TROUT OPENER IS HERE!  We are entering the dragon of possibility when it comes to engaging our favorite species… THE BROWN TROUT!  Though we target and fish browns throughout the year, it’s the trout opener that allows many bodies of water to be fished that are closed the other half of the year here in the great state of Michigan, and then again, those techniques that would lie dormant till the windows of hatching bugs and terrestrials offer the dry fly options we are so fond of.  Here on the PM we have so much going on right now in as far as venues of potential fishing… So much so, it’s hard to believe I’m here at the house writing this.  We have some great openings still available this May & June for our finest Mayfly hatches, which do include the Gray Drakes & Hex Hatch… Also, mouse fishing for many has already started up and has taken over as my highest addiction while angling for copper, and will last till early October as of now.  Hendrickson, Black Caddis, Olive Stone, and even Olives on the cloudy days are all in play right now… Nymphing pays when nothing else will, but streamers still own the river till the clarity is ginned out a bit, especially when factoring in the Salmon Fry Hatch going on strong right now.  Steelhead are still about and giving up the last of the spring caviar; and in those areas where they are getting it on, there will be quite the audience of gold following that protein roll as the fewer the count of eggs in the stream, the more value each one is worth.  No matter what your fancy of fly fishing, its all in play right now and I would encourage all of you to give us a call and get some good summer dates in the book for the up and coming 2017 Trout Season here in northern Michigan, including the Dark Side options that are a GO as of now!

Streamers right now are running the show, in such an array of size, color, and swim… But all seem to get some attention per the Salmon Fry Hatch that is in FULL swing right now. Arguably the spring streamer season is our finest for not only numbers of fish brought into play via all the fry keeping the chase motivation strong, but also our bigger fish streamer season as it applies to the overall size potential of our fisheries since the water color keeps so many recluse and larger fish out on the prowl with the lights on versus off.  Best colors going right now are “SHAT”, black, and white… Though when the clouds are deep enough, the yellow plays well.  Olive has it’s moments, but is more of a clear water option for me… With ginger showing its teeth very nicely early on in March through the first week of April.  Lead headed anythings, (as they seemingly all move the same), are loosing the cool water traction they had with the warming of spring; now it seems as if the swim flies will own the show till winter shows itself again.  Steelhead are frequently being caught right now via the stripped fly; and it truly is the better avenue for engaging the late season migratory versus snagging them off their beds with Chuck & Dork gear.  The fish chase the fly and actually EAT IT versus being impaled by it…  Seeing this type of protection or predation allows an angler to see what a steelhead looks like when it truly wants your well tied presentation.  We’ve had days where moving up to a dozen of them is common, and we’ve landed up to seven in one pass this spring thanks to the wet towel battles offered by the more or less, spent fish.  Most never get pictured since the start of my trout season is the 1st of April and therefore my clients target isn’t the deteriorating chrome, so much as the fired up, and well winter rested, brown trout.  Drunk & Disorderly Streamers do run the show in my boat… Not because it’s my fly, but more because there is no fly that moves like a D… With moves like jagger all the way back to the boat provoking more steelhead and brown trout day to day than anything I like to pull out and test it against; This and it’s terribly fun to watch work as is Zarro Spooks!  That said, if quality comes second to quantity right now for you, or you’re not able to fish from a moving boat which is how swimming streamers are fished best… Two small fry fished in the eddies right now will pay HUGE numbers of fish as the salmon fry are littered throughout the creek right now and the fish are popping them like Cheeze-Its…  Not kidding when I say there are HUNDREDS right now in every slow pinch all the way to the lake and the browns really dig it!  Been fishing the Upper Manistee allot in recent weeks, and doing well to GREAT pending the pesky barometric and trout mood swings.  The Muskegon, Manistee, & PM are all in rotation this time of year, and it’s nice to see the green on the hillsides again while driving to these other great watersheds to sample the strip and rip possibilities of each… Streamer fishing will last for another few weeks before really backing off, but the highlight of the season is usually pre hatches, and those have already begun, so get up here soon if you are down with the stripped fly!

Dry fly season is here now already… Mother’s Day Caddis are about, Hendrickson pop just after lunch most days, with olives offering opportunity for those brown looking up anytime the clouds keep the sun out of it.   Larger Olive stones are coming off with frequency, this just following a solid rotation of the tiny blacks that are still about… Golden stone should start up here in just a couple weeks, and the Gray Drakes will likely be here before that, with this mild and early spring in place.  Hex Hatch Dates should be gathered as they always end up filling, and I personally like to take a few days off for myself as I too enjoy the shopping spree of hatches when it arrives.  For those looking for a great overall hatch experience, Gray Drakes comes highly recommended as it allows the angler the better part of the afternoon to gather a cast and presentation suitable, allows a window of munch pre hatch, giving the angler a break, then a grand finale of sorts when the hatch goes off and offers such bounty in shortened order; this without the mass of people descending on smaller areas that get choked like the HEX.  Last year our biggest on the drakes was 24″, but we broke off a half dozen fish that like to test the tippets as they retreat to the wood… But each night we fished Drakes last year, the fishing was great and we never had shady hatches, this and the lights are on a bit more for my clients that don’t do as well in the dark fishing dries.  Offering potential up and down the river, the PM’s entire corridor is game on for Gray Drakes where Hex’s seem to be local to areas instead of river wide.  Again, those looking for a great option of fishing beyond nymphs and streamers…. Drakes are a great way to start up your dry fly hatch career!  Stones will be in play as soon as the water drops I’m guessing as we had an 80 degree day already and that river heat up will have the ball rolling.  Fishing them like hoppers almost, skating LARGE stones in the PM is a great way to get a daytime dandy without falling to the low light spinner falls… Much like the Hendrickson emergences, which I think fish better than the spinners, daytime dry fly fishing is best in MI right now as July & August are more of a terrestrial season.  With grass just making it’s 2017 debut, it’ll be a few weeks till the terrestrial game starts showing its potential.  Hopper/Terrestrial season is without question the best way for one to improve casting skills and even presentation per the moving boat, rapid fire casting, varied casting angles and types just to suit our tightened corridor… If you’ve been looking to improve your fly fishing cast, all day casting with a terrestrial is that engagement… Better casters will actually tear up the terrestrial scene if they can move the line beyond 35′ from a seated position, but the casting improvements are the real bonus to fishing the terrestrial game since the gear isn’t as strict, and allows a person to cast all day without becoming fatigued.  No matter what your dry fly fancy, the next 5 months have you covered for all possible engagements here in Northern Michigan.

Nymph & Egg fishing is still very much in play for the trout, and those willing to watch the bob are typically granted a few more fish each day.  Right now behind what’s left of the spawning steelhead there are still caviar windows, and those are higher pay off with fewer casts; keeping in mind as the water clears, the game needs to be played.  Early on when the water is dirty, high, and tannic, one can almost park on top of the spawners to fish stones and eggs just behind… But now the water is beginning to clear and we are watching the trout spook further and further away.  Needed approach and noticing the trout before the first cast is key to converting instead of spooking or allowing an awareness to yourself.  Blind spots on fish should be taken into consideration, much like the fall when fishing the salmon eggs behind the fresh water tuna, or each a hatch… Like walking on egg shells, clothing colors factored in, make the first cast the right cast since the water clearing doesn’t allow as many presentations before the fish is savvy.  Each time you make a cast that isn’t taken, its like showing your opponent another one of your held cards in poker.  You’re only gonna get a few shots before he’s on to your angle and turns away, or just flat ignores you.  Whenever possible, approach with caution and stealth so that the first cast you make shows him a set of eggs while he is drunk in the feed; your conversion rate with baffle you if you take these precautions before the first cast, especially when fishing to fish of age and wariness that is often coupled with a sizable reason to drop the anchor quietly, or just walk on those egg shells while on foot.  Monitor those lower light windows to better your happenstance, and don’t forget to size down the leader and tippets to sell it.  Not only is the water clearing, but the sun is getting higher and when those fish are feeding in a foot or two of water, which is where the late season steelhead will spawn for needed O2 found in the chop… THEY CAN SEE EVERYTHING!  5x won’t be out of the question, and #16 eggs to hide that hook and ensure less potential for lining steelhead as the foam/yarn acts a speed bump for the hook to limit grab save a fish that actually bites down on the pattern.  When egging, there are tricks that help keep the fish bumping to a minimum and enhance potential grabs from the brown trout gollies located just behind the happening.  Tippets should be short, short when fishing the shallow stuff to better the shot, (which should be blackbird), sink rate, and to actually get your eggs down to the rim of the gravel.  Short tippets limit lining steelhead that are bedded and could care less about whatever you’re drifting by; but then again, bring the flies down to shot level quickly instead of floating higher in the column which is less natural considering the brown is looking right at the steelheads caboose.  Again, be patient, and look for gravels that are not only holding a spawning pair, but also those gravels that have males teaming behind… This allows the angler to identify that not only is there a hen in place, but she is actively dropping roe since so many males are looking to get in on the action.  When there is simply a pair, she is just poised to spawn, or even clearing a spot, but not actually dropping.  Once the gravel is hot, she will naturally chum in whatever browns get a whiff of that caviar goodness.  These are just a few tips for the egging game that might push you in the right direction… This and by a pair of Costa 580 Silver Mirrors… It truly is like looking up the skirt versus allot of the other glass I own.

Just tickled the last week or so not having to dress in layers anymore as those 4 were getting pretty old by the end of March.  Fishing pressure is backing off nicely with the dwindling steelhead run, and those still around are more looking for a bite with streamers which is great too see.  Fry Bite will remain strong for a solid month before backing off and flipping to nocturnal agendas, and for those looking for the better mouse fishing dates… Remember, the darkest nights are the best for fishing, but for learning game and still having some fun… Anything shy of a full moon offers all kinds of after-hours potential with varied practice for the light levels in question.  During the higher moon phases, I love running hopper trips well into dark, and early on I love the BIG STONES sometimes till dawn as they love those flying Big Macs.  HEX HATCH isn’t to be taken lightly, and though I can get beginners on big ones with mice and drakes, the after-hours dry fly presentation is a force to be reckon with!  If you are good with a dry fly, and want to try those talents with the Ray Charles approach… I’M GAME… But if this is you first choice for your first hatch, I would say NOT SO MUCH!  If you have fished flies of any kind in the dark, and want to try the dry fly approach, this is a good consideration… Even still, if your have never fished in the dark before and want to just go and see a really neat hatch and all the potential around you, without the expectations of landing or even hooking, the event itself is one to see and experience.  What I’m trying to say here folks is this… As productive as the hatch can be, since the popularity has grown to what it has, wising up the fish to next level feeding disciplines… YOU HAVE TO BE ICEMAN TO GET IT DONE RIGHT!  The earlier you book for the Hex, the less savvy those fish are, don’t wait till the first week of July to get in the book as many of those fish are well and wised up by that point, and even when feeding at an alarming rate, you will see them be as selective as a 8 year old boy at dinner… Trust me… I KNOW BOTH ENDS OF THAT!  Last year we had some novice folks get some very nice fish based on incredible windows, so I’m not trying to deter anyone from booking the hatch as it is such a cool event, I just want our expectations lowered a bit more than we have had to in years passed when there was nobody fishing my beats with a boat, and fishing was truly silly by comparison to these days where you really earn your take.  Gray Drakes is something I love to push because it’s a comparable hatch where I’m fishing as far as potential fish and you get to do it with lower light, but far from dark conditions.  Fishing feed hard, consistently, and there are far more nights of good fishing throughout the whole river to be considered instead of getting stuck in a couple/few beats with everyone else.  For my ELITE regulars… You’re always talking about stepping up for conditions as they land and getting a true shot a PM DONKEY… Well buck up and book The Hex!  I’ve already put you guys through the grinder and could do things with that streamer/bobber/mouse cast with Hex I can do no other time of the year save knocking on the doors of the residents blindly… That’s putting you on a true trophy ON CUE!  If you can’t tell folks… I’m a little pumped for the opener and all the water and fishing that comes with it.  I’ve fished 5 rivers in the last week, and plan on a couple others this next week with the opener, and I really hope to get you folks out in the near future… Conditions are favorable this year for some of the best dry fly fishing we have as we are the third year from last lamprey treatment making for great bug counts in theory.  Streamers till 21st of May sounds forecastable, Drakes by the 11th I’m guessing.  Bigger stones just following with the Mother’s Day Hatch just already in play.  Drakes should last till 2nd week of June, Hex Hatch usually starts about that same time and MOUSE FISHING IS GOOD TO GO FROM HERE ON OUT!  Look for other Terrestrial & Trophy Mouse Fishing to start up around the end of the Hex in early to middle July, with the best in numbers during the dark side found early on, with the bigger fish often coming later in the season when food and water is scarce and the daytime feeding potential is down to poor with hunting almost impossible in the clear daytime waters.  If you are bringing the younger generations up for their first experience with a fly, do consider the nymphing which is optional year round.  They love watching the bobber, the cast is less strict, and if they do it long enough each day, there is always a handful of gold by the end of the day.  Mixing up with a good drake finish is a great way to spend a day in May, and have productive fishing while learning.  Watch your moons and peak weekends of summer when booking and do consider a Gray Drake trip this year.  I’ve got the river dialed nicely over a dozen floats that offer great options with very few anglers around.  … Give a call… Love to have you up… Posting my openings below….  Call for timing and techniques… Thanks Again Folks… See You Soon!

TROUT FISHING OPENINGS…

May:::3-5,10,12-18,20-22,28-30

June:::3,4-7,11,13-17,20,22,24-27,30

It’s surely early, but spring has sprung a bit ahead of schedule around here, this after a very mild winter finishes up.  Couple sick days are letting me get to the report, which hasn’t been spun since DEC ’16.  Steelhead count is plenty, and allot are still taking flies deep in the pool and runs, and even in some very cool transitional areas…  Longer tail-outs and off, to secondary water, all holding some hope per cast with the spring migrations in higher gear.  Brown trout bite is consistent with the mild winter, and it looks to warm up here a bit earlier than normal which should make the salmon fry hatch kick in pretty good really soon here.  “Eggin” behind spawning steelhead is the best way to keep the rod busy with biters, this instead of all the mouth hockey and snagging taking place right now via poor guiding and fishing ethics; plus streamers are starting to show their teeth nicely as snow disappears and the ground warms.  It was nice not having to use 4X4 to get into the driveway after returning from a so, so run to Arkansas; and if you are coming for Spring Steelhead, I would push for what’s left in the first couple weeks of April, as by the start of the third week everything not brown trout will be spawning in our rivers, or on their way out due to the lack of snow pack this winter.

2016/2017 Steelhead run is almost behind us and it wasn’t a bad one at all.  Few unique ends of the push were the early and awesome pushes in October, which are rare and thanks to all the rain in September… Early November, typically fishes great for us, but this year we dried up in between the main events of fall steelhead, so it wasn’t till around the gun opener that we started kicking ass again.  Winter fishing was fantastic all around, and the river was very accessible throughout that season, yet we will end the steelhead run this spring a little earlier than normal, but with a fantastic climax that likely already has come and gone depending on how many fish will move in this spring.  If you are coming next fall for the steelhead in November, get those dates booked as it books sooner than any other month in the book save the June HEX HATCH; think I’m already down to about 11 open days for the peak month next fall… CALL SOON or we will have to find you another guide to take you down.

Brown trout fishing has been great considering the dates, and though most of the best action right now can be found right behind the spawning steelhead since the water is still cooler, the streamer bite is definitely ahead of schedule and producing for those that have those special skills.  Nymphing smaller eggs trumps any fly going right now, but there will be days during the early spring that the stone fly nymphs start doing very well, even against the eggs and keeping up.  Those that like to run weighted streamers, this is the time of year they would work best… Black & Red, or even some copper in there will pay the bills with some of the more aggressive cool water browns…  Most of those being of better size since they have more body size and therefore an earlier need for calories coming out of winter.  Typically every spring, when streamer brown trout fishing is starting up, you will often find some of the larger fish of the entire spring since the cooler water doesn’t affect the larger browns as much as the smaller ones that are so susceptible to the snow melt water temps and less body to fend it off…  Often needing calories, the take will be slower, but full commitment and the “jig” flies work great to fish that don’t want to move as hard to chase down their prey.  Jig flies keep some proximity to them and offer a bit longer, where the swim flies beg for the players or bullies and need the trout to come out swinging; typically that kind of bite starts right after the first warm thunderstorm resets the temperature of the water table post melt.  Best flies going right now are without question Eggs, the steelhead have been spitting them for a couple months or better now, so the system is rolling with them.  Stones are a great option for a second fly… Think smaller and black as the early stones are not the giant salmon flies so much as #14 flying ants.

Not too long since coming back from Arkansas where we did as much as we could do in the daylight, but the dark-side would be the stage for any real good fishing that would warrant such a drive, this without any of our guides.  That said, we fended for ourselves this year when the lights were out and paid for some boat rides via some silly politics being pushed that are discriminating at best; even when we were sold the nocturnal options when booking and up to the first clients arrival.  It is what it is I suppose, and it’s always a great learning experience in the Deep South; and yes, we are already setting up for next years run.  If you are serious about next level brown trout fishing, and are FULLY DOWN with the Dark-side approach, and can play well with others… There may be a spot for the Unicorn Hunt 2018.  We are still trying to nail down the hungriest guides we can before committing to this, or some other southern watershed to beat the winter blues here in Michigan around that time, but there are already 13 of the 21 possible seats filled…  Let us know if you want on the list and we can go from there…

It was a drought year this year in Arkansas, the guides & clients worked very hard in adverse conditions for streamers to work; yet it was apparent to me, like anywhere else in the world, the best brown trout fishing in any watershed when the water is low and clear… IS AT NIGHT!  We fended for ourselves as a result of opinions and politics on the after-hours scene, and did VERY WELL considering what few hours we could invest, having to stay on a daylight schedule to appease the streamer gods and guides.  A few of our guys, out of 24, with 36 guided boat days, managed three 24” fish per our guides instructions and unique bodies of water during daylight engagements… But I feel as if we missed a golden opportunity between the weather and water conditions to really engage the Dark Side; which is a shame because I managed, in the short time I was able to fish after hours, just a couple blocks from where I sleep, covering very little water ON FOOT, 7 different fish in the two foot or better class, which was more than twice what the entire group did as a whole for a two week period with the lights on; this including a nice 27” male that had monofilament hanging from it’s mouth from a minnow fisherman that broke off the baited hook in its gut!

Those that love to fish Arkansas on the Dark Side should be made aware of the possible consideration of banning any nighttime approaches to a fish, which by definition is nocturnal… The Brown Trout!  Catering to only one sense to bring such a brown worth driving so far for, we as fly fisherman pride ourselves on being in the right place at the right time to award that audience.  Barking conservation while they break off hooks in fish bellies via bait, chumming, and terminal tactics used… Local conventional and even some streamer purists & guides are calling for a halt to after-hours practices, which is discrimination at best.   Agreeing with a few of the points they posted, I believe there should be a ban on use of motor boats and even spotlights after-hours, (which a few of the MI guides were doing down there before realizing the WRONG of it), for safety and consideration of other anglers… But to tell a man or woman that they can’t fish a fly at night because the resource needs a break for the daytime bait or streamer & nymph fishermen is absurd… NO KILL ON BROWN TROUT is long overdue on that body of water as there are some gear/gut fisherman at night exploiting the window and taking brute stock fish that cannot be replaced; but I can’t remember the last time bait fishermen were trying to limit a fly fisherman’s approach & resolve as a result of their productivity…  Not having the luxury or need of throwing brown trout, (which conventional anglers are looking right at while casting during the day), something that smells real, looks real, feels real… Hell, it is real… We As Fly Fishermen Fish The Conditions as we cater to only the visual sense!  Conditions this year, unlike last year, were PERFECT for nighttime approaches and the proof is the in the daylight pudding, or lack thereof… When trout don’t have the cover of higher, to flood like waters to hunt and snatch up food, they will wait for the cover of night to give that possible sneak, and for us to ask them to do any different isn’t making good decisions as fly anglers or guides… Conditions set the pace, not the technique… I’m not a snob to any one approach that is an ethical attempt… We are not snagging or lining fish, nor are we bumping them… We are fishing on the surface, or just below with streamers and mice.  Used to be that bait fishermen and fly fishermen had issues with each others approach, (though I personally have never discriminated against any type of angling that offers an ethical take, conventional or otherwise), but now it seems as if within the fly fishing community there are discriminations based on some peoples egos, or the need to attack others that have more sand and drive than they might ever muster.  Do yourselves a favor and make sure you let Arkansas Fish & Game know your opinion on the affair; because who knows, maybe one day they will discriminate streamers because the size of the hooks are too large or because the nymph & bait fishermen feel as if the streamer fishermen are screwing up their daytime fishing too much!  Too each their own I say, and shame on any guide, fisherman, shop owner, or even TU Chapter that would try and tell another man how or when he can or can’t fish a fly that would be eaten; then mock a mans sand to wade and fish the black ink in hopes of a better shot at fish normally caught, and sometimes killed by more terminal approaches that are being considered in front of fly fishermen WHOM ALMOST ALWAYS PRACTICE CATCH & RELEASE and more often than not, practice what they preach in the name of conservation.

For one, I’m writing a letter to Ark Fish & Game to let them know that this consideration is only a discrimination thanks to some folks either trying to corner the fishery to better suit their lifestyle, or simply don’t have enough passion or drive to engage a better venue of potential and would like to level the playing field so that nobody else can.  It would be one thing if this was about snagging fish off their beds, or something else that didn’t beg for a take; but this is about a few peoples opinions, well up on the ladder, setting the tone for others that carry a little more step in seeing that next evolution of brown trout, or simply like fishing different styles under far less fishing pressure to a fish that is more willing to consider a fly while in a state of predation.  FISH THE CONDITIONS… NOT THE TECHNIQUE… GET INVOLVED if it means anything too you!  Strangely there seems to be more politics and discrimination in Arkansas than Michigan these days; and that’s scary considering that fishery is still in its infancy of Big Brown Trout Streamer/Night Fishing practices; it’s even saddening!

Back from St. John, via my father & brothers invite to join them in paradise with my beautiful wife… Andrea & I are back on step for the spring season and are looking forward to seeing all you regulars, and even some new folks.  We are planning on an early trout streamer game and hatch season as the conditions set our pace, not the technique… Cause let’s face it… You wouldn’t go and fish the morning if you knew there was an afternoon hatch… Would You?!?!  Right place, right time, set by the conditions day to day, week to week, or even season to season.  Water rises, fish streamers… Water clears and drops… Fish after hours or be fine with catching fewer and/or smaller fish on smaller flies and gear.  As a guide, I want what you do, on any given day… This is your paid day in the boat, and for that matter, it’s supposed to be YOUR good time… NOT MINE, though you could argue that I can count on one hand how many bad days I’ve had on the water over a 30 year period no matter who’s in the boat, or what conditions are thrown at us.  As guides, our job is to determine what each client wants to get out of that particular day he is paying for a guide service, as we aren’t selling products here, we are selling a service/experience that starts with a guide asking you how you would prefer to angle and at what time of day you might be available or interested in doing so.  As guides, if you haven’t figured out how good you have it, being able to take people fishing for your livelihood… Here’s your heads up!  What most have to do to get through a given day to make enough money to pay for your service is far worse than any bad day or night on the water you’ve had.  Priding ourselves on clients first, we push and encourage our guides and clients to explore better venues to keep the angler in the better potential bite windows.  “Dry Or Die” mentalities, or “Streamer Purists” have little place in a service orientated business, as that is the angler or guides motivation, and maybe not the fellow or lady paying…  Lunches are not something that need too much attention, but again, the bars are lower in allot of boats.  Personally I like a clean boat, updated rods, top-notch instruction or not, and take pride when I hand a good plate of food to my client for the day, with a nice linen napkin & wear plus several sides.  Guide service is just that, a better way to spend a day on the water where someone else deals with the logistics and decision making to better your shot at fishing worth paying for.  Myself, I would prefer watching a streamer come through the water, or listening for a gulp from a brown trout taking notice of a well tied rodent in the dark, but I also understand that the day someone has me booked, what I prefer comes a WAAAAAAAAY distant second to what my clients prefers and can handle.  In the same respect, if someone wants me to take them streamer fishing or mouse fishing and it’s their first time fly fishing… As a guide, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I sold you the happening when I knew it was out of your league, even when I prefer to fish like that.  Guides these days are a dime a dozen, and I would encourage all of you to make your guides step up, or miss out on the good money you are spending to be in our boat for the day.  If your not learning, or fishing the way YOU want to, or forced to swallow what the guide tells you to do, even when its set up to fail, instead of being asked what YOU would like to do… Ask around and book another.  For me, I know why I’m still in business after 25 years of guiding full time… It’s because I do prefer to put my client in front of my personal preferences, politics, and persuasions and ask them each and every trip… “What Do You Want To Take From This Guide Trip Sir or Maam?”  Realizing long ago who signs the check at the end of the day, and therein who’s good time it’s supposed to be on that booked/guided trip.  Don’t let your guide tell you how or when to fish unless you believe his interests are aligned with yours… But instead, tell him how you would prefer to fish, with or without productivity.  You may have to sort through a few guides to find the hungry and service orientated professionals, but they are out there, and really do want to allow the day YOU prefer on the water.

Again folks, look for fishing to improve with the water temps and flows still keeping those steelhead in a biting mood; but as the water warms, and most all the steelhead are spawning or leaving, take a moment to consider the other possibilities with a fly this year, this versus mouth hockey with bedded fish, which is quite unethical.  Salmon fry hatch is already tuning up, and is such a great way to grab tremendous numbers of trout without having to throw a bobber or giant streamer.  That said, the indicator/bobber/nymphing techniques occurring in the deeper pools, tail-outs, or even directly BEHIND the spawning migratory steelhead is off the hook so long as the conditions set the pace.  Eggs should be considered on the orange versus pink spectrum, as the steelhead egg is just that instead of the salmon roe that is a bit pinker.  Smaller black stones as the water really clears and warms, is a one two punch when fished with a size 12-16 egg pattern.  Double dot eggs, bead flies spun with foam, and other assorted flavors in nuke & glo are always deadly… And if your trying to fish the chrome lower in the river as they move up, clown eggs out fish most all other flies; and don’t be small in those spring waters as I have been known to fish #6 eggs down there when the water is colored and up as it can be this time of year.  Streamers seemingly always produce something if you give it long enough since you’re fishing so much of any beat you frequent, and often a better overall average size fish.  Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away as there are some larger browns out there right now trying to fill that winter void and don’t mind chasing swim flies already.   Be open to the idea of throwing some of those leaded leeches when the water is cool, and yes it’s fun watching the swim flies come through the water, but fish the conditions which are cooler and beg for a little more proximity to the fish versus drawing them from a distance.  Dry flies aren’t out of the question right now either, and I suspect that if you fish those warming, sunny days… You will have some good stones landing on the water.  Hard part about fishing the surface when those bugs are dropping is having enough out there to out sell the protein sub-surface like Salmon fry, Steelhead eggs and smolt, or even nymphing all the stones that might be more prolific sub surface than flying… Again, we will fish the condition as we see it arriving.  Swimming streamers right now in “Shat”, white, and ginger are doing great but the smaller black leeches or lead headed anything moved into the wood will provoke fish not fully invested in the chase yet.  Chuck & Duck isn’t fly fishing, nor is it a good approach to nymphing as your flies simply sweep across the river instead of nymphing down like any other natural protein rolling down the river… Again, that technique was designed as much to bump and line fish as it was to actually get a bite, and lets a person believe they are fly fishing even when fishing colored mono or level running lines overloaded with too much lead to compensate for the bow swing of the line in such spring flows.  If you guide tells you to fish it, and you would prefer to fly fish, let him know so he can make the adjustment; or row you to a launch with a refund as you booked a FLY FISHING TRIP…  If you want to fish nymphs and eggs correctly, fish down the seams and foam lines via indicator floating line techniques, versus sweeping them in hopes of facial or body impalements.  If you’re setting the hook too much, ask yourself why… Then don’t!  Nice thing about the indicator fishing, when fished correctly, it’s likely a fish and not the bottom when there is indication, as you shouldn’t be on the bottom and underneath fish, so much as presenting the fly at their eye level with suspended patterns.  Believing there is some light at the end of the tunnel, there are other guides lately giving up on the caveman practices of Chuck & Dork and all the foul hooked fish that come with it.  If your stripping your swim flies, consider doing it slower in the cooler water… If fishing the “jiggy” streamers, find lonely structures and bank edges where fry are gathering for that possible predation.

AIRFLO IF YOU KNOW GUYS!!!  Not even kidding here, as I have been able to fish so many different lines over as many years, and I’m SOLD!  PVC LINES SUCK!  2016 in Arkansas, with the Elite crew of clients and buddies I flocked with, there were a total of 7 TRASHED FLY LINES LEFT ON THE TABLE that were simply falling apart, stretching too much, cracking, or simply too WF to present, cast, or control with any consistency, yet not one was an Airflo.  This year, most all my guys showed with the right arsenal of fly lines per my request and the cheesy streamer conditions that we were going to fish… This year, NOT ONE line came apart because my guys fished AIRFLO.  It’s not just because it’s PVC Free allowing for very long lasting lines, it’s the motivations of several of the line companies out there that continue to push the parking lot sellers as a person is allowed to shoot line instead of learning to cast it.  Further along in this sport, and the rods that continue to evolve in a faster, versus slower manner, the more Joan W. seems like a genius to me!  WF is good for fishing creeks, or shooting flies of size distance without direction, as there is so little control on a head that is shot, then hoped into a spot, this instead of being casted and controlled with TRIANGLE TAPERING.  Our presentations per fly are almost catered too per line chosen, and it’s great to get behind such a company that offers such a menu of lines with different aggressions and head lengths… Type 5 Airflo 40+ owned most of the situations we were trying to fish as forecasted, where shortened heads in the LOW, TOO NO FLOW conditions simply had to be sped up to compensate for the split shot like drops occurring in those condensed heads; and they still got hung in the dirt!  Casting distance was key this year since allot of the fish were noticing the boat in close thanks to the GIN water I rowed as much as I fished in, so to save my arm for night practices post trip and give the guides some casting time.  Spreading the weight across a longer head was perfect for keeping the patterns fished at your preferred speed, instead of the lines.  Type 3 wouldn’t have been out of the question many days of the week as there were days we fished and there wasn’t a DROP of extra water coming down.  Fishing waters that had as many smallmouth as it did trout, we found the slower water needed less and less weight by comparison to the very quality streamer conditions that existed in 2016 where we actually were fishing the correct technique with streamers based on THAT CONDITION.  In fact, the second largest daytime fish taken was on an intermediate line and a skull head in Jason Loyd’s boat… And against what I would have thought, there were a couple of days where the skulls did well and still out fished the swimming flies… Though one could argue that was based largely on “THE GOLDEN CHILD”… aka Jason Loyd who is one fishy dude, and the Unicorn Hunt 2017 Guide Of The Year!  That said, largest fish of the trip daytime, taken by THE BEAR, aka Sam Wisegamgie, aka Samuel, aka, dirty nympher, aka “My Good Buddy”, while I was riding shotgun and unhooking a nice 22”… A 26”+ Total Specimen of a Male brown trout that had me and the Jason scrambling for nets at all ends of the boat; was in fact on a Triple D of his own spinning, yet again in the Golden Childs Boat!  Tickled didn’t cover it, and there was some man hugging going on that day as it was one of only two days they actually ran some water on The Upper White over a two week period.  Windows were short, but potent, and my personal best on a streamer was a 24” this year, which was a great fish, but a hen that wasn’t in the best condition.  Craig Barber the same day got a nice 24” fish as well… And you guessed it, CONDITIONS SET THE PACE THAT DAY, but changing the lines often was very needed as they would only run water for an hour or two so the water would rise and fall upwards of about 4 or 5 feet in short order!  Other standout lines for the Norfork, which I would prefer never to fish in daylight again if I can help it… The Sniper and Surf sink tips were very cool as the bank cast is very much needed there when both generators are going, but when one was on, the 40+ would then start to play again as the fish would move away from the banks and the flies would fish all the way back to the boat.  Very impressed with the daytime line ups this year as far as AIRFLO lines, and so were my buddies/clients that managed to score them before coming, but again, there wasn’t one line left on the table this year, this and they are being designed by the Raejeffs if that tells you anything.  Encourage all of you to step outside this MI box and look from the outside in on sink tip applications per watershed fished as there really is an AIRFLO line for every situation in their catalog.  From a night fishing standpoint, I’m just going to tell you this.  I WILL NEVER FISH A SINGLE HANDED ROD IN THE DARK ON THE WHITE EVER AGAIN WHEN I’M WADE FISHING!  This year, and last, I have been tinkering with the TWO HANDED OPTIONS that river begs for.  Last year, wasn’t able to do allot of night fishing since the streamer conditions were set up so perfectly, so I only had an hour with the big stick… This year however, I was awarded plenty of opportunity to engage the dark side in lower flows and have since seen the light!  I’ll be doing a write up in a magazine, (coming soon to a shitter near you), that will go in depth on how CORRECT this approach is for the body of water in question, or any other big tailwater such as The Mighty & Massive White River… But here are some of the cornerstones of what I have learned this year per fishing the big sticks in the black… First… Distance has got to be the biggest perk!!!  No longer does it take 3-5 hauls to get the 80’ you need to provoke some chase and sack, this because of how sensitive the trout are at night to surface movements via leg wakes, so fishing away from your person is HUGE!  Instead now, 100’ is done with a Snap T or Double Spey… Fished with a longer leader to compensate for the set-up cast, and D-Loop expansion anchor, the leader then complements the distance of cast to limit bow of the line and allow the fish to gather the fly instead of nipping it with less drag near the bug.  Scandi Compacts are a must versus the WF design of Skagit, and could control the cast at distance where the Skagit, a fine booming line, couldn’t be adjusted once shot out… Second was control of the pattern which was amplified with the help of the 12.5’ XP and allowed some say so in the maneuvering of the Scandi Compacts ranging from 425 on switch rods all the way into the 550 grain with the bigger full Spey, no more than 8wt since there was no sinking/intermediate/or floating tip extentions.  Even if you could get a single-handed rod to push that far into the black, and get fish rolling on the fly, you can do nothing about it without the leverage of the Spey rod.  In the past, one could cast a bomb on single, and hear the fish take at a distance, and may even feel the line bump a little, but setting the hook or buttoning that fish at such distance is a forgone conclusion because there is so much bow on the water that when you lift it up, it literally would prick the fish off when the line relaxes after first tensions… CUE THE BIG STICK!!!  Now, same cast, same fly, different rod… When you hear the fish button up, (since the 12.5’ has so much lift potential versus a little 9’ rod), the line never relaxes post tension and therefore holds the hook in place for the hook-set which is slow and easy thanks to the grains of line resting on the hook point before you get all your ducks in a row for a solid set!  Here in MI, fishing a shooting head would be absurd because the fly line disturbs too much water around the impact of the fly, and you end up waking too much in the shortened area which actually causes missed fish since you can’t feel the fish through the shooting head with a single hand rod and the heavy bow of the line.  You can’t consider using such a big rod in the dark here in MI as you would loose rod tips on trees and limit your openings to cast as a result of tighter quarters YOU CAN”T SEE… All that said… THE WHITE RIVER DARKSIDE APPLICATIONS WITH A SPEY ROD are almost unlimited between presentation speeds, angles, and just overall ability to cover so much more water so easily; added perk is not breaking hook points off behind you in the rocks when hauling as the D-Loops load beside you or out in front.  Third and most likely the biggest reason the big stick is needed from the wading situation is this… WHAT IF YOU REALLY DO HOOK NEO?!?!??!  If you are wading, your ability to chase a double digit pound fish will be limited as even in lower flow, there are some deeper pools those bigger fish will favor too when stuck, (I’ve Lost 3 Fish Down There That Simply Beat The Single Handed 8wts on the Darkside)… Bonus of fishing after-hours is the ability to fish a high pound test, and I do recommend a lower tippet of fluorocarbon even if the top ¾ of the rig is built with higher and lower grade mono to enhance the floatation of such a longer leader, sometimes up to 13’… Reasoning behind the lower tippet upgrade is to limit the stretch at the lower lb test to ensure bigger hook penetration in those wooden jawed mutants down there, and when you do, you better have some attitude adjusting power to turn such a fish, and a single handed rod stretched to 80’ is not going to give you that.  Biggest fish I landed was 27” and it got through about 2/3 of that bigger 8wt full spey… Plugging that data in with fact you may hook a fish that weighs up to 3 times what that 27” fish was, having a Spey rod allows you to steer such a fish while on foot and bring him back instead of chasing him down in the dark, which can be dangerous… When you consider fishing The White @ Night, you would be hard pressed to find a better tactic for walk and wade applications… For one, I may likely never fish that river on foot again after dark without the bigger rods as I was out fishing my buddies and clients, often fishing behind them, 4 or 5 to 1, where I was pricking few and landing most… LEVERAGE becomes the biggest reason to run the bigger sticks… For distance, positions, hook-ups and for overall deal sealing battles as you’re not showing up to a gun fight with a knife, so much as a bazooka!  Spey fishing will be the next evolution in Arkansas as I believe it is terribly underutilized, and for that matter, discriminated per lack of passion in seeing what that river really has too offer.  To quote Mark Sedotti… “90% of the best fishing done on that watershed is done with the lights out, versus lights on”… This coming from one of the TRUE BIG FLY GODFATHERS of that watershed, who was fishing large, trout sized patterns on that watershed before others like myself, jumped the bandwagon…  Mark was fishing BIG STUFF down there in the 20th century, and before it was “cool” to do so…  Been a pleasure knowing him for as many years as he is beyond fishy… If you ask around down there, those that know, know exactly who to thank for opening those southern windows with THE BIG FLY… Whitlock… Sedotti… Wilder…

Here now in MI we are streamer fishing hard, and with the warming conditions this week, I suppose we will be getting into the fry and smolt bite sooner than normal.  Had a good run on the Manistee river this week, and I’ll be headed back very soon as that fishery isn’t congested with a bunch of want to be anglers all looking for a grip and grin with a fish that didn’t eat, so much as it was stung with a hook.  Dry Fly fishing is already on step for the upper sections where the stones, midges, and even a few select mayflies are already being taken with some frequency, that also means the fish will look up after dark now too.  Mayflies in March is a little off, but with the surface action already starting up, I can’t see a reason why mousing isn’t joy already too.  If they are looking up, they will do so till the later fall of this year… Gray Drakes will run early at this pace, and HEX HATCH always warms to an early spring season.  Nymphing medium to smaller stones has been paying some very nice fish, along with all the other usual nymphing suspects… Yet as good as the nymphs are doing, most days they get hot, they are simply keeping up with the caviar spins.  Look for streamer fishing to improve for about another month or so before the water really clears and has us fishing surface patterns, both at night and daylight based on moon or water CONDITIONS.  Steelhead run will end early this year, and the first couple weeks of April will be the last of the decent fishing for them… But you will find several drop backs all the way into middle to later May while fishing the streamers, especially those with higher amounts of action instead of lead.  Leaders and tippets will be play a huge role in success with the eggs and nymphs, not only in the presentation aspects, but also the casting and hook-sets variations needed when fishing this side of the river or that.  Swing bite is all but dead, but if you give it enough time, sooner or later you may find a newer fish willing, or any one of the thousands of drop backs scattered now all the way to the lake.  If you want to come for Gray Drakes… Get in the book, as it’s the best fishing with the lights on via hatches we have.  Bigger stones, including Olives, Browns, Goldens, and even larger Black stones later in June will be on step very soon as the smaller blacks are cycling and already giving up some great dry fly venues very early on this year.  Have like 5 days open for the best Hex windows… And below I will post what openings I have for the spring streamers that are fishing great already.  For one… I love the mild winters as trout seasons get a better/early start… And the best of the steelhead fishing I believe has come and gone till fall save the occasional summer run on a hopper or at night on the mice.  Respect the fishery, not just the other guys out there… It’s a tragedy when anglers don’t like fishing the best trout water in the state because it’s overrun by fellows not looking for a bite, so much as the easiest way to get that hero shot via fly impalement strategies… Do yourself a favor and EVOLVE, as there is just SOOOOO much great fishing to be had in around the old school caveman practices still being sold and lied about just to appease the need for bookings, fly sales, tippet, and lead.  Michigan is turning the corner on allot of these issues it would appear, and I’ll look forward to the day that the Flies Only Section of The Pere Marquette River, becomes FLY FISHING ONLY!  Good luck and good fishing folks… Drive Safe Coming In!!!