Wa Wa Sum

I was looking forward to this trip for a while.  Mention LOG CABIN and  you get my interest.  Add HISTORIC and  with good fly fishing , in front and I’m in like flies on …well you know.   I have to say… this did not disappoint.  In fact, I’m putting my hand up RIGHT NOW for a repeat next year. (and every year) SIGN ME UP!!   I knew this was going to be good…

First stop, Gates AuSable Lodge for some flies, tippet and what ever else I felt I  had to have.  I was also in for the latest scoop on the river conditions both for fishing and the legal battles.   The AuSable "Holy Waters"…

… just down  a few steps from our cabin, great women who love to fly fish, the smell of cedar and pine on the wind … Yes, it was going to be good, BUT I didn’t know it would be THIS good.  Wa Wa Sum was magic from the very second I walked through the creaky old screen door.  

When I walked in, there was some "Fishin’ Music" playing , the smell of a wood fire burning in the fire place and an inviting sofa .

I sat there for a few minutes, quietly soaking in what I was feeling.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  This was my version of heaven and I was still breathing!  

When you walk out on the porch you see and hear the AuSable River below.  The rocking chairs are all hand made bent willow and cherry.   There were a couple of beds on the porch , too.  If it was a little warmer I would have stayed there.  As it was, it was  freezing at night with heavy frost in the morning, high bright skies, stiff winds and low 50s during the day.  Just to add to the off fishing, the clouds came in with some cold drizzly rain and snow was in the evening forecast.   No fish showing on the surface this trip.  This spring has been unusually cold.  OR I should say it was like spring used to be when I was a kid… back in the 50’s and 60s.    It didn’t help the fishing any, but who cares.  This was heaven  and I found it in Michigan , and  nothing mattered but the moment. 


This was another Flygirls of Michigan adventure.  Kris was nice enough to invite me down to her place a day earlier.  This was great because it saved me from having to get on the road at an ungodly hour to get to the cabin in time, which made the day much more enjoyable and relaxing. The border always throws surprises and as it was ,it took me two hours longer to get to Grayling because of border delays.   Kris and Tina have a nice place in the  bush  not far from Kneff Lake.  There are dozens of bird feeders, squirrel feeders (they get the cute little red ones) and a deer feeder.  Kris and I sat at the table looking out the window over good conversation.  There were Rose Breasted Grosbeaks ….dozens of them. 

I rarely see them in my neck of Ontario.  There were wild turkeys, nut hatches and other birds more common to me.   The deer started showing up at dusk.  The first one , a yearling button buck, limped in  alone.  It had been left behind by its usual group.  It looked like it may have had a run in with a car.  I heard a lot of coyotes later that night and I really wondered if the button buck would show up again the next day, or were the coyotes lucky.   After it left , others came in to feed…and there were some interesting challenges for dominance  between a doe,  heavy with a fawn and a younger female around the feeder. "THANKS KRIS" for letting me share this! 

The other women started arriving to the cabin not long after I did.  I had time to explore , meet the new faces and get re acquainted with the familiar before  starting in on our activities.   We were going out to learn access points on the famous branches of the AuSable .    I did the North Branch which was great because that was the one I had never spent time on before.

This is a group of eager anglers getting ready to take off on a float down the North Branch from Dam 4.   These are Au Sable River Boats.  I later found out, from Judy, at Fullers North Branch Outing Club,   that this group of anglers was from London, Ontario.  Fancy that…and I didn’t know them???

Meal times were in the Dinning Room  


Jewels of the river, After a day of checking out the river and doing some fishing, it was time to unwind and sit by the fire.

In the evening we had guest tiers come and share there knowledge and skills.   Jerry Regan  is known as the keeper of the Au Sable River patterns.  He shared is knowledge of the traditional Michigan fly patterns and their history. Here is an article about Jerry. 


Followed the next night by Dennis Potter who talked about more current patterns  and the benefits of synthetics like Z-Lon and foam.    He’s a very funny guy.  Almost as funny as **Ian James.  Sorry Dennis,  I didn’t get a live action photo of  him.  I felt like a little kid back in school again and was too afraid to take the shot and get scolded!!  LOL.  So I’ll steal one from the Internet:

Press Photo/Cory Olsen
Here is an excellent and interesting piece on Dennis :
http://www.mlive.com/grpress/slideshows/20080425-fly-tier/  I’m Looking forward to seeing you again on the Wakely Lake  / Hex Weekend in a few weeks.

We also had a special treat:

Charlie Weaver is an Au Sable River Boat guide who also has another talent. He provided a couple of hours of soothing entertainment with a number of songs.  You can find his CD here: http://www.chartingnature.com/books.cfm?book=B6881

Hey Charlie!!  I think I caught you last summer on my camera.  Check out this link and scroll down!  http://flyfishingforums.hipwader.com/viewtopic.php?id=2704

Here are just a few more photos from a fantastic Flygirls adventure. I just wanted to say a special "THANK YOU" to camera shy Colleen  Jenkins for all her efforts in putting this all together.  I sure hope I see this one come again next year.  I’m serious…Put me on the list! 

Camp Wa Wa Sum

Camp Wa Wa Sum is a Michigan State University conference center and a research facility used by the departments of Fisheries and Wildlife and Forestry. It is located on the AuSable River, 6 miles east of Grayling. The name Wa Wa Sum means "plain view" in the Chippewa language and was given to the camp in 1905 by Chief David Shoppenagon, an AuSable River guide and outdoorsman. The first building was constructed of red pine and tamarack logs in 1897-98 by Rubin Babbit, an AuSable woodsman who later became Michigan’s first wildlife officer.

The camp is used for Fisheries  and forestry research .  Non profit groups can use the site for educational purposes. 

The river below the cabin.  This is the Main Branch "Holy Waters" above the Whirlpool.  

A frosty morning on the porch overlooking the river.

  Telling stories under a watchful eye. 

Back seat knitter!! BUSTED!!


All that outside air, at the end of a day, one tends to fade by the warm fire. 

Bed sure looks good!  

(click photos to see full size) 
Thanks  Again, Flygirls of Michigan, Kris Nichols, Jerry Regan , Dennis Potter, Charlie  Weaver and Colleen  Jenkins for making this a trip to remember forever.   



5 comments on “Wa Wa Sum

  1. Ron says:

    This must be my day for making comments but that log cabin sure looks like atmosphere to me. Is it possible for club members to book for a weekend fishing trip? Ron

  2. Mato says:

    Probably not. At least on a weekend. The waiting list is over seven years long. There may be a couple of spaces on weekdays available, but the choices are VERY limited. With out group…I\’m not sure it would fly. One, you have to be a non profit group…aka providing a US tax exempt number. We have to offer some sort of educational program…not a problem. Getting 20 or so members in OUR group to commit to two or three nights during weekdays …I\’m guessing IMPOSSIBLE. Once a group acquires a time block, that is theirs annually until they no longer use it. Lucky me…I\’ll be heading back up in May again.

  3. Gordon says:

    I\’ve been going to Wa Wa Sum for almost 25 years and this description of the experience is one of the best. Thanks, and I hope you get back.

  4. Don Bastian says:

    Sounds like a great trip! I met Jerry Regan years back at the Izaak Walton Show in of all places, Ontario. It was he who educated me about the Meshon and Mershon White, classic Michigan wet flies. Thanks for your trip report!

    • matokuwapi says:

      Hi Don,
      I’m a bit slow in responding to this. I spend too much time these days with my face planted in Facebook. Glad you enjoyed the Wa Wa Sum reports. I’ve been back there a few more times and I’m heading back again in June. Big fly season. I love that place.

      I spend upwards of 8 weeks worth of fishing time in the Grayling area each year, unless I can get the other half to agree to head west.

      Like you I think I first met Jerry Regan at the Izaak Walton Show way back when. We’ve become quite good friends over the years. I run into him several times a year now, both on and off the river. He’s a real character and he’s my main source for Michigan fly history. I fish a lot of those old Michigan patterns. I also fish a number of Jerry’s patterns. His Bat Fly saved my bacon more than once, during a blanket Hex hatch and one of those nights in mid June when the fish were going crazy but no one else could figure out what the hell was hatching. Interesting bug, that.

      With regards to Wa Wa Sum, I wish I could figure out a way for our London Club to go, but the only way I can figure it is to get the club to affiliate with FFF. I tried but they wouldn’t bite during my presidency. Too bad. Wa Wa Sum, is only available to registered non prof (tax exempt in US) clubs. Our club is non prof but not registered and certainly not in the US. There are a couple of other Ontario women that have jumped aboard and joined Flygirls of Michigan, just to participate in this outing. I so wish we had something like this in Ontario. Cost per person for lodging is an incredible $6 a night.

      I love your blog by the way.

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