March 21st, 2005

"Blue Ribbon" Trout Water
By James Castwell

I remember the big discussion about the flies only blue ribbon designation of the great trout stream in Michigan, the Au Sable. The river seems to average a couple of feet deep and is terrific for wading. You can go right down the middle and poke casts into pockets on both edges. Challenging casting and lots of fish, both big browns and smaller brookies.


The dottering heads from all over the state had opinions and when it was all over, it happened. The Main stream was designated 'flies only.' A stretch down from the town is even nick-named the 'Holy Water.' So what does this all mean? The idea was to protect the fishery from over use. Most of the land was privately owned, but there were many access points where one could park and enter the water and wade to the next point and get a ride back to his car, sometimes.

Bank erosion was not a major concern and the overall ecology was not an issue, it was just that the numbers of fish was declining. Having once in the past screwed up royally and losing all of the fish the city on it was named for (Grayling) someone thought it might be prudent to do something. Trash along the banks showed many bait cans, beer cans and lure wrappers. It was perceived that if they improved the access points, made primitive camping available and put in 'johns' and trash barrels things might improve. A better class of people I guess is what they envisioned.

Many of the locals knew of the stream as had their fathers and used to fish big lures at night, systematically removing all the large fish, both brown and brook trout. Immediately after the new designation, this practice picked up even thought surveillance was intensified. It took a couple of years of enforcement to dry up the violators somewhat. However, at about the same time, fly fishers from other parts of the state, converged on the 'Flies Only' section as there had to be wonderful fishing if it had been designated 'Blue-Ribbon' trout fishing.

With the immediate reduction of large fish and the secondary reduction of many fish by the influx of new fishers, slot limits were suggested. These met with maniacal rejection. This was 'Gods Country,' and by God, no one was going to keep some of these guys from keeping a few "fer the pan." Funny, how sometimes there just seems to be no way to actually correct things and make everyone happy at the same time.

Today it's still "Blue Ribbon" trout fishing. It is still "Flies Only." And yes, the "Holy Water" is still there. Oh, by the way, it is all 'Catch and Release.' That is, of what few fully mature five inch brookies are left. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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