Been a bit since my last… Two boys in a few different sports and plenty of guiding, tying, and fishing keeps my planets rotating quicker as of late.  Days are full, wife still as beautiful, boys are brutes, and trout in all directions keeps a guy like me in a hurry to rise, and quick to fall.  And speaking of fall, but not excluding winter, that had to be the worst steelhead run this river has seen in sometime.  Runs came in later, fell back most times inside of a week, with fewer holding fish, and the lack of water making for less then ideal wintering water for our chromes’ attempts.  Spring run is over thankfully following the Gong Show of guides and googans looking to be less than ethical heroes of the bedded non-biters… and here’s hoping the up-coming fall ’24 season looks to make up for that lack luster fall and winter when they actually feed.  Get those fall swing dates in the book soon, as November is down to 11 open dates.  All that said, the drought may have stuck a fork in the steelhead fishing ‘23/’24, but the trout fishing has been simply off the hook… as we are all catch and release here folks… Pun intended.

Brown trout fly fishing last summer might have been the best I have seen in many moons due to the lower and clearer water.  With less high water events, the fish starve a bit more, as the ability to hunt is muted by their inability to sneak up on prey efficiently… This leads to a more opportunistic trout!  Right out of the gates, all hatches yielded above average action, though the Grey Drake hatch was limited, the Sulfur and Golden Stones picked up the slack with style.  Hex Hatch is more of a wash on the PM with all the folks showing up to Wahalla Bridge in some way shape or form nowadays.  That’s too many anglers for a single population of fish to handle, and it shows as most fish of worth are now feeding within logjams instead of the middle of the river or at least near a some sort of structure.  Social media, bad form, and technology has more or less killed the Hex Hatch as it’s popularity is now officially bigger than the fishing episode itself when there are far better options for that particular hatch, or just better options of fishing for trout outside of that happening altogether, as most certainly are missing allot of those better avenues.  Mouse fishing last year was just crazy good, as we never suffered any high water events, which yes, brought the streamer season of ’23 to a close quicker, but offered the night alternatives as a parting gift. This past summer I had a single person trip, with a very ahead of the curve angler, Tony, manage 13 fish, 20” or better in one run!!!  This including one fish over 24”, and two others over 22”, which arguably was the single best night of fishing a single client has ever had in my boat… EVER!  Between the Goldens and Mice, it was a solid showing by Tony, and few could have held the pucker as well as he did that evening, in the pre storm set… WHO KNEW?!?!

Again, the fall steelhead push last year was weak at best, and though we scavenged for chrome, we began the caviar season with some stellar egging behind the less than normal sized kings, for butter of course; this before the Fall Snagging Gong Show showed up to lay waist to the wilds and our fishery.  Some smaller waters have been yielding some better options for this avenue of angling for my clients, this before the rivers close, and the browns are still fattening in September for their pre spawn bulk up.  Hoppers last summer will not be forgotten, and even as we were egging, I still couldn’t help but want to chase the foam with my guys as we did that well from late June all the way till early October last year.  Again, drought in place, there was no lampricide treatment to fatten them, no ability to hunt midday via thunderstorms that never happened for months on end… They just begged from the banks!  If your cast was there, so was the audience.  Fat Alberts to micro ants… All had there moments in the sun, and I won’t lie, we broke off some really nice fish on those smaller tippets as a result of the clarity being of air by early August.

Fall streamer bite for browns did beyond good with the starve in place.  Going into early fall, the fish weren’t as well off with lighter number and size of Kings that entered, so the streamers were playing well, and for that matter just about anywhere I fished them.  Late season brook trout fishing was great early in the month, than tougher later in September in some smaller unmentionable waters with the water dropping yet again.  That being said, the early season brook trout angling was great starting in July.  Foam was the name of the game, but did have a couple larger fish taken on skunks and assorted smaller streamers.  One could argue as we deepened into Autumn, the steelhead being spread out in some low gin clear water, that the strip style streamer approach was keeping up with eggs for the Lake Bows, and was simply beating the swing fly… this at least till the light and water temps dropped late season and there was a few pooled up.  There were some bright spots last fall, but they were short and sweet as migration was expected each day as they truly were coming or going, and limited holding occurred.  And save the first spring push that occurred in March, the rest of the steelhead run will go down as a rough one for sure… But enough with last year!

As many of you know, I’ve worked the PM for over 3 decades, and though I still roll here most days of the week while guiding from the boat… I’ve branched into allot of other waters in search of the better brown bite.  Those of you interested in some higher learning in casting strategies and presentations looking to better those presentations and angles, We’ve Got Options!  Walk and wade trips are becoming a staple of my programs as I can access waters that most don’t want to fish, can’t find, and have no possible access via fishing watercraft or skill level for that matter… Just you me and the fish… Which I know sounds off, but no sounds of traffic save the birds above is often a great option for those tired of the boated parade where canoes limbo your lines and fresh water is only at dawn and dusk, or the next boat, whichever comes first.  Michigan just has so many trouty options, and we aim to tap them all, as there really are trout in all directions.  If interested in some higher learning, or just an instructional where the critters are your only audience, with some less than savvy fish, do reach out as again… We’ve got options!

Having these mild winters are bad and good… Bad in that the water tables around here could use them as we are in the 5th year of a low water cycle; but also good as the trout fishing only has partial intermissions, instead of long standing wait for warming waters.  My spring trout fishing started back at the end of January on our first warm up, and though we’ve had some cooler intermissions, the fishing has been INCREDIBLE through most of the brown winter!  Third week in February I had a day on foot where I broke 20” 4 times, including a 23”, rolled/stung a half dozen like those, and missed a mutant that had me cussing at that sun glare you could hear a few bends away I’m sure.  DRUNK & DISORDERLY fishing is the equivalent to fishing jerbaits made of chicken and deer, and are fished almost the same way.  Micro – Standard are the preferred for most, but I just tied some 4/0 Triple D’s for a guide in Argentina that is going for some serious trout.  Platform allows for a variety of different sizes and actions.  Drunk & Disorderly is that of a broke back rapala in a jointed quicker action, whereas the Triple D is more or Sluggo or soft plastic swim out style pattern, and on top of which you can vary the forward hooks with jig style, side and down eye variation for added dig and or glide.  Both effectively fish with a jerkbait style approach, along with some incredible line manipulation actions that allow for the wedge/rutter style pattern to fully walk the dog, dart and wiggle, or just dig and burn.  Wanna learn more???  Book a trip…  Wanna buy some great flies, contact Montana Fly Company as they are selling these great variations now.  I’ll be rowing for the next 9 months and going to assorted Middle & High School sporting events… Contact me when the snow flies to get on the short list for custom tying this winter, if there is one.

So right now I have some great openings in May after finishing a busy April, and looking at an already busy June, July, and August.  Of course I still have openings in all the summer months, including the late season Brown & Brook trout away from migratory fish in September.  Though allot of my New moon phase mouse trips are spoken for, the full moon does yield some splendid hopper action with trout not as able to sneak at night in the brighter full moon phase, leaving the banks the most likely area for forage.  May comes very recommended for late season streamer fishing, which looks great with the current rainfall we are now getting, and likely the most rain we’ve had in months.  Warm water, coupled with dirty, rich organics bode well for the flip/flop strip&rip!!  Hatches is really our current up and coming, with so so numbers of Hendricksons in the mix this year, where I’ve heard from Jac Ford the rivers and roads were blanketed on the east side.  Grey Drakes are due for a good year, with the last couple being subpar… Sulfurs will certainly be in play as long as the water is right for the dry fly.  If you’re interested in Hex’s, I have some great walk in options for us, but the boated versions have all been over exploited to offer a trip I’m proud too take; this versus a mix of driftboat leap frog and hunting with Ray Charles one would offer now… hahah

On that note, I’ve got something on my chest, (go figure), as me and my clients work hard to catch fish on actual fly fishing practices YEAR ROUND, and don’t shortcut techniques with Chuck & Dork or Centerpinning beads, as we don’t use beads AT ALL, as it’s not a tied fly! We stay out in front by using advanced to expert level strategies to make the fish not just take the fly, but in fact end it.  Catching a large trout on a egg/fry/nymph you’re chuck and dorking on 8wt with mono runners, this while attempting to line and snag wild steelhead off their beds, with zero fly fishing cast or practice applied, doesn’t make ya special; and when you catch him like that, it makes him bi-catch with a smile and a hero shot, and takes the sport from all that makes that fish beautiful.  Just wanted to get that out there for all the bait and switch guides that sell fly fishing trips, then hand clients a chuck & dork rod and tell ya to cast at the bedded fish even when they know full well they’re not taking the fly so much as being impaled by it!  Become informed folks, and ask around… GRAVEL FISHING TO WILD FISH IS WRONG!!  They don’t eat, and should be allowed to procreate in rivers such as the PM & Little Mani as their reproduction rates are off the chart.  We need to add creel limits to these special rivers to cope with the newer, smarter, larger fishing pressures on these finite fisheries before we drive them into the ground, which judging by the current smolt counts, might not be far away.  Wild fish, where they can exist… SHOULD EXIST! And then should be nurtured and babied so to make more, and better fish for the watersheds, as it’s already been proven that hatchery fish reproduce for shit, and are far less of a sporting fish.  Snagging wilds off there beds should be a consideration in keeping with a healthy wild fishery, but it’s not like the local guides will get behind something like this as they likely wouldn’t be guides if not for the twice a year “snagathon” they are milking until a law says they can’t… Talk about stewards?!?!  Myself, I worry about the fate of the PM in years to come with the current traffic trends and overall angler awareness… Good news is, there’s another 99 trout streams within 1.5 hours of my home… So I got some options thankfully, but again, I worry about the way the PM is getting thrown under the bus suffering all the current regs implemented for rivers that receive huge steelhead and brown trout plants, where the PM gets no steelhead, and only supplemented browns in select middle river sections, in what really has become the most popular MI year round stream.  Level Line Bans/FLY FISHING ONLY is the only next right step for the Flies Only Section right now… this, or just close it like other trout streams… This and we should seriously be thinking about a CATCH & RELEASE ONLY for all Upper Sections of not only the PM, but the Little Mani as well.  Data isn’t lying, and the wilds should be leading the show.  Write to the NRC and tell them we want a better quality fish to angle for as these are in fact sport fisheries, this versus another stocking of sub par hatchery fish.  DNR thinks the money is in the hatcheries, but people don’t drive or fly across the country to fish “Stockers”, they do it to fish to a better caliber of fish, and clipped ones aren’t that, and can’t even reproduce well, in turn mutt our current wild brood stock.  PM & LM should be left to their own devises as they reproduce better fish than any hatchery could muster.  That’s all the politics I got for this one folks… Just wanted to inform as best I can, and open some folks eyes that are still being sold the ketchup popsicle that bedded fish are still eating flies.

So I had a pretty good March, and only did a handful of trips in February with the steelhead run being very subpar, but I did have a killer April and could actually use some dates filled in May as that’s my light month this season, and I’m sure we can find you a day as I have two solid weeks open.  Look for hatches and assorted attractors to be on the menu save any good thunderstorm events that get my streamer outfits shaking on the wall trying to get out.  Warm water streamer fishing can be DUMB good, and over the next several months, anytime you see the boomer up here on the radar, tomorrow is the day to be fishing the river in question.  All hatch evolutions are on step, as are smaller water walk in avenues, which are becoming a favorite for the clients, and me too for that matter.  Solitude and butter aren’t hard to mix, but we like to stay on the top of that spoon whenever possible.  GOLDEN STONE HATCH was the one to talk about last year, coupled with the lower water, it really was that cool, and to the tune of 2.5 months of it.  Addresses go a long way, but everybody gets lucky at least a few times a day.  One episode a client managed 7 at or over 20” on the big aquatic, in a day… Which is just silly awesome dry fly fishing with the lights on, and I’ve heard they’ve already been seen in some of the smaller rivers.  Yes we need rain, but I for one have some good programs for if it doesn’t, and last year has me on the fence for more water versus low water, at least at this time of year.  Come October, it can rain all it wants… hahahahah

Dates to be considering this summer are per usual our entire hatch schedule, and begining with the Sulfurs and Sallys that are already showing their face in the wake of a somewhat cheesy Henny hatch.  Goldens are imminent, and mouse fishing is a go from here on out with the darker moons being a target time; half moon, or darker is best.  Full moon cycles push for the daytime agendas with assorted and smaller terrestrials and aquatics early, and growing in size and action as we dive deeper into the heat of summer.  Also will be offering some walk in options for the night shift avenues… But what we did in daylight on the goldens last year was silly, and it’s right around the corner.  Keep your leaders consistent with the arena, size of fly, wt of rod, and clarity via the given light or color in the river.  Casting is key, but so is stealth when trying to push for the bigger daytime take from the surface.  Angles and action play in circumstances, as well, style of pattern, but my address book is allot thicker than any guide on this creek… And I’d bet my wallet on that shit, and so would any honest guide on this creek.  We build better fishermen and women than any service in west MI, as we have more experience teaching trout fly fishing… As that is our specialty, and for that matter… Our Passion!

Thanks again folks for another killer year of guiding, this my 33rd year of pushing the sticks… and you should know, I still go fishing on my days off which says allot about my OCD issues… besides, it’s way better than bowling.  Andrea, TommyIII, and Alex are well and good, and life is just grand in the north woods of MI. Again folks, FLY FISHING is all we do here at The Fish Whisperer Guide service… We don’t moonlight as fly fishing guides in between snagging seasons, nor do we throw gear and write fly fishing reports like many bait and switch outfitters, we actually teach fly fishing, and nothing but, year round.  Ask around, as it’s very possible I’ve guided your current guide, or would be guide at some point or another.   Do reach out for some of those May dates, or inquire about Summer dates for the dry fly/flip flop approaches that allow for a truly relaxing day on the water where your just fishing browns instead of also ducking the wind… CHINS UP FOLKS… Summers inbound!

Lastly, wanted to send a special thanks to Tony Cummings, who seemingly has no end to his generosity.  August of ’23, Tony gave me a ring and asked what I was doing around the first week in October… and where I often have a killer season of target most times of the year, that particular time is harder as the browns are starting to spawn, and the King Salmon “Snagathon” is in full gear; this and all the trout streams, save a few year round options, close till the last Sat in April. However, Tony was not looking to book, so much as have me booked at this incredible Frontiers Lodge, on the Bulkley River, BC fishing dry flies and sink tips to the real deal steelhead of the Pacific Northwest in some of the finest landscapes these eyes have even seen.  Helicopters, Jet Sleds, and some of the finest steelhead guides I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking notes from.  Just such a classy outfit, and though I can’t pronounce any of the beautiful meals they served up, boy did they eat just fine.  Caught steelhead on dries and sink, but to be able to cast in that arena was really the coolest steelhead thing I ever have, or likely will ever do.  Big Hugs for this guy who took care of everything to offer me such an experience… One that won’t ever be forgotten.   Thanks much Tony… Too Swell of Ya!

p.s.  Make sure and stop by 1884 Fly Shop, as they truly are the only trout shop in town, or really west MI for that matter, and have all the right stuff for the boated or walk in trout bum…  And give yourself a few extra minutes, as the fly bins are simply bulging with prospects & witchcraft Butter Rules, As You Were…