It’s been a unique fall and almost exactly flip-flop between September & October last year. All the rains this year fell in October instead of September and the fishing has been consistent when the water has been. Fishing pressure has been steadily falling since the failing of the Kings, yet there is still solid interest in the better biting fall run steelhead as of late even with the passing gun opening. Size of steelhead this year is impressive, including a 24.5lb whale taken up north on the Manistee by a lucky fellow, and we have been seeing solid numbers so far, but fishing has been up and down as most rivers have areas where they are and aren’t still, and we are hoping the gaps will fill in the with this past rain. Stripping bite is off to a slower start this year, yet the swing and egg bite has been on step, with a great swing bite lately. Stripping always seems to shine when the sun doesn’t and the water rebounds little in temperature daily, and in this past week, we are finally seeing that need for speed approach pay off! Could use some rain bad, which was the story in September this year when we were begging for flow with VERY LOW conditions; and the egging, though good early, was tough through the back nine of September before the rains of October rebounded the brown bite too stellar and drew a slue of chrome from the big lake, which we had lots of fun with for a week or so. We do have a couple dates left this fall for some quality fishing, and we will be running winter trips as long as the weather is allowing. South Holsten this year is going to be a short list and a shorter trip since my buddy Brad is leaving next spring for Montana… We are going to fish hard and stay local most of the winter, but will be going for a week or so to the southern watersheds.
“Eggin” out of the gates was great for browns, but moving into September and first week of October, fishing was TOUGH; but once we got the flow, the browns began a serious campaign of caviar carnage and the chrome started to trickle heavier. Lately, the bigger and smaller clowns, pending the section or river fished, are doing well for the steelhead; where up higher in the clearing water the glo-bug, nuke egg, or foam tied bead fly are doing better for both browns and steelhead, yet should be sized down if targeting the trout… This and even some assorted nymphs as the water is clearing. Tippets should shrink with the water table, and fish with some stealth in that mending or you stand to spook the fish before he sees you’re your presenting! Long leaders mend well and subtle where short ones shock the bobber/presentation often… And for goodness sake, stop using WF Titan or shortened heads to indicator fish with, if you can’t mend it at a distance with a buttery adjustment, it doesn’t matter how easy it was to get it into the spot. Presentation is the most critical part of nymphing, not the cast. Triangle tapers, Atlantic Salmon, or some cool Delta Spey II for bigger floats get it done where the WF stuff should be limited to tiny creeks or throwing bass bugs with lots of wind resistance. Bonus to using Triangle tapering is that you have to retrieve less line each cast, mend clean, high stick control better, and all leads to less ice in the guides because less line is traveling through them per cast and present. Egg bite lasts all winter long and allows for bigger fish landed with the cooling temps. Food for thought, talk amongst yourselves… Dogs, Daughters, & Sausages….
Streamer Strip bite so far has been good for trout, but marginal for steelbows except for this past week when the water dropped/cooled and became more sterile. Streamer fishing was tough for trout in the low clear late summer/early fall, but when the rains hit, so did the streamer bite. Lately we are finally seeing the steelhead favor the stripped fly with some consistency, but only just this week. As the water cools, and then gets sterile with the frozen ground, I think we will begin to see the hatred for swung and stripped flies increase as they simply run out of protein options. We have moved as many as 13 steelhead in one day on the stripped fly, and landed 11 of those which happen two falls back… When it’s working, it’s not a fluke; it’s a true method of engagement. A good tip for better presentations with your Drunks is this… If the rod bends, you loose action due to the shock of the shortened strip being taken up by the tip of the rod instead of being transmitted to the head of the fly, which creates the chuck & jive of the higher action marriage of fur, feather, and flash. Monitor the amount of slack allowed in between strips, then factor in the depth considered should be at least just below the halfway point of the column. If you fly isn’t digging to those depths, consider using the sink tip you have purchased with a little more slack and time to allow for depth penetration. Consider great pause as a valuable bite trigger as well, and achieve a little depth while doing so. Best colors were “SHAT”, assorted yellow variations, and ginger had a strong following in the clear. Fire tiger did well on the pre spawn browns and have gotten some stripped chrome to date. Drunk & Disorderly flies run the show, this versus another jointed wooly bugger, which let’s face it, is boring to watch… No matter what color or material you follow that hunk of lead with… It all swims the same! Evolve and fish your pattern… “Silly Rabbit, Jigs Are For Kids!” Variation in streamer presentation dictates productivity in predator persuasion. If you make him wonder the next move, then surprise him with another, then give it random/drunk inconsistent transit, you will trigger more than a notice or chase… YOU WILL PROVOKE A HIT! Streamer fishing will be heating up with the cooling water as it does every late fall early winter for the steelhead, and with that so will the swing, but your ability to find more “Players” is crucial to a better chance at finding the one that wants to pick a fight. If you can only fish to ten spots a day with a swung fly, versus a hundred with a stripped fly… Do the math, and you will see why the stripped fly approach is the best of both worlds in watersheds that differ than say wide, gradual descending runs, (that are as long as a school bus or a few), this versus The Pere Marquette that has pocket diversity over a broad range of depth and bottom variation. More so than a slow even track to sell our flash, we need to draw fish from the wood via action and injury mimic. Traditional steelhead lies here in MI are more rare than western fronts, save a few of our southern steelhead fisheries where gradual deepening tail-waters occur. The rest is woody, pocketed, sandy, and DEEP with too much potential holding water to stop and swing it all… First cast is always the best cast, so increase the amount of water that gets “THE FIRST CAST”!
Swing fly-fishing the last ten days has been great, and personally I love a day of sitting on the anchor and waiting for piano wire… I’m not exhausted and the steelhead is still willing to END the fly instead of just take it like and egg, which I love to do as well as it’s a great way to scout numbers of fish and learn to fight bigger fish on smaller tippets. Steelhead have a way of really testing your gear this early in the season when full of piss and vinegar. Some green/gold Goblins tied by good friend Greg Senyo & Pat Turbeville have been doing well for me in tannic waters, where the copper is proper mentality seems to keep me alive on the PM. Heard of some blue/silver love by a few guys in the clearing water… But when swinging, much like stripping, I’m not sure how much the color has to do with it versus the disposition of the steelhead taking notice of whatever variation of a disco ball you show him… That said, there is no fish I know of in coldwater that is more willing to give feedback on this or that pattern than a WILD steelbow! Keep one thing in mind when swinging the PM or other smaller assorted rivers that differ than say the wider, and much more “SWING” friendly Muskegon where covering more of the run trumps covering parts of the run better as we may with the smaller river approach. Position and trigger still occur per a slower, but more involved presentation on the pockets versus the even bottom run consideration. Think from his point of view in the smaller pocket, hole, or shortened run; then position the fly appropriately based on that idea. Mow tips work great for variations in depth, and the Tom Larimer’s RAGE COMPACT is a great compromise between Skagit and Scandi, where the Scandi short RIO is great for close quarters, and the Airflo scandi short is great in the just larger bodies where you can stretch it out just a pinch more. Don’t run too short of a leader to your swung fly or it will be overpowered by the sink-tip and allow for less flash undulation when mending or adding tensions for pulse. Swing fly bite lasts all winter long and into early spring before tapering off, and it a great way to sense a steelheads hatred for flash… Scott Howell once said, “It’s As Close To Reaching Into A Hole And Grabbing One By The Tail As It Gets!”
So… I think I’ll get off my ass and get The South Holsten Unicorn Hunt 2018 going… We are doing a smaller group, and it may be filled already as we aren’t doing a ton of people this year as much as a core group of serious anglers into both day & night fishing strategies. Covering a few different rivers down there, we will be streamer fishing when the water is on, night fishing streamers and mice when it’s not, so to fish the conditions as we discriminate against ZERO TECHNIQUES that beg for a take… That said, we wouldn’t be nymphing on this particular run, as we are targeting next level post spawn giants that move in and out of that system and those typically like the bigger payoff pitch. Same price likely as last year, and there will be some folks that don’t make this years run because I need to stay local longer this winter as I’m loosing my best buddy to the western front of better trout fishing… Which in many ways seems like a neat idea if those carp ever grab a foothold here in the big lakes. Again, we are a go, and if you are interested this year, it’ll be lower key, with far less egos and drama per hungry and willing guides that want to see that next level trout no matter if it’s not bankers hours as much as bar closings and watching the sun rise in January if conditions beg. Call the house if you think you got the skills, and if nothing else we can chat it out and get you on the program for following southern tail-water runs. Sooner or later we’ll go back to The White, but certainly under different circumstances and venues… It’s been 6 years I think now, and we need something fresh and entertaining as we are driving great distances and afforded monies for such experiences… And I for one am looking forward to seeing some newer waters and fishing some fresh guides who know their waters and fish and are excited to have us versus just our booking! It’ll be 4-day fishing blocks, with 5 nights of lodging and quality trout water allowed by a few different sheds… Not doing any tying this year pre-trip, but I do have some buddies that can spin very well and sooner or later I’ll have my signature D patterns plugged into the Web Site to better get the “Good Stuff” for you, wherever you may be fishing them.
Locally we are looking at a pretty standard fall run of steelhead this year with a better than average size overall to each fish. Very few skippers for us so far, with a few scattered summer runs mixed in. Streamer bite begins to head up NOW as we cool down, but water levels could use a kick, which looks to be forecasted middle week. Only have a few openings for the fall window of chrome, but again, fishing is fantastic all winter long and often water temps tame the fire of fall and allow for larger fish to be landed when lately the bigger fish hand you your hat with ease of speed. Those of you not privy to the techniques in question should take the time to visit Schultz Outfitters of Ypsilanti, MI as he has all programs downloaded and even printed out for the better avenues in which to engage… This and they are the most streamer savvy Fly Shop in the Midwest. Crew is beyond knowledgeable, and spend a great deal of time up here in our neck of the woods this time of year keeping themselves up to speed with the coldwater fronts. If on the Northern Front, check out Ethan Winchester from Boyne Outfitters for some smaller water ideas from some of the less discussed rivers of northern MI. Ethan carries a decent stock of only the good stuff, and come winter needs some conversation… So stop by if around Northern MI. Below I will post my late fall openings, and I will be running trips all winter, but based on weekly forecasts allowing for better engagements as fly fishing is hard enough when it’s you against the fish, instead of you against the elements… Ice in the guides every three casts can test the resolve of even the most seasoned angler and becomes a less than good time if your trying to learn the game under the same conditions. It’s been a great year folks, and I’m sorry if I’m not updating as much as I used too, but guiding as much as I do to keep the boys and babe well and good while they are schooling, dialing all the gear up to speed and inline for your visit, tying flies, and then trying to grab a little bow time myself… Let’s just say I’m not sure what I did with all that time Andrea and I had before we had our two lovely boys. Our days are full and at night, we are beat… And I don’t always get to do these reports like I did when I have fewer cares in the world. Wouldn’t change a thing though, as I’m sure many of you can appreciate… Life is grand in the North Woods, even if I’m not making you aware all the time. Been doing far less social networking because it’s like 90210 with a keyboard, and there are just so many negative people out there, I’m just learning to close my circle as I age because it’s way too much work trying to make everyone happy. Only people that matter to me are my family, friends, and many of those friends happen to be my regular clients. For that folks, I want to thank you, and for making this way of life the very best I could hope for, and yes… I’m a trout weenie, but the first step is recognizing we all have that problem! Be safe coming up, as it’s that time of year the tree cattle are moving more that usual! BE WELL…