First and foremost… We hope you all are fairing well in this crazy time.  Things are getting a bit weird out there, but as mentioned by our leaders, the outdoors are still open to those practicing the social distancing techniques; however as guides we cannot take you fishing till otherwise notified!  We as fly fisherman are constantly pursuing the social distancing in our practices of fishing alone as best we can, so this should come easy for us as individual attempts at angling continue. Adapt and overcome, is what you should all be thinking with a river so lonely as it has been since this COVID crisis.  Flies Only Section may be tricky to engage without seeing some amount of people; but in a boat, throughout the middle and lower sections of the PM… One can truly have it all too themselves right now.  Encouraging all of you to stay safe first, and consider only going fishing if you don’t fear bringing any bugs home with you right now.  We are sympathetic to all those we have had to turn away, or for those whom just couldn’t make it with the restrictions in place, or even lodges shutting down for all the right reasons.  Surely there will be a tremendous rebound in the outdoors and recess following this very disruptive period in history, and I for one am really looking forward to that day, and will not take for granted all these remedies for cabin fever I’ve only since missed!!!  Be safe, and try and be active during this lockdown… This, much like the spring steelhead mouth hockey season, will pass… Thankfully!

It’s been a great streamer start up, or should I say it just never really shut down with that nice mild winter we are finishing up, real easy like too, save the Covid of course!  Water temps faired well, and most of the accesses stayed open all year this winter.  Rivers slushed up a few times, but never iced up, and the fish are still living down the 20 month high water feeding binder that has them all needing Jenny Craig subscriptions; which is a great thing for this watershed to boast such a comeback tour to any and all buttery browns looking to keep the calories in the black. Streamer season this passing fall and winter will go down as a good one, but not great.  Strip bite for chrome was good, but not as good as I would have liked, only because we spent so much time fishing the higher, but clearing waters with swing gear and simply trashed them good on that tech. Only ran a few bob trips this passed year for steelhead, which is fricken cool; so thanks for that folks, as I, like you, like knowing they didn’t just take a fly, but instead, ended it!!! Between the swing and the strip, the rods stayed busy and the browns always kept us in the game in between those chrome collisions.  Streamer fishing on single hand rods only improves for the next couple months before we start looking for more surface options to tickle those fair weather itches.  As far as the swing game goes from here on out… I’m DONE!  The swing bite is more apparent in the fall and winter when the fish are stationed and still feeding.  When the spawn starts up, the feeding backs down and the fish begin to mingle and loose the desire to forage versus socialize and get laid! Following the spawn, the drop backs are very aggressive, and will in fact take a swung fly when you find one actually holding in water you would target with said gear… Problem is, they aren’t there with the same frequency this time of year, and even when they are, they are motivated to get some nookie instead of a cookie.  When the smoke clears, the best biting steelhead of the spring isn’t the new hen looking to spawn and leave the river inside of a week or two, so much as the older drop backs on the verge of death looking to regain some calories any which way they can as the river flushes their weary versions back out to the lake.  When all this occurs, covering water with a strip fly trumps the swung present to a single area of holding… Essentially, the drop back could be anywhere, so targeting as many casts in NEW water begs a better resolve!  Love two handed casting myself, and look forward to it every fall when they lock up in those pools and are running out of food, but this time of year, my two hand rods are already put away till October!

Nymphing has been tremendous as it always is early on in the season with the browns.  Arguably the finest nymphing of the season occurs before the second week of May when the hatches come on strong.  Better tippets, bigger nymphs, the random egg early on, and a strong stone fly bite that is the only time of the year the bugs trump the caviar with frequency!  Love me the 9.5’ variations of 4-6wt rods for roll casting and quality mending practiced.  And NO, I don’t EURO… As I think it’s basically “Diet Chuck & Duck”, and you all know how much I love that garbage copout the local guides use a crutch in their lack of instructional skills!  Running proper rigs, with the Thill Ice & Fly, (or comparable float), for proper hemisphere awareness, along with the mending and casting skills needed in good fly fishing practice, will yield some really quality dividends this time of year, and to some, surprising large trout on the lighter gear does happen around now… WHICH IS JUST COOL!  Fishing pressure for trout during this period, with nymphing gear is almost nonexistent, save some of the eastern rivers like the Ausable where they are up to speed.  PM nymphs as sweet as honey, and save some EURO short-cutters, there isn’t really anybody tapping that shit.  This approach would be a great way to social distance in your ability to fish alone, and keep your distance while angling, and remain quite productive.  For the next month or so, without being able to properly gather our streamer buddies and boats, nymphing will take center stage for all of you looking to tap this early game.  But there is another option as the water drops here soon for the wading streamer angler… THE FRY HATCH!!!

Salmon Fry Hatch is already here…  They have been in the eddies for over a month or so now, and as the water warms, the browns are gonna start getting mean and turn to the minnow sized salmon as the mainstay forage.  Often mistaken for a dry fly take, the browns will coral, then engage the bait ball at will, exploding right on the surface as the prey is chased right to the brink.  It’s not random, and more even, expected this time of year as the PM Brown Trout is a predator by all intents, but will forage when the water is cool, or the abundance of the rolling protein, such as eggs or stones, is so prolific that it cannot be ignored.  Fry, early on, are as dumb as the rocks they are holding over, and don’t know how to dodge or evade the predators, so they are sniped almost on the minute within their groups.  As they age/wise up, and the water clears, the fry will be considered more so after dark around the same time the hatches start up; but the ease of the kill is more now than May, and the trout know that so they key up hard early on. Noticing a fry take, and angler, using the right patterns and placement, can almost call out the take while wading the down the river and casting to these secluded spins…  Almost like fishing too white bait explosions in New Zealand in many ways… Except every trout here in MI isn’t 24”…hahahaha. Even fishing upstream like hoppers is an option when the water is low enough.  And for the first time in a long time, the PM looks like it actually might drop enough to fish on foot a might better than the last year and a half or so!  Remember folks, the passing 20 months on the PM have been the highest they’ve ever been in recorded history, and though we are dropping, it’s doing so at a snails pace because the lake is so very high and limiting the waters exodus from the river corridor.    

Big streamer trips, which are my mainstay this time of year, have been since put on hold with the current regulations on guiding at this point. Come the later part of April, we will, with any luck, be back online and be able to still gather a good piece of the streamer season, which lasts till mid May typically. Any and all of you that I had dates with the next month or so, have been contacted and we have made other arrangements, but do keep in mind, that we could use any help you can between now and then to make those ends meet.  Be it a Gift Certificate, or just paying a cancelation fee, it’s all going to help… This only if you can!  We thank you for being so thoughtful around this time, but we don’t get to work from home, save tying some flies, and that’s tough with the new house we just moved into.  Again, we apologize for not being able to get you out this next month, but as I’m sure you’ve realized, it’s getting weird, and safety comes first!  We will resume trips once the Forestry/State have given us the OK to do so… Till then, I’m going tie flies and take the boys fishing and try and get some stuff done at the new place… Even going to start doing some writing one of these days, as the man cave is established officially.  Be sure and try and stay ahead of this bug, as I’ve heard it’s not nice in any way.  Even if the affect is low on your person, you could give it too someone that could simply die from it.  People are dropping like flies, and our only, and best recourse is to simply stay put and keep this from spreading too quickly. So be safe and keep that family close, and stay home if at all possible!  There isn’t a fishing trip anywhere I know of that’s worth someone you love getting sick, or yourself for that matter!

Again, not terribly bummed out about loosing this next month of work… I’ve got plenty to do, but on the bright side, the steelhead numbers are going to enhance with this interval of recess on a spring season, and we will see that improvement, following this epic spawn about to take place, in about 4 or 5 years!  It’ll be a great year to make sure you have your fall and early winter dates booked Waaaaaaaaay ahead!  So many fish will spawn with ease and without being stressed out this year, which is more typical and what was going on a clean month before most of it got shut down.  Places like wadels are not places to find any biting steelhead, contrary to whatever line of shit your guide or buddy is trying to guarantee his rebooking or trust with you!  It’s a place, like many others “bump” fishermen like to run down to early in the morning, snag/line as many fish as they can, and as soon as the traffic starts coming down, drop out for a few random gravels and a lunch, and before you know it, the boats back on the trailer!  If he’s trying to show you how to line fish of the beds with a floating line and indicator, well at least he’s teaching you a little about casting and mending while you do the nasty, but if he just slaps a chuck & dork rod in your hands and points at the fish on the bed… Congratulations, you’ve just hired one of the beer drinking unions finest guides…hahaha  What’s even funnier to me, is when these same guides are posting how they think it’s cheesy to see people already fishing gravel, and the very next day, the same guide is snagging fish off the beds in wadels with his clients under the myth that the fish are biting because the “guide says so”…ahhahahahhahah  What a fricken joke, so much so there were two other boats within casting distance from the same guy, from the same shop, all anchored up… ALL WHALING ON THE SAME DOZEN FISH!  You can endorse them, honor them for being stewards, and even give them deals on every piece of gear in the industry… BUT THEY ARE STILL JUST SNAGGING FISH OFF BEDS!  They know it’s wrong, but are willing to sell the lie just to be sure their rebookings are up to snuff… So, like many years before this, each and every since I came to my senses and called these acts out for what they actually are, even after I’ve taken money doing the same… THERE’S THE TRUTH FOLKS, AND IT’S FREE OF CHARGE, but it’s not up for debate!

Reflecting on how few people will be fishing this spring spawning of steelhead, this 2020 season, is a cause to rejoice in that so many more fish will be allowed to spawn without the harassments of the in and out of state gravel fisherman/local guides daily pillage of the river’s wild stock; and even further more, all the out of state folks that simply make the migration north to our rivers whenever fish are spawning and can be seen, lined, flossed, bumped, or just outright snagged will be limited in their attempts this year! Yes, yes I say… And if there was one season to be shut down due to a national pandemic, as terrible as it may be; it could not have happened at a better time when considering the seasonal carnage that would otherwise be taking place right now and all the way into the month of May!!!  Not this year… Nope, all those fish, save a few diehards, (which in the current state might very well be), that are willing to brave the bug to get their slide and lock on; but instead those same steelhead will be left to their procreation deeds without ever having to dodge a split shot, or hear and angler exclaim, “Is He In The Mouth?” as it’s being towed back upstream rectally!  And let’s face it, whether the fish is hooked in the mouth, or it’s ass, if it was hooked off the bed, IT NEVER ATE YOUR FLY!  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it…

Sorry for that folks, but it wouldn’t be spring without my seasonal rant on all the monies taken at the expense of our fishery… Moving on! Arkansas wasn’t as cool as it typically is, and we scored plenty of fish on the streamers and even made away with some dandies after dark, but the conditions this year were not that conducive for the night bite at all.  Water levels were between 20-22K the whole time we were there, and this year, with the new house, we only when for 5 days instead of a month… This and my dog died the second day I was there.  Coho is gone, and he is very missed; to be honest I think I cried a better part of a week, as it was quite sudden.  He was an older dog, and we should be so lucky to get almost 14 years out of such a super puppy, I just wish I could have said goodbye to my fishing buddy of so many years, and maybe even spoiled him a solid month before passing, but we just didn’t see it coming.  Never actually felt that kind of loss, and those of you that grow so attached to your puppies know right where I’m coming from… Like loosing a member of the family I tell ya.  He’s buried close to my tying bench so we can chat with frequency, but how I will miss fishing and hanging out with my pup.  Those of you that have fished the PM for any amount of time have certainly bumped into Coho at some point or another, and those banks will sure miss that migrating Husky.  Again, it was a bit rough trying to fish knowing the dog was gone, and I even managed a couple 24” fish, but I never even took a photo this year, as smiling wasn’t an option on this run!  We are taking steps to get Unicorn Hunt 2021 up and running, and the dates we went this year seem like the right ones based on the weather and the tech we want to implement.  If you think you have the skills for the night & day game down there… Do be in touch so we can get you on step for the next visit to The White River in Arkansas!  Our programs are current too above the curve, and our crew fishes the conditions and not the streamers at all costs, which is to say there is some strong nocturnal agendas on this crew.  Hoping next year they don’t run a drop of water through Bull Shoals, as the gear and the lines have all been since realized and now proven, so that when they do or don’t run water, we have a program that suits well.  Spey fishermen will come very well received on this crew for the after hours practice, but any all big meat slingers looking to up their game should be considering this as a 5 day clinic of how to bring a big fly to a big brown with more efficiency and for that matter, with some forecastability! 

For the next month or so I would encourage you folks, as hard as it might be, to remain active and engaging in the outdoors whenever you can… SAFELY!  Tying like a madman, I’ll leave up some good tying porn for you to sift through in that boredem. Cabin Fever is going to take on a whole new meaning in the months to come while we try and dodge this viscous bug.  Stay close to home, no big trips till the smoke clears, and don’t push your luck if you have been lax in your acceptance of just how fricken weird it potentially can get, and for that matter, is getting.  Stay home, stay clean, meet with nobody new and hug your family as tight as you can because we are not all going to make it through this, and whenever you take the chance, whether it hits you hard, or you give it to someone that it does… There is no fishing trip in the book worth another person’s life, and this is coming from an Irishman that has more love for the trout in the river than most of the current pool of people in and around. Practice the social distancing, and don’t hesitate to get out now, as there is the potential they will insist you can’t even do that at some point.  This bug is shutting down the whole world; and when the cards are down, the only thing that matters is family and friends… And maybe brown trout a distant 3rd!  As soon as it looks like we are coming out of the woods I’ll post again whenever that season may be… But it looks like summer is in our scopes the way they are talking, maybe some later spring if we are lucky.  Get your Gray Drake, Hex & Mouse Dates Booked, cause when the curtain lifts following this happening, there’s going to be a larger number of people busting out of their homes to scratch that itch. Wouldn’t even be a bad idea to book ahead on your fall steelhead dates this year a couple months earlier than normal.  Even though I’m going to loose a month, I’m guessing allot of people are going to want to get out following this pandemic, and have the books looking good before the New Year. Folks, again, we thank you so very much for keeping us busy when we need to be, and thanks again for keeping the lights on with some of the fly tying orders.  I’ll be posting a few more of those in the next post as I’m trying to stay clear of the population per the lockdown, and for my family which I never take chances with!  This will be a tougher year when the chips fall, but I’m just betting you folks will help me rebound on the back of this to keep the lights on and my boys & babe fed… Which is all we ever really need up here in the North!  Hug those families’ good folks… See Ya Soon!

Be safe… And come out shiny…

 

                 

Happy New Year Anglers… We have set all kinds of new standards and even records this passing year of the highest water flows I’ve ever guided; this, my 29thyear of working The PM and surrounding northern MI streams.  Steelhead run on West Side is pretty much par for the course this winter, with a bit more spread than typical winters, with the waters high enough to spread the average runs throughout the systems.  Streamers, being my mainstay of work tech most days out, have been terribly productive considering their audiences count… And yes we’ve run some great nymphing tech for the browns on the fall back with the water temps, and even a few steelhead approaches for those new to the game and in need of the baseline.  Size of the steelhead this year is impressive overall, and especially mid way through the season towards the end of November, into December, where we were certainly seeing a strong bite, as well as a bigger fish overall… Even got our ass kicked a few times with some flash donations.  Fishing pressure has slipped from November for sure, but there is no doubt more people coming for the fall bite then ever before, and that’s really great to see that “Bite” participation… almost keeping up with the mouth hockey conventions for a few weekends there, which again is really great too see from my point of view.  Rivers are getting busier no matter what, what we need is better anglers to set a better examples for all the newer incoming anglers looking to learn the right angles to the dangle and maybe even some proper etiquette along the way; this versus just handing down some of the older caveman shit we are all guilty of, me included!  Brown trout bite, for those savvy with the strip sticks is still beyond a go… Been fishing the Mani, Ausable, and plenty here on the PM… And though we mix it up good with the steelhead and brown trout on the busier PM, this mild winter has allowed us all kinds of late access to those waters just offering butter over chrome. Little to ZERO fishing pressures in those trout only beats from now till the thaw when a few more will brave the improving, but still cool conditions.  The post spawn bite should never be overlooked here in MI with THE BIG STREAMER FLY!  Egg fishing for those steelhead trout has been very productive, and for that matter, up and coming with the finally clearing, and somewhat, dropping waters of late.  Trout nymphing with FLOATING LINES, with smaller Thill ice & fly floats… Fished western or 45 degrees, or even under a 2 gram vertical in those deeper potential lies; has been so freaky good, it’s almost not worth mentioning… almost!  All nymphing practice with A TAPERED FLY FLINE should be considered more now than any time we have fished this fall run as the temps are keeping them deep, off aggression, and simply pre-spawn for that matter.  Clearing water sets the condition, and though I’ll throw single hands and streamers till my fingers lock up with ice, then swing glitter bombs with two hands when the single hand rod guides have had enough; one could most certainly have a blast with caviar and creek crawlers at this point in the run.  Again, this year, and the year before have set up a higher water event that has now lasted 17 months here on the PM.  Trout are all the better for it, and the steelhead runs won’t slip the river for lack of flow this winter… All favoring elements too the would be winter angler this year!

Steelhead run has been just fine, though I will say a knowledge of the runs habits and fluctuations over such conditions, and setting up a program that caters too it, has been setting a better pace for me. Allot of younger/newer guides are struggling with the extra flow and the less than massive run of fall/winter steelhead… Which keeps them second-guessing more, and less confident with techs outside of floating caviar or bouncing the bottom with the caveman approaches.  If you know where he is sitting before you come around the bend, you would then have a plan on how to present the fly to that very forecasted fish, and there in giving you a confidence in the happening.  HINT… “It’s not nearly as much about the fly as you would want to believe it was, but more so the way you offer whatever it is to that perspective you are not yet savvy to… YET!”  Bored and playful, steelhead will kill or eat out of curiosity as much as critique, unlike the brown trout that is always as or more willing to say no over yes in most cases and needs the highest level of sales pitch to convert. If you play to that level of cat and mouse to a steelhead, he will give audience.  Never beg your techniques, but instead match the water’s coercing as it leaves clues the moment you look at it, consider the fishes state of season, and then again, plug in any preferences you feel you may be able to get away with based on your skill levels, or needed draw from the rivers account.    

  

Remembering that fly-fishing was never supposed to be easier, or even more productive… In fact, it may be the worst way to catch fish, but still, all the better while angling to one!  If this sport were simply about catching fish, we would all grab conventional gear with spawn/worms/lures, and “get ‘r’ done”… But in fact it’s not.  Most, if not all fish/angle to sponge the sport of the event; and find that gratification of validation from a fish that would hold yourself, the predator, at the esteem of victory over a critter with a brain the size of a pea! Sport is why we fish, table fair often being a second motivation for many, but all the gear, money, time spent, and relationships burnt in the pursuit can only be justified by the addictions this sport carries… Which we happily pay the tab for!  Fly-fishing is the act of angling with the least likely pay off in productivity, but then again the highest dividends offered in the sport of the affair.  Often skunked and rattled, a fly angler is encouraged to notice more each and every failure or victory, so to promote the climax of the happening when the compromise is met between you and your adversary, and there in paying a huge lump of victory & sport all at once.  In those intermissions of success, a fly angler dives just a bit deeper into the why of it all, begging for that finality.  In this hunt we find ourselves at a level of focus few other sports afford; where all other aspects of life are sidelined for it, and most thankfully.  Never dilute this sport by trying to shortcut it, but instead add more passion and drive for that success offered much easier when catering to so many more senses as bait and gear would, as it wouldn’t be worth as much if it gave itself so easy. Having a slow day of fly fishing can be more rewarding than a great day of catching with a worm… It’s the journey, and often not the destination in this fine angling avenue.  In short and within fly fishing religions, beads suck almost as much as chuck & duck, and you’re almost a hero if you Euro… But NOT!  Cornerstones of fly-fishing are the acts of casting a tapered line, and the mends and presentations that would complement any one of those thousand approaches offered in those ranges of angling with a fly.  Bouncing bottom, whether for a bump or a bite is certainly a short cutting of this fine game, and if nothing else is a diluted version of it… Like the artist, formally know as fly-fishing if you will.  Make the journey, (and the improvement of it), the destination and you will draw more sport and happening from each encounter, or lack there of, which in turn will give you back far more than “pegging a bead”, instead of a fly tied… chucking lead, or even bumping your way into the verification of a fishes presence, which might I add, should be known before any hook-sets or probing lifts are made to keep in good form… Wouldn’t you agree?!?!  Fly fishing was never supposed to be that cool, no matter what costumes we dress in, or how fabled we may feel in our hero stances with a finned rival we feel we have dominion over…  But it should abide in its disciplines and tech so not to dull/water down, or short cut the happening.  Ask yourself why YOU angle/fish, and then what you would like to get from it; this will lead you in the direction you’re actually pursing!

 

Steelhead run fall 2019 will go down as early and for that matter par.  Not special in numbers or production, but not bad either.  Par for the course, contrary to many a bit newer to the game may think, that have seen some really incredible pushes over the last 7 years or so; with some larger fish overall being somewhat the newer standard since the diminished king run has allowed steelhead more forage opportunity in the big lakes.  Primarily my boat is streamer fishing these days through the colder months. Swing fishing was powerful this year, and still continues to impress as we play with the colors in the cooling water begging for November to hold on; and too be honest I’m not sure if the color or fly matters as much as we want to think, this until the water gets very clear and we begin fishing some more natural stuff to keep them off guard in the past peak swing windows.  Presentations setting a huge part of the pace and away from the October suicide practice we use to cover more water with fewer but more aggressive fish. Now instead of trying to bridge the gap between instinctual response and food greed, we are simply trying to pick a scab to a holding, and less veracious fish, that is well and good in the intermission of binge feeding and pre spawn.  Invasion and offense pay better than the bold chases for cheeseburgers we see more in the warmer temps.  Suicide bites are still available based more on the individual fishes disposition, but we can still tip a few of those would be assailants into battery if coaxed correctly and with confidence!    We did well considering the last couple years on the strip with the steelhead trout, and most all that attempted the feet were given the due and proper… Yet not all!  Best day on the strip was moving a dozen, which is to say that I never had one day on the swing where we boasted such a number, at least this year.  And though surely if I were chasing them with caviar all season, I would have surely found at least that same number; but the few times we did run the floating lines and bobs, we still only bounced 11 on our best day.  Stripping only a bit more than we bobbed, we swung the fly most of the season per clients that prefer the tug over the dunk, but were just far enough along that we only just attempted and improved the strip game. Again, my heavy hitters, Kinkoff, Cook, McGraw, Mease, and Grenier, too name a few… always seemingly shine with the strip, but that likely because I’ve thrown them through a wood chipper, and they came out shiny on the other end… And the biggest stick these guys carry with them these days is CONFIDENCE!!!  Swing fly offers this streamer confidence in training and patience, where the end result is the confidence to try something new, which in turn you appreciate more, which then leads to the next step in angling evolution for chrome, which is stripping up the steelhead…  Which may then lead to getting one on a dry… And so on. Just saying, that if you chuck & duck too long, you may go blind!  Euro nymphing to me seems more like chuck & duck fishing for trout… But as long as you’re trying to get a bite, too each their own… Just don’t call it fly-fishing. 

  

Steelhead on the strip is not for the beginner or novice, and should be considered after there is an awareness too the river section you are engaged.  Too say that it’s a harder way to produce a steelhead on a fly is as true as saying in the right hands it could also be the most productive when the presentation couples the cast from a moving boat with a prescribed plan in shortened order on varied level, temp, flow, and even fish mood considerations all in check with each and every.  Just because you beg the tech, doesn’t mean it owes you a fricken thing!!! So many new comers in my boat look believe that just being in my boat guarantees success on a strip fly, and though I can surely make you better, (and I don’t care what your skill level is… THIS IS TOP GUN TRAINING), and bring your game into a level of confidence maybe not yet established; what I cannot do is present the fly for you! Dead drifting a fly under a floating line is more extreme than swing fishing where the cast is trickier than the presentation, where one could say the opposite about the indicator approach where the cast is cake, but the work needed to actually install TRUE dead drift is a very critical and ever varied.  And if you snowballed those together, and added a moving boat program and the line control skills of a Jedi… You would finally be walking through the doors of skill level needed to sell that strip fly; this or a fish simply just commits suicide on impact, which also does happen.  That old saying, “I’d rather be lucky, than good”, only applies when you aren’t aware of how good you could become. Constant casting, at the entire watershed, (not just the spots with intermissions in between), from a moving boat, in varied water flows, depths, speeds, and then considerations for the point of the views the fish may or may not be noticing from… Then rap all that together is a confidence taco and chew on that.  If you want to get better at something, you have to push yourself after the basics have been established; and streamer fishing from a moving boat in tightened quarters, with limited casting windows, and there in the need for a library of different angles to penetrate those would be haunts with a sales pitch that would challenge the strut of a hooker on the boulevard… well lets just say there’s a bit more to that than say sitting on anchor and chucking mends and hoping for the find.  Unlike any other steelhead approach, stripping flies done right will draw more fish from the same beats simply because you are fishing more of it… When people are short in their games, they would assume the tech didn’t work for them, when point of fact, the angler didn’t work the tech!  “IF YOU STRIP IT… right… THEY WILL COME… IF YOU DON’T… they wont!”

For the incoming colder season ahead of us… It’s a steelhead… Everything still works depending on how well you fish it!  If you’re new and need work on knots, water reading, and understanding of the where they hold, with some baseline casting work, I couldn’t recommend nymphing with floating lines any higher.  Call it brail with a bobber when learning a rivers bottom and topography via a float or indicator pending your need for variance in ideal, yet still one in the same.  If you choose to angle with chuck & dork or euro nymphing, there is some bite justice too both potentially, this when fished with ethics, but neither hold any values to the fly fishing disciplines we work so very hard to improve upon.  One could say that even when euro nymphing that the tech is a direct match for walking a worm on spin gear versus any mended, presented, or for that matter, casted fly from a tapered line that could be manipulated versus walked…  Swing fishing is for those of you that have an awareness to your beats, and you are savvy to at least several specific lies in which you could present with the confidence having that knowledge learned via nymphing!  Eggs & Nymphs to some level are somewhat disposable in their comings and goings to the wooded debris and fish with no names. Swing flies, though fished on goat ropes and big sticks, are still lost to the wood on some occasions, but the angler in check with his water would almost know 3/4 of the snags and be able to stay away after forfeiting several nymphed presentations over time to those red zones.  With the where of the fish in check, and the where not to throw a swung fly, a novice to advanced angler could take a step in the two handed direction and deliver disco to the fish with a chip on their shoulder to exploit that hate.  Swing fly-fishing is a relaxed way to walk and wade fish without all the extra casts and mends needed to dead drift eggs and nymphs. It caters to almost half the would be takers of the dead drift, and in allot of cases pays the bigger fish of a hold, or at least those that might feel a bit more dominant!  Almost a gentlemen’s approach in many aspects of disposition with the fly present, that is until you get a tug… Then swear words and reel screams!  Two handed casting is its own reward, and those who don’t, can’t appreciate that the tug, as sweet as it is, is simply the icing on an already sweet cake! Pushing D Loop under, around, and varied in persuasion of presentation is so very full filling, and you would do it all day just to do so.  When you can finish one of so many casts of obnoxious flash, then be pummeled by thee assassination of your well dressed swung fly… Lets just say, just the knowing that it may happen, in this way, may have you leaving your bob rod in the truck, and the saturated water lines on your waders just a bit higher… Much like the grin you wear when it all comes together!  Again, without backing up again, the stripped fly does walk a different path, and those flies of swim versus swing are often those flies worth NEVER DONATING!  If you know the water like the back of your hand, walk and wade/strip & rip, is available at lower prices then if you don’t.  Allot of strip flies that I sell are in excess of 25$ per bug, and swim like Mike Phelps, but should be presented in those areas where you can draw a fish from the wood instead of trying to penetrate those same holds. Stripping a fly in the right matter isn’t like trying to back into a fish with a swung fly, or even bringing chase to it… When fished correctly, you would swear that swim fly, namely The Drunk & Disorderly, was making mom jokes directly at the would be killer! They don’t move to it, nor do they take or even grab a strip fly… THEY FRICKEN END IT!  Like a drawing suave, you need not enter the living room to upset the steelhead from the couch, but more so try and steel his car while he’s watching from a distance and have that fish spring from the hold, (a good distance away), and come out swinging like Tyson, and even try biting some ears off! Stripping from a boat or raft is more suitable for the approach, and for that matter the presentation in your ability to stay with the swim fly and allow for slack and swim, which is tough when stationary is more potent.  Advanced applications needed for swim fly approaches, which really never limits the learning curve or creativeness one can achieve by fully downloading this tech.  Once adapted to this technique, and angler’s prowess in presentation and need to penetrate specific reads is unmatched in the curve of this sport.  Your skill level will sore and score, but first… THE BASICS!

Steelhead run 2019/2020 is already seasoned, and one of the fish we caught swinging on my trip the other day was already milting, so the fall fish, which ran so very early with the higher waters this year, will be spawning and then leaving in shortened order as many have been here almost 5 months!  Newer fish will be entering the river all winter long, especially when the water colors up, but again, the gates have been open for 17 months straight now, so water levels have ZERO to do with it.  PM fish are spread all the water up the watershed, even into sections well and closed, and then scattered all the way back to the lake.  Hot spots are all over the rivers, and if you know what water to look for this time of year, it’s a pretty easy game because they have been running for so long and they are here, but gathered.  There is no wrong beat to fish right now, but there are wrong spots to consider that we might other times of the year when the forage and temps are far different!  White River and myself have been getting along great this year, and it’s great having a federal tag there again.  By far my finest overall swing river, and much more suited for it versus the PM pocket pickle games where it begs more the stripped approach overall. Fish with intent, most fishy spots are indeed.  If you want to download some serious strip and swing strategies for this time of year, I will be doing more guiding this winter than the last 7 as I’m only going to Arkansas for a couple weeks this year instead of the extended version like normal, and back up to speed next year after we get the new house up to par and settled in!  Being gone a full month isn’t as cool as it used to be with the boys growing and fishing now, and the wife an ER Nurse of full time.  As I age, I want to get some other cool shit done with this knowledge I’ve downloaded over almost three decades of being a fly fishing guide in Northern MI. Thanks to you folks, and your continued hunger for the next level of this sport, and not only for booking me, but also pushing me to stay ahead of the curve in the learning of the fine sport.  I’m sure I wouldn’t be the angler I am today had I not pushed as many of you, in so many different ways, to be better and in turn learning allot about the cast as a whole having a front row seat to the right and wrong of it all.  You guys and gals are just a fricken pleasure to have has hood ornaments on my boat, and it really has been an honor watching you all grow into the anglers you are today… Hats off to ya! 

Again… We just got the new place, and we are moving in this week with any luck, so I’m going to take a couple weeks off getting everything right, and maybe sneak a few winter swing hikes with the big stick in there, as I’ve been stuck in the boat the last 4 months.  Bigger place, as the boys, babe, and I were busting out of the seams here in a house I’ve been in for 20 years now. With ten acres so the boys can’t upset the neighbors, or local authorities, and a couple huge garages for assorted man caves, tying stations, and drift boat dens… It’ll be nice to have a place to store all this fishing gear without having to sleep with it, which apparently the wife has caught me doing from time to time.  Wife and boys will have better access to school and work, and I won’t have to deal with Baldwin to work there, which is long overdue.  Leaving me with some more time and space to think, I suspect I’ll be able to pursue other great ways to make money in the angling community while continuing my favorite line of work, guiding brown trout & steelhead on flies, which I’ll do until I simply can’t!  We are all set on Arkansas this year, and likely will be more of a fun run than a client evolution this year, as I just don’t have the time this winter, and the fly tying orders are back up already… Besides, I’m due to spend one of my birthdays back here in MI for a change.  Next year Unicorn Hunt 2021 will be fully back up to speed!  With this mild winter in place, there is no better year to hold back and be a steelhead guide till the winter breaks, and just take a little vacation down there with some buddies, for a week or so; this after a very, very busy fall/winter this year.  Thanks again folks! 

Spring is already booking per usual, and I’m planning on guiding based on in and out conditions the rest of the winter here on the PM, Manistee, and even a little Ausable & Muskegon when some variety is needed.  Stripping for large trout comes HIGHLY recommend the next couple months before rivers get busier, and the post spawn bite is still in full check.  Manistee, Muskegon, & Ausable offer great options for tail water BIG FLY approaches right now, and is a great time to learn techs for big browns both here in MI and Ark for next year.  If you want to see a few more fish, and don’t need to swing for the 24” mark, the PM offers so many more trout per mile this time of year to tango with.  Just a week ago we rolled over 30+ browns, (scoring many over 18”), and the day started at 19 degrees; but then mixed in was also had 4 attempts by steelhead on stripped fly, two of which were converted, but neither landed.  That’s allot of action on a stripped fly, no matter what month you’re fishing!  Swing fly approaches remain solid for another month or so before most of the fish in the system prefer getting laid, over getting a snack in which case we will fall back to the tail-water browns, and any of those egging and early nymph strategies we implement early on the warming trout here on the PM.  Nymphing early season brown trout is STUPID GOOD, and while everyone is trying to play mouth hockey with a bunch of spawning steelhead, you can be knocking the cover off the ball with smaller fry patterns and a nymphing program that can’t be rivaled any other time of the year on the butter. Following the steelhead spawning cycle, which can include some great “eggin” opportunities for the browns in the wake of these bedding areas, streamers and hatches will take over till the water falls out.  Sulfurs & Grey Drakes come very recommended and few engage the early hatches, and the payoff and fishing pressure insist you give it a try. Of course, if you are coming for Hex Hatch 2020, which is sure to be better than 2019 as it was the worst in many moons… Get your dates booked sooner that later because I will book solid for that window running from middle June through early July before hoppers become the lights on dry fly fishing and very recommended for learning great casting skills without the strict disciplines of the sink tips.  If you want the best numbers of fish during mouse windows, come early and dark in the season; if you want quality over quantity, come later in the season when the pre spawn comes on line.  Again, darkest moons for my advanced mouse anglers, and for those who want some action, but wouldn’t mind a little light on the subject, shoot for any half moons, or lower horizon larger moons.  Carried the mouse bite all the way into middle October this past fall, but we are looking to do the same this year with a better overall size fish, as we just weren’t able to get after those middle section fish as well last summer with all the water… Those fish usually fewer, but potentially bigger!  Again, Arkansas 2020 is all set this year, so we aren’t looking for anymore beyond whom we already have on step for this outing.  Next year, 2021, we will be setting up some neat stuff, and likely a little away from the more “trendy” windows to be down there fishing to browns that are there ALL YEAR LONG!  It’s gotten so hard to keep a consistent bite through the Jan-Mar months on streamers as there are just sooooo many people fishing big flies down there now, and we are becoming a different band of brothers in that awareness as we saw that river fish with a streamer before the crowd descended. Again, we will be pushing night and two handed practices while there, and streamer fishing based on day to day flows, but we as a group now know when the best time to fish The White, and it’s got nothing to do with lights on practice… That’s more like buying lottery tickets, and only a couple steps ahead of the MI game, though far less pretty.  Looking forward to going down there with some buddies this year unguided, as I was last year for the most part, with the best production in the worst conditions I’ve fished yet; but even more so, I’m looking forward to staying closer to home for a year and fishing the boys more this winter as they are coming into that cold weather fishing age.  Hoping all of you folks had a great Holiday this year, and leaves you with resolutions of fishing more, better, and for that matter… WITH ME!  It’s always a pleasure being your fishing guide, and next year makes 30 years of professional guiding for this balding, over opinionated, chubby Irishman… Hoping for another few decades before I punch the clock.  Be safe driving up in this winter, watch for the black ice, it’s worse than the deer this time year with the overnights dipping like they do.  Thanks again from all my family, to all of yours!  Watch those weather windows this winter, and when you see a good forecast setting up for a get away, give a ring and we will see if we can get you out.  Not booking ahead based on conditions right now, so it’s first come, first serve on the weather windows as they come between now and middle February when everything has broken a bit.  Great solitude, and very quality fishing with really no pressure during the week, makes for a great time, and for that matter a productive one… And if you do hook the big one, these winter water temps will keep his fire at bay and possibly allow for that trophy to be landed when he would have otherwise handed you your hat…  See ya soon folks!

 

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

December Openings:::3-5,10-13,17,18,20,23,30,31  

   

 

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!

        

 

So that may have been one of the best spring streamer seasons I’ve ever guided as far as consistency across the board. Pere Marquette, Manistee, and Ausable Rivers all fished well for me.  Haven’t been down to the MO in awhile now, but really soon I’ll head down for a little streamer/dry mix up action.  You guys should check out Matt Supinkski’s book… Salmo Trout Nexus… Dude knows his shit when it comes to the science of butter!  Gray’s should be great down there with the extra water this year.  The Hendrickson hatch on the PM existed amongst the fry hatch this year, which too has been running a little later than normal, and still leaves the salmon as the highest level of protein for the river here at home.  Hatches are the mainstay for the next month or so here on Upper/Westside of Michigan…  Grey Drakes are terribly overlooked by comparison to the Hex Hatch and often yield more consistent action over a longer period of time.  Mouse fishing is a go as of whenever you decide to flip from here on out with the water levels, temps, and even the bugs now bringing the surface takes too a head.  Mayflies will run the show the next month or so, but the variety of others things in play is daunting; this keeps the angler in a conditional happening and then needing to change based on his awareness of those windows. As a trout fisherman, this time of year is a plethora of technique and timing, all suiting for a fish that is happy in the bounty allowed, this following the stale of winter that kept the feed at bay, but then enhances the foraging of spring/early summer. Go get you some folks… It really is a great time to be a trout angler in this great state of Michigan!

With all the dry fly, nymphing, and even nighttime approaches all open and allowing… This year, unlike most by this time of May… The water still runs high and cool, and this has kept the BIG FLY BITE, strong these last couple weeks where normally we are on the fade of the strip & rip games of late winter and spring.  Lately, with the rains of April, more landing in May; the rivers are allowing for a great late season streamer game, which as you know… I’m All About!  Watching a fly, and fishing in with the trout mindset in check, then the surprise of the campaign of pain the browns offer to the spun chicken and deer representations of fish or leeches is consuming and for some reason, never gets old.  Unlike nymphing where you need to verify the blind takes with smaller flies near the bottom, or the half opened birthday present of dry fly fishing where the fish is known and gorging, and the technique needed to convert is limited… Streamers, and namely those that swim instead of jigged variations, is something that brings all your game to the table.  Fishing a varied cast each and every, to the mild depth, structure, and even water speed adjustments to the casts delivered in a timely and very deliberate manner… This all while the boat is moving to the fishes whereabouts which can only be forecasted, but never known.  Verifying a streamer bite needs little clarification, and is brown trout eye candy at it’s best.  Being vicious over reserved in their sacking, or considering of you presentations is more in play with a streamer than any other… It’s not the dead drift, or the feeding of a fish, so much as it’s the offensive tones you may or may not deliver to tip that fish into a state of predation and anger. Streamers, and the anticipation of the hit always possible, and somewhat expected, falls second only to mouse fishing where the trout is the same kind of evil, but more in his element of the dark side as he is a nocturnal by natural trout.  If you haven’t dove into the deep end of the pool with streamers yet, let me tell you that after fishing as long with all the techs… Streamers, much like mousing… WILL CONSUME YOU IN THE FINEST WAYS! 

Streamer season will be lasting into June this year with all the extra water and lower water temps for the season at hand, and is a great way to mix up the day while setting up for the dry fly options towards the evening.  Salmon fry hatch was later this year too, (with the water warming later), and will be a great way to engage the trout on foot as we clear up and drop. If fishing from the boats, The Drunk & Disorderly still runs the show in my boat, but the presentations that I’m teaching are waaaaaaay ahead of the normal guide curve, and it shows in the productivity of my trips, (even with newer folks), versus the local taxi services, where shining a client on is more their baseline for a good tip potential.  In my boat, I can make you better than you already are, no matter what your skill level, as many of my clients angle better than 90% of the guide community around here. If you just want a nice boat ride with some bird watching, mild casting efforts, and conversation we can do that too… But many who frequent my boat are doing so to improve their game so they can have a better awareness of the sport and allow themselves to become more creative with it.  You will never have fun with fly fishing until there is some understanding of it, since not grasping at least some of it leaves you fighting your cast and technique to a point of low pay off.  Fly fishing allows for an angler to see the dividends of his efforts by the audience of fish he is afforded no matter what bite condition or situation is thrown at him.  There are some really second rate guides up here that are decent fisherman, but there are few great guides up here that know how to instruct better or more efficiently… You need only ask around! Still have some solid openings for this late season, which I will post below, and the dry fly mix up is a great way to get that variation on a guide trip… Maybe a bit of a finale too!

Dry fly fishing so far has been good, but not great.  Sulfurs are strong right now, and we have already cycled the early black stones, Hendricksons, and even most of the black caddis, which showed with a decent force this year. Calendar says drakes should be flying, and we’ve seen them as early as the end of April, but this year it was snowing then!  With the slower start to the Mayflies, there will be a back up in the numbers popping as they try and catch up.  Expect some great dry fly fishing starting up here next week as we really warm the water for the first time.  Both the Manistee and PM are still fighting their way out of the 40’s on water temps, but again, this is a good thing for the late streamer game, and may concentrate the hatches for a couple stronger weeks instead of spreading the same count of mayflies over a three week period.  Hex Hatch will be later this year, and I’ve got a bunch of good openings for the hatch but they are slipping quickly as June & November are my more peak months these days since I don’t snag steelhead and salmon like most outfitters up here.  Hex Hatch, though a bit of a Gong Show these days with the amount of people doing it versus yesteryear… It is still possibly the most likely way to size up and square a large brown trout on this river, and even break that two-foot mark.  Basic dry fly skills in check, it’s not tough to convert on the binging trout during this giant, lasting hatch.  That all said, June always books later for the Hex, and most overlook the Grey Drake Hatch, just before the Hex, and it occurs, (unlike the Hex), river wide and is generally far more predictable with the spinner flies and windows.  Fewer people and plenty of very large fish to be had away from the carnival of the Hex… Or Michigan Caddis, depending on the age of the angler discussing! Really pushing for the Drake trips this year as they are more client friendly and for that matter more visual as the hatch occurs before dark instead after dark and lets the client see where to cast.  For all you trophy hunters that don’t mind the carnival, book your Hex Dates and fill that calendar, because as soon as I get 21 dates for it, I’m going to just take the rest off and try and avoid the weekends.  DRAKES ARE GOOD TO GO FROM NOW TILL MIDDLE JUNE and come highly recommended. 

Bigger Golden Stones will be in the mix here this week as well, or maybe next… And usually the higher the water, the better that hatch.  Fishing them all day blind feels much like hopper fishing, without needing the bank disciplines as much.  Larger Olive Stones have been coming off for a week now and I suspect they will slow into next before the golden show, which really is a good time to fish the midday games up here this time of year.  Nymphing will play a role whenever you need it to, and though you may be sorting through allot of smaller fish while you fish the smaller nymphs, the likely hood that sooner or later one of those fish turns into a dandy or a donkey is very much there, especially if you’re picking the right spots to coerce one into the lighter tippet/subsurface game!  Again, don’t forget those Salmon fry patterns as they are hot to trot right now, and you can see why each time you look into ANY eddy on this watershed, as they are all littered with the tiny minnow hors d’oeuvres them browns are fattening on; and lets face it, as good as the hatches are, it’s tough to trump the fry bite when those minnows outnumber the bugs about a thousand to one! 

As we dip into June you will notice some larger midday, sporadic hatches of ISO and other assorted mayflies, stones and even smaller tan and micro caddis.  Black caddis are still around, but finishing, and I’m just excited to have the bigger stones in play from now till the end of summer as they are a favorite to fish in my boat.  Hex Hatch is something that has to be noticed, but it’s not the same trip I was offering years back where solitude came with the nights hatch.  With as many rookie guides just jumping on the backs of those who showed/taught them, or even the heroes that just know how to read a car spot sheet… It’s become tougher to feel like I’m offering that quality experience, but again, with the productiveness of the hatch; it’s still worth showing up for.  Just giving everyone a heads up on the happening, as it has become crowded in these areas in recent years with all the sheep that never found their own programs and the happening that is so very localized.  Can’t pitch too much of a bitch though… I still get to fish for a living, and they will never know the fishing that was going on before all the pressures that came over the fish the last decade… This makes me feel very lucky that I was able to corner a place for as long as I did and never wonder if I was going to see another boat.  All that aside, and timing this year very much considered, there really is no better time to call out an absolute PM Donkey then when those big flies drop to the water.  If you have been trying to get that bigger fish of a lifetime, whether here on the PM, or even going up to the Manistee… Get your dates in the book and ting that bell with some forecast of the happening this hatch allows. 

Moving into summer this year, and following the buzz of the bigger hatches, the river quiets and begs for attention. Terrestrial persuasions trump the aquatics, and the night game comes on step in full force.  Hopper fishing fills in very nicely for all the business hour attempts, or for those more lit moon cycles when the light dowses the night bite a bit.  This August I’m planning on taking the boys and babe down to Arkansas for some fun, and to fish Hoppers & Night Fish with John Holsten and crew. Looking to put together a smaller group of guys looking to take a BIG swing, and fish the darkness down there in very nice conditions.  Will be taking the boys to Dry Run Creek to get them a fix on a fly they may never forget, and likely hit a few water parks on the way.  Looking for 5 more guys out of 8, for a 4-day fishing, two sessions, 5 nights lodged… $1,500 per head.  Spey talents come highly recommended for this, as does a good line carry for 5/6wt rods and larger hoppers.  Distance is big on the White when the water is low and clear, which is when that is a killer technique.  While down there I’ll be doing a couple seminars with a couple local shops, and even a brewery… Covering allot of Big Fish Approaches that can be implemented on any trout stream, and give you a primer on how to vary you rigs, tech, and presentations to each and every.  Fly Line Discussions, and uses… And the where of it all!  If you think this fits for you, give me a shout, and we can get you on step.  We are more or less all set on bookings for Arkansas 2020, and on that note our outlook is much clearer this year.  There will be weekend dates included this year so to better the potential of the night game, which last year proved as good as any year we’ve ever been down there, save maybe the flood year where everything worked during the day.  Really was my favorite year to date this past with John Holsten and his hungry crew, and refreshing for that matter.  We learned from each other, and I expect this next run in February of 2020 is going to set a new precedent on that river’s potential in any condition.  Again, we always strive for the better streamer conditions so to better our chances with a nocturnal trout during the day… But my crew no longer needs that incentive to fish The White… There are better options!  Again, right now, I believe we are booked with all that came returning, and another group that is on step for the 4thsession now up for 2020. If openings occur, do get yourself on the short list of people to call if there is a cancelation.  This is not a beginner trip… This is for advanced streamer anglers looking to gain some real knowledge within a group of SERIOUS brown trout anglers that have been going down there each winter for almost a decade now.  We have the MI program down to a rough science, which really is a recent download down there. Exciting doesn’t cover the incoming year with last year offering neither good streamers, nor good night options, but we capitalized on both very well.  Thanks to John Holsten and crew for getting the ducks in a row the 2019 Unicorn Hunt.  Again, if you think you can make it work… We have some spots for the August run down there this year… So get with us on that availability and I’m beyond siked!

Thanks for a great spring folks… It was really cool spending as much time as I did on the Manistee this spring.  It was also nice fishing more of my two person trips in the middle section of the PM this year as there was much more casting opportunity for the backseat angler with the room allowed down there. Fish committed better than the fly water fish that are becoming savvy with as much pressure, and unless you have an A Game, the Flies Only has become tougher by comparison to the middle river, which might I add gets some additional planting unlike the upper waters.  Three fish over 23” below Mac this spring, with allot of respectable, too smaller fish to hand was great. 4 fish of the two foot class also came from the Manistee, with allot of action overall.  Again, this passing spring has been the best strip season, (even when the water was colder), than I can remember in awhile, though size wise picture worthy fish have been lighter.  Hatches so far could have been bigger and better, but the streamers have kept us plenty occupied.  Right now the fishing pressure is limited, but will spike for the Hex Hatch, yet not as much for the Drakes, which I’m going to recommend with the forecasted concentrations of them.  If you’re looking to gain some great casting skills without the weight of those bigger sink-tips and bigger streamers, fishing larger stone fly patterns on dry lines is a great way to learn the disciplines without throwing allot of excess rod or line weights.  For the little ones… I really like the nymphing early on as it’s forgiving and visual as what kid doesn’t like watching a bobber.  At about 11, the dry fly will be their favorite, but till then, the little float dropping, keeps them puckering… And that’s what’s important!  Wondering what dates to consider for your mouse trips this year…  DARKER MOONS ARE THE BEST FISHING!!!  If you are a beginner, or novice and looking to improve your dark side skills, then allow for a little moon so to see a bit what your doing.  My darker moon phases book up first, but the brighter moon phases last… They are still very productive by daytime standards, and allow you to learn your presentation speeds and get some sense of your surroundings.  Early on the fishing is best for the mousing as far as action and numbers of fish in play, but the trophy fish typically come later in the summer from late July till early October… Book accordingly!  If your already down with down the dark of it all, doing the darker nights is far less visual, but very productive, and I’ve got the river memorized so you don’t need to see a thing… Like hunting with Ray Charles!  No matter your flavor of fly fishing, right now is such a great time to be up here fishing.  Early trips will be fading away unless you want to throw some daytime meat, outside of that, the bugs get more active as the water warms midday and beyond.  Call a couple days out for your start times, plan of attack, and lunch requests; we got you covered here at The Fish Whisperer Guide Servise… Thanks Much Folks!

May Openings:::26-28

June Openings:::3-6,9-11,14,20-21,25-27

July:::1,2,19-23,26-30   

   

Spring has in fact sprung a few days so far, but we are still waiting for some days of snowless ground.  It has been a longer winter this year, and it was a cold one… All this cold in the water is keeping the trout bite held just a bit, but the avenues of engagement for the golden awesomeness is still broad and consuming thankfully.  Egging for browns behind the SPAWNING, not feeding, steelhead has been go for about a week now, with windows improving as the water temps rise.  Salmon fry are just starting up, which is also behind thanks to the limited heat to date, but I suspect it will carry well into May this year to enhance our home waters streamer bite well into the hatch season, which at this point really isn’t that far away believe it or not. For myself, I’ve been trying to avoid the “GONG SHOW” of the Flies Only so far and been heading north, west, and even a little east and south of it just to wait for the gravel army to back off a bit.  Upper Manistee has been treating us great so far with the big fly approaches, and even up to double digits of butter to hand in a pass.  Biggest fish of the spring is still out there, but any fly taking 5-9” of chicken is worth taking a look at.  Presentations are a huge piece of the puzzle this time of year in the snowmelt practice; but productive if the faith is kept.  Contrary to popular belief, the swim flies do work very well in the colder water, and the patterns can actually be fished slower than jig ones as they will float, or go neutral in buoyancy, so the retrieve is then limited in speed or need to stay off the bottom versus the more nymphed/jigged leaded variations of streamers… Besides, watching a fly come through the water, then something that would start hunting it, is far better than jigging the deep and waiting for a stop to affirm itself as a fish instead of the bottom or wood, which it could as well be, unless the head starts to shake for verification. Planning on staying north allot this spring, just south, and a little bit east when I can to avoid my backyard PM till the smoke of the gravel fire is put out in a month.  Big fly streamers is my thing year round these days with the bulk of my cliental, as I can make even the most advanced angler/caster…. BETTER!    Stone flies are already on the water, and I’ve seen just a couple get eaten, this likely because the fry balls aren’t fully on step yet.  Sulfers this year I’m guessing will be rough with the peak of salmon fry being about the same time, but Grey Drakes should land perfectly to play some of those spring fattened browns in a shopping spree like manner. We still have some killer streamer/egging/nymphing, even Dry Fly dates left this spring, both in April and May before I get really busy for Hex again in June.  If you are coming for the Hex Hatch… I have 7 dates left over a month a half!  Mouse fishing is a go as soon as the water temp is… Which will likely be around the first or second week of May at this late winter pace… It’s snowed a couple inches while I wrote this today!  Kind of fired up for a little extra time north this year, especially for some better overall quality sized fish.  Egging will be firing up really well here this week and will last till the first week of May this year, and don’t neglect that summer hopper during the brighter moons phases folks; been getting some great daytime programs in check with a roster of addresses learned like nobody else on this creek via all the year round streamer venues I’m engaging and learning from.  I’ll be it a later start to spring, we are hoping for a good one.  Looking like an extended streamer window, with early hatches all being pushed back a week or two. Too soon to call the Hex, but I’m starting to like the higher water seasons of dry fly as the fish are safer in those water temps and higher O2 doesn’t leave you nursing them back. Last year I had to cancel a dozen Hex trips via water temps, while local stewards were taking death sentence trout trips with no thought of the fishery!  Looking forward to seeing many of you really soon after such a winter of cabin fever, save our February pilgrimage to Arkansas.  This is my 27thspring as a Northern Michigan Fly Fishing, Catch & Release Only/Brown Trout & Steelhead, Guide, thanks to you folks… And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  The last decade, with as many of you regulars that have been in the boat for as long, it’s been especially great being a guide, and watching you all come into your own angles in the great understanding of the game. Hat’s off for all the hard work and great progression in your angling skills folks… And thanks for the show!

Report for this winter was COLD, COLD following a very mild and semi productive December we were allowed to push through this fall.  Following the 1stof the year, we were put in the ICE BOX for the never-ending winter we are still enduring.  Water temps are still cold for this time of year, and though we saw the allot of the ground this past week for the first time, there is still plenty of snow to melt and the frost in the ground hasn’t even started to let go yet! Steelhead run 2018/2019 will go down as a great early start, with semi good numbers holding through Christmas, with an overall very impressive size of fish, and an inability to even engage the back half of due to temps and water conditions.  There was allot of 20lb class fish caught in the area this year; including my boats biggest swing fish of all time and over 18lbs! Spring pushes haven’t yet arrived in full force, but they are spring fish, and the best steelhead bite of the year has come and gone all in all.  Streamer fishing was OK on the strip, but not great last fall, but still there more than the last.  December was the strip month this year, with plenty of potential for the strip game when the angler’s prowess was there, and the post spawn bite with the snow on the ground was fabulous for the browns this December strangely! For steelhead, it was surely the year of the swing… So many big fish taking the swung fly, this was based in part by a couple of things…  First was the ice in the guides that came hard in November, which made for tough strip techs, so the swung fly fit conditions much better.  Also was the water conditions that stayed low and clear and limited migration of the fish which would keep them in those stripping, and secondary waters where the offense of the strip fly is felt and dealt with more frequently than the big deep pools where they can just avoid, or move around the offense of flash and awe.  They were parked on the insides and tails, and occasionally the tops of the runs and pools and could be called out like pigeons about every three or four spots daily on eggs and swung.  Egging was incredible early on for the steelhead, but the swung fly was keeping up with it if you had that arrow in your quiver by the middle of November. It’s been two bummer years for the strip so far, this following three great ones… We are due for another fall of strip & rip for the chrome!  January & February weren’t really worth talking about much as the engagement was limited via the cold of the vortex, and I was in Arkansas thankfully trashing butter too enth degree.  March hasn’t been bad considering the conditions still being very winter like, but most of the guides are already bumping gravels, and the “People’s Army of Gravel Hounds” has officially arrived to sweep that rock, and many of them have new boats; so the traffic is up to 60 boats a day through 7.47 miles of river, with a few hundred walk-ins mixing it up… I’m guessing there are actually more flies in the water at any one time, then steelhead in the same section; where you’re the hero of the day “IF YOU GET WADELS”…. Ahhahhahahh  What a Gong Show, and where you won’t find me for at least a month!  But that’s spring these days, and its kind of cool when you know right where 60 boats are on any given day here in MI, makes it easy to know where you shouldn’t be!  It’ll be over soon enough, this as soon as the steelhead are done spawning and can’t be seen in a few feet of water to be played hockey with… Then we will see the anglers return to the finest piece of trout stream in the state, that gets ram shackled for a few months of the rear, I mean year. 

If you are a Holy Man in an unholy land of the fly water right now, there are some killer options if you are looking to better yourself as an angler that are very much in play right now.  First and foremost is the stone fly nymphing on TROUT GEAR occurring on the insides of most “eddied” dimmed pools or runs. Located on the interior of the main, you will find grazers of any and all proteins as the water temps rise and the clarity allows hunt with visibility.  Floating line with a 45 degree or even a straight up vertical gets it done, SON… Variations of stonefly are limitless, and all to some level find a home.  Drop it with some copper, or even caviar… Either way makes the big black, THE BIG MAC!  Even though the visual of the stone fly game is prominent and easy by comparison to the summer Olympics with a nymph and drop in X… The head games you can play with the caviar crusaders right now is stellar, even by comparison to the higher visuals allowed in the fall behind the Kings.  During the fall months you have to play a huge amount of stealth and game to get the job done to such a scholar of clear water awareness… Such is not the case in the spring months, even with the same band of butters that engaged the salmon a couple seasons before.  Instead now, the water is colored up and up, increasing the flow, and limiting the time of critique while the roe and bug travels by faster, naturally. With added flow, and being winter starved from the temps and anchor ice that limits their resolve; the warming water, even if just in the lower 40’s, still instigates bite window for them as the calorie burn needs to be fended off.  Feeding bravely, and without reservation right behind, and even within the spawners… BROWNS ARE ON THE BITE!  Targeting them without spooking the bait pile values allot of presentation skill, but never bows to the raking of the fish while cleaning up on the VERY aggressive spring biting trout.  Again, you can waste your time trying to get those spawning steelhead to eat, but the most likely way to get their attention when bedded, both steelhead and salmon alike, is to have them chase a fleeting, but invading baitfish, higher action fly, that would have them move to you and away from the bed while never actually presenting within that same nest… i.e.. THE DRUNK & DISORDERLY that really owns any would be predator or protector and is prominent is most big fly anglers box in recent years.  Drop back steelhead on streamers is the most probable steelhead grab during the spring months, contrary to local sales pitch of drifting whatever BS isn’t being eaten, but instead impaled, or “legally” lined with the same bump fishing/conventional/Chuck & Duck rigs.  Drop backs don’t look like much, and don’t fight much better, but they are eating again as soon as they are done spawning and headed back to the big lake.  Without being able to forecast the whereabouts of a downstream migrating fish on the retreat, streamers becomes the only viable tech to engage the best spring biting version with a fly.  If you are a die hard swing or indicator fisherman still actually looking to get a bite versus a bump in likelihood, just go low in the system, to where there is NO gravel anywhere and while they are still feeding and migrating instead of spawning or pre spawning.  They will still be shouldered and bright and willing to bite over the bulk of upper river versions simply looking to spawn and leave as quickly as possible, with limited harassment as it were.  Salmon fry hatches, coming off like popcorn, is one of the finest streamer bites in all of the land, this without begging for a fish already in a state of chase.  Often mistaken for a dry fly take, the salmon fry hatch bite has the browns looking up like dries, but more in the eddies at the clouds of salmon fry and par that offer easy protein resulting from the naïve newborns.  Two minnows on a 5wt and you are in the game… Maybe one if you casting needs work!  Also in play are all the bigger patterns as “THE HUNT IS ON” once the fry pop, and the Smoltz drop.  Water stained, and critiques limited… BIG FISH will fall more victim to the spring water flows than any other time of the year, even when we see the same fish consider in the fall and early winter.  This or you can line steelhead?!?!?  Following the gong show of steelhead season, and following any promise of seeing a migratory, the hatches of spring and early summer will consume you.  Gray Drakes, Stones, and Sulfurs will start you off… But the Hex Hatch is the finale.  With so many other things on step during the spring months, it’s always strange to me that the only time parking is an issue on this river is when there are fish on their beds with almost no intensions of feeding???  It seems apparent that the bulk of the PM traffic to date, is still based on the promise of the Fly Water’s ease in allowing a less than skilled, or even ethical angler, a chance to hold a big fish at only the fisheries expense… Does that sound as wrong to you as it does to me?!?!?!  GROW UP AND GET A BITE… If you spent as much time learning the cornerstones of the sport as you did spending money on all the toys that went with it, you would likely never fish spring steelhead on their beds ever again, much less fish any WILD REPRODUCING FISH THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BETTER YOUR FISHING IN YEARS TO COME!  Fishing is the compromise of having a fish warm to your presentation, AND THEN TAKE IT!  If you are simply impaling fish with pretty flies and lies, it’s more fish mouth hockey than fishing.  I know, I did it for years and took money just like all the freshmen and veteran still doing so!  Fishing is the better option folks, and I would encourage all of you to do so!   

  Arkansas UNICORN HUNT 2019 was likely the best fishing we’ve seen yet on that river, since we were allowed to fish as much as we did at night.  Faith is now built in my veteran crew, and 2020 is already just about booked with everyone from last year already on board, and a few of our older veterans getting back on step.  Suspect there will be a 3rdsession for 2020, as the first two groups are already spoken for with 14 fellow BIG BROWN diehards.  Weekend dates will be a go for 2020 as we aren’t putting as much stock on the Streamer savvy browns that aren’t being as suicidal as they were the first 4 years we were going down there; this likely to overfishing of the technique on such a finite piece of water.  For myself this past run, 3 fish over 27” was the best I’ve done in total in a couple weeks of fishing down there… EVER; and though we managed a few 24” class fish the few times we went streamer fishing, it was a ton of work without a ton of payoff, with a carnival like atmosphere during the daylight hours.  After being able to fish as much as I was allowed on the darkside, without the help of guides or local directions, the darkside approach was enhanced and tweaked to better serve too that watershed.  All in all, such a blast as Arkansas always is, or at least should be.  My guys got to fish with guides John Holsten, Mike Winkler, Dave Hudson, and even Ted Pitch for the bulk of their stay, and all have been enlightened to the darkside approach and it’s overall potential on such a body; to such a point that it’s not something we consider a fall back approach anymore, so much as a go to.  My finest ONE night down there personally was 34 browns, at or over 18”, with two of those 24” or better, inside of 7 hours of angling, this without a motor boat or covering a vast amount of water so much covering water better; which really is butter sorting at it’s finest…  My worst night of fishing on the surface, with assorted bigger flies, or any sign of fishing pressure in any engagement was still almost twice as good as all the best streamer reports I was hearing from around the river. To say we got our fun cards punched would be an understatement; and though we didn’t have the best streamer water to fish most of the trip, darkside approaches were seemingly always somewhat in check.  Planning a short run down there in September for some Hopper/Mouse fishing, which both are just terrestrials fished at different times of the day. This won’t be as big of a crew as the Unicorn Hunt, as that’s a busy time for me back here in MI, but I’m planning on doing some Spey/Night/Streamer Seminars while there, this and bring my kids to fish Dry Run Creek with Straight Out Of Cotter Guys, who proved too us just how hungry they are as guides buy keeping us in the very best windows of fishing ALL AROUND THE CLOCK, and often even splitting the days trip just to keep my guys in the very best windows.  A VERY HUGE THANKS TO JOHN HOLSTEN, MIKE WINKLER, TED PITCH & DAVE HUDSON for the very quality service you guys provided for my crew… That said, there would be almost no changes in our guide line up next year, as they were all ELITE!  If you think this is up your alley, and are down with the big fly, give us a call for this upcoming, or even following 2021 dates… As well as this shortened trip this September for the darkside and other terrestrial approaches without all the clothing, which will be a welcome change while angling the White!

Back here at home now, after doing several tying shows, and speaking engagements, and even some expo action… Been guiding more than I would like in the cooler than normal start to spring, and I’m filling some fly orders long overdue, and well paid for, as my price changes haven’t hindered any of my orders coming in too date.  Drunk & Disorderly Mini & Standard D is $23 a piece, Full D & Shad Rap D is $25 a piece; smaller, too medium Triple Ds are $27… All Bigger Triples are $29.  Am doing some supplement tying this year to get the boys to Disney and I may start doing more as long as the pay is the same as guiding just so I can hang with my boys a bit more these days, as they like tying too.  As the wife jumps into her nursing here in a month or so, I’m going to start limiting how many dates I book annually so I can take the boys fishing more and get some more fishing time even for myself as I’ve been rowing a few years now pretty hard and want to be able to do so as long as Jac Ford, but as a full time job.  As long as I pace myself, I can row another 27 years really well I’m hoping… Beyond that I should be good and retired with 55 years as a full time fishing guide.  It’ll be great to have the second income again so it’s not all on the rowing shoulders, but I would encourage of you regulars that like certain seasons and windows of fishing, to start booking WAY ahead, because when I get to a certain number of trips each month, I’m just going to mark the rest off so and can get the boys and babe out fishing more, which we haven’t done allot in the last 4 years with nursing school and me having to row as much for money.  Don’t mistake my intentions here as a fall back and away from fishing, but instead the opposite.  I’m planning on going back to my original plan as a guide and that’s to fish as much as I’m guiding, and still have some family time on the water.  Many want to just make money from guiding; myself, I enjoy the sport as much as I like to share it with others… And with Andrea going back to work, I’ll be allowed to do just that, plus get some much needed fishing time with the boys and babe as it’s been crazy around here the last few years.  Almost giving myself a promotion if you will, with more fun time, instead of grinding weeks on end… Which in turn will keep me fresh and interested each and every trip I’m being paid for, and ensures zero burn out as I keep going.  We enjoy the instruction these days, and have so many different speeds based on each person’s individual need day to day.  From watching woodpeckers and deer, while keeping religion and politics out of the boat on a nice ride down with some casting and lunch break… Too in your grill instruction on the shortest order to better casting and presentation skills under boot camp learning curves… And everything in between… We aim, and do cater to all fishermen and women these days, as everybody’s need from each day is so very different.  That said, it’s so great having built some of the area guides better, but I can still say, there are a dozen of my clients that are better anglers than 99% of the guide pool in this town… THAT’S A GREAT SHOW TO WATCH AS A FISHING GUIDE, so it really is our pleasure making you a better angler, and making you more aware of all these fine angles to the dangle here @ The Fish Whisperer Guide Service.  I’ll post some openings just below that you can still grab before I shut down spring… And for all of you still needing a freshen up on THE REAL of spring steelhead season as a whole, and maybe some of the changes that need to be made, I’ve gone on my spring rants below.  If your just into the reports, do skip the headache, but if you are still under the cape of disillusion of the spring steelhead happening, and what is actually going on out there, I would encourage you to page below and check out these find points on a hot stick.  Awareness and acknowledgement are the only things we have going for us, but soon there will be allot of people, or should I say anglers, looking to improve the fishery for everyone, and not just those looking for less sport, but instead more hero shots.  And again thanks folks for evolving with me here in Upper MI and away from some of the older practices.  As I’m sure you can agree, it’s not always about catching fish when fly-fishing; it has become the how of it.  Difference between anglers and fisherman is fairly evident… One needs fish, and as many to hand to make the day a success, where the angler betters himself so to gain more sport from each encounter for more meaning, skill improvement, and journey.  If we are out there for the sport of it, you will never find more sport in between you and a fish than you will when angling a fly for A TAKE.  Fly-fishing was never supposed to be easier or more productive, and though it may be the worst way to catch fish, it can still be the best way to do so!   

April Openings…4-6,17,18,23,24,29,30

May Openings…7-11,13-20,22-24,27,28       

  Steelhead run is what it is this time of year… And its seems very sad to me that the finest piece of trout water in the state, is raped biannually by a bunch of split shot heathens looking to play mouth hockey with a wild reproducing stock of PM Steelhead or Salmon for their hero shot at the fisheries expense; that said, there are those looking for clean biters down deep up there in the carnival, and across the system where newer fish are in fact entering the system for the annual spring push of spawning… This unlike the fall biters we have come to favor.  Though the spring fish are a shortened window of engagement versus the fall/winter stocks that stay in play, and deep in the pools, and feeding for some time… They still feed for several days on their way up, and especially on their way back.  Drop Back Steelhead on streamers is arguably your most likely window of strip potential on our migratory fish… And though it’s a flat tire version of its lake like self, it still bites; which is more than most of those rip trips can offer while they peel shot and hooks across bedded fish that are trying to make more steelhead, and tell you those fish are biting… WHICH IS A LIE!  Good friend and SENIOR GUIDE, and all our veteran Canobie of the water, WALT GRAU agreed that The Fly Water is WAAAAAAAY overdue for a regulation change, so to cope with the army of googans that simply show up to fin snatch anything that gets in the way during the months of March, April, September, and October, and they know who they are!  Petition is already started to change regulations in the “Flies Only Section”, to a “FLY FISHING ONLY SECTION” to limit the pressures on those same spawning fish that are harassed all daylight hours, spread traffic downriver, and allow trout fisherman to engage the finest piece of water that was approachable years back during this same time, but steelhead traffic has since swelled to a point of “REAL” anglers having to look elsewhere to get a bite since so many personal boats and walk’-ins, that really have no interest in fishing anything but bedded steelhead or salmon, have choked off those options for fly fisherman actually looking for a bite.  When ethical anglers looking for a bite are coming second to an army of low ethics and bad form under a clouded bait and switch guide community… Something is WAY OFF!  Middle and lower sections of the PM are always great corridors to engage the migratory fish, but most are ignored because the bedded fish can’t be seen or waded too as easy to line and snag… Which is to say that if you would prefer a non tapered line approach, there is plenty of water left for those that still like fishing to bedded fish THAT AREN”T EATING… Down River!  That is also to say that you CAN fish to bedded fish in the “FLY FISHING ONLY SECTION”, but you would have to learn how to use a tapered fly line, and then an actual fly fishing cast when presenting the fly… Something Zimmy was pushing for from the word go, back when!!!  Regulation would move all those fishing spinning gear with hooks and lead, which yes, does include all the “CHUCK & DUCK” fishermen, as let’s face it, there is no fly fishing when doing so.  So many birds could be accomplished with this one stone… First and foremost, you would spread the traffic, which has increased by 30 fold the last decade, on a river and resource that hasn’t changed one bit, and if anything has depleted some what.  Second, you would allow those REAL anglers, looking for trout biting behind spawning fish, nymphing the runs, and finally just enough water to run a streamer trip during these peak months, (which really hasn’t been a viable option for upwards of about 5 years now with as many wade fisherman that are now in there playing hockey); an authentic shot at some incredible Midwestern trout fishing that has since otherwise been ignored because of it’s limited potential water with so much of the rivers pressure all descending on that shortened beat.  Third, and arguably the most important resolve that would come with the regulation change is an awareness many MI anglers are not savvy too as we have been sold the fibs of spring bedded steelhead biting… Truth is THEY AREN”T BITING, THEY ARE SPAWNING… They feed the better part of their lives so they don’t have to for a week while they procreate!  Too many guides are still telling people those fish are biting flies that are swept by at high water speeds, and then impaling fish in the mouth and/or sides in just a couple feet of water while they are clustered together getting laid, and whatever else offers a “fishy” bump.  “Cast Without A Hook-Set Is A Wasted Cast” they are told… They are lying to simply keep themselves in business as most wouldn’t make it through the year without the cushion of snagging fish 4 months of year, which have simply made the run up river to spawn and leave or die. It would be one thing if these same guides were spreading the truth while that had you doing something they might likely kick your ass for on the west coast, but they aren’t… They are selling a bait and switch idea of the fishery, and they are perfectly aware the fish aren’t biting, but then selling you on the idea that they are; which you as a beginner or novice may not yet see the difference between, but as an accomplished tapered line caster or angler, would notice quickly and then be appalled by.  Our fisheries and fishermen are so much further ahead than years passed, and the number of those looking for a bite these days in MI, over the ones that could care less so long as they get their picture, are much larger than ever and this is the platform we need to jump from on this issue.  As it stands right now, I have 10x the respect for a fellow fishing spawn to bedded steelhead, or a plugger fishing with 6 hooks on a bait, and then killing it for more bait, and some fine MI table-fair, THAT GOT A BITE; then I do for the guy dressed to the nines in all this high end fly fishing gear, even sporting the boats being held together by their fish stickers, out there yelling at his buddy across the field, of other would be hero’s ripping & stressing our wild returns of steelhead in ankle deep water, “IS HE IN THE MOUTH?!?!?!”, referring to the fish being chased down stream with the tail noticeably out of the water, and the fish being dragged and drown backwards up the river… Only to be scooped up anyways and photographed as if the angler had climbed some big mountain of accomplishment, when in fact he didn’t… He never even got a bite, (no matter how much money he spent before he showed up), He never made a fly fishing cast, (which he tells many in his circle he is proficient at), nor did he learn the primary reasons why we fly fish… It was never to catch a bunch, or catch them in an easy, unsporting way, nor was it the picture which so many seemingly need to validate themselves, (and I’m guilty of too), with each and every fish that finds the net, NO MATTER HOW IT GOT THERE… FLY FISHING is a way to add more sport to each and every happening, as we only cater to one sense when we cast our offering, not all FOUR as we would do if we were bait fishing.  If catching fish at any cost with a fly is still up your alley… There will still be plenty of PM to engage with these less than ethical strategies, but one day, what you won’t be able to do is simply trash the finest piece of trout water in the state by hanging mono in each tree like tinsel off a Christmas tree, wear down the banks with your lunch/beer parties while calling yourself a steward of the watershed, nor will you be able to abuse such a treasure as a fishery that boasts one of the finest returns of wild steelhead anywhere in the lower 48 by any means necessary and still call yourself an angler… You will have to move downstream with the rest of the “TERMINAL TACKLE TECHS”; but again, my respect is more with those looking for a bite by any means via a spawn bag or lure… Versus “THE FLY SNAGGER” who never got a bite and spent 10x the money in not getting one, just to get that picture and be a hero at the fisheries expense.

Sorry for that folks, but my only means of engagement without any laws in place, or even shops that are looking forward to push better practice, (save Schultz Outfitters), is to take the pay cut and afford all of you some truth for free.  Selling lies for the price of guides and flies is the standard issue, and I’ve made no friends in my stance against these practices, which I once participated in when the client pool was a mud puddle and nobody would say anything against something we all knew was, and is, quite a bite off in so many ways.  Every Spring & Fall I’ll leave my two cents to all those that still take money doing the nasty and told me I would go out of business if I didn’t snag steelhead and salmon several months of the year.  Happy to say, this is my 12th year off the “SNAGGING/LINING NIPPLE”, and I run more trips than I need, yet never as many as I would like, but I am still waaaay in business and I don’t need two showers a day to do my job and all my clients leave better fly fishermen and women each and every visit, which you cannot say.  You’re not setting a good example for this fishery, nor are you taking people fly fishing when you hand them a “CHUCK & DORK” set up… You are simply dumbing down something these people paid good money to not only learn the techniques you never teach, but then also leading them astray by showing them this tech, you yourself don’t even fish or believe in, but as long as the rebooking is there, and the tip is big, who cares if they booked a quality fly fishing experience and got anything but!  Shame on you all for not setting better examples as this state grows in anglers and overall skills of each that would otherwise be wowed by the other fisheries at hand and that could be in fact FLY FISHED TOO, if you were so inclined to get off the nipple. Scotch & Cigars can’t mask the tragedy enough, and I’ll just giggle a little to myself each and every time I see a hero of the gravel, in his belief in Easter Bunnies and biting bedded fish. 

 

 

Man it’s been a cooler back nine of fall this year… This past November being one of the coldest I can ever remember. Numbers of fish are here and there, but constantly shuffling as we are not awarded a huge run in fish numbers so much as some very sizable fish overall.  My boat already has 5 fish at, or over the 15lb mark, making this year the best in overall size.  Water temps have dropped out, but the brown trout bite is still strangely there, and remaining.  Arkansas Unicorn Hunt is up and running… Streamer focus, with nighttime options is the agenda for the few weeks we will be there.  Still need three more spots in the last two sessions, as 1stSession is booked and now bulging with 8 guys.  $1,300, per head gets you five nights lodging and 4 days/nights guided.  This is a serious streamer trip where we are looking to fill the spots with seasoned streamer anglers that mingle well with the group all into the same things… FISH, FISH MORE… FISH HARDER… Then fall over.  It’s all about seeing that next evolution of trout, which has been done many times in as many migrations to the White River for this group.  If you think you have the skills and the drive, and can play well with others into the same things… Mount up, and give us a ring.  There will not be a 4th Session this year, so when these three spots fill… That’s it!

Steelhead run as mentioned has been standard issue in as far as the runs number size, when factoring in how good October & early November were with the water, and now recently a bright little push since cooling off.  Swing bite this year has been great, eggs per usual get it done, and the strip bite is there for those with the faith and skills to sell that bug like a hooker on the boulevard!  Fishing pressure is still semi there, but fading with the holiday and temps… But I suspect following the holiday there will be some new toys for the boys that need to get tested on the water, so there will be some fisherman this new year, especially with some of those fish running silly big on the overall size of the 18/19 RUN!  Again, 5 over 15lbs, isn’t something I’ve ever said, in any one fall or winter mixed… BIG, BIG!  We just fell the water from a solid three day rain 10 days back, which reshuffled the deck and had us scratching our heads for about 5 days, but the pushes have entered the river, I’ll be it, slower with the water temps having been affected by the overall cold of November.  That said, December Temps have been improving almost daily, and there are even some 40’s in the cast, so make sure you come get yourself some while the getting is good… Again, when temps drop, the odds of you landing the steelhead of your Midwestern career is quite high, plus with the white backdrops, the photos really make the colors pop on the giant migratory rainbows.  As it stands right now, we may have a brown Christmas this year even with the little snow on the ground now, things are going to melt this week, leaving us with ease and access to the water.

Brown trout fishing a couple weeks back was silly good, and the lack of commitment witnessed during most of the “FALL GRRRRR” season, has been replaced with a GRRRRRReat bite following the spawning they are now finishing up with.  Killing over kissing has been the norm with any trout moved as of late, this after a clear water interval where the bite weakened a bit while they were getting it on.  Don’t neglect the winter nymph bite either… There are some very respectable trout laid up, and maybe no so willing to chase down and kill a streamer so much as forage sparingly deep in a hole, or even just in between around aggressive chops in a shallower run.  Favor either western 45degree with a Thill, or go vertical with some 2 grams if the water is deep enough where engaged.  If the water is too shallow, you don’t want that float going over their heads, which is why you vary the Thill “angle”, or just fish deep with the vertical floats.  Trapped air floats are terribly hinging on the leader and cast, and don’t give you a hemisphere perspective on the presentation.  Use the rubber band over the pick… Adjustments are easier and noticed. 4-6wt rods fit the bill, and if you think you want to be ready for a steelhead on the smaller trout candy patterns, then allow for a bit more tippet strength and up to a softer 7wt to keep the play on the smaller stuff, but at least be able to steer a bit if a steelhead takes.  There is no such thing as too long a nymph stick, so to protect tippets and absorb the battle… There is however too short of a rod… Winter trout fishing will take the place of streamers for the primary way to mine butter as soon as the post spawn slips deep into January. 

Best patterns right now are smaller eggs and even nymphs when clarity is high, and naturalized in size and color so to keep the “troutier” steelhead off their guards.  Don’t feel as if you need lighter tippet till it gins, and when threading an egg or nymph, the tippet should complement the size of hook and pattern select.  As you drop to the lower sections of the PM, beef up the tippets, flies, and rods, as you will need the attitude adjustment potential where fish are newer to the river and have all that lake pepper.  Swing fly leaders and tippets should be comparable to the ditches you swing… Big water, longer leaders… Smaller water, shorter. Keep one thing in mind when whipping them up… Rarely will I go any shorter than 4’ as the sink tip gets too close to the stationed fly, and though they get tunnel vision on the flash quickly, their ability in the cooler water to suck it up, versus the October/November train wrecks, fails as the tension doesn’t allow for the fall back of the fly when taken, giving you a bump or tug, but not a hook-up.  Not out of the question to run a 9’ swing leader on the Muskegon, or a very clear PM, to improve the track and the take potential, where here on the PM, even in the lower river, 7’ is max when the waters got color, and the upper river beats around 5 or 6’.  Strip rigs follow the same religions, but vary again not only on the watershed, but the style of cast primarily used in the beat. Next report I’ll go over some better nymphing options with leaders that will improve not only the roll over, but also the presentation, and hook up enhancements…

Best patterns going right now are eggs per usual, as they sort the most fishing to the lethargic fish of the late fall that are ditched up… But with last weeks surge in water, we have plenty of new fish out and about that will be more than willing to take a swung or stripped fly. One could argue the best time of year to fish the swing or strip is in the deep of winter when the waters go sterile & clear, and fish get bored… CUE THE MOVING DISCO BALL!!!  When seen it’s almost a reason to be a fish again, to hunt down and assassinate; and with less fishing pressures, the fish tend to be more playful.  Though we all have our favorite patterns for swing and strip, to say that one wouldn’t have gotten the same fish to go over another is all speculation.  Confidence again catches the most fish, as you will fish the pattern differently if you believe it’s being noticed and considerd.  Myself, I believe more in the individual fish, and it’s disposition before the cast is made… As a player can be made, but often is present pre presentation.  In that same idea, if you were to argue color, your data is bias in your confidence in any one pattern at the moment you got a tug or take; which is also to say why ever color in the spectrum gets taken at some point or another.  Only its availableness allows for the opportunity based of the percentage of players out and about; which, again is readied by the weather layouts, both in and outbound barometric pressures, and then again in water conditions and temp.  Speculation is pretty much all we have to go on when we choose color or style of pattern, as they are seeing these patterns at different spectrums and angles, all paged through bubbling currents and a plethora of structures. Understanding two finer points between the brown trout and the steelhead is this and only this when considering the technique, fly, or angle to engage any one body of water, whether high or low in flow, or low in color, to straight up mud… “STEELHEAD ARE WILLING AND BORED” whereas “THE BROWN TROUT IS CRITIQUING AND ALMOST ALWAYS… RESERVED!” Approaching both fish, with conditions and season always in fluctuation, and then your perspective on adversaries general motivations during that period based on those points… Your direction is almost written on the wall with this general overview.  Hardest part is then just identifying the situation as it based on your awareness and knowing of the selected watershed.  Too many beg a technique to work, instead of insisting with the right one!!!

Normally I quit booking past the 15thof December, but with the forecast and conditions, and these TROPHY STEELHEAD about, it’s tough to not leave the lights on.  Fishing is steady, and yesterday’s trip went great, and we shared our beat with NOBODY!  Streamer trout game is still strangely STRONG, and though the steel numbers aren’t “super run status” like we’ve seen a few times the last 7 years or so, they are still very solid, and now improving after this last push, even in the clearer waters.  Fishing pressure has slipped to almost nothing, and I’ve been peppering a couple different rivers for steelhead, and a few for brown trout as the conditions are still favorable on all fronts.  If you looking to bump your big fish bar, be it Gold or Chrome, book a couple of 28 or better degree high temps and get up here… The fishing is still very worth it!  Little T got his first steelhead on the swing a week or so back, which really is one of the finer points in my life to date, and there’s a cool video of it even!!  If the weather is a little chilly, we can call it a half day, or better still, come up for a couple of half day trips to fish the finer half of the day with the warmth.  Half-day trips are very recommended for the winter season as the best windows are later when the water bumps in temp, and you don’t have to freeze as long to get it done.  If you need a little work, or are a beginner and want to build some game, book the full day so we can get those skills up for the second half. Swing & Indicator fishing come recommend to all, and if you’re pretty savvy with the cast, we should try some Strip & Rip as the browns are still fully engaged, and the steelhead grab will knock your socks off!  Fishing will remain pretty solid all winter with the numbers we have, and are getting, if you see good weather… CALL IF YOU HAVE THE WINDOW and we will get you into some good Strip, Swing, or Bob action with some very sizable fish this year.  GET ON ARKANSAS if you think you got the skills… If you think you are close, book a day for the download here in MI and we will get you on step for some big water BIG FLY applications in the world series waters of the White River.  Again, three spots, and then its filled and there isn’t another add on for lodging reasons!!!  It’s been a great year, and congrats to Scott Woodard for landing the largest steelhead on the swing my boats ever seen… 18lb GIANT, that took The Greg Senyo Green Goblin.  Hope to see you folks up for the great winter fishery, and if you have the itch to take a swing for any post spawn brown trout on our local tail-waters, winter is that time when they quiet and settle… Headed to one at dawn come to think of it… Big Flies, Big Casts, and some Bigger Potential and great practice for Arkansas bombing!  It’s a tough old life, and I thank you folks for affording it… Family Thanks You Too!

Happy Holidays From All Of Us…

Too All Of You!  Again, Thanks Folks! 

 

It’s been a great fall so far, and even September had some bright spots amongst the Salmon Army that invaded the river for the easy impalements.  Steelhead Run 2018 is off to a STELLAR start as of yet, and though up till recently we have been battling a little more in the clearer waters, our watersheds were just given a huge chunk of moisture that should ensure several more pushes of chrome in the weeks to come.  Water temps are dropping, fishing numbers increasing, (at least ones that bite), and the fishing pressure is all but gone thanks to no more fish spawning on their beds. These rivers, will be almost vacant of any anglers come the Gun Opener, just a week out; and that leaves allot of great fishing to be had all the way too, and through the Holidays.  Steelhead are running very large overall this year and my boat has already scored several middle teen fish, and there looks to be another push entering the system following this big low pressure.  We are headed to Arkansas in just 3 months, we need THREE SPOTS filled before we are booked up for the 3 week stay on The White River.  Base line trip rate for 4 days fishing and 5 nights lodging will be $1,300 per angler… And I’ll drop a few more details below, but this is all but booked up, and the wife is nailing down the very best accommodations this year, and bit more upstream for strategic and dramatic reasons.  It’s shaping up to be a great Fall/Winter here for us, and the books are all but booked.  Once I get down to a few open dates for this fall, I’m going to take the rest off so I don’t go nuts…  Bookings following the 15th of December will all be based on conditions date to date and really won’t be booked more than a week in advance.  Folks… Thanks for a very awesome year, and sorry to some of you that had Hex Dates this year we had to cancel, on what was likely the very best Hatch in years, but if I’m to set a good example on all fronts, one of those first and foremost is to never take your fisheries for granted, and to respect the resource on it’s terms, and not mine or yours.  My family took a 6K pay cut this year to ensure that we weren’t killing trout to simply fish them for sport, even when other Lodges & Outfitters were doing just that by taking trips in water temps well over 70 degrees; which is a death sentence for any trout that would be hooked!  Looking to the future, with some of the newer Trout Unlimited, CRA, and even now the MDNR efforts and organizations, all getting more instep to make sure these fisheries are here long after we are gone is encouraging, but it starts also with us guides too, by setting better examples instead of keeping with the caveman practices that guarantee a few months of guide business, lodging fees, and fly sales.  The Pere Marquette River is far to precious a resource to jeopardize it all for a few pay checks, but I just hope nothing has to bottom out before they see these truths.  With all the recent rains this past couple months it’s no wonder why the resource is so well off right now with a strengthening chrome count, and the brown trout even have a nice vail of water color to get their business done.  Encourage all of you to get involved if you love the PM and push for better ethics for such a Midwest Gem, and maybe one day a trout angler might actually be able to find a spot in The BLUE RIBBON, Catch & Release, Flies Only, Nationally Scenic… etc… Section of The Pere Marquette during the migratory fish runs without having to watch a salmon or steelhead being dragged upstream by it’s ass by some fellow who cares NOTHING about the resource, and would call it sporting and still pull off a hero shot with a fish that never ate.  Too me it seems sad that a river with so many hood ornaments on it, one that is loved by so many, can still be raped for revenues 4 months of the year… Just Sayin! Took a pay cut to have this opinion as I’ve done the nasty, and none of the guides would even argue my facts, but they would argue NOT taking a pay check to do the right thing and set a better example; but instead just the opposite where most of them would say, (yet never in front of their clients), “None of those fish are taking those flies, but it pays the bills so you, (the clients), don’t need to be any the wiser!”  If they will sell you lies for guides and flies… I’LL GIVE YOU THE TRUTH FOR FREE & EVEN TAKE A PAY CUT TO SET A BETTER EXAMPLE!

Steelhead fishing lately has been the talk of the town, and for good reason… They are running big and are willing to take streamer flies with extreme prejudice lately!  Both stripped and swung, the oversized rainbows are taking it personally when the flashy mess picks a fight.  Fishing pressure has been dropping when it comes to salmon anglers, but the real anglers have been showing up in some numbers for the better biting fish and it’s really great to see so many these days into THE BITE vs. THE BUMP!  Best colors have been anything with green or gold for me on the swing, and on the strip, it’s all had it moments at some point… But ginger & white this fall are some stand outs.  Buck Rodgers was hot early in pre spawn back in September with the browns when the Egg Bite was stupid good, but slacked off with the egg bite in the first week of October.  Yellow is always tough to get off of, but if I were stripping one color only the next few days… Chartreuse, (as it has been for a week now), is paying the bills.  Indicator fly fishing simply gets it done when you need it too… Eggs always trump the nymph when fishing to steelhead, as when a nymph pattern is doing well, save a couple key stone fly happenings late winter, they are only keeping up with the caviar patterns if you have enough variety to choose from.  Don’t just fish the day with a couple flavors, have a couple dozen in size and variety to spark the round interest, as they fancy them more than anything else save maybe a sculpin.  Swing patterns, and even strip patterns, need to be fished better to more water to provoke that smaller percentage of steelhead willing to not just take a fly, BUT KILL IT.  When fishing more naturally to the hourly forage, with eggs and nymphs, the patterns should be considered as much as the presentation in that you want them to critique and still take, unlike the presentation of fleeting or fleeing opportunity a streamer ensues.  Another way to think of it is when nymphing, hatch fishing, or even soft hackle swing, you are fishing the fly to the fish for it’s consideration and then take… Which is unlike the swing or stripping of streamers where you beg the fish too the fly and encourage chase and assassination of the pattern.  Steelhead are bored and willing, this versus the brown trout that are reserved and critiquing; fish to them like they are more interested than not and you will be surprised what the migratory rainbow is willing to give you audience for.

 

 

Eggin for the browns late September was epic with all the rains that brought the Kings way up, really early, and in strong numbers… Then they got fat!!!  Brown trout bite was tough the first ten days of last month, and it slowly came back online into Halloween, and for the last week has been very good as far as fish moved and pricked, but the spring shark attacks are limited so handling a small percentage has been par, yet terribly fun in seeing so much Grrrrrrr…  Fishing pressure for the trout is all but nonexistent lately with the failing king numbers lending fewer eggs to the roll of protein that would bring them out for the easier egg fair; however, with the spawn, pre spawn and even post spawn events unfolding the last couple weeks now, the time for protection over predation is hear.  Fishing streamers right now will out fish most applications considered only because you can fish them everywhere, which is very needed right now as the fish are too.  Variation of fish mood amongst the gold is creepy this time of year, where some are considering spawning, others are socializing with ones that are; or are in fact actively spawning, and even the few that never spawn that year at all and are just looking for a bite to eat while watching all the “fish porn” in the act.  When considering the protection over predation presentation angle, try and localize your presentation to a single area instead across a long period of sale looking for the suicide swing of a brown.  Typically if you are seeing him chase, it’s harder to close the deal, but you instead would prefer a fish simply roll and kill the pattern before you even noticed he was there.  Provoke the sack of the fly, not the chase, and in that frame of mine you should vary your presentation till the scabs are being picked.  Until you see the fish sharking the patterns, instead of just taking notice and coming up to the boat to say hi, keeping changing your presentation… Not the pattern!  Too many fish are caught on too many different colors over the course of any one day to assume that color means much at all; in the same breath one could also say that those that are presenting the fly with the idea that it’s being watched are the ones that are seeing 99% of the fish!  Whenever someone sees a trout come up behind a fly on the retrieve, they begin to fish the fly with all this twitch and directional change, even pause and kill to allow the fish the time for set up; all this following the angler noticing the fish in chase… My Argument Is This////Why the $(&*$# didn’t the angler fish that pattern each and every cast the same way he did when he noticed the fish!?!?!?  Too many out there are simply pulling color, and not enough people are selling a fly, and there is a difference!  Don’t be in a hurry to make another cast, but more so, be in a hurry to fish the cast that is already in the water… BETTER.

 

 

Looks like a great winter in store for all of us here in MI as all rivers on the West Side of Michigan are seeing some incredible early starts the 2018/2019… Fall/Winter Steelhead Season, and with the current forecast in place the fishing looks to hold all the way into Christmas, and even beyond if you have the cold weather sand… Again, we will be booking a few more openings this Autumn, but following December 15th, we will book based on weekly or daily conditions till I leave for the southern fronts in middle February.   Arkansas is fueled and ready… Just adding some finishing touches so we need it packed tight.  Arkansas isn’t for the beginner anglers, and where streamers of size are thrown by many here in MI, throwing them far enough, over the course of as many days is a very advanced approach, as a few of you already know, so there will be no beginner streamer fisherman this year, and all of those going will also be needing to be ready for some night fishing options if they present themselves.  Spey Rod veterans are beyond welcome for the 2nd & 3rd sessions, (though the 3rd session is booked and goes for a whole week), as we are implementing some really cool techs a night with the two handed plain tickets we can send with those big sticks runways in such a cool watershed; again, adding those techniques of Michigan to the White River scenario continues to play well.  All in all, the groups are loose, fun and into the fishing, and we act like a team while down there.  If they are running water, we fish streamers; if they are not, we regroup, then also welcome the dark side of trophy hunting.  Begging for a technique in tough conditions is no different, than say asking for a Hex hatch in the dead of winter; and it doesn’t make you smarter or a better fisherman, it just makes you a clueless one.  Fish the conditions, never beg the technique… Especially in a watershed you would drive so far to engage in a shortened time period.  Amount of knowledge one gains from being on this crew is worth a dozen clinics, and likely even twice as many trips as all guys on squads are down with the BIG FLY tactics as issued here in MI.  If you want to get your skills up to speed for this event, MI is a great way to gain experience and techniques needed for engaging those fish down there.  Contact us directly if you think you would like to be on one of the first two sessions… 1st Session will be from the 13th of February-16th, with 5 nights lodging…. 2nd Session will be the 19-24 fishing for 5 full days/nights pending conditions as we are planning on some night options by that time.  3rd Session is booked, and is a full week of fishing for those hard core streamer guys that are holding their breath for some good night options.  As always, White River Unicorn Hunt is always a blast with fellows down for THE BIG FLY STRIP & RIP, and a real need and desire to see those next level fish no matter what conditions are thrown at us; as it is such a drive to get down there, especially when considering the great trout fishing we have right here in the Midwest!

 

Fishing pressure around here will drop to almost nothing following the Gun Opener in just a week, and following that you could argue the best fall/winter fishing for wild steelhead anywhere in the lower 48 occurs into Santa Time.  We strive to make you a better angler here at The Fish Whisperer Guide Service, and that’s to say there are no shortcuts in good fly fishing practice.  WE DO NOT PUT CHUCK & DUCK GEAR IN YOUR HANDS, as we are fly fishing guides who actually know how to instruct & teach, and to put it frankly… IN NO WAY IS CHUCK & DUCK A TYPE OF FLY FISHING, as it is simply conventional drift techniques done so with a fly reel attached.  Tapered fly lines, casting, mending, and even presentations skills are all cornerstones of this fine sport of angling with a fly rod… And to shortcut or abominate it with lead and hook sets as a means of indication or probing a hole is more of a bait & switch used by some of the local, far less talented guides that would take your money non the less.  Having guided allot of the local guides into proper strategies over the last 26 years of guiding, it’s apparent to me that there are plenty of great fisherman these days in town, with only a few great guides, no matter how pretty the lunch, or how much sunshine they can blow… You should ask yourself when you book a “fly fishing guide”, should that guide know how to instruct someone on how too fly cast!?!?!…  If you answer is yes, you could also void 90% of the existing guide pool up here; and you could also say that if that person, whom is providing the guide trip, were too put that type of Chuck & Dork gear in your hands, was in fact pulling a Bait & Switch by selling you on a “Guided Fly Fishing Trip”, but then dumbing it down with conventional techs because they aren’t confident in their skills as instructors… And that’s a fact!  Ask around, and don’t follow “endorsements” as these days they are often handed out before they even take their first guide trips; make sure and ask your guide for techniques he’s good at teaching, or can teach… Or will!  As soon as you start getting steered towards the C & D, you kinda know your getting the Walmart version of a fly fishing guide up here.  Too many clients get in my boat after being in others and realize why it’s hard to get a date in my book even without a lodge, company, or shop pumping me with new business each week or season… It’s because I can make you a better fisherman or woman all around.  No matter your skill set, from beginner to advanced… I can improve your game, perspective, and productivity.  Think of The Fish Whisperer Guide Service as THE TOP GUN of fly fishing knowledge, presentations, and awareness to this fine sport, as we do nothing but… And look forward to always making you a better angler, instead of NOT and still taking your money.

 

 

Again, thanks for all the work this year folks, and following the hottest summer I can ever remember, with at best so, so mousing that followed an incredible Hex, but a short lived one with the water temps… Our fall as been ahead of the curve save a ten day stretch in early October when the browns were as round as pumpkins.  Lately the steelhead have the clients grinning and with the conditions in place, I don’t see any reason for you not to fill the last of these few dates I have open this fall, and even into this winter pending those weather conditions.  If you are local, that’s within a few/four hours from the local, watch the weather and your holiday plans, but don’t wonder if there will be fish this year… All these rains have the runs looking great for at least another month, and likely longer so long as the weather keeps coming.  Pictures in the snow with the winter colored steelhead and browns really draw out the colors of the fish, and coupled with the lack of fishing pressure, and incredible numbers of steelhead in the system by Christmas, their might not be a wrong time to be here for a few months, especially with some of them looking like Orca…  Drive Safe one the way up, and especially the next few weeks while deer are in rut.  Drive during higher light, and mind the roads in the morning as things have been starting to get a little frosting in the AM.  If you need to get the right gear and clothing to get in the game this fall & winter for the da bob, strip or swing game… Make sure to get with Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti MI for all your up to date clothing from SIMMS, and every other piece of fly fishing what have you that may be needed.  They are FULLY AWARE of my programs, and how to outfit you for a better, more pleasurable, and certainly more productive day of winter fishing here in Michigan for the high pay off of Great Lakes WILD Steelhead here on the PM, and many other westside streams.  Ask for Sled Dog, or “Ike” himself and they can get you squared away in short order.  If getting there is an issue, those guys can have anything drop shipped to your lap within a day or two in most cases and unlike other shops, are excited for your business and are all quality anglers in their own right, so they know they products they push.  Schultz Outfitters is comes highly recommended from The Fish Whisperer Guide Service!  See ya soon folks…

 

NOVEMBER OPENINGS::: 20,21,25-27….

DECEMBER OPENINGS::: 1-4,9-11,12,14…

Following the 15th of December,

Weather Based Bookings Till Winter Loosens…

 

 

Feels like there really is never enough Michigan Summer it’s blowing by so fast, even this year with the lasting conditions….Fleeting!  Our weather, this summer, has been the most beautiful I can ever remember; I mean all of it, and the conditions are still holding on to nothing shy of gorgeous!  Water temps allowed to rebound nightly now with the longer, and better dark.  Water levels are still holding lower than normal, which is rare over the past few years, and the Terrestrial Audience has been very strong in the daylight with lower flows keeping the fish looking up instead of down for their daytime forage.  Not saying this year has been the mouse season of all time by any means, but this has certainly been the lasting summer of engagements without the higher water events shutting us down. Consistent fishing on all fronts, with a few killer nights and days mixed in has been more the normal. Foam is home on all fronts right now, from placement, to pattern selection… Action and accuracy being the corner stones of any good day on the water, which I’m going for as soon as I get this report posted, presentations have been setting the pace in the long summer of clarity and critique.  Hairballs & Hoppers are the talk of the town, but there are a few already casting gear for Kings in lower sections and getting a couple to actually bite, but there are even fewer still already snagging them deep in the few pools they would stage in… Fricken Savages.  Fishing pressure for trout will slack off as we deepen into the migratory seasons, but that just means fewer people targeting the buttery beauties. With Steelhead Season just a month or so out, we still have a solid month of golden goodness before mixing our fancies day to day. Hopper fishing right now is as good as it gets for this river with the fish needing the bank bugs just to keep pace with the clarity allowing for so little hunt with the lights on, that said, on those darker nights and or corners, there is still plenty of killing going on with the lights out.  Fishing pressure all but slipping for the terrestrial scene, I suppose, the final months of summer are always my favorite because of the pause in pressures.  Come on up this next month or so folks, you won’t regret any part of the day or night you would choose to engage our wary, but needy, brown trout…  Tailings of Summer are the Best of the Whole! 

It really has been the summer of surface fishing compared to so many years passed; and yes a drought of sorts, even with water levels dipping slightly off the normal for our watershed.  Without higher water, infused with rolling protein by the hour, the fish are forced to look up, but with the clarity comes the need for presentation in the highest order, even when hunting one up with a hopper or ant. Distance being the discipline most needed to seal the deal, the boat’s shadow, or leg wakes and angler adds when engaging any one spot are huge variables when the lights are up and high.  Even in a river as large as the PM, fishing upstream on foot in such conditions shows you just how aware the fish are when looking upstream for impending targets, or incoming predators such as ourselves, canoes, or herons; and your ability to fish further away from those stations are key to converting with the lights on.  Pink, Brown, Olive, Tan, and even some dirty Yellow, are good considerations in all your foam or furry offerings this late in the summer, but the way you fish it is even more key than the choice of pattern. Movement is key when fishing bank bugs, as they are not a dead drift kind of bug.  They cannot swim, yet they are terribly uncomfortable being on the water’s surface, so your actions should convey those ideas of prey to the predator.  No such thing as too big or too small, and the range of terrestrial potential variation coming in this time of year is greater than any other time of year as the summer is in it’s full and later cycle.  Strongest element of late summer, clear water terrestrial fishing, is the idea of placement relative to fishes window of looking up.  With aquatic hatches slipping, save some random stone and mayfly action, with some ignored scattered Millers in the evening, it’s all about the proximity to the bank and what may fall in.  Your cast should complement these ideas of fish not expecting grasshoppers to land in the middle of such a large creek, and therefore the closer to the grassy overhangs, undercuts still not exposed, and the deeper rollaway into the jam, become the money shots.  Don’t just make another cast… Make a smarter one to get on step with the browns of late summer; you will be pleased with your resolve.

Night fishing right now is my favorite way to play and milk all there is from the failing summer.  With nights lengthening, and darkening, the opportunity for night engagements enhances with the same needs that would bring them to the surface as frequently as they do even when the lights are high and penetrating.  Frogs, Mice, Snakes, Voles… etc., are all types of terrestrials in the fact that they are a protein that would slip, jump, fall, or commit suicide from the banks edge.  Fishing our night patterns we engage, our programs vary little relative to the day scene, and our presentations and gear only vary based on the preys movement, and otherwise the size and quality of a fish that would consider the mammal terrestrial prey!  By this stage of the summer, don’t limit yourself to the mouse, or even the larger night time practices, diversify and fall back on more daytime sized morsels they might still consider with such low and clear water; especially if the moon is present in any way.  Directional situations will also enhance presentations by throwing a fish a curve ball after being chumming into the idea of protein on the move. All the while, be aware that as summer waters clear and leg wakes are more evident at a distance, that much like the day program, your night programs should continue to evolve with the conditions, so play some distance in those late season hair ball engagements. Your payoff in the late season, though less in quantity, will improve with quality.  Trophy Mouse Season isn’t the best mouse fishing of the summer; it just yields the better quality, pre spawn initiative fish, needing to stack it on early.  We have entered my favorite month of the year; the very back of summer is the most pleasant and potential filled time of year in my opinion.  Grab summer by the tail and get up here folks… There is no better time to be a Terrestrial Angler in this state!

We are locking down Arkansas this next month so I don’t have to deal with it this fall, this because I’m working everyday when the steelhead start to push.  We are still looking for three people, for the last part of February, and the first week of March, as we have already filled the 3rdand final session.  Streamers during the day if they are running water, and Nighttime practices if they are not; all based on conditions instead of politics and opinions.  We are potentially switching to a better rental home, right on the water, upstream of the Cotter drama, and closer to nighttime engagements post day trips, or even with the guides pending Bull Shoals ever changing flows.  Five guys for 3 different sessions, with 3 local guides down there who are into the fishing as much as we are, and looking to jump on whatever grenade we get day to day.  $1,300 per person, per session, with a couple of guys now doing more than the 4 days of fishing, and we can adjust your rates according to how many days you want.  That said, we still need 1, maybe two spots filled in first session, and 2 spots need filling in second session.  Pending the need for more days of fishing, we may extend the sessions to maximize more time for any of you, but the baseline price is for 4 days or nights of guided fishing, with 5 nights lodging.  All post day guide trips, we all have the option of walking around and doing some night fishing as our lodging is right up top with the better walk and wade waters when the flows are shut off.  Outside of that, we will be strip and rip fishing whenever the flows are over 8K, which is when fishing starts improving on the day scene with the bigger flies we run on sink-tips.  This is a loose fun group all about the fish that would offer up in such a great fishery.  We are NOT streamer purists, so if you are interested in this run, you should be ready for some nighttime engagements as our timing is just following the bum rush of superstars that like to show up as soon as they open the upper sections of the river.  If you need some updates in your big fly game with the sink tips, do give a ring anytime this fall or winter and we can get you up to speed; as well as the night practices needed which we can still get you warmed up with for the next couple months here in MI.  Spey fishermen are beyond welcome on this trip as we found the absolute best way to tango with the in the dark is with the two handed practices helping ease the cast, save some flies, and land the larger fish that are often about there when the traffic is light and the night is right.  If you think you have the skills, and are looking for a trophy trip, with a group of guys to bring your game up to a better speed… This is just a good time with a great group of guys all down with the Big Fly for the Brown Trout. This isn’t the best arena in which to learn how to throw streamers as the wind and size of the watershed beg for some game, so if your new to the big streamers, book a couple/few trips here in MI if you want to get downloaded correctly for The Show.  Give us a shout if you think you might be one or two of the last few spots… Arkansas always gives up the dandies, especially when you meet the brown trout on his terms!

So fall is booking nicely, and November seems to take care of itself these days… But December fishes as good or better with less fishing pressure and more sections open to the migrating fish in transit.  If you want to see a steelhead, be all he can be, don’t wait till November to fight them in water temps that dowse their fire, shoot for middle to late October when the 7lb fish will show you your backing knot a few times!!!  Leaping is something they all do, but they way they do it in October is an absolute spazz attack and the battles are ruthless and lasting.  Later you come all the way into Christmas, the more fish there are in the system, but a couple Octobers ago was incredible with the rains in September and November ended up being a little slower with less water flow.  Brown trout on streamers & eggs will last till Halloween or just beyond, and the streamer potential all winter long for the post spawn browns is always there, but I often see so many targetable steelhead in October, and all my chrome clients wait till November.  If you want to get your knuckles busted, try October some years. Swing fishing gets hot around the early/middle part of November, but the stripping for steelhead blends with the trout game, so we will get several on the strip before the first two handed swing.  Eggin with switch rods in the middle and the lower river is something I haven’t done as much of in recent years, but it the most productive way to produce steelhead on a fly. Any of you looking for numbers should favor the caviar, but the crowd favorite in recent years has been the strip.  Plenty of die hard swing guys still frequent my Hyde, and after as much back rowing as I do these days, it’s nice to fish on anchor from time to time…hhahahha.  If you are coming in October and November, get it booked soon as those dates are slipping… December should hold openings for another month, and they come highly recommended, especially for those of you that like to strip as the populations build up in the upper sections later, and those bodies are perfect for streamer intrusion.  For the egging behind the kings for the early steelhead, and better still, the larger browns, think middle next month through middle October. There are already Kings in the system, and they will be spawning in a couple weeks time.  Once the moss is off the rocks with the fading light, the egging will go boom, and the early end of the caviar roll catches them when they aren’t savvy yet.  Get it booked as we have been mastering the caviar game over the last decade with great success.  Those of you that want some more summer, like myself, the Terrestrial Daytimes are a gem of a window to learn good casting etiquette; and surface takes in the gin water are burnt into your memory more so than most takes. The best mouse fishing of the year for the bigger fish we reside here in the PM and the Manistee, (where last week we had a couple great nights with the dark moon), is between now and middle October!  If you don’t mind rolling fewer fish, with better commitment and quality, this is the time of year to throw the surface stuff in the dark.  Call me soon for the next dark moon, because I’m going to be fishing any day I’m not working, as this really is my favorite month of the year!

Folks, enjoy the last of the summer, and as always we look forward to seeing most all of you this fall for some great brown trout and steelhead fishing.  This summer though, as hot as it was back in early parts of July and even a few days in June this year, I had to cancel allot of trips due to water temps being too high, and potentially killing any trout we would have caught.  After sending several of you home, or simply canceling trips due to the heat in the stream, I lost a good nugget of summer funds, and could use some business in the near future to rebound a bit.  Many outfitters and lodges were running trips that were death sentences to the trout that were caught, and though many call themselves stewards of the fishery, allot of true colors were shown.  Sticking to my guns, I decided to give the fish a break to respect the fishery instead of rape it, but again, we lost thousands in trips to the heat this year.  Any late summer trips taken will be very well received by me and the family as we had ourselves a great summer with Andrea not having to be in school, but we missed out on allot of trips due to the conditions, which are beautiful now, but back in July was redlining our trout.  We really hope to see you soon, but if not, we will see you this fall.  Thanks again for all the support folks, this is the first time the bank account has been low in many years thanks to your continued fishing and casting improvements.

 

August Openings:::26-29,31
September Openings:::1-7,9,10,14-17,19-21,25,26,30
October:::2,5,6,9,19-22,26-30
November:::1-4,8,9,15-17,20,24-26

                                                  Again… Thank You!  Drive Safe Coming Up…  

What a June it has been, and as predicted, we are seeing our finest Hex Hatch in likely seven or more years! Fishing pressure each year steadily grows with the ease of big fish bounty offered by the floating proteins, but still begs for the most elementary disciplines needed to call ones self a dry fly angler on the darkside.  All things considered, it has been some time since my boat has done as many fish over 24” in one hatch as this one passing, water temps being way too high, the last couple of days, I chose to call off my trips unlike some outfits that guide at the fisheries expense!  With Da Hex Hatch slipping now, we begin focusing on “THE HUNT” for a goodie, where not only ones cast and mend needs to be in check, but also his prowess in not needing a fish feeding off the oar locks to get the job done… MOUSIN & Terrestrials will take center stage for the next few months, and it couldn’t come soon enough as my boat is stinking of dead Hex.  Watch your water temps before fishing… Any temperatures at or over 69 degrees and your killing trout, which is just fine if your planning on eating it, but if you’re a catch and release fisherman or woman… Just stay in the AC till the river rebounds.  This has been a very hot June by all standards, and the cool offs on the incoming aren’t that cool.  Those browns can live way too long to chance killing them for a single encounter!

Hex Hatch 2018 was a dandy… 6 fish at or over 24” in my ship this season last couple/few weeks with almost a few dozen over 20”, makes it the best big fish season on hatch flies in likely as many years!  Last years hatch was a bust with the water flows being HUGE, and the year before the cool held back allot of the bugs, but this year, everything was just right… Hex Hatch is a time for someone with little time or skill to put themselves in a higher probability of catching a real trout without the expense of several trips to the river, or even a better skill set to “HUNT ONE UP”.  Holding a dead drift up to 15’, with a cast just beyond that, with just a basic hook-set in check are the only prerequisites for success.  When a fishes position is known, and even his forage being painfully obvious, with a drunk like feeding campaign, it’s not hard to convert on a fish who’s skirt is so far over it’s head, it becomes almost “Hexementary” in the ease of presenting to a fish of such caliber.  Knowing where the big ones feed comes in real handy, but the thing I’ve noticed most in the boat for better success with folks not used to hearing such a fish rise, is to simply curve the Buck Fever an angler fights while waiting for his bug to be chosen over the thousands floating down.  Hook-sets are the end game of presentation, and I feel as if too many people pucker at that moment when a fish has found your pattern; I mean I can actually see their but cheeks tighten up when the shoe drops!  Calm down and gather yourself before that first cast… Finesse & Timing are the core disciplines in this great sport, and there is nothing finessed about a hook-set that winds up 20’ in a tree behind us; or a wiffle ball bat like swing that would otherwise have broken the fish off, or if nothing else startled the fish so much it would just assume quit feeding.  Much like a shopping spree, one can get caught up in the frenzy of fishing the high pay off, shortened windows, and darkened arena the HEX HATCH offers.  If you have a bad heart… Hex Fishing may not be for you as it is quite exciting hearing such a fish rise with frequency so very close… Which reclusive and larger brown trout are not known to do ANY OTHER TIME! This years’ success has the book already filling for next June… If you would like to participate next year, do give a jingle and we’ll get you in the book for the World Series of Dry Fly Hatches… Hex Hatch 2019!  Thanks for a fantastic Hatch folks… Gonna start flipping to the Terrestrial Scene, which includes a mouse, for the next few months.  Hex 2018 Is A Wrap!!!

Fishing all over the river right now you can find some level of the Hex Hatch as it has now migrated into the far upper reaches of the system.  Eric Filton got our largest fish on a Hex in the Flies Only section at 25.5” this year.  Though lighter in fly densities, the audience that would consider it as fine dining is much higher; so when a Hex Fly hits the water midday, morning, or dark… Trout in those sections don’t let too many pass them by.  Even when few are present, the pattern is potent!  Stone fly patterns have been knocking the cover off the ball for me this May and June, and where The Darkside is my real cup of tea, the daytimes are a favorite for the clients with normal schedules. Giant goldens are just about everywhere, and when fished correctly with the lights on, and much further from the boat, with leaders that exceed rod lengths… Things get very productive and fun.  Save the early mornings and sunset hours, few capitalize on the distance needed to really pick locks when the lack of shadows and reclusive nature of the brown are working against you.  Casting a line will always be better than trying to shoot one, and if your fishing as much leader as fly line, you may prefer night fishing more as their window of awareness is cut in half.  If you are looking to improve your daytime game with dries, simply fish them further.  Between Iso, Stone, Terrestrial, and assorted nymphing strategies, there is some real opportunity out there right now, but with the water not being of spring flow or clarity, ones ability to fish away from station is very needed to present a fly before the fish is aware of your presence.  Casting is a huge piece of the puzzle when putting together the day game, and you would be hard pressed to find a better fishing/casting instructor in this state.  Ask around if you need some reassurance, but I don’t want your check as much as I want to see you get better at it… If you learn how to fly fish, you may actually have fun with it, and that leads to an addiction far beyond the two days a year too the river fighting your presentations, instead of becoming creative with them. Front row seat to all kinds of casting and angling instruction is what we offer, or we can go down and cast any which way and look for woodpeckers… or even a nice mix of both… It’s your day on the water… Not mine.  With as many rookie guides around these days, who may be able to take you through the same sections, picking a guide that not only wants you to excel, but has the know how to convert you into a better angler will always outweigh the one who simply wants a pay day while they shine you on.  Expertise is the only service we offer as guides; and to be honest, most of my clients have allot more expertise than most of the kid guides around here, (which is just public knowledge); save a couple I know coming out very soon who will reset the rookie bar to what it should be. Terrestrial season is a fantastic time to learn the basics and still have a great time in great weather… We can always save a few hours each run to keep you out of the canoe hatch and allow for some lower light into dark approaches for a sampler package… I’ll bring dinner too…

Following our bigger hatch season here on the PM… Sulfurs, Grays, & Hex all but in the rear view, we beg for a take without knowing the when and where of it; but cast with the faith needed to convert when it does.  ISO are a great way to develop dead drift skills and still keep smaller to average browns looking up all day long right now.  Fattened and light in color, the emerger is a kryptonite for the daytime feed, but should be fished on tippets matched to the pattern itself, but be mindful of the white gloves if the populations shift.  One can get pretty heavy when fishing some of the bigger stones we are, and will be fishing all the way into August, yet fishing the impending Trico is total about face in tippet.  Same with terrestrials… Each bug should have a recommended tippet based on the clarity, levels, time of year, and even the size of the bug being fished.  We fish goat rope at night because the light is lower, in the same respect we fish much lighter tippets when the sun is up, but one also needs to consider wind drag when fishing the midday; this because too light of a tippet, on a bigger bug, will cause allot of twist and hassle.  Casting and mending are all fine and good, and very much needed, but your rigging should be considered as much about the presentation as the mend itself.

Terrestrials have been fishing very well already, and I’m not sure really what doesn’t work if presented far enough away from station, and then fished with proper presentations; because at some point or another, it’s all gotten smacked.  Yellow bellied anythings will last until the passing of the Stones, but still pass nicely as a hopper later on with some nice Dave’s Hopper. Spider count on the river this year is impressive, and the damsel fly count is even higher.  Though considered an aquatic, the damsel is as much or more a terrestrial in its holding pattern, and that point should be factored in once a rising trout has keyed on them.  Fun to watch a brown take damsels, and if you do notice one, take the time to watch the acrobatics it will offer in hopes of the smaller looking dragon.  Of course oak hoppers are doing very well, and the bigger red legs will be around I’m guessing very soon with all the heat we’ve been enduring this past week.  Ants will fish today after a nice popcorn shower we got, and beetles always have their moments. Water temps are terribly high right now, but look to stabilize this week… Till then, give’em a break and let them get through this sketchy period of low O2, this, the hottest summer in sometime.  It’s been really great working with all of you in daylight this past couple months, focusing presentation and casting skills.  Lately, I’ve had a strong number of my newer clients coming into their groove, and it’s almost like taking the bridal off some of these guys and gals and watching them adapt, with different angles of cast and considerations, to each and every spot.  Both on the cross body present, and the forward… It’s been a pleasure watching the lights come on for you folks; it’s what really makes my job so enjoyable!

So yeah, the hatch has been so good I’ve been seeing the sun come up plenty with some of the spinner flights lasting as long… But we are coming up on my favorite time of year to be a trout fisherman in this state… Night fishing for canoe battered, light exhausted, clear water hating… brown trout.  Normally this time of year will yield the very biggest of trout, though the passing Hex tried real hard to be that guy this year!  Hunting waters anything but busy with fishermen or watercraft, we fish to a savvy trout, one that chooses his windows of aggression wisely… And so should we!  Following the hatches, typically there is a minor pause and passing of protein before the need to feed takes over again.  Sometime around the next dark moon, larger fish will go into debt of calorie and need to make it back anyway they can.  Sneaking up on minnows, crawdads, or other smaller trout becomes exhausting for the larger trout when the lights are on, so naturally they choose a window in which they can hunt… That being the dark of night! Seems to me many that frown on the nighttime practices we engage to better ourselves as anglers, (fishing without as much sight or sense of our presentations, but still delivering a more thought out cast than any could muster in the light of day, where even the smallest lies are well lit and depth perception allows for flawless factoring), would in the same sentence tell you their best windows of chance are at the lowest lights of the day…  As an angler, noticing such behavior in the brown trout, known to be a nocturnal hunter, should be jumped on like a grenade.  Consider myself more of an evolving angler instead of a stuck in the mud “dry or die”, or the new one, “streamer purist”, angler.  If you are keeping up with your adversary, you would know, that not only the light, but the aluminum hatches, which are so very noisy and disturbing, make for very little foraging potential for a predator. It will lie away and wait for things to calm and darken… Much like a recluse wolf, it will choose to hunt at night over the daylight, because his data, like yours, should say that the hunt is possible when the lower lights allow for the fish to gain position off a feeding lane, or ambush point.  If you choose to fish daylight, and don’t mind less action, and need to stay on a normal schedule and just love the cast of it… Power to you, I do the same from time to time just to stretch the cast.  However, if you are a trout angler, much like a hatch fisherman choosing to be in the right place at the right time, and your not fishing the darker ends of the 24 hour with assorted larger terrestrials… You’re not fishing your data so much as holding yourself to a dry or die mentality.  Stretch your comfort zone a bit, and go wade a well known to you section in the dark; I kid you not when I say you will be beyond pleased when fishing to fish that are set up to feed long after the dry or die or streamer purists are fast asleep.  Encourage all types of fishing, as I myself angle all types of fly fishing… Don’t let anyone curve your approach with a fly based simply on the time of day you would fish it.  As long as your getting a bite, there is no wrong time of day to have a trout take your fly!  If your guide hesitates when you ask for night trip, or adds some politics on why he chooses not too… Give us a shout; we’d love to get you out! By the way, if they need a light, (on the boat or on their head), to get down the river, you’re likely with the wrong guide as that typically spooks allot of older, wiser trout, and really shows you how little they know the watershed.

Presentations are a huge part of terrestrial and mouse fishing, and really the only difference in the two is the time of day you might implement them.  Even fishing a bigger stone fly or smaller caddis could be fished with the same ideals in mind.  A blind approach to where a fish might be, with presentation in check for each potential hold, with only a forecasted position of predator versus the reassurance of an actual rise.  When there is a hatch, the trout’s lane is predictable and very easy to present too, as you are aware of right where it needs to be dead drift.  Mice, hoppers, stoneflies, and assorted terrestrials need to in fact be presented correctly over a much larger band. Though egg laying, water walking or skipping, or even the doggy paddle of a mouse are all based on giving life to the pattern; it’s often the moment of dead drift that opens the window for an attack.  Much like streamer fishing, where the pause of the higher paced retrieve is sacked, it’s the allowance of STOP that sells a brown enough to really set up and kill the presentation.  Stone flies out west can be worked non stop thanks to the trout count and perpetual chop that hides most high sticking maneuvers, where on flattened and slower Midwestern streams you need to give some sense of stealth following the walk or skip to sell the rest of farm.  With smaller pockets and ambush points that are tinier, allowing for less chase room, but than longer dead drifts, is the key to converting.  With mice the same ideas are in check, but based on the prey and the way it would trek or float down the river.  Even when we night fish, it’s not always a mouse when we say mousin… It’s often frogs, muddlers, divers, pushers, and even some smaller ducklings if you are so bold.  Fly selection is still in play, but much like terrestrials you could argue, what doesn’t work when the presentation is ahead of the curve?!?! Leaders for daylight and dark are just that… Night and day… Tapering the right rigs gives roll over ease and presentation accuracy that too limp, or to stiff of a leader cannot.  Neat thing about fly fishing, is if your evolving with the fishes awareness, you can stay ahead of the curve as a better guide, this instead of monitoring car spot sheets and cut and pasting another mans program, which is more the norm with the younger crews coming up. 

We are looking forward to the streamer season this fall, and strangely, October is booking way out this year, as November books even sooner these days.  For some better steelhead dates, favor the December thing as the fall dates are thinning.  We have some great openings this July & August still out there, and September shouldn’t be overlooked for hoppers and mice.  Also in September we are putting a crew together for a Montana run to see Brad Turner for some streamer fishing on pre spawn browns following grass out… Very easy on the wallet, as we are just looking to bring some better talent to Brad to get his streamer programs over there appropriated.  Also, need three more guys for Arkansas Unicorn Hunt 2019.  One spot first session… Two spots in second session… Third & Fourth all booked up.  If you are interested in either away trips, they are beyond well priced, and keep you in a click of guys all down with the big fly approaches, who like myself, like to test those skills in fisheries that offer allot of payoff, or just mega versions of it!  Below I will post my openings for the July, August, & September.  Dark moons come recommended for all you veterans to the darkside, and all half moon, too newer should be for those looking more vision while fishing the patterns so you have some idea of presentation.  Full moons are great midday terrestrial and sporadic hatch action, along with nymphing programs, as the fish can’t hunt efficiently in the full moon light, so they turn to daylight as a means of hunting the bank bugs and unsuspecting fish that would come too close.  Full moons also have been more productive this year thanks to the lower waters keeping them from over fattening on the crawlers that bleed from the bank when it rains, which is customary for June normally; but we are even seeing some pretty good night bites even when the lights are high. I’ll be taking a couple weeks off this summer to go north, and then maybe another to go west because I miss my buddy Brad.  Will start up “Eggin” season as soon as the roe flies, but till then, it’ll be on the darkside, and for that matter, my favorite side.  My family and I thank you folks so very much for a great summer to date, and I can’t remember the last time I thought about my shoulder it feels so good doing as much rowing as you folks have had me doing… Think I’m gonna call the bone doctor and take him fishing!  Been coming home with smiles since the first part of May thanks to a banner finish to a shortened streamer season, a hatch season that seemingly has no weak points on three different massive flights of Mayfly, with the Hex still holding on by it’s finger nails.  Though I will be fishing allot a night, I envy some of you that will find daytime justice with a big Iso or Stone in the near future as the lower waters this summer are promoting for allot of looking up, instead of level and down like they would if there was higher O2, more color in the water for hunting, and flushes of rain keeping the protein rolling. Having a killer opening on the mouse back in May, we retracted and catered to the fantastic dry fly scene that presented itself, bowing to the conditions, it was productive across the board.  If mouse season holds any consistency with the passing months, we could forecast some great full moon feeding, with assorted patterns as a result of the warmer waters and evening favor to the night bite.  Pros to fishing at night far outweigh the daytime approach when waters run hot… First and foremost, the water cools all night long, and heats all day long… Nuff said!  Second, we use goat rope tippets and rarely have a fish on long enough to weaken it like we would if having to use the lighter tippets of the midday approach…  Even the rods we use are of higher weight for quick attitude adjusting.  If you look at it from this summers point of view as of yet, you could argue the most ethical approach to fishing brown trout isn’t in daylight, so much as the dark!  Myself, I’ll be engaging the mouse & hex season on other rivers for the couple weeks I’m scheduled to play.  But again, the dates are spread out, so there is plenty of dark moon and half moon dates available, and I’m fired up.  As the crowds lesson with the ease of angling the hatches, the anglers will start to show up and hunt it up… Mid July through Mid September are without question my two favorite months of the year to angle a fly in the black, or to angle outright… I love the darkside, and what it has taught me about brown trout I could have never learned in the middle of the day.  Learning what they will and won’t tolerate based on light levels and prowess has given me some insights to what they could, or why they would, consider with the lights on.  This sport has no ceiling or 300 round, and there are no savants… You’re as good as the time you have into the game, and it really does show with as many tails I have grown.  All the great anglers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, all never put it down, or ever got bored of it, their hobbies were their job, and getting better at it was it’s own reward.  Too many are just doing it for a paycheck these days, instead of doing it for the right reasons.  Guiding was never about the money, if it was I’d be a Funeral Director! It was about the sport of it…

 

Speaking of which, we had a great finality to a slower evening of bug, with one of my more productive friends/client… Tom Mcgraw has been fishing with me for some time, and to say he has giving it his all might be an understatement.  Birthing PMTU, constantly involved in conservation, both here on The PM, but also now Nationally; to say he’s into it is surely and understatement. After countless runs on rivers out west, and here in MI, (save a mutant that he scored in Arkansas, which all others on a streamer will be measured against for sometime at 36”), Tom had a big old gap in his Trophy Stepping.  Going from very nice to larger trout, he skipped the trophy parts, and tinged the bell as high as you can on a fly… Only to be left high and dry on the Two Foot Barrier, versus the three footer!  So many fish landed over 23” with me, and several out west, along with some return runs to Arkansas for the possible repeat of lightning striking him twice, but all for not on his quest since… It’s been a real project getting Tom his due and proper.  One slower night of Hex this season, where the bugs were weak, and the bite was scarce, Tom got his Two Footer, and a thick one at that.  Skills in check for sometime, the fish really didn’t stand much of a chance with such a seasoned angler, but it just goes to show, you never know which night you have to be ready for the happening. Hugs were dealt, and cigars were smoked… T. McGraw broke 24”, this after setting a bar we must all follow with the mutant on the southern front.  Good On Ya T… Way To Keep The Faith!

On a personal note… And if you just like fishing reports, pass on this next couple paragraphs, as I’m gonna vent a bit here, publicly!  It seems apparent to me that local outfitters and lodges are not doing that well in either bookings, or ego, or maybe a little of both.  Not to say as fishing guides we all don’t carry inflated heads, but it’s like they like poking the bear, or justifying their need to follow me like a lost dog or maybe they are just mad that I told people the truth about snagging wild salmon and steelhead off their beds, which many still promote as fishing.  When I was younger, I fished so many different rivers for the hatch it wasn’t funny… Living out of a pick up truck, and making sure I had enough gas money to get to the next hatch arena, it was fun exploring and visiting other bodies of water to diversify my avenues of engagement on “Da Hex Tour”; all this without interwebs showing me where to go and when to be there!  These days, guides are just a cut and paste version of the older, veteran guides up here… And in a way, I do feel sorry for them, as there really are so many more trying to make their mark in a saturated market. Having the identity of a Kleenex, they like to believe they can keep up, so they would bash any that would like to keep a spot from pluming into a Ausable nightmare where possibly up too a few hundred people might fish the same 8 miles of river each night. Somewhere between wanting to be a guide, and actually becoming a successful one, they have no sense of adventure or individuality so they do the most dishonorable thing any one angler could do to another in haste of their situation, and that’s publicize and poach another person spots, which is unforgivable, yet almost kind of expected from certain personalities.  Hex Hatch is no big secret, and it goes without saying that these areas will certainly be exploited via the chatty kathys, haters and wanna bes that need to justify why they themselves are just sheep, but that doesn’t mean I have to grin and shake hands with people with such inferiority complexes and lack of respect.  In the future, we will exploit these practices and those that do think they are entitled to do so via the same instruments they use.  Seems comical to me how few guides actually get the job done with such ease as the hatch allows, and it tells me that these so called endorsed guides should spend more time learning a dead drift in daylight before attempting it in the dark, because they must be doing something seriously wrong to come up as short as they often do, even when they themselves can’t convert.  How do you expect to teach others you are being PAID to teach, if you don’t understand most aspects yourself?  Is this your second or third Hatch now? Do you see now why I chose never to fish with you again following just one walk in the dark?  Didn’t I take your dad on a dozen guide trips the year before you became a guide so to give you a better handle on things?  You want some real truth about the hatch… There it is!   

After guiding this hatch for almost two and a half decades, and having ALL clients & buddies promise that such trips wouldn’t be discussed or revisited without booking me for the same affair, (Save ONE SUPER DORK OF AN EX_CLIENT that bought a raft and shoved it up my ass); all of my clients, (and we are talking hundreds here), have been great in regards to being honest and respecting by not returning to waters shown for these very specific events and limited bodies of water I use to keep my family fed; as I don’t take paychecks for snagging fish like you do 4 months of the year. Reading articles in magazines written by guides who don’t even fish the hatch, (which is funny in it’s own right), much less have enough sand to even fish at night is saddening; even when you think these same fellows are friends… It would seem they should all stick with what they are really good at… Waiting for migratory fish to show up so they can throw chuck and duck gear at them when they are spawning too collect the paycheck so they can buy a bike or maybe some identity!  Leave the trout fishing to us… We enjoy what we do and respect the waters we are in, and look forward to days off when we can fish instead of going for a bike ride, so yes you could say we take it more seriously than most here, and we look to keep what little sacredness there still is for bodies of water we fish, versus stab a buddy in the back simply because you choose not to engage the same events… 

Here in Baldwin that the bar for being a guide is much like a limbo stick…  Get’s lower and lower each year!  We would be hard pressed to produce another Zimmy Knoph, Walt Grau, or Jac Ford in the near future… Newer up and coming guides are just cut and paste versions of the posters they had on their wall.  Finding ones own path, or beat isn’t as trendy and just seeing something work, then being shown, then pasting it to their program and screaming “I’m The Best!”  News flash dudes… The Wheel Was Invented Long Before You Or Me, and it’s going round with or without us.  This sport isn’t quite trendy enough yet for you to add the 90210 to the equation, and point of fact, all we are all just a bunch of Tri Lams.  Sit back, and just enjoy the fisheries we’ve shown you, you don’t need to do anymore leg work as that would take a bit of prowess, which you are lacking… But, for the love of Mary, don’t try and justify your intrusion or the impending lights you would bring to the taboo & specific fisheries, it makes you look weak and inferior while being ignorant in your perspective, and there isn’t ONE veteran Hex angler in this state that would agree with your politics over mine.  Just go ahead and ask the next old timer you see standing in the weeds if its OK with him if you exploit the spot you found him in simply because it’s getting a little busier and the river is public, and we should just tell everyone the when, where, and how of it all…  I’ll bet with the lights low enough, and you still being young enough, the punch would still connect!  You have fun out there… I’ll let the veteran Hex fishermen out there know how you feel… They should be real warm and fuzzy with ya in the dark!        

July Openings…3,18-21,24-28,30,31

August Openings…1-3,12,14-18,20-25,28,29,31

September Openings…1-5,7,8,10,14-20… Then headed to see Brad