Tim got to work convincing several fly tiers from around the area to tie as many flies as possible for the camp. That year 2500 flies were donated to the kids attending the Trout Camp. Tim and Terry hosted a culmination event at the Elkhart (Indiana) Conservation Club to collect the flies and wrap up the project. The day included many tiers coming together for good conversation, great food, and a little fly tying, and Tie-A-Thon was born.
What started as a couple of guys trying to get some flies for a kids’ camp has become an important fly-fishing organization. That first year all the tyers belonged to KVCTU or the St. Joe Valley Fly Fishers.
That changed quickly. During the last 17 years, Tie-A-Thon has received flies from all 50 states, five Canadian provinces, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, and Scotland. Volunteers have provided over 220,000 flies valued at over $600,000 to various fly fishing camps and organizations. Fifty-five tyers have donated over 1,000 flies each.
Along with keeping our Michigan TU Trout Camp supplied with flies all these years, Tie-A-Thon has supported several great organizations. Last year Tie-A-Thon donated 36,000 flies to Casting for Recovery of Indiana and Michigan. Casting for Recovery is an organization that uses fly fishing to work with women fighting or having survived breast cancer.
This year’s flies will be going to The Mayfly Project (themayflyproject. com), The Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock of New York (nybojc.org), and Reeling in Recovery (reelinginrecovery.org). The Mayfly Project is a national organization that uses fly fishing to mentor children in foster care. The Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock has provided a high-quality fly-fishing and conservation-based education for thousands of kids over 25 years. Reeling in Recovery offers free fly fishing retreats for people in active recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. These are all worthwhile groups that deserve our support.
Michigan TU Chapter Challengeby Greg Potter
To help support the great work that Tie-A-Thon is doing this year, Michigan TU is hosting the first Tie-A-Thon Chapter Challenge for all Michigan chapters. The contest is simple. Members pick a pattern from the list provided, buy the hooks and materials they need, then tie at least 100 flies that are the same size and pattern. When finished, the tyers give the 100 flies along with their name, the name of their TU chapter, shirt size, and mailing address to their chapter representative or send them directly to Greg Potter, 906 S. Kalamazoo Ave, Marshall, MI 49068. Everyone that ties 100 flies will receive a free limited-edition Tie-A-Thon T-shirt. All flies must be turned in by March 31, 2023.
The chapter contributing the most flies and the chapter with the greatest number of tyers contributing flies as a percentage of the chapter’s membership will receive a framed Roberts Drake dry fly tied by Ray Schmidt. The Roberts Drake is a timeless Michigan dry fly that deserves a place in every Michigan angler’s fly box. The fly was originally tied to imitate those light-colored flies that come out after dark and keep us up late, but over time variations in different sizes and colors have made it a staple all season long. The Roberts Drake was designed by Ray Schmidt’s uncle Clarence Roberts, a former conservation officer that lived near Grayling. These classic Michigan flies, tied by one of our state’s most influential anglers and river conservationists, make them special pieces of Michigan fly fishing history that any fly tyer would want on the wall above their bench.
This is a great opportunity to have a little fun while supporting your chapter and these other great groups. So, pick your pattern and start tying.
For more information on the Tie-A-Thon, go to their website, tieathon.org, or like and follow the Tie-a-Thon Facebook page.
Proposal for Expansion of Airspace for Air National Guard in Northern Michiganby Joe Hemming, Anglers of the Au Sable
As anglers and hunters deal with the idea of the National Guard’s proposal to more than double the size of Camp Grayling, already the most extensive National Guard base in the country, there is another proposed expansion in play: the airspace above us in Northern Michigan. The Michigan Air National Guard is asking to increase its airspace, which is already the largest east of the Mississippi River.
The increased airspace being asked for? An additional 4,174 square miles below 17,999 feet MSL (mean sea level). This airspace would cover the eastern half of the Northern Lower Peninsula from roughly the Thumb north to around Rogers City and from Grayling east over the waters of Lake Huron.
Whereas any approval for the proposed land expansion rests for the moment with the Department of Natural Resources acting director, any decision to approve the proposed airspace expansion will be with the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates under the authority of the U.S. Department of Transportation, headed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The Michigan Air National Guard has studied the proposed air expansion since 2019. The current Environmental Assessment was offered to the public for a 30-day comment period on November 15 of last year, coincidentally the same day as the start of firearm deer season in Michigan. The Air National Guard did agree to an additional 30 days for public comment through the Christmas holiday season but refused any further time beyond January 14 of this year.
Public comment for the proposed airspace expansion was based on the issuance of a 110-page draft EA regarding this proposal, which finds that more missions with louder aircraft would have no environmental impact. Yet, as indicated in the EA, the proposed airspace would see in some parts of the airspace (think Grayling and the Au Sable River) a tenfold increase in flights and a flight ceiling to as low as 300-500 feet from the current 5,000 feet.
The EA is terribly flawed for several reasons.
One of the planes that will be used in this airspace is the EA-
18G Growler. It’s exceedingly loud. So loud that the harmful impact of noise from this aircraft is the subject of a lawsuit in the state of Washington (State of Washington v U.S. Navy et al, 19-cv-01059RAJ).
The FAA expressly instructs the military to utilize the NOISEMAP system to evaluate noise impact. Yet, there is no mention whatsoever of this system, its use, or its findings in the EA. What the EA does is utilize an “average” to achieve what appears to be a slight increase in average noise.
Here’s a better way to look at it. Let’s talk about a jackhammer that operates outside your bedroom window for an hour daily. Averaging that one hour of hell over 24 hours does not begin to accurately describe the effect of that one hour of jackhammering to which you are being subjected on a daily basis.
Similarly, increasing the number of flights tenfold in the Grayling area, as the EA indicates will happen, or allowing aircraft to fly as low as 300-500 feet, again as shown in the EA, WILL dramatically increase noise levels. But, the EA indicates only a negligible increase in noise.
Electromagnetic Warfare Training
The EA indicates that tasking events for this airspace for the A-10 and F-16 aircraft that fly in this airspace include “military activities that use electromagnetic energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum (‘the spectrum’) and attack an enemy.” Electromagnetic warfare training and its effects on the environment is an entire discussion by itself. Amazingly, there is no discussion of the possible side effects of such warfare on humans or any other life form in the EA or in the Findings of No Significant Impact, which accompanied the EA.
The EA claims the affected area consists of a decreasing and aging population, not taking into consideration the tens of thousands of users, such as fishers, hunters, hikers, bikers, and other assorted groups of outdoor enthusiasts, who recreate in the area together with its seasonal residents. According to the DNR, fishing alone contributes more than $2 billion a year to the
state’s economy. The EA didn’t look at the economic effect of this proposed increased use of airspace over the Au Sable River.
Chaff, a countermeasure used by aircraft to evade radar detection, will be deployed by the aircraft in this proposed airspace. Anglers of the Au Sable estimates that every year a total of 33,306,000,000 micro-glass/aluminum-coated fibers will be released into the air based on the information provided in the EA. Additionally, based on the EA, this chaff will be released at lower altitudes noted elsewhere in the EA, thus resulting in a higher concentration of these fibers landing on the ground and water. The EA dismisses potential risks from this chaff.
Flares are also deployed from aircraft as a countermeasure to evade various types of missiles. Flares contain compounds that cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, as well as have toxic effects. Then there are the variety of combustion products from jet fuel (both burned and unburned), the results of which will be exacerbated by low-altitude training.
Risk of Fire
Flares burn at a high temperature. Despite the DNR previously having voiced concern over the risk of fire, the EA fails to accurately assess its potential risks given the lower attitudes at which the flares will be released.
There is no analysis of the cumulative environmental effects
that a combined expansion on land and in the air might cause to the environment. None. Even though the National Guard is trying to more than double the size of Camp Grayling, adding 250 square miles to the already 230 square miles it currently has. Also, it wants to add 2165 square miles to the airspace and treats these expansions separately when evaluating their effects on the environment.
I could go on. But you, hopefully, get the idea. The EA is flawed, terribly flawed. An environmental impact statement will be far more comprehensive in determining what effects this proposed airspace expansion will have on the environment. The Au Sable River watershed and the people of Northern Michigan deserve nothing less when looking at all the effects of this proposal.
The Legacy of a River is an amazing gift…
Apply Now for the 2023 Michigan TU Youth Conservation and Trout Campby Jonathan Chizmadia
To quote George Eliot: “We could have never loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it.”
What better way to give back to the pastime we consider so sacred than to teach a youth to fish? Time, work, and other duties tend to get in the way more than most of us like to admit. Fortunately, the Michigan Trout Unlimited 2023 Youth Conservation and Trout Camp allows up to 20 youth, ages 13-16, to be introduced to fishing and conservation.
This year’s camp will be held June 18-22 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Center on beautiful Higgins Lake in Roscommon. This is more than just a fishing camp. Counselors and speakers from throughout the country volunteer their time to teach campers to conserve, protect, and restore Michigan’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Campers also learn the fundamental skills and techniques of trout fishing and then build upon these skills.
No matter the level of experience or interest, this camp has something for everyone. Along with TU’s history, campers are taught skills, including conventional fishing, fly casting, spinner making, rigging, fly tying, water safety, knots, proper catch and release, reading the water, conservation threats, and what goes into a healthy stream. Campers are completely immersed in the outdoors, collecting and identifying insects, completing stream restoration projects, sharing outdoor stories, and, of course, fishing.
In addition, this camp is an excellent opportunity for those considering a future career in the outdoors. Speakers from Michigan DNR, biologists, TU staff, guides, authors, conservationists, anglers, boat captains, and other industry professionals share their experience and education. Campers can ask questions and see firsthand what these people do daily to make the outdoors a special place for us all.
Most fishing during camp will be on the historic stretches of Michigan’s Au Sable River. Since many of the stretches are part of the “Holy Water,” fly fishing techniques will be emphasized. However, small stream spinner fishing is also taught to campers who find this their preferred fishing method.
If you know a youth who would be a good fit for this awesome experience, send them to the camp website at michigantucamp.org. Campers must be 13-16 years old at the time of camp and cannot have attended a previous camp. Applicants are asked to submit an essay on
why they would like to attend, as well as one letter of recommendation. Camp is limited to 20 campers, so we encourage applying well before the April 30th deadline.
A special thank you to TU members who contributed to this fall’s pin fundraiser campaign, allowing us to keep costs the same at $700. In most cases, half of the cost will be the responsibility of the camper’s family. However, an important goal of the camp is that no qualified youth is unable to attend because of financial limitations. If this is the case, please make a note on the camper application for possible scholarship consideration.
If you purchased a limited 2023 sponsorship pin, expect to receive it in the upcoming weeks if you haven’t already. There are still a few remaining pins available. So if you would like to show your support for the camp, please reach out to the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter or check out the Clinton Valley Chapter’s booth at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo on March 11 and 12, 2023.
If you have additional questions, would like to assist with the camp, or sponsor a camper or the camp itself, reach out to admin@ michigantucamp.org. Thank you again to all the TU chapters, volunteers, and multiple organizations that make camp possible!
There is no greater gift you can give a young person in your life than the gift of the outdoors. Even if camp doesn’t fit the schedule this year, remember to take time out of yours and mentor someone this trout season. You may be surprised to find who benefits the most.
A Nymph Against the Norm
In late February to early March, fly anglers are starting to think about Opening Day. Serious attention is paid to organizing and refilling fly boxes with Hendricksons, Blue Wing Olives, Little Mahoganies, Short-horned Sedge, Black Caddis, and a few stoneflies. As stream temperatures warm, development from nymph or larva to emerging subadults or adults gets closer. However, not all growth occurs gradually from the egg stage to the adult. Consider the case of our Siphlonurus species, also known as Gray Drakes. Eggs that were laid in late spring don’t even hatch until January? How and why?
To consider the development of the Gray Drake, let’s first jump ahead to the reproductive adults or what fly fishers refer to as spinners. The Gray Drake is a much-anticipated hatch beginning mid-May on certain rivers, particularly the Muskegon and the Pere Marquette rivers. They can also be found on several other rivers, including sections of the Au Sable and Upper Manistee, to mention a few. Dark-bodied adults are sizable at 13-17 mm (hook size 8-10). They are quickly identified by the presence of two tails and eyes with a dark brown ring around the median, dividing them in half and giving the appearance, especially in males, of having hamburgerlike eyes (see insert in the photo above).
Male spinners will gather over rapidly flowing water in the evening and begin their reproductive flight or dance, flying upwards and fluttering back down repetitively. As a female enters the dancing swarm, she is spied by the male from below. He seizes her around the thorax with his long front legs. Mating will ensue in flight, often taking place within a few seconds. Afterward, the female may rest briefly on surrounding vegetation before laying her mass of green eggs on the water’s surface. Males and females perish soon after, exhausted and spent from the efforts of reproduction.
Like other species of mayflies, the cluster of dense eggs falls to the river bottom and firmly adheres to the substrate. However, unlike other mayfly species, Siphlonurus eggs don’t hatch into nymphs right away. In fact, they will remain in a state of diapause or a resting state for nearly eight months before hatching in late February to early March the following year.
Once the first instars hatch, they feed on detritus, rapidly growing and molting. As the nymphs get bigger, they may become more opportunistic in their feeding, adding chironomid (midges) larvae to their diet. Additionally, the nymphs are on the move, drifting and later swimming well downstream from where eggsby Ann R. Miller
were initially laid, making their way toward quieter backwaters. Snowmelt and spring rains will fill or even flood some of these riparian zones, providing the perfect habitat for the last few instars of Siphlonurus. These flooded seepages are a veritable nursery for many other aquatic insects, including a few mayfly nymphs. Siphloplecton basale (Great Speckled Olive), Leptophlebia spp. (Great Mahogany), and Baetisca spp. (Bat Fly) all flourish in this environment in late spring.
Taxonomists have nicknamed Siphlonurus nymphs the “primitive minnow mayflies” for a good reason. They are excellent swimmers and closely resemble the nymphs of Isonychia, minus the ‘racing stripes’ found on their dorsal side. Siphlonurus nymphs are long and narrow with three fringed tails, rather large eyes, and platelike gills laced with vein-like streaking (trachea). Both plate-like (or lamellate) gills and long fringed tails are used for swimming, with nymphs undulating through the water like tiny porpoises.
In mid-May to early June, nymphal development will be complete, and duns will begin to emerge from their quiet, watery environs, crawling up aquatic vegetation to emerge. They often go unnoticed by anglers, but under special circumstances, trout may feed on them if their habitat is accessible. Wind can also knock the duns to the water, where they may be ferried to an awaiting trout downstream. Otherwise, most duns escape to surrounding vegetation, resting for a day or so before molting into the spinner stage. Once the spinners have their evening rendezvous, the life cycle is completed, egg to imago in one year.
As you reflect on our rainy Michigan spring weather, realize that it is important not only for spring flowers but also for successful insect hatches. On a perfect day, the astute angler may be able to observe hundreds of Gray Drake nymphs clinging to submerged plants along the riverbank. Meanwhile, as spring fly boxes are readied, imagine these minnow-like nymphs growing and migrating, making their way to backchannels and submerged plants along the river’s edge. Plan and add imitations of each life cycle stage to your late spring to early summer fly box. Enjoy!
Ann Miller is the author of Pocketguide for Upper Midwest Hatches (Stackpole Books, 2023; ISBN - 9780-8117-7232-7; $29.95). You can contact her at MidwestHatches@gmail.com.
Michigan TU Chapter UpdatesFred Waara Chapter
Coldwater fisheries opportunities abound in the Upper Peninsula! In August, the Fred Waara Chapter partnered with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Superior Outfitters to host a two-day fly fishing workshop for beginners (shown in the photo above). There were 21 happy participants, ranging in age from 11 to 80. By popular demand, the event is planned again for this August.
The chapter also added three new schools to its Salmon in the Classroom program, bringing it up to 12 sponsored schools. As a result, members are looking forward to a lot of fun fishrelease festivities in May.
The chapter has continued to expand and refine its communication tools and online presence throughout the past year. In October, it held an in-person social event to build community and gather ideas. Currently, members are in the process of upgrading their “outreach booth.” The list of such events is steadily growing as the chapter continues to partner with numerous organizations for coldwater fisheries conservation and education events.
Upcoming projects for the chapter include work on the Two Hearted River, continued temperature logger installations in a few different watersheds, and working with the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy to protect water quality in the new Dead River Community Forest.
Besides some generous donations to help fund its many initiatives, the chapter recently conducted a successful online auction. In addition, the Fred Waara Chapter will finally be able to host its spring celebration and fundraising banquet after a few-year pandemic-induced hiatus. Members are looking forward to reuniting with old friends and meeting some new ones as they celebrate conserving the abundance of coldwater resources they are blessed with in the Upper Peninsula.
Miller-Van Winkle Chapter
In northwest Michigan, the Miller-Van Winkle Chapter has been busy over the past several months with a number of projects, some familiar and some new. New efforts include last October’s Women’s Clinic, organized in conjunction with the Little Traverse Conservancy. Twenty participants learned aboutCompiled by Joe Barker
fish biology, entomology, and casting basics. The event was so successful that another 20 women made up a waitlist, with plans already underway for another event this spring. There are also plans for a women’s fly-tying series.
Another partnership with LTC included the chapter’s annual Youth Clinic on the Maple River in July. A dozen young anglers, guided by chapter members, learned about the river’s habitat while casting for rainbow and brown trout under clear summer skies. This annual outing is a regular part of LTC’s summer youth program.
In addition to this new event, the MVWTU is again hosting weekly Tie One On nights at the Conservancy offices. In recent weeks, groups of experienced and new fly tiers have gathered to tie and learn about useful patterns for wet and dry flies. The chapter provides materials for each pattern, tools for those new to fly tying, guided practice, and a chance to socialize through the cold winter months.
Another annual feature of the chapter’s efforts is the winter speaker series. The series kicked off in January with a presentation on the history and design of Au Sable riverboats by Tim Riley of River Valley Adventures. Other scheduled speakers include Josh Greenberg of Gates Au Sable Lodge and Michigan TU leaders.
Copper Country Chapter
The Copper Country Chapter has been hosting weekly flytying workshops at the Portage Lake District Library on Tuesday evenings at 6 pm. The chapter has had participants ranging from kids trying fly tying for the first time to experienced tiers who have been able to help teach the craft to others.
CCCTU completed a second year of temperature monitoring to establish long-term stream temperature data sets in watersheds with varying geologic and hydrologic attributes. Data has been collected at six locations, and the chapter plans to expand this effort to other streams in Western Upper Peninsula.
The chapter also continues to support research at Michigan Technological University to learn more about migratory coaster brook trout populations in Western Upper Peninsula. Recently, this has included deploying acoustic tags in large brook trout to track their movement in Lake Superior. Preliminary results indicate that brook trout (14 inches and over) have migrated from
a tributary where they were tagged into the Portage Waterway in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Michigan Tech is also collaborating with a Michigan State University geneticist to investigate the possible introgression of splake into coaster populations, a concern highlighted in Michigan TU’s recent position statement written and presented to the Michigan DNR.
Mershon-Neumann Heritage Chapter
The Mershon-Neumann Heritage Chapter is almost back to normal. Its first in-person annual meeting in a few years was held on February 10. Two presentations by Kevin Feenstra, as well as a delicious buffet, drew a crowd of almost 100 people. Kevin’s presentation on birds of Michigan waterways attracted a more diverse audience than just anglers, although the fishermen in the group enjoyed his presentation on matching baitfish enormously. Although the occasion was primarily social, members elected four new board members. The chapter welcomes Matt Pollard, Rob Tunney, Randy Hayward, and Duane Essenmacher.
On April 8, the chapter will hold its annual Women n Waders event at the Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center in Frankenmuth. This popular program is truly a complete introduction to fly fishing, all done in a day.
On March 24 and 25, members will participate in the Project F.I.S.H. program, designed to give educators a curriculum to provide hands-on activities related to all aspects of fishing. The program is open to anyone interested in learning how to teach beginning anglers. Presented by Mark Stephens from the MSU Extension, this is a fantastic opportunity to expand programs beyond casting and fly tying, including habitat, fish identification, ethics, macro-invertebrates, and even how to clean and cook a fish.
May will be busy with Women on the Water, a Mother’s Day weekend planned with the Schrems Chapter. It will be an entire weekend of fishing and fun from when participants arrive at Pere Marquette River Lodge on Friday afternoon until the women leave Sunday morning. The highlight of the weekend, in addition to just being with like-minded women, is the full-day float trip on Saturday. The cost of $500 includes food, a two-night stay at the Pere Marquette River Lodge (double occupancy), and most meals. Links to the registration can be found at https://swmtu.org/ product/2023-women-on-the-water.
The chapter’s spring meeting will consist of training for the upcoming DNR Rapid Watershed Assessment, conducted by DNR Fish Biologist April Simmons. The chapter is eager to be able to help her achieve her goal of assessing the entire Rifle River Watershed within the next two years by doing some of the simpler assessments of habitat and macroinvertebrates. This is an
opportunity for members to help improve the Rifle River on their schedule, following established protocols to obtain needed data.
The final event of the spring will be a picnic. A food truck at a pavilion makes this event casual and welcoming to families and people passing by. It gives the chapter’s board a chance to pass out awards, thank members for their support, and celebrate all they’ve accomplished before spreading out to enjoy the fishing over the summer.
Charles A. Fellows Chapter
Last fall, the chapter’s board sat down at the table and took a hard look at where it is as a chapter and where it would like to be in one year. Members set goals for increased engagement for the board, social media, and involvement. This winter, the chapter added two active board members, one of whom has volunteered to take over social media and webpage design.
The chapter plans to continue donations and sponsorship as it has in the past for the Michigan TU Aquifer Fund and Midwest Reeling and Healing, a women’s cancer retreat. The Charles Fellows Chapter currently supports five salmon in the classroom tanks, three in Lapeer schools, one in Grand Blanc schools, and one in Romeo schools. In the coming year, members plan to continue the Chapter Youth Fishing event, F.A.M. (Future Anglers of Michigan). During the event, the chapter hosts one youth and one parent at no expense to the family. The hope is to pass on the love of fishing the outdoors and conservation to the next generation while bringing families together in the outdoors.
The chapter’s spring fundraising banquet will be held on April 14th at the Redwood Steakhouse & Brewery in Flint beginning at 5:30 pm. This event has been its most successful fundraising event and will be the third year hosting beer tasting paired with dinner.
Conservation Tippetsby Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU Executive Director
Changes in DNR & EGLE Leadership
The New Year brought several changes to the leadership positions for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Dan Eichinger, the DNR director, was assigned the role of acting director for EGLE, replacing Leisel Clark. Backfilling in the DNR was accomplished by Deputy Director Shannon Lott becoming the new acting director of the DNR.
Lott worked in various roles within the DNR in Wildlife and Forestry Divisions before becoming the DNR’s deputy director four years ago. Scott Whitcomb (former Pigeon River Country supervisor and Headwaters TU Chapter member) was appointed deputy director. No official information was provided on the planned longevity of these shifts.
Also, for those of you who fish the Au Sable watershed, the DNR hired a new fishery biologist responsible for those fisheries. Matt Klungle was hired to fill that role replacing Tim Cwalinski, who took over the role of northern Lake Huron regional supervisor because of the retirement of Dave Borgeson, Jr. Klungle received his M.S. degree from MSU studying the effects of whole tree placements in the Au Sable and Manistee rivers, before spending over 15 years in various fisheries roles in the western U.S.
Reappointments to the Natural Resources Commission
In early February, the governor’s office announced two reappointments to the NRC. Current commissioner Dave Nyberg, who finished his first term appointment, was appointed for a second term. John Walters, who had formerly served as a commissioner, but had vacated his first appointment tenure due to a move out of state, was reappointed to the NRC. Walters replaces Keith Creagh, former DNR director, who completed his appointment term to the NRC.
Both of these appointees are familiar to TU and proven in the role of NRC commissioners. They have approached NRC duties with energy, commitment, subject-matter depth, and outstanding professionalism in the past and can be expected to with their new terms.
America the Beautiful Challenge Comes to Michigan
The America the Beautiful Challenge is a unique new program that offers competitive grant funding for natural resource conservation purposes. The funding comes from a variety of sources, including federal grants, and is administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In year one of the program, non-governmental organizations were not directly eligible to apply.
The Michigan DNR Fisheries Division reached out to several stream
restoration partners and worked collaboratively to develop and submit a competitive grant application focused on watershed enhancement. Many of the projects included were dam removals, heavily concentrated on Fisheries Division-owned dams, but also several other dams around the state.
Projects also include several road-stream crossing replacements, bringing about $5 million in funding to work on Michigan watersheds over the next several years. Michigan TU will be involved with quite a few stream crossing and dam removal projects. Two dam removals are planned for the Au Sable River watershed, several in Southwest Michigan, and many in the Upper Peninsula. Other partners will work on projects in watersheds like the Boardman, Muskegon, and Manistee rivers.
EGLE Adding a New Position
Stream restoration projects have increased in complexity and require specialization and experience to design and navigate successfully. That specialization and expertise are also needed and beneficial for those reviewing and making decisions on permits for these projects.
EGLE has created a new position for such a specialist to help facilitate this work. EGLE is in the hiring process as of this writing and may have a candidate on board by the time this reaches your mailbox. The new position has the potential to help the work Michigan TU does and allows us to do more by streamlining and strengthening the processes required for these projects.
New Great Lakes Tribal Fishing Consent Decree Proposed
Negotiations towards a new Great Lakes fishing consent decree have been underway for many years. Non-disclosure agreements between the parties protected the substance of those negotiations. A new proposed consent decree was submitted to the court by a majority of the parties and is now reviewable by the public. One of the tribes has objected to the proposed decree and is pursuing its legal options not to be bound by it and to self-regulate.
The Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources, a group of angling and conservation organizations, has filed objections to the proposed decree as an amicus in the case. To learn more about the proposed decree, the DNR has assembled a webpage with basic information and FAQs. The CPMR also has a website with additional info (www.protectmiresources.com).
As this agreement will govern much of the management of Great Lakes fisheries for the next 24 years, it is worth reviewing the status of this proposed consent decree.
Main Branch Au Sable River Overviewby Tom Quail, Au Sable River Guide Service
The Au Sable River, located in the northern Lower Peninsula, is arguably the finest trout fishery east of the Mississippi River and North America. There are those who argue that the Catskills, the limestone creeks of Pennsylvania, and Upper Delaware are as good or better. But, I believe the Au Sable can make a very strong case as the granddaddy of them all.
Several factors make the Au Sable so great. It’s approximately 138 miles long, starting just south of the town of Gaylord, and runs south and east, emptying into Lake Huron. It’s primarily a spring feed resource with cold temperatures, a decent gradient, good structure, and good shading, helping to keep the temperatures low enough to support a healthy trout population year-round.
There are four branches to the river – the Main Branch, East Branch, South Branch, and North Branch – all with numerous tributaries, all with brook, brown, and rainbow trout.
The productive trout water on the Main Branch starts around the town of Frederic, moving south to Grayling. At Grayling, the East Branch joins the Main Branch. About four miles, as the crow flies, east of Grayling, the Holy Water begins at Burton’s Landing.
The Holy Water is the nine-mile stretch of river between Burton’s Landing and Wakeley Bridge that is regulated as flies only and catch-and-release only. It is best wade-fished with a plethora of access points. Boats are allowed, particularly Au Sable riverboats, canoes, and kayaks. It’s advised NOT to float a drift boat down the Holy Water; while it is legal, it is frowned upon by local custom. By reputation, it’s among the best stretches of dry fly fishing water in Michigan and, perhaps, the eastern United States.
East of Wakeley Bridge, running downstream to McMasters Bridge, is a very productive trout fishery. This stretch is artificial flies/lures only, with no restriction on the type of fishing. Per regulations, “catch and keep” fishing is allowed. Along this stretch, the South Branch joins the Main Branch. While the fish count per mile is slightly less than the Holy Water, the catch size is typically larger. This beautiful stretch of river, including the South Branch, has numerous wading opportunities and very manageable floating conditions.
Downstream from McMasters Bridge to Mio Pond is very productive water with slightly lower fish counts per mile but larger fish. The North Branch joins the Main Branch in this stretch. This part of the river, while it can be waded, is best fished with some type of watercraft.
Below Mio Pond, the furthest upstream dam is located, Mio Dam, in the city of Mio. Here the river turns into a tailwater fishery. While the tailwater warms a bit, it stays cold enough to support a good trout fishery year-round, except for a few days during the hot summer months. The stretch between Mio Dam and the 4001 Bridge is good brown trout water. The browns along this stretch can be trophy size, 20+ inches.
From Mio Dam down to the town of Oscoda, where the Au Sable empties into Lake Huron, there are a series of hydroelectric dams, with the last being Foote Dam. The Foote Dam tailwater is a special fishery because it supports trout and salmon species not found in the stretches upstream. This area needs to be floated in a watercraft to be fished productively and safely. There are healthy populations of resident brown trout, anadromous brown trout that come from Lake Huron to spawn, steelhead, and Atlantic salmon, a relatively new species introduced within the last decade.
The Atlantics were cultivated at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie and released into the Au Sable below Foote Dam to mitigate the collapse of the Coho and Chinook salmon in Lake Huron. It is an overwhelming success!
Trout are not the only species found in the Au Sable, but it is arguably the most noted. Because of the length of this river, there are many more opportunities than have been mentioned here. There are numerous canoe and kayak liveries, many beautiful overlooks, and stunning stretches of the river.
The Au Sable Main Branch is also home to the Au Sable River Marathon in late July.
DIDYMO: From a Guide’s Perspectiveby Brian Kozminski, True North Trout
The aromatic lilac-like fragrance of Autumn Olive softly settles among the freshly sprouted ferns along the river’s edge. It’s the end of May, and we just had a touch of summer’s heat and humidity. The weatherman on Channel 9&10 predicts cooler evenings, even a threat of frost. There is a cloud of dancing Light Hendrickson’s just a few meters above the water; I’m guessing they are looking to drop egg sacks soon. A few Lesser Mahogany and Sulphurs are taking to flight and headed for the trees. I am focusing on acrobatic trout that summersault with preciseness and enthusiasm that even Simon Cowell would find impressive.
There is a snorting buck in the woods behind me, distracting me from whether the teener browns are snacking on emergent caddis or one of the suicidal kamikaze stoneflies that seem to dive bomb from the highest altitude. The good news-bugs. There are plenty-more than enough to make me feel less concerned about the sticky algal bloom beneath my feet. There is also a sense of relief seeing smaller trout feed in the runs and seams just above what was a solid mat of “rock snot” a couple of months ago.
While floating with clients and talking to other anglers, cabin owners, and recreational river users, I have noticed one dominant fact; there is A LOT of misinformation or none at all. I am not a scientist, but fishing with Sam Day, a water quality specialist from the Tribe, I have learned what to look for and how important it is that we spread the word instead of the didymo.
Some of the unknowns, such as much of how and why it acts, are very much a mystery. Speaking with the Michigan DNR, they are at a standstill, monitoring and waiting to see how didymo works. According to Sam, the St. Mary’s River has didymo, and it acts as though it may be ‘native’ to Lake Superior, much like brown trout act native in some of our rivers, even though they were introduced as ‘exotic species.’
We don’t know why it seems to favor sections of rivers that are nutrient deficient, especially low in phosphorous. We
are also uncertain why and when it spreads. Does it spread from separation? Does it bloom and flow downstream? As a guide, I’ve noticed less rock snot on the Manistee River below M66, especially where the current seems to be swifter. This could be partly due to the numerous large sandy tracts near Dutch John that may act as speed bumps. The algae need something to attach to, and sand is not a likely source. Further down the river system, it is more fragmented and almost non-existent.
Perhaps the sweepers act as seines or nets and collect the grey/white drifting rock snot. The dead algae lose some brown/ yellowish tones and become greyer as it drifts downstream. Reach in and inspect the mass of didymo; feel it and investigate the fibers. The texture of the Didymosphenia geminate is not slimy but rather much more like wet wool. This is largely due to the diatomaceous structure of the cell. When Sam and I floated after Trout Opener, we reached in and inspected some clumps, and macroinvertebrates were living in them.
There may be a change in the overall biomass of macroinvertebrates-more isopods and crustaceans were prevalent in tailwater rivers in Tennessee; less of the crawler/clinger mayflies that we anticipate in our trout rivers near the 45th parallel. I hope we don’t see a major change in the biomass we have come to
Several cabin and property owners were surprised to learn about the spongy snotty algae that now carpeted the river bottom where they once swam and played with family. One told me the DNR said a guide with a jet boat brought it down from the Sault. Some conjecture it was a wading angler who fished the St. Mary’s for steelhead and had a trip the next day on the Upper Manistee.
The number of recreational river users in the past two years because of Covid has set this up for the perfect storm for contamination of this magnitude. We need to spread the word to canoe/kayak users and tubers who might not feel the urgency to wash and rinse their vessels before venturing to other rivers. Others have claimed to see it in years past, but why not report it? It doesn’t really matter, it is here now, and we need to regulate how much and where this goes.
“Diddy, who? Diddy what? We don’t fly fish; I don’t have to worry about it...”
On Trout Opener weekend, we noticed the usual numbers of neoprene wearing, ultra-light, worm-dunking culvert hoppers, and we stopped to chat with a few in between swinging salted minnows through deep pools. We explained the importance of cleaning fishing gear. Formula 409 has proven effective on New Zealand mud snails, while a 5% Greenworks or Dawn solution is best for preventing the spread of didymo. Thoroughly cleaning, scrubbing with a brush (like a toilet brush from the Dollar Store), rinsing, and allowing your boots, waders, nets, and gear to dry for five days before going to another river is critical.
My biggest fear is switching rivers; even while I routinely clean my boat and gear and switch out the anchor and anchor line, there is no way I can be 100% certain I can sanitize every square inch of my boat. The reality that didymo has spread to other rivers is better than 90%. It may take until later in the season to reveal how much it has spread. We may see a seasonal bloom in the Upper Manistee later in the year, like the fall. We are far from out of the woods.
Please follow these steps:
• AVOID using felt sole boots.
• CLEAN all aquatic plants, animals, and mud from watercraft/anchors before leaving the boat ramp.
• DRAIN water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers) and drain bilge and live well by removing boat plugs.
• SPRAY watercraft and equipment with a high-pressure sprayer.
• RINSE waders, hip boots, nets, and gear with hot water or wash with 5% Dawn/Greenworks or soak in Virkon S.
• DRY gear for five days.
MothBear Outfitters from Alpena has teamed up with TU selling coffee with a portion being donated to Michigan TU for additional signage and wader wash stations in Michigan. Find them at mothbear.com.
Get a Drift
As mist burns off, giving way to the sun’s radiation, the mountains rise in adoration, bringing a new crisp day to the heart of the Rockies. The sound of water lapping on the sides of the boat and the gurgling noise of each oar stroke is rhythmic, a melody on the waters. Then, one last stronghold of fog yields its grasp. Like a crown jewel, the Grand Teton bursts up, up, and out, revealing jaw-dropping grandeur. The day’s drift is underway, and the familiar addiction is in the air…what will this day bring? What stories will emerge? What adventure is around the next bend?
With a chill in the air, we don puffy jackets and fleece shirts, knowing that in a few short hours, we’ll be able to take off some layers and enjoy the early summer’s warmth. For now, we drift quietly down the Snake River, expectantly carried by its icy waters. We drift for a mile or so, drop anchor, and begin to rig rods, tweak leaders, and tie on flies we’re sure irresistible.
The two gentlemen fishing with me on this day are on opposite ends of the fly-fishing spectrum. One is a 50-year flyflinging veteran. The other, his brother, just wants to get out and spend some time on the water. We had preliminary discussions at the lodge the night before, and it was made clear that Jim, the seasoned angler, wanted nothing to do with any fly that sinks.
His brother, Glenn, the novice, was an open book, ready to learn and amenable to “alternative” fly-fishing methods. As part of the discussion, it was highlighted that this particular time of the year was not favorable toward dry-fly fishing but that we’d do our best to find some water to make it happen.
As we plied the water, the strategy was simple, hit everything first with the dry fly and then follow up with the nymph-reaper. The plan was solid. Hope in the bow and reliability in the stern. After a brief tutorial with Glenn on how not to turn a double-nymph rig into a gaucho bola, we were off and rowing, working our way down the river, perfecting our presentation and drift with each new opportunity.
Back-rowing into riffles likely to produce nice trout, itby Jay Allen, Jay Allen’s Guided Fly Fishing
didn’t take long for the nymph rig to go into production mode. Undaunted, Jim continued to deliver light and airy casts with nearperfect dead drifts on the surface of the turbid waters, yet no takers.
Several fishless hours went by on the dry-or-die rod, and as Glenn landed his next fish in a long line of predecessors, he muttered, “have Jay tie on one of these nymphs.” The answer was, “no thanks; I’ll stick to dries.” Another hour went by, and while the body count slowed, the nymphs still represented well. As another entreaty went out, “you need to swallow your pride and put on a nymph,” Jim decided to shut his brother up and asked for me to rig him up. And then…
It wasn’t Jim wielding his flyrod, immediately slaying cutthroat after cutthroat with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana playing in the background. No strikes, no twitches, no signs of life, no DRIFT. Glenn, on the other hand, continued catching, applying all he had learned throughout the day about how to get a great drift. On the other hand, Jim thought nymph fishing was easy and underestimated the importance of drift.
Drift is the essential aspect of fly-fishing, whether fishing in Wyoming or Michigan. If that is grasped, success will follow. Whether throwing dries, nymphs, wets, or streamers, drift will take an angler farther than any other technique. Despite this, anglers are too quick to thumb through fly boxes like crazed animals looking for the “hot fly” when things get tough instead of focusing on the drift.
A well-presented Adams with a perfect drift will outfish a perfect Baetis pattern fished sloppily any day. A pheasant tail nymph will fish circles around an exact replica of a Sulphur nymph when fished correctly. A generic streamer fished with the right strip rhythm will call in the bombers. Drift is simple in principle but has no end in its learning and application. While setup and fly selection are important aspects of the game, really focusing on the drift is a sure way to fool more fish and find success on the water.
Night’s fast approaching. The sky is all ablaze with the sun’s last attempts to hold sway. But it’s slowly and surely losing the fight. Angry pinks and fireworks oranges paint the final moments on the battlefield as the pale moon and stars march victoriously into view. My dad’s sitting just across from me. Smoking a fragrant cigar. The kind that immediately makes me think of Al Capone. I’m smoking one too. But it’s muted and has less bite – less of a mafia effect. The gray tendrils intertwine and rise toward the darkening war zone above. We’re being patient. That’s the key thing with this type of fishing. Or any kind for that matter.
We had to get to this spot, up on a stream in Northern Michigan, hours before seeing any action. We had to claim our territory. So why not pass the time with some Macanudo cigars? My dad’s fishing buddy, John, doesn’t smoke. But he’s sitting on a log across from us, regaling us with tales of his last encounter with the infamous Hex hatch.
Hexagenia limbata. An unusually large mayfly from the family Ephemeridae. My dad is quick to pontificate on the Latin roots of the name. It’s where we get the word ephemeral – a fitting word for a bug that mates and dies in the same night. I’m still trying to work out the metaphor for how this phenomenon relates to human existence when a hush falls over the river.
Without warning, the sounds of flora and fauna around the riverbed stopped. That’s unusual. Anyone who spends enough time in nature knows that she stays busy long after our heads hit the pillow. The forest doesn’t dance along to our circadian rhythm. But tonight, even the crickets have slowed their cadence. Or at least in my excited mind, they have.
Time is inching forward now. The night air is rife with anticipation. And then, out of the dark, a low hum drifts. At first, it’s hardly anything – just a constant vibration disturbing the nighttime quiet. But that murmur slowly builds to a crescendo of clear wings whirring back and forth over the riverbed. I quickly look over at my dad questioningly. What’s our next move? He doesn’t say a word. He just points up. My eyes quickly follow. At first, it’s hard to make out precisely what I’m seeing. For one thing, there’s a lot of yellow in the sky. For another, the stars and moon look, well, hazyby Hudson Allen
(that’s the only word I can think to describe it). It’s almost like a translucent sheet has been drawn above our heads. But that’s not it.
This sheet is moving steadily up the river of its own accord. This undulating sheet is alive – composed of thousands of adult Hexes, all dancing to the mating ritual tune. I look back at my dad. He’s still gazing up. I look over at John. His eyes are wide. “It’s like one big highway,” I can’t help but say out loud. Dad nods. He knows the waiting game is nearing an abrupt end. Once the flies start hitting the water, the brown trout will undoubtedly rise to the occasion (pun intended).
BOOM. On the outskirts of my peripheral vision, I see water erupt like a miniature Pompeii. The sound of trophy fish rising to the surface shatters the Hex’s steady rhythm like a barrage of cannonballs, all launching simultaneously. The first explosion is followed quickly by another. And another. And another.
It’s time to get to work. We spring forward instinctively, straining our eyes in the twilight. Other senses are working overtime to make up for the lack of vision. But once we find the source of another nearby shot, we waste no time delicately presenting our Hex patterns just upstream. And nothing compares to the feeling when one of those cannonballs is aimed at my fly instead of the real insects.
The air is frenetic. The hits are unreal. And the fights feel like they last an eternity – every muscle fiber in my body tenses with the anxious thought that I might break off. But before I realize it, the inky blackness has completely taken over. It’s time to say goodbye to the gyrating Hexes and the monster browns. I know tonight will stay with me. I’ve never fished a hatch like that – out in the dark with a million flies dancing. And sometimes, on long summer nights, when the wind’s calm and the stars are blazing quietly, I almost think I can hear the staccato sounds of trout rising and the steady hum of the Hex highway.
Editor’s Note: Hudson is fortunate enough to call Jay Allen, owner of Jay Allen’s Guided Fly Fishing, dad. Jay is familiar to readers for his contributions to Michigan Trout magazine, including one in this issue, “Get A Drift.”
How do I take all of my thoughts about the most anticipated day of the year and explain them in a way that a normal person can understand?
I don’t think I can… but let me try. The
The biblical creation story claims that God made the Earth in seven days. On the fifth day, he created fish. The next day he created man and gave him dominion over said fish.
This is the hardest part of the creation story for me to reconcile. I might be able to believe that God spoke the world into existence. But my hang-up is with the “dominion over fish” part.
The first day of trout season is referred to by most as “Trout Opener.”
It never seems to come soon enough. I’m sure there’s a story about an angler who lost his mind in the last stretch of spring before he could legally fish for trout. And that he’s probably somewhere in a straightjacket yelling the Latin names of hatching aquatic insects on his home water. If the story were said to be true, I might believe it.
And then there’s the fact that we’ve all come out of a long winter, and the sun has probably been shining for the first few warm days of the year. Fly boxes are full, fly rods stung up, and the rivers have been calling, but the Department of Natural Resources thinks otherwise.
I’ve started treating trout opener like a holiday. Most other holidays have some significant meaning behind the celebration, and the celebrations themselves speak to the purpose of the holiday. Families each have their traditions and special meanings for each person. One of my family traditions was formed involuntarily. Christmas Day was always spent at my mother’s side. Her parents (both WW2 veterans that lived through the great depression, WW1, andby Seth Waters, Dark Waters Fly Shop
WW2) had one of those houses where certain rooms were not played in, and certain furniture was NOT to be used. This left me and my siblings in front of the television, watching “24 hours of the Christmas Story” all day long. EVERY YEAR. I think you get my point. Holidays are spent in unique ways by everyone.
Such things can be said about trout opener.
The way I’ve chosen to celebrate trout opener is to gauge my satisfaction with something other than the fish. It’s like offering a good attitude as homage to the fishing gods. This could include good meals prepared beforehand, simple enough to cook over an open fire, yet tasty enough to get questioned by your fishing partners or even asked for the recipe. It could also include basic observations on how your favorite river has changed through the previous winter and melt-off. If you take the time to look around, there’s always something to keep your attention on a river other
One of MY favorite things on trout opener is camping on cold nights. It gives me an opportunity to test any upgrades to my camping gear, noting the things that require too much fiddling and the things that make you ask yourself how you could have done without them until now.
I’m also a sucker for a campfire. Last year, I had a remote fishing spot where I’d light a small campfire on the river bank to keep warm on very cold days. One day, I found myself lighting it and sitting by it for a good couple of hours before realizing I had previously been comfortable fishing in temps much colder than it was that day. I immediately concluded that I like sitting by a campfire on the river just as much as I like fishing. Who would have guessed?
By taking a day and purposefully going to the river with your fishing stuff and exercising enough discipline to stay your need to cast repeatedly, you’ll start to see a bigger picture. Even if that picture is you developing a nervous twitch, knowing that you could be casting your fly rod to a fish that you assume is in the very spot you’re casting and waiting for it to eat whatever fly you tied on, because that’s what you think he’ll eat.
It goes without saying that fly fishing is a big part of my life. So I’ll have all trout season to let the trout toy with my heart and play with my mind. But not on trout opener. Trout opener is about the essence of trout fishing. At least that way, if I get bit by the “I have to catch the big one” bug later in the season, at least I started on the right foot.
Someone suggested that fishing conditions like water temperature, air temperature, snow accumulation, and runoff aren’t dependable this early in the season and aren’t always favorable to the fisherman and that this may have something to do with my lackadaisical approach. But that’s just a theory.
The truth is, I’d like to think that fish don’t control me. And this is a good exercise to prove it. If not to anyone else, at least I convinced myself for a day.
Think of it this way…
The fish gets caught by your fly because it didn’t observe well enough to detect your fly as a fake, consequences ranging anywhere from a struggle and quick escape to baptism by vegetable oil. Likewise, if we don’t take the time to observe well enough, we’ll examine a single piece of the puzzle instead of seeing the whole picture as it was intended to be viewed. And believe it or not, that span of consequences might be the same for us as they are for the fish.
Remember, on the sixth day of creation, this whole fishing thing started. That’s probably why it says God rested on the seventh day. He probably sat back and thought, “This is going to be good.” In fact, his exact words were, “It is good.”
Now… only three weeks left!by George A. Griffith, Founder
Trout Angler Guides
Available for these Michigan Rivers: Manistee River
Au Sable ‘Holy Water’
Au Sable ‘Trophy Water’
Pere Marquette River
Pigeon River Country
Plus: Steelheader’s Guide
Book Review: Pocketguide to Upper Midwest Hatchesby Glen Blackwood, Great Lakes Fly Fishing Co.
In the pursuit of trout through fly fishing, there is a parallelism between success and observation. Fly fishing is nothing more than a mindspinning algebraic equation that a variety of angling methods can solve. Only all the variables are found in the natural world. These variables can be the time of the year, water temperatures and flows, angling pressure, and the trout themselves, to name a few, as well as, importantly, the vastness of fly selection.
Fly selection has been bantered about for centuries. From Frederic M. Halford writing about chalk stream dry fly fishing in England to Theodore Gordon’s adaptations dressed for the rivers of the Catskill region of New York, dry fly anglers have been searching for the perfect pattern. G. E. M. Skues led the charge regarding anglers accepting that drifting immature insects (nymphs) was also acceptable to the sport. With Frank Sawyer’s creation of the pheasant tail nymph, subsurface opportunities prospered.
Other anglers, fly dressers, and authors continued to create and tout the next best trout fly, mostly based on local knowledge and on-stream observation. Science was, by in large, left out of the equation until Ernest Schwiebert wrote Matching the Hatch in 1955. The Michigan-based team of Dr. Carl Richards and Doug Swisher added to the scientific approach with the release of Selective Trout in 1971. Selective Trout informed anglers of trout stream insect life cycles and patterns and categorized them into the most important bugs in geographic regions. They coined these bugs “The Super Hatches.” With Selective Trout’s release, a new baseline was established, with anglers now understanding the life cycles of mayflies from egg to nymph, to emerger, to dun, and to the final stage of spinners. This understanding allowed for better fly selection on the water.
As understanding grew based on Swisher and Richards’s research, the number of angling books pertaining to insects proliferated. The discussions of the insects that trout eat and why almost became sensory overload, with more theories and patterns paving the way. Then in December 2011, midwestern fishers were gifted an early Christmas present, a small instature but hefty in information book written by Ann R. Miller. Titled Hatch Guide for Upper Midwest Streams, her book became the gold standard for insect identification on Midwest trout streams. Her newest book, released in February 2023, Pocketguide to Upper Midwest Hatches, raises the bar again.
To the Michigan fly fishing cognoscenti, Ann Miller needs no introduction. Not only her books but her columns in Michigan Trout speak for themselves. As does her countless hours of volunteer time spent with the Fly Girl’s organization and Federation of Fly Fishers International. Her professional training is in aquatic biology, the foundation of her knowledge, but her passion is found on the banks of coldwater rivers and streams. Her new volume is more complete than the original and includes an
entirely new section titled “Other Aquatic Insects, Terrestrial Insects and Crustaceans.” Beyond the obvious opportunities of ants, grasshoppers, and other land-born insects, the discussions of hellgrammites, crane flies, dragonflies, midges, and scuds benefit the reader. While these trout foods may not seem as prominent as a major mayfly or caddis emergence, they should not be overlooked at the right place and at the right time. The book’s totality profits from this addition.
The book’s layout benefits from the four color pictures of a species on the left page and the representative fly patterns on the right. Following the species lifecycle from immature nymph or larva to sexually mature adult, these images allow the reader to visualize an actual insect and corresponding fly patterns. While outstanding macro photography is apparent on each page, the pages also include text deemed every bit as valuable to this reviewer. Please do not use this edition as a picture book alone, as you will miss the essential biological and angling insight that the author shares.
While on the topic of text, although the type size is smaller than one might commonly read, I found the font crisp and clean on the book’s quality stock. I also appreciated the book’s color-coded pages by the insects’ orders, making specific species searching a breeze, as did I appreciate the glossary and select bibliography found within the book’s boards. These sections are short but very impactful to the book’s overall value, as is the more extensive section pertaining to the included fly patterns. The accurate fly recipes, along with tyer credits, demonstrate the author’s collaborative nature.
These days there is a new version or update of something weekly, whether a mobile phone or other electronic devices. This book isn’t an update out of obsolescence, although insect names have been changed taxonomically, but an update to raise the standard. While I still steadfastly believe in the old-timer’s observations that the best Hex nights are those when both bullfrogs and fireflies are active, and Sulphers begin hatching on Mother’s Day, I’ll keep a copy of this title in both my vest and at my desk as someday I pray to find fish feeding on a bug that I have never experienced, and I will thank Ann for her natural observations that kept me in the game.
Pocketguide to Upper Midwest HatchesAuthor: Ann R. Miller
Retail Price $29.95
Michigan Trout Unlimited
P.O. Box 442
Dewitt, Michigan 48820-8820
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