Still within my favorite time of the year, and arguably the most beautiful landscapes Michigan will offer up… Autumn is inbound. It’s been cooling off slowly, though the last few days have been beautiful and summer like. All aspects on a fly are in full play, hatches, hoppers, and hairballs… And then again from caviar to chrome… You name it… You can play it. And yes… There are also King salmon in the river, but unless your using skein, gear, or throwing a 400gr and a 11” fly till your arms turn to mud hoping only for a couple a good looks… It’s just the Michigan standing joke with a fly rod where thousands of fish and people migrate to this wild & scenic river, which is a blue ribbon trout stream, where natural reproduction is the backbone of it’s essence while being located in the middle of the Huron Manistee National… Simply to line, snag, and bump these wild fish while in the act of reproduction. That said, the egg fishing directly behind these spawning fish is nothing shy of awesome angling with a BITE! It’ll put the best hatches of the Midwest to shame in overall productivity with brown trout, and then again the windows and waters in which to engage them. Second to no other event of brown trout feeding here in MI, you will never see a brown trout pull his skirt so far over his head with the lights on as you will when the caviar is flying and free! Mouse fishing is still very much alive and well, and though eggin can be tough in those sections littered by those out there with less intent on getting a bite, versus just a hero shot with a big fish… There are sections, areas, and even other rivers that will give you the solitude while you trout fish and authentically look for that TAKE. Hoppers will play till the bugs are dead middle next month, but in those areas where the eggs are present, it’s tough to trump an egg tied with the conditions at hand in mind. Steelhead are in the system, most are summer run fish that moved in over the higher water summer, and early on with that passage good and open. Kings are all the up and down the system, scattered and large from what I have seen, and no, there isn’t some massive push of them like the yesteryears; those days are in fact over and never returning… Thankfully. Most of the egg fishing so far has been in the top half, but the fly water has been almost unfishable on the weekends with the salmon army “peaking” big and early. As of now we are changing over our programs of nightshift mouse fishing and hoppers to the streamers and nymph rigs of the cooling water seasons… But again, all fronts right now are firing, and the next few months are likely the best fishing of the entire year for both the browns and the steelhead.
It’s tough not to give some good by kisses to a very unique, but less than incredible mouse season. Water being very high, and allowing for midday bites and dirty water streamer well into July this year, it was no surprise that our big fish count this year was a bit light between hatches, hoppers, and hairballs. Numbers of fish in play wasn’t the issue this year, and one could say the amount of 20” or better fish we caught was almost higher than normal; but singling out the big ones was tricky when most of them were so well off from the higher water feeding binder all fish in MI were lucky enough to rebound with this record year of higher water. There have been NO skinny trout this year… All are well fed, shouldered, and for that matter quite pissed when you stick a hook in them. We ended up with 7 fish over the 24” mark, but none of them over the 26” mark, which is again less than what we hope for each summers’ efforts. Many middle and lower sections where some of our bigger trout reside were just not that enticing with the water levels keeping flows less than wake wanting. Beetle juice ran the show as our best night fly early on when flows were up, but later, the Lynch’s White Belly Mouse, (which seemingly every guide up here has now copied and pasted to their programs), ran away with it, especially with some of the better fish that are certainly coming later into the season per usual. Looking forward to some more normal mouse flows next summer… But we were due for a higher water summer, especially after last summers heat and drought. Mousing has no shelf life, and as long as you are willing to be out there in areas with no real spawning fish counts, the game is on each and every night from now till the first few frosts. Encourage all of you to discover YOUR OWN beats… learn them well, and mouse till the wheels come off!
In as far as the daytime game, the list is long in possibility! Hoppers are still a go most anywhere as the terrestrial game is strong, especially in those sections and rivers, where Kings are not. When the kings are spawning around the browns, the butter gets egg drunk and it’s tough to pull them off the nipple to get them to consider anything else with the ease of that rounded protein. Streamers right now is hot because of the waters last week keeping us colored and up, and will only improve as the water cools. Nymphing will just always work, and NO, I’m not a fan of the Euro nymphing fad, as it’s spitting distance from Chuck & Duck; both of which require no tapered fly line, (or fly cast or mend for that matter), and have you setting the hook, each or every other cast… And they are probing pokes as much as anything. Looking for the bump, or stop in most cases when “euro”, all followed up then by the probing prick. There is no indication of a take, so much as a checked uncertainty if not just flat out grabbed, which in most cases isn’t a typical nymph take. Chuck & Duck is an abomination of fly fishing, and though EURO nymphing does have some practice in very small PA like pockets where the targeted areas are hard to penetrate in shortened order, I would just consider EURO as a poor menders way of pounding the water with a fly and still managing a few takers… But make no mistakes, there are some foul hooked fish with the Czech tech, and that in turn, turns me way off to the approach. Too each there own though, and as long as your trying to get a bite, then putting on the training wheels, not needing a cast, or a decent mending capacity to get the job done, this while fly casting and line control are cornerstones of fly fishing in all other practice… Have at it! Being a huge fan of casting and presentation of a tapered fly line, and using the variety of angles and casts in which to penetrate certain areas makes us better fly fishermen and women, this instead of just trying to shortcut to be more productive in the days gold take. Fly fishing was never supposed to be easy, or even terribly productive for that matter; it’s the improvement of technique, in between those days of better fishing that allow us to soar and score when the butter does offer that better audience with those disciplines in check. If you’re looking to shortcut the process, go grab some crawlers and crawdads, and get’er done… Your technique with EURO looks like you would fish them very well!
Streamers is a go from here on out, and frankly, you could have thrown a streamer 10 of the 12 weeks of summer this year the water levels have been so well off. Continued rain all summer long left us colored and up for the bulk… Leaving those trout healthy and shouldered, but wanting less. Been on the Manistee a couple of days already stripping after a few stellar mouse runs up there this summer, and then again here on PM for the late summer higher water several times. All have been productive considering the dates, but that’s the extra water. Again, this was the streamer brown trout summer to end streamer brown trout summers, and right now is just straight up hot to trot in those sections with the rains’ reinforcements just a week back. White and Yellow Drunk & Disorderly flies run the show, and we even broke off two summer run steelhead on the strip rigs… At 60-degree water temps, a steelhead is a force to be reckoned with in such tight quarters they are often hooked here on the PM, even on the higher tippet strengths. Fishing pressure up higher makes for tougher streamer approaches just because there are so many people up there doing the nasty, but there are also a ton of trout up there eggin and out for a solid take if your willing to brave the bunch. Brown trout streamer bite will improve for another solid month and half before tipping into their spawning windows, but then again, heat up one more time before the water cools, all the way off. If we didn’t get another shot to throw streamers for trout this year, it’s still been the longest, and one of the best of my career with all that H2O.
Making a steelhead prediction this year, as my logs offer up good data going back three decades of steelhead pushes on the upper west side of MI; that prediction being an early push of steelhead in October this year with all this extra water. Last three times we either received higher water levels in September, or were already higher water going into the same month, led to very early and strong pushes of October chrome. Common on the Muskegon and Manistee where skippers are caught frequently in October, the PM only has wild returning, normally ADULT steelhead, in which case our first real pulses are more noticeable around the later part of October into November. We peak later normally, but two years ago we got some mega storms in September, water bumped high early, and we had strong numbers by the second week of October with plenty of incredible fishing before the peak months of November and December. Two years ago the whole of October fished better than the first few weeks of November if that tells you where I’m going with this. Early steelhead bookings come recommended this year. I’m guessing there will be a decent batch of them in the system when the water drops and lets us have a look, but I’m writing this report now as the trout eggin is going boom and streamers is showing it’s teeth, so I’m booking way out this year and don’t do these reports as frequently as I used to being that kind of busy. November with any luck, will remain November in as far as productive steelhead fishing, but this year, like a couple back, October is the time to ride a steelhead for all he’s worth… They really do have another gear in October, which they loose when the water, cools in November!
As always we offer all techniques that are fly fishing! WE DO NOT CHUCK & DORK as it’s not fly fishing in anyway, nor do we Check Czech nymphs, as that doesn’t teach fly fishing disciplines, so much as try and shortcut them. Primarily we do allot of streamers between swung fly approaches, and even the even popular stripped fly that has you watching your steelhead chase the fly to the boat with several attempts before the train wreck take that comes from a steelhead chasing down and sacking a fly, versus just taking it. Coupled with all the brown trout, and constant casting the streamer game allows as our lighted windows shrink… You stay warmer, and certainly more fished instead of waiting to get to the next swing or bob spot, which is boring, but typical with most guided trips. Indicator isn’t something to neglect as it’s the easiest way to keep track of some action while fishing the cooler weather months, and comes very recommended if you are just getting your feet wet into this great sport of fly fishing. Steelhead are bored and curious, versus the brown trout that is elusive and often high in critique of your presentations; this makes steelhead a great way for people to hook and land large migratory fish, THAT ACTUALLY BITE A FLY! April mind you is simply the salmon season version of a steelhead run when you’re fishing them on the gravel and they are in fact NOT BITING as they, like salmon at that point, are only interested in spawning. However, during the fall and winter months, the steelhead is very ready to the fly, and even into the back half of March before they flip motivations. October is the month to find fall steelhead that have a real chip on their shoulder and leaves clients feeling like they got their asses kicked, even when they land it; and watching a steelhead open up those gears when the water is still warm, affirms our need for the longer rods too dowse some of that fire. Last year we landed a fish on the swing that was certainly the biggest fish landed on a swung fly in my boat as it approached the 20lb mark… It was wild, and took several minutes to land, as it was all our gear could do to keep up the toad. Each year since the failing kings, it would seem that our steelhead are getting bigger… Why? Good question… But why ask why… Just book a trip and come and see for yourself why west Michigan is slowly but surely becoming one of the best runs of wild steelhead in the lower 48!
It was a great summer, and we always hate to see it go here at The Fish Whisperer Guide Service, as our favorite season is the one slipping away… THE NIGHT GAME FOR TROUT! But with the incoming client friendly steelhead run on its way, and the lack of mosquitoes that come with the cool season… What’s not to look forward to! Booking ahead? December fishes incredibly, and I’m running trips till just before Christmas this year for all those that are either swing enthusiasts, or just flat out diehard chrome chasers. November bookings are all but spoken for, but we can always get you with the next best guide available having a great group of guides we can pull from… Veteran guides that is, and not the kids learning to guide and fish while you pay them. October comes recommended for both trout and steelhead anglers this year. Trout fishing is already a go behind the Kings and on the streamers, and will last well till Halloween before the steelhead activity takes center stage with water temps dropping, and the overall numbers of chrome start trumping the gold in play. September is booked except for a couple days, and will be good, like now, for all types of fishing, and if the weather holds, so does the mousing and terrestrial applications. Arkansas Unicorn Hunt 2019 is a go… We are still debating on the accommodations, but last couple weeks of February is our target window this year for the hunt per usual. Covering allot of night fishing with Spey Rods, fly tying whenever we have time to sit down, streamer and casting clinics for the Spey approaches are all on the burner. As always we love to engage the higher flows with the bigger streamers, but the last few/four years, we’ve seen a noticeable difference in the audience of fish willing with the lights on; and with that said, I’ve never sorted trout like I have in Arkansas, in the dark, with the BIG STICKS! On one particular night, me and my close friend Brad managed 34 browns to hand, 18” or better, in just 7 hours of angling, with 4 fish being two foot or better. If you really want to know the best way to catch big trout on The White River in Arkansas, it’s not with a single-handed rod waiting for the winning lottery cast! This isn’t a beginner trip; we are looking for those with two handed rod skills, and a strip game that rivals most. We still have 5 spots to fill as this is still several months away, but if you are interested in the next level brown trout, are willing to go to the darkside to get it, and can play well with others… Give a shout and we can see if it fits for ya. Sessions will be anywhere from 4 days of fishing with 5 nights lodging, or you can double your session if you can handle hucking big stuff for as long. Looking like $1,400 or so for the 4 day guided fishing blocks as we are bumping up our accommodations based on requests from our regulars last year. Right now we have 5 spots open out of 15, for three sessions, with each group, six guys strong. These guys are all elite in there own right, and most either own a boat, or even row one for a living. If you want to step up your big fly streamer game, or want to enter the next level of two handed engagements on that river, (which let’s face it, that river BEGS for), this group of guys, including myself, will download the what of it all in shortened order and leave you a better fly angler on all fronts. Always excited to get away in the winter to hunt my favorite adversary, THE BROWN TROUT… And on The White River, it’s always very productive, and just an overall good time with some real talent to bunk with. Bring the vise, and the smiles… Meals aren’t included, but we mix up between cooking and eating out depending on the day’s conditions, and our targeted windows. If the night fishing isn’t your speed, our ALL HOUR guides will keep you in your preferred window of engagement based on you, and your partner’s agenda. If you are looking to better those skills, or just freshen them up before the show, back here in MI we have several large and trouty tail-waters that can get that big fly streamer game tuned up… Again, just call the house and chat with myself, or my wife Andrea for availability… Second & Third Session, are spoken for, but we still have the whole First Session to fill. This is a bargain away trip for 4 day, 5 night stay considering all are guided the place we are getting is a bump from last years accommodations. With streamer season now back upon us, Arkansas Unicorn Hunt is on step and setting up. The group we go with discusses and chats from now, till we go, to make sure all of us are on step and ready to rock the moment Bull Shoals is local. Again… This isn’t a beginner trip… If you think you have the skills and the attitude to fish most hours of the day and or night, and are semi fun to be around, unlike myself… Buck up and give us a ring and we can get you up to speed for what really still is, your very best shot at a trophy stream brown anywhere in the world!
Regardless of when we see ya, we always looking forward to it, and I’m sorry I don’t do these reports as often as I did when I was coming up and being independent for the first time, but the books are staying busy, and I just assume spend the off time with the boys on the water, or getting my own personal fix of casting and catching. Andrea starts nursing soon enough, and when she does, I’ll be able to get a few more of these done each year. They are long and full of information, so they should last more so than these weekly gooses from the local shops that tell you almost nothing, and sell everything. We haven’t run a King Salmon Snagging trip now for a dozen years, and we are very proud to not only be independent, but also thriving without the crutch of snagging fish several months of the year, this unlike ANY other guide on The Pere Marquette River! My boat offers instead of just boat rides and shine ons… We aim to educate you on our fisheries, the techniques in season, and then again how to properly cast and present these same techs. If you prefer the boat ride, bird watching, and shiny smiles, we offer that too as we certainly have more than just one gear being in business now for almost three decades. We are an independent guide service that doesn’t need a fly shop to keep our head above water, much less a couple or few, as most guides often need. We’ve had a 92% rebooking rate the last decade, and though most Outfitters/Bait Shops/Lodges in Baldwin hate me because I lift the skirt on poor ethics associated with the salmon and steelhead snagging they all still promote and lie about, you simply need ask around the rest of the state where real anglers are willing to drop the ball of it all. We encourage any and all new clients to give us a shot, especially those looking to learn and shortcut some of the finer points in the game. No matter you skill set, from beginner to advanced, I dare to compare with any other in that ability to take anybodies game and improve it by a couple folds each visit to the bow of my boat. It truly is my pleasure being a fly fishing guide/instructor for trout and steelhead, and I found out some time ago, being afforded such an awesome job comes with awareness to how lucky I really am… And that’s a big thanks to all my regulars that keep coming back year after year, and up to 20 of them… Family really appreciates your business… So Thanks Again Folks… And thanks for a very great summer of business!
Fall Openings will be posted below, and as we nail down the exacts of Arkansas, we will have some more solid accommodations verified once we shop around and get a sense of all the returning guys from last year. Drive very safe on the way up this fall, and do call a few days before your trips so we can touch base and get a plan of attack and lunch requests. I’ll be on the water allot between now and Christmas, but I’m ending my night games here shortly so I’ll be able to call you back just as soon as I get off the water, as I’m not a fan of texting, or talking on my phone when you’re paying for my utmost attention. No matter what your flavor of angling is… Right now all are in play… It is a great time to be in Northern Michigan!