I know I've mentioned this here somewhere before but I'm going to do it again...I worry from time-to-time that we have a great many folks in or sport who are, in my humble opinion, the "real deal" with knowledge from real time spent on a stream who labor a bit in anonymity. I fear that so much of the history of or sport is at risk of being lost...Local lore, though it may not make you a better fisherman, adds so much more to the ambience of fishing a historical stream like my Au Sable.
You have heard me go on before about my fishing with ghosts in front of old fishing lodges and clubs where some of the icons of fly fishing perfected their craft. Ernie, Swisher/Richards, George Griffith, Henry Ford & Edison etc...The list from the Au Sable is a very long one...It was the classroom.
I just want to tip my cap a bit in public to Tim Neal, whom we are lucky to have nosing around the edges of this site, and his friend Jerry Regan, both tiers from the Grayling Michigan area and the "keepers-of-the-flame" for the old Au Sable fly patterns.
Besides the flies my friend Bill supplied me with, when I started out, I hassled many a trout on the Au Sable with the flies created by Tim Neal and Jerry...These flies helped me through until I got to the point where I could craft fishable flies of my own. Their flies, once I started tying myself, became models for my attempts at duplication...I learned a great deal by ripping these guys off...:)
There were a few gas stations and grocery stores in and around the Grayling/Lovell's area where there would be these wonderful wooden cases with sliding glass tops...Inside, in all these compartments, would be some of the nicest flies around. Local flies...They were tied by Tim Neal...
Now this is weird...For decades I always asked around about this tier Tim Neal and folks would tell me where I could find him etc...Once up there though the pull of the river was too strong and my visiting time too short to ever hunt him down. Then one day, in a Trico thread of all things, there he was on this site!
In those old boxes of his were Robert's Yellow Drake (you could use this fly from as small as you can tie it up to the Hex), there was the Harris Special (a wonderful fly for covering the little olive & yellow stones) this was one of my first ever flies I tied myself. His Blue Winged Olives were a must in every size he had in his display...If you waited too long here they were sold out...The guides up there have a saying, "When in doubt, tie on a Borcher's!" and with this bad boy you could cover the dark flies and in its parachute form just about any spinner you may run in to up there. He had Yellow Sally's, Madsen Skunks, Houghton Lake Specials, Trico's, and that seldom heard of Michigan fly, the Adams...:) It was a candy store for anglers.
When I first started out I was reading "Matching the Hatch" and ordering Catskill type flies from mail order houses back east. Once my friend Bill heard what I was doing he went through the roof and told me to stop..."When we get up there you can buy some local flies! Flies that will work up on the Au Sable." One day we were standing in Caid's in Lovell's and it was my first peek in to Tim's display and my friend Bill turned to me and said, "This guy ties a very nice fly! You better buy a few here to fill out your boxes." He walked me through all the local names for these flies and when to use them.
On my first ever trip up we left Detroit at 3:00am...Half way up Bill turned to me and told me to grab a fly box from one of the pockets on his vest...It was jammed full of flies. "Those are for you and should pretty much cover what we could run in to up there this week." I was starring inside with my mouth a jar smiling ear-to-ear when he said, "But you have to get your own box!" :)
My early class room was the Au Sable and the teachers there helped me skip over Fly Fishing 101 and saved me some of the frustrations that someone starting out might encounter. I was very lucky! And I'm very, very, thankful!
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively
"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood