Fly fishers from all over the country make the pilgrimage to the Au Sable, where the combination of spring-fed waters, clean gravel river bottoms, and all the right insect hatches make for stellar trout fishing. “There are more than 100 miles of prime trout water in the Au Sable system,” says Rusty Gates, who operates a simple lodge and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing school (989/348-8462). “If you designed a river to fly-fish in, this would be it.”
All along the area’s rivers, you’ll spot anglers plying their sport, standing midstream in hip waders, unfurling a long arc of lemon-colored line across the river with their fly rods, or casting from a flat-bottom Au Sable riverboat specifically designed for drifting these shallow waters. Many congregate just east of town in a 10-mile catch-and-release area known as “the holy waters.”
While the Grayling Visitors Bureau (213 N. James St., 800/937-8837, www.grayling-mi.com) will help you link up with fishing guides, you also can try your luck from shore. (Obtain a license—available at local shops and gas stations—and check fishing regulations first.) Both the Manistee and Au Sable pass through several miles of state and federal lands, so you won’t have much trouble finding public access.
Farther southeast, the Rifle River and its upper tributaries have earned reputations for yielding good catches of brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Some steelhead and chinook salmon are caught on the river’s upper reaches, and pike, bass, and panfish are pulled from the park’s 10 lakes and ponds, many of which have public access sites.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel