Who turned off the bloody heat! Halloween had a whole new trick, and it wasn’t a treat! Ever since all hallows, we’ve been struggling to get above freezing each day; that said, the fishing has been pretty good considering, and that’s been keeping us warm enough to go! All techniques are in play, save the dry fly right now. Streamers are the highlight as of late, and though the salmon ripping googans and guides aren’t around much anymore… There are several people out there looking for a bite till the gun opener in a few more days! Water levels are receding after the highest water year I can ever remember guiding in 28 years of guiding this incredible river, and for the first time in months, I can actually see to the bottom of a few mid river holes. It’s really shaping up to be one of those fall/winter runs of steelhead you don’t want to miss. Numbers are scattered, but strong considering the dates, and that’s not surprising with all that water keeping the invitation at the lake mouth, good and open. You should take what few days I have left for this season and jump on them like a grenade, as they are few, and the run is strong. Brown trout bite here on the PM is slipping, but other, non migratory fish sections, are doing well and should stay in play all winter, or at least as long as the launches allow access in those off beat beats. Such an interesting year, and though all that water messed with the trout games to date this summer and fall, it really enhances our steelhead pushes!
It really wasn’t the best egg season we’ve gotten accustomed to since the king runs started to weaken; this because with the higher water, the fish were encouraged to run all the way up to the top of the river and spawn, instead of spreading the roe across the watershed. For a solid week the river was bleeding eggs in such a way the fish became just flat overfed and tough to catch, or find for that matter really. There was a six-day window of fishing that forced me north to the Upper Manistee & Ausable Rivers for several days, as there was seemingly not a brown trout in the river during that massive caviar dump. For the first 10 days of the egging, it was fantastic and fast paced as the kings dumped the first, and most wanted of the eggs; then it shut down a couple weeks before they began spawning, instead of leading all the way into it. Since then, the browns rebounded very nicely and gave us a great pre & post spawn bite that is just now letting up a little with the cold snap that has all but the steelhead rattled with as fast as winter has come in. 2019 “Egging” season will be one worth forgetting as it was so great for a week; the couple others following, were almost a polar opposite. Didn’t help that the water was so dirty most of the time you had to fish blind to the bait piles, nor was it even an option of fishing in the upper sections of the PM since there was very few fishing in the middle and lower sections since the water was so big down there. Between the army of snaggers, too many eggs, and higher water keeping so many sections from getting hot… We are just going to have to look forward to 2020 Egging to make up for it. We were due for a bum egg season… We had 5 in a row that were dandies previously. There are still a few kings and cohos spawning throughout the clearing system, and those browns, finished in there hanky panky, will favor the easy roe yet again before it’s all said and done. Though limited in numbers, there are some bait piles still about…
Steelhead run is well and good, and though not massive, still very solid and above last years par for sure with all this water. Many of the smaller secondary holes on the PM have in fact, re-dug out as a result of this constant flow over the last 14 months! Primary pools are like bottomless pits, and the secondaries are becoming primary since there is more than enough water to hold those migrating fish this year. Water clearing now, (for the first time in months), some of the fish are beginning to consolidate and give us some indication of their present counts, and so far, I’M IMPRESSED! Overall size is on par, but like recent years, there are some DONKIES in the mix! This river has gone through more changes since the end of July following a massive flood, and then again later in September, than any other 5 years put together!!! Water is dropping and recovering, and I’m hoping we do get some rain just to get some dust in the water because the river is just flat out of mud to dirty the flows right now, like rinsed clean! Each time it rained, we rinsed a bit more away each time. Graph says we are still very high, but you wouldn’t know it looking at its clarity being able to see 10’ through it now! Again folks, considering the dates, we are well ahead on the steelhead count for 2019, though I have heard of fall back counts on the Manistee and even Muskegon… Which are likely rebounding as I write this. Steelhead are so very migratory it’s hard to say when and where, or even how allot of times when conditions beg for certain techs over others… However, the one remaining constant is water… Without it, there will be no larger runs… And even if the age class return was smaller, the higher water allows, I dare say, encourages more of those fish to enter the river instead of waiting for winter or spring. Even if you have a bigger age class, water is the only thing that brings life to the river fisheries early on; a large push of fish will grow pause at the pier heads waiting for good flows, much like we do since we know what comes with it… This year the gates are wide open, more so than any I can remember, so again, if you were on the fence… Fall Off!
Techniques are open to interpretation… It all kind of works when fishing to steelhead because they are so very curious and bored, and for that matter WILLING! While we spend hours tying nymphs, swung fly, or streamers in preparation for the cast we believe will make a difference, keep one thing in mind when doing so… Often while fishing the very woodiest and for that matter, lowest sections of the PM where the graveyard of trees is plenty, and the holes are bottomless eleven month of the normal year, to the tune of 13’ allot of the time, STEELHEAD WILL RISE NOT ONLY TO A WELL SPUN DRY FLY>>>>>BUT ALSO TO A BOBBER! Make sure and consider that when tying a fly that is moved on from yards away versus the brown trout critiques that are within inches many times. Brown trout need to be sold, and then fooled… Steelhead, simply need a target, and for you to leave the fly in the water allot of times! We fish streamers in allot of variation, color, and presentations; to be honest, they all could or have worked too some level. We choose to fish “Drunk” & Disorderly, as we also know that rhythm has very little draw by comparison to broken, random movements, which we ourselves are often surprised with, so we should then assume the same of the trout that is in that moment of critique. Action trumps color, material, size, and even allot of times scent! More we get, the more we sell… Like a hooker on the boulevard, working hard to pay the bills. It’s one thing to get a wink while a passer by, but it’s a whole other close, when you’ve actually climbed into that car… SOLD AMERICAN! Steelhead, though willing, also fall victim to becoming less of a thousand casts, but simply cannot resist in many cases what a brown trout could. That in mind, a steelhead becomes quite the worthy target in the late fall/winter months where boredom has most certainly taken over in a hole or section that leaves little incentive to move, or even be active. Like adding a play toy to a puppy cage or slipping the cat some nip… It doesn’t take much to tip a steelhead into a game of tag. When adding the right action to the fly is credited to the better angler, well lets just say… TAG… YOUR IT!
In the art of NOT over thinking steelhead, this while fishing a swung fly, the bob, or da strip… Do remember a presentation should be considered for the willing over the reserved, and in turn reflect the laziness in presentation that reflects those ideals in fly offering. Swing fishing is quite simply the easiest way to land a steelhead for the newcomer, or even novice; even when one could say that they would hook, or more to the point, “PRICK” more steelhead with a float and assorted eggs and nymphs. Have a taunt line to the reel, and then the limited presentation points need to ensure that fly’s correctness in delivery, with goat rope tippets on top and a fish so fluffed up for the flash it doesn’t just take the fly, IT ENDS IT, almost guaranteeing piano wire upon connection, and there in the fish setting it’s own hook… Well let’s just say, if you hook up with 7 on the bobber without smelling like one, you’re getting a swing stick in my ship! Indicator High Stick Nymphing may not be as fun as the Spey, (which for myself I thoroughly enjoy when I hike and fish as I love a two handed cast more than the fish at the end), but it most definitely caters to the cold water months, caviar drips, and overall more to the population of steelhead as a whole. Nymphing produces more fish than the swing, but we never got into fly-fishing to produce more fish, so much as offer more sport to each and every outing. And if there is more sport then in Swing fishing, say that for every three fish that would take and egg or a nymph, there is that one that would take a swung fly, then you could also say that for even 5 fish that would take an egg, there is that one THAT WOULD TAKE A STRIPPED FLY… The equation continues then on to a waked surface fly for steelhead where that ratio might be 7/1, but only on those months where water temps allow for enough attitude and initiative to rise to the occasion. During the cold-water months we are afforded our better steelhead runs, so we fall back to the stripped fly for our chrome to promote more sport, and less catching… Stripping streamers isn’t for everyone, and I certainly don’t start my newer clients off in the attempt as the technique in practice is collaboration of many different aspects of fly fishing all rolled into one, and a steelhead ran into it… In fact, It Fucken T-Boned It! Sorry for the drop there, but it’s very intense to not only see an indication via a float, or a ripping tug and the bottom of a long swing and straighten via swung glitter, (which I too favor much)… No, what we are taking about is XXX visuals on a steelhead, completely pulling it’s skirt over its head, and swiping many times without reservation or seemingly any consideration with pure CHROME RAGE, then hooking the fish on a single handed 9’ rod, within a shortened distance so when the 20mph hit occurs, not only did you get to see the story unravel right in front of the boat while the steel, bent out of shape, suffering from severe tunnel vision, and acting as silly as a cat at the end of a string; but then the pounce and pull of the rod clean out of the hand. No shit here… We’ve chased 11 rods to date down the river from fish that simply ripped it right out of angler’s hand… Retrieved all but one! You’d swear that Drunk & Disorderly fly was making mom jokes at the steelhead the way it comes for that fur, feather, and flash… Hatred is the word that would replace interested when fishing a stripped fly. When they come, they come hard, and there isn’t a 12’ rod cushioning that blow; it’s just straight up rodeo. If you haven’t participated in the event, I encourage you to give a ring, as you will not find any other guides targeting steelhead in this manner with any regular resolve, and yes, I’m fully aware there’s something wrong with me!
Pattern selection with the browns right now is so off right now I couldn’t even point you in the right direction. They are sitting in some funny areas, often never where you might consider, which is also the beauty of streamer fishing is that you can fish it all to draw that data like a sav from the watershed. Flies could be anything from an egg or nymph down deep, to a 7” streamer, 1” off the bank and fished anywhere its wet right now… ha-ha Seriously… The post spawn brown is one of the hardest fish to pattern in their day-to-day activities as many are resting or just munching… But thankfully, with the spawn as close, there is still some need to pick a fight, versus feed a fish, and that in turn leads to bigger, but fewer fish ratio as we lean into the cool water months of the year. Always possible is the PM Brown Trout, but the winter weather dowses their intent so many degrees from their favored 55. Steelhead on the other hand are more than willing as the water drops to the freezing mark, as they are only ten degrees from their cozy temps; and in that shortened lean, so opens the strip opts all winter long. Keeping you warmer, fishing all day, (this instead of freezing in between spots, and the limited casting done when you get there), and then fishing the whole of the beat considered, while fishing ALL DAY, ALL THE WAY DOWN, TO ALL THE WATER, instead of all the “Spots” that are hammered daily by spawn baggers, pluggers, pinners, swingers, and dirty nymphers… Have we forgotten the fish we are targeting here? THIS THE MOST MIGRATORTY OF MIGRATORTY FISH THE GREAT LAKES OFFERS!!! They used to tag Tippy fish, and watch them run too the dam, and back to the lake up to six times in one fall/winter, this before spawning and leaving as soon as possible early in the spring months. All dumb water, and all the good water have couple things in common… THEY ARE BOTH WET, AND STEELHEAD ARE MOVING THROUGH THEM! Fishing all the secondary and transitional waters allow for angler to spend a full day fishing waters that nobody else is targeting, or considering for that matter… They simply just float by in their trek and need to “BE FIRST”! Laughing as they go by with such a scattered population of steelhead using all the newly dug waters allowing for station in the ever heightened flows of this year, it’s funny to me how much fresh water my clients fish, even when I’m behind a half dozen boats, all in a leap frog pace to get to the launch, gather that tip, and suck up as many beers as a guide can and still manage getting up the following day. My boat fishes the heat of the day when the water warms so to be in the window of probable fish activity and allow my guys to hook a land a fish on a tech that offers so much visually, and actively pursued that it’s worth 3 or 4 on a swung fly. That’s saying allot too, as I enjoy both, but if I’m allowed a craft, I often find myself stripping flies, most, if not, all of the day. Too each there own, and I sorted a hundred fish each fall/winter before I favored the bigger fly techs, and so should you… But as your game improves, your sport begs for more disciplines to keep it interesting, as those are the cornerstones of why you are a fly angler, and not just a spawn fisherman. If it’s about catching fish, then don’t even bother with the flies, grab a pin rod with a bead or a bag, and start catching fish. After that gets old, evolve, and try something new… and so on. Sport is why we are in this… When you run out… LOOK FOR MORE!
Again, I expect the trout bite to slip here on the PM with as many eggs are still available post spawn, but there are some great sections of river we run frequently on the Manistee & Ausable during the winter months that offer fish in deficit on calorie, without the cushion of migratory fish eggs, fry, par, or smolt to cushion those months. Those beats come recommended to many like me that believe there is no wrong time of year to throw a big fly for THE Brown Trout, and I like rowing two guys instead of one on those bigger sheds. Steelhead fishing will do nothing but improve between now and the middle of February when the numbers of biters peaks, and then falls to the motivation of procreation. Running steelhead trips into the middle of March is my cut off, but as far as a client friendly fish, between now and then, you will find no better trout in as far as size, battle, and willingness to a fly! Offering a wealth of good etiquette, technique, and more often than not, fish on a fly. What I won’t teach you is how to chuck lead off a fly rod, which is no different than drift fishing with a spinning outfit and in NO WAY fly fishing, even if there is a fly at the end… Having forfeited all casting technique, or presentation skills just so I don’t have to try and teach you ANYTHING AT ALL about fly fishing; I wouldn’t be doing my job as a fly fishing guide if I did. Will also NOT show you how to line, floss, bump, snag, or tackle a fish off a bed or within a hole. You will not learn the proper way to remove a hook from a fishes ass, because you’ll never see one there. You will never need to ask me “IF THE FISH IS IN THE MOUTH”, because where else would it be if the fish actually ate the fly. You will never target bedded WILD SPAWNING FISH… EVER! That said you may use them as a bait pile looking for a fish actually interested in your presentations that you’ve worked hard to perfect, so to woo those would be fish into actually taking a fly that wasn’t stretched out with 11’ of tippet in hopes that that fish could be as likely lined as it did actually eat the fly. When you leave my boat, each and every time, you will have achieved another fold in you skill level and prowess to the game in question. Learning presentation and casting skills all day, or just as much as you prefer with a mix of bird watching and conversation tour sprinkled in… We are a full service fly guide service where we will teach you how to not only catch fish with us, but also on your own as we encourage such engagement and passion for this sport. However, there are many folks that just like a shiny day on the water, and those come recommended when learning comes second to experiencing… and we cater to all needs and speeds. In closing I also promise to never hold your fish as if I caught it, I will instead teach you how to properly hold your trophy of the day. Too many guides are just punching a clock and using this way of a life as a go between for some other they wish they were able to engage… We have done nothing but fish for our adult lives, and it shows. If you are looking for that next level guide trip, or just want to get your game up to speed above and beyond where you’re… From beginner to advanced… WE CAN MAKE YA BETTER! This time of year comes recommended for those that are making the change from being a Fall Ripper/Spring Liner to an ACTUAL ANGLER and need those skills enhanced to not only get a fly wet and in the water, but also presented correctly so it may be taken. Fall steelhead offer that big fish pull, with all the glorious bites that would come from an angler in tune with his or her fishery. Don’t be fooled by the carbon copies in Michigan… In this sport, experience is everything, and not just in the ability of being a good angler, but also being able to teach it… There’s a huge difference! If you want to know the best guides out there, look at the ones that don’t gather their trips from shops, lodges, or bait shops. Good independent guides don’t need new clients each and every week… If they are doing their job right, clients keep coming back as repeats, and for that matter, friends… As Andrea excels at being a nurse, 170-180 days of guiding will drop to a 120, and I really hope you’re one of my regulars when we turn that corner, as I’m going to start fishing my boys so hard they will be out fishing the current guide pool up here before they can drive a car… And let’s face it; the bar isn’t that high here in Baldwin these days… Any of you that have been on the fence about taking that trip with me, I would give a ring this year, and my short list, is going to cap real soon. These next couple months come recommended for our first trip as the steelhead trout offers great cushion in audience through the colder months, and also in success in the waters that tame their fire a bit. Advanced strip and rip anglers have the chance of steelhead and trout here on the PM, but many like swinging for the fence a bit in the middle winter on some of our bigger tail water, and upper section fisheries. For those just starting off… We will most surely recommend the Indicator & Swung Fly Techs, as they are a great platform for slower pace of learning without being thrown into the fire.
We are on the fence with Arkansas this year with Andrea just getting her training and settling into the new job, this along with two fully growing boys. We’ve got 5 out of 10 spots filled, but again, still on standby with the crazy year of change. We are a go for right now, and $1,400 is what we are looking at. Advanced BIG FLY Tactics while stripping streamers when the water is on, and likely even more fishing when the water is off at night. Fishing with Spey Rods and waking flies after dark is our new go to after the fishing pressure spiked during the daylight hours and over promoted waters, where catching a fish worth a 14 hour drive, has about the frequency of winning the state lottery. Fish have gotten savvy to the tech, and though we always love seeing the chase, with such a finite piece of water, and as many guides and fishermen now engaging that window, the night way, becomes the right way, and then the tools needs to play in the very low and clear waters when the dam is off. This isn’t a beginner trip… This is an event where those down with the Big Fly, and then again are able to wield the Two Handed Animal, are welcome and encouraged to enquire. First and foremost, you need to play well with others… No pouting, no finger pointing, and certainly no dogging of the guides who are making themselves available at all times of the day for us pending the Bull Shoal daily. Tip or no tip, they are doing what others simply won’t do, which is keep you in the best possible conditions at the drop of a daily hat… Devoted doesn’t cover it, and we thank John, Mike, & Dave for those efforts! If you think you got the skills, and have put in your quarters as an angler and are looking to bump those skills in the atmosphere of higher end learning with the big fly approaches, just reach out and let’s discuss the potential for you to get on squad. Again, must be ready to night fish as many of the guides are looking for those better windows which don’t always occur on the bankers hour trip… As a group, we like to keep ourselves in the best possible conditions or happening to warrant booting up. There will be fly tying, discussion, and all the post trip events as well… But Spey Rod proficiency is something we highly recommend to make the most of this run. Call the house for one of the last five spots and we can go from there. If you need some tune ups with the Spey Rod, or just want to freshen that big fly streamer game before we go… Michigan has plenty of comparable, and for that matter, much prettier watersheds that we can get you tuned up in before heading to the show. We are going to the White River in Arkansas for the larger brown trout and the BBQ… Everything else down there is a far distant second… Like Waaaaay Distant!
For the incoming months here in MI, look for a fantastic post spawn bite in those watersheds that allow for the big fly, and not allot of migratory food to keep them hungry and in play. Manistee & Ausable Rivers come highly recommended for two man strip games… Even the Muskegon will show some teeth once the jet sleds clear out a bit. Steelhead fishing, both here on the PM, but also the White River here in MI (Where I’m state, and federally permitted); will do nothing but improve between now and early February… And for any of you considering coming, this based on a year-to-year run of fish… As of now, it’s safe to say the water will be here to draw fish for at least another month, so improvements are on the way of an already good run of fish in a full and healthy watershed where our CFS hasn’t hit normal in almost a year and a half. Call the house for availability as I have limited signal on the water, which is where I’ll be most of the rest of this fall. Below I’ll post my few openings going into Christmas, and even though it’s really cold right now, the weather is forecasted to rebound in 4 days for a warming trend that supposed to last into middle December; which could possibly pay us back for freezing our asses off the last couple weeks, even when the fishing has been ok to good. And folks… Thanks Much!!! Rarely do I have to post reports, or even update the email lists as you folks keep me busy enough in not only repeat business, but the fantastic word of mouth that you spread like butter across the Midwest. So few of my clients are newer these days, and to be honest, I love the newer angler as my days go by very fast being as involved as I am each and every cast as I am when folks are learning. My veterans are like casting chainsaws and simply need lunches and water to chew each day, and fish so hard I need to poke them for conversation in recent years… And though I love the hunger and passion they are falling to, I get lonely from time to time and love the folks that haven’t been instructed, as I get to fish right there with them. So again, thanks to all my repeaters that are spreading the word on our instructional trips that seem more needed than dropping another pin rod off the back of a boat and landing a dozen. We aren’t selling shortcuts, or copouts in technique; we are selling a better angling posture all around… Think you got skills… Book a trip, and I’ll make ya better a better caster, and show you how with the laziest cast you’ve ever known… This and give you the fishes perspective, instead of ours, which leads to a much higher understanding of presentation, and the why of it. See ya this fall/winter, drive safe. If you think you can pull Arkansas, 4-6 days/nights of guided fly-fishing via the local guides of the White River in Arkansas, I’m hosting again this year… I’ll be it may be a smaller group, just cause I don’t like being away from my boys and babe that long anymore. Watch those deer coming up, they are moving. Black Ice is an issue in the mornings and evenings, so when you can, drive midday on the way up. Again folks, from my family to yours… THANK U! Happy & Safe Holiday to all of you!
November Opening::: 22,24,25