Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Au Sable River In
This big river starts north of Grayling Michigan and flows
for about a hundred miles before emptying into Lake
Huron. It is one of the countries top trout fishing
destinations. Its upper section consist of water from the
North, South and the main stem of the river. The
Au Sable River also has a great steelhead fishery in the
last few miles of the river below Foote Dam. The big
river flows form its headwaters in the same direction as
the nearby Manistee River. The Au Sable empties into
Lake Huron but the Manistee Lake Superior. .
At Grayling, Michigan, the main stem is joined by the
East Branch of the Au Sable. Not far from there, at a
place called Burton's Landing, the Graying's nine-mile
long, fly fishing only, "catch and release" section begins.
This section is called the "Holly Water" by the locals.
This special regulation section ends at Wakeley Bridge.
This part of the rive is wide but fairly easy to wade. Its
bottom is mostly sand and gravel. Fly fishing the
Au Sable River is a truly pleasurable experience.
Access to this part of the Au Sable River is easy. There
are several locations where one can launch boats and
wade. Stephan Bridge and Thendara Road are the two
most popular access points in this area of the river.
From the Wakeley Bridge downstream to Mio Pond, the
river gets larger with more pools and a fewer runs. The
fishing is excellent in both of these upper sections. This
section is deeper and more difficult to wade but it holds
some big trout. This area of the Au Sable River can be
accessed at the Whirlpool off cherry Creek Road and
the Parmalee Bridge.
From Mio Dam downstream to the McKinley Bridge you
will find some of the river's largest trout. This area is
best fished from a drift boat due to the strong current
and depth but it is possible to wade in places depending
on the water levels. This area of the river can be
accessed at Perry Creek, the McKIinley Bridge and
The South Branch of the Au Sable River joins the main
stem in this section.
The South Branch also has excellent fishing and also
includes a "catch and release", artificials only section
from Chase Bridge downstream to Lower High Banks.
The South Branch is easy to wade.
The South Branch of the Au Sable River flows from
Houghton Lake past the town of Roscommon. It joins the
main stem not far below the Wakeley Bridge.
The North Branch of the Au Sable River also has some
great fly fishing opportunities. It enters the main stem of
the Au Sable just downstream of the South Branch.
Brown trout, some rainbows, and lots of brook trout are
found in the North Branch. After passing through
Lovells, it flows into the main stem of the Au Sable a few
miles downstream of the South Branch.
The lower section of the Au Sable River is an excellent
steelhead fishery. The section from Foote Dam
downstream to Lake Huron has runs of both steelhead
and salmon. This is a large section of water. It can be
waded at times but it can also be dangerous. It's best to
fish it from the banks or a boat. Steelhead fishing
generally runs from November through March.
Fly fishing the Au Sable River ranks up there with any of
the best trout and steelhead streams in the Eastern
United States. It's a year- round, high quality fishery. It's
famous for its "MIchigan Caddis" hatch, which is actually
the large Hexagenia Limbata mayfly. Anglers have an
opportunity to catch some large brown trout on
imitations of this mayfly. If you haven't already done so,
we suggest you plan a trip to fish this great river.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Au Sable River
There are a huge number of aquatic insect
hatches that takes place on this river. Often,
the strategies and techniques depend greatly
on these insects.
Au Sable River,
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
For Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Fly fishing the Au Sable River is good
any time of the year. It is a very diverse
Springtime brings about the most aquatic
insect hatches and some of the best
There is almost eighty miles of good trout
fishing on the Au Sable. It is a freestone
stream that starts north of Fredrick. Most of
the trout in the headwater areas are small to
medium brown, brook and rainbow trout. The
thirteen mile section from Fredrick to Grayling
is a relatively shallow, easy wading stream with
mostly brook trout. There are a few browns in
As mentioned in the introduction, the section
below Grayling is the nine mile catch and
release area. It is heavily fished during the
prime season. Roads, the North Down River
Road and the South Down River Roads
closely follow along this section of the river.
The section from Wakeley Bridge downstream
to McMasters Bridge is know for its brown
trout. The bottom of the river changes from
gravel and small cobble to mostly a sand
bottom with deep pools. This area can be
accessed from White Pine Campground,
Conners Flat and Rainbow Bend
Almost thirty miles below Grayling, there is a
trophy section of the Au Sable. It starts at Mio
and runs to McKinley. This area has plenty of
large trout but is best fished from a drift boat.
The spring steelhead season starts in late
March. The best fishing is in April. About half
of the fish are hatchery planted fish. They are
indicated by a clipped fin. The fall run of
steelhead takes place from about the middle
of October through November.
When the salmon are spawning around the
first of November, the steelhead can be
caught below the beds on egg patterns of
flies below Foote Dam. They are also
caught swinging large streamers through
the deeper pools downstream in the lower
section of the river. Normally, sink tip lines
are used for this.
In addition, both the North and the South
Branches of the Au Sable provide excellent
fishing, especially for the wading angler.
The Au Sable is known for its aquatic
insects. As you will see in our hatch section,
there are many different species and rather
large quantities of them. Being able to fish
imitations of what is about to hatch and what
is hatching is necessary in many cases. The
best approach is to pay attention to the
hatch charts. If nothing is hatching when you
are fishing, you should be fishing imitations
of what is most available for the trout to eat
in the nymphal stage. If it is near the hatch
time for a certain insect, most likely the best
bet is to fish an imitation of its nymph or
Streamers are always a good choice
especially if the water is off color or it is
early or late in the day. There are plenty of
big brown trout in the river and streamers
are often the best fly to catch them.
Au Sable Hatches and Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Au Sable and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with selections,
you will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies,
92% of the thousands of our customers will
use nothing else.
This stream has an abundance of hatches
that occur throughout the season. Keep in
mind that it is a long river and when we list an
insect as hatching in a time slot, that doesn't
mean it will be hatching in every section of the
stream and its tributaries at the same time.
In our opinion, the most important insect that
hatches on the Au Sable River is the
Blue-winged Olives. Of course there's more
than one species and some of them are
bi-brooded and maybe even tri-brooded. The
first hatch usually occurs around the first of
April and last until about the middle of May.
The next wave of the little BWOs is usually
around the last week of June. They hatch
almost through the month of July. Near the
end of August there will be more of them
hatching. This last hatch last into the first
week or so of October.
About the last week of April the Hendrickson
hatch usually starts. It can be very prolific.
These mayflies normally hatch for about a
month in varies sections of the river. About
that same time, Blue Quills will start to hatch. It
usually last about three weeks. Most locals
call this a Mahogany Dun hatch. Around the
middle of May, American March Browns will
also hatch is the faster water areas of the
river. It last for about a month.
At the same time, or the middle of May, you
may also find some Sulphurs starting to hatch.
This hatch can last to the middle of June.
Brown Drakes start hatching about the last
week of May and last for about a month. The
first of June you should find some Gray
Drakes hatching. They can last up to a month.
About the second week of June and lasting
until the middle of July, the hatch that the Au
Sable River is famous for takes place - The
Great Olive Wing Dun, or what locals
sometimes call the Michigan Caddis. This is
mostly an evening event. Don't forget the
Yellow Drakes. They usually start around the
last week of July and can last two or three
weeks. The Slate Drake hatch last about a
month, or from around the middle of July until
the middle of August.
In the faster water sections, you will find some
Light Cahills. They hatch for most of the
month of June. The later season hatches
include the Mahogany Duns. Both the
Mahogany Duns and Little Yellow Quills start
around the first of August and last for about a
Caddisflies are also very plentiful on the Au
Sable River. There are many species but the
most important are the Cinnamon Caddis
species. They start about the first of June and
can last all the way until the end of August.
Green Sedges start around the first of June
also. This hatch usually last about six weeks.
There is more than one species of them.
Remember, their larva, or the Green Rock
Worms, are around all year exposed to the
trout. Imitations of them work just about
The first hatch of caddisflies is usually the
Little Black Caddis. They will start about the
last week of April and last for around three
weeks. There's some White Miller
Caddisflies that hatch for about the entire
month of August. These are long-horn
caddisflies. There's some Great Autumn
Brown Caddisflies that hatch starting near
the end of August. They hatch at night and
usually last for about a month.The Au Sable
River also has some stoneflies. Of course
these are usually found in the faster
sections of the streams. Little Winter
stoneflies hatch in April. Yellow Sallies (Little
Yellow stoneflies) are probably the most
plentiful of them. They start hatching
around the end of May and last until the
middle of July. There's also some Golden
Stoneflies that hatch during the month of
June. You will also find some Little Brown
Stoneflies hatching in June.
Terrestrial insects can be important during
the summer months. Ants are plentiful
around the stream from about the end of
June all the way to mid October.
The flying ants are usually found from about
the middle of August to the middle of
September, but don't hold your breath.
They show up when they want to. Imitations
of beetles and grasshoppers will produce
trout during the months of July, August and
Midges are around year-round and
imitations of their larvae, pupae and the
adults will produce most anytime but the
most important times are during cold
weather when few other insects are
Streamers are very popular flies on the Au
Sable River. Imitations of sculpin, baitfish,
leeches all produce. They are very good
flies for catching the larger brown trout,
especially in low light and dingy water
conditions. Streamers also work great for
As you can see, there's a lot of aquatic
insects that hatch on this great river. At
"Perfect Fly," we have specific imitations of
all of them. If you haven't already done so,
please give our flies a chance to perform for
you. They are not only are the most realistic
flies you can buy, they are the most
effective at catching trout.
You may want to have a large selection of
small egg flies in natural colors such as
gold, orange, Oregon cheese, peach, and
cream in hook sizes #8 and 10's. Our
"Perfect Fly" Giant Black Stonefly Nymphs in
hook sizes 6 also work well. Our "Perfect
Fly" Hex (Great Olive Winged Drake)
nymphs in a hook size #6 also work great.
So do our Green Caddis larvae imitations or
Green Rock Worms in a hook size 12.
Steamers also work for the steelhead.
Summer can be good, especially the night
fishing during the big Drake hatches.
Fall may be the best all around time to fish
the Au Sable.
Early winter steelhead fishing can be okay.
Au Sable River Fishing Report:
11/30/13 Customer reporting some nice
steelhead being caught as far up as Foote
Dam. He ordered more Green Sedge and
Cinnamon Caddisfly larva steelhead
nymphs and Giant Black stonefly steelhead
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge