Atlantic Salmon on the fly is the holy grail of angling. Few places in North America offer the opportunity to chase Atlantic Salmon. We are lucky to have this amazing fishery on Michigan’s lower Au Sable River, where we guide clients for Atlantic Salmon in fall, winter, and spring.
Unlike Pacific salmon species, Atlantics are aggressive and feed during their migrations into rivers. We use this aggression to trigger strikes on swung or stripped streamers.
This is an amazing new fishery and we hope you’ll join us in chasing Atlantic Salmon in Michigan’s Au Sable River. Call us to inquire about dates and availability. We expect each year’s run to improve as older fish jump up in size and younger fish start to return.
Strippin’ streamers is one of favorite methods of fishing these Atlantic Salmon with lots of different bait fish and sculpin patterns. This method excels when numbers are low and covering lots of water. 9’ 7wt are ideal this time of year. We don’t use real heavy lines sink tips – sink leaders and floating lines work great as Atlantics love to come up to feed.
Once fish numbers increase, we are often sight fishing to Atlantics holding in the current. We anchor up and present flies to the fish until they get aggressive, either out of hunger or annoyance. For this approach, we combine stripping and swinging streamers and my favorite setup is 2 handed fly rods rods. We don’t need super long spey rods and 11’6” to 12’6” in 6-8wts.
When the bit gets slow, deep water nymphing is very productive. Atlantics don’t seem to feed heavy on eggs but when spawning season comes around in early November look for steelhead to feed heavy below Atlantic redds.
Fall: Atlantic Salmon start there Fall run in the Au Sable River in late September. These early fish are typically bright silver fish and are incredible fighters. At this time, Coho Salmon are also entering the river and a great time for those that like to strip or swing streamers. The early run of Atlantic are just beautiful fish but numbers are typically not real high. Mid to late October numbers greatly increase and this run is like one long trickle of fresh fish coming in from Lake Huron thru mid December. Steelhead and Coho add to catch with makes a great combination for the fly angler.
Winter and spring: The winter months there are a few hold over Atlantics in the river but more Steelhead. Early spring most focus more on steelhead on the Au Sable but the river gets a some nice bright Atlantics in mid March. These spring fish are very aggressive and on the feed.
FAVORITE ATLANTIC SALMON FLIES FOR GREAT LAKES
Our favorite flies for Atlantics on the Au Sable include dungeons, sparkle minnows, chromatic peanuts, egg sucking leech, A1 intruder, goby intruder, mud puppet, and patterns that mimic emerald shiners and smelt. Visit our store to purchase many of these patterns. Depending on the day, bright colors work well such as a white/silver intruder or a chartreuse/silver intruder. Sculpin patterns work great on overcast days.
After years of minimal Atlantic Salmon management in Michigan, the DNR has turned more attention to this exciting species. Beginning in 2013, the Michigan DNR resumed stocking Atlantic Salmon in the lower Au Sable. In 2023, over 40,000 juvenile Atlantics were released in to the lower Au Sable at the Whirlpool Launch. Returns have been increasing each year and older age classes are returning bigger and bigger. For further info on current stocking efforts, click here.