Happy Easter folks… It has been a bit since my last, but now is a good time to write a report/recap of the 2022/2023 Steelhead push as it’s all but played out now; and as forecasted, a bit sooner than normal with the mild winter, and early pushes of them back as early as the end of September this past fall. Water right now is large and in charge, and the steelhead are still about, but it’s more like the artist formally known as a steelhead by this point in the game as all are simply trying to spawn and leave, instead of stay and feed like the fall/winter versions. Obviously I’m not on the water today, this because the river is semi blown out with our first series of thunderstorms rinsing away any evidence of that tamed winter we won’t have to live down, but leaving the river swollen. We fished the fall/winter steelhead pretty hard this year starting when they entered early on, and into late January pretty steadily, but we will simply pass on the spring season/version as it really is a distorted shadow of it’s autumn self, where the bite slips, fish condition lacks, and chrome is a distant memory… Best part of the end of Steelhead fishing, is more time to focus on the important stuff… THE BROWN TROUT!
Won’t lie… I enjoy catching up on my home chores, filling fly boxes, stacking wood, scouting new waters, and fishing anywhere I can’t find people, this and wherever the DNR says is open. Plenty of hikes to get rid of the tying tire put on each and every cold/tying season are always a good start up. Trout season is upon us in an earlier way this year, as winters’ mild, and a seasonable start to spring, have watersheds just ahead in hatch timeline and fish activity… Which doesn’t suck! Myself, I have been partaking in butter sorting whenever the windows open; and by the first week in March, we were fishing surface feeding trout this year! Streamer fishing is way ahead, and impressive as of yet, though it might likely taper off sooner, the bite is right, right now. Salmon fry are beginning to litter the western MI rivers that have those accesses to the big lake migrations, and it really brings the browns online in the predator stance; this early on, before the river even hits 50, which truly is a gift from the BIG LAKE. Fishing pressure for trout on the big rivers is almost ignored this time of year, as the zombies chase dirty ash trays in a couple feet of water, looking for hero shots and beer frames… This while the anglers are deep into the buttered equation and fishing rivers, sections, and/or spots ignored by those looking for a fish visually instead of looking for bite from fish not seen before hand. Between nymphing/egging strategies, and the beloved chicken tossing, it’s been a stellar start up this spring, almost a few weeks ahead of normal focus, and I just hope we don’t have too hot of summer, as last year I had to cancel a half dozen trips due to temps/O2; this to make sure no fish is stressed when water temps exceed 68, where 70 is almost a death sentence if hooked and played out. Early hatches, including sulfurs will come recommended this year with the salmon fry harder to hunt in the almost guaranteed clearer water due around here unless the rain keeps it up, but the early heating should lead to warmer mud, and that leads to popcorn hatches and a need for deet…. hahahah
Been having fun modifying the Drunk & Disorderly to fit all situations based on watershed CFS, cast & sales area, considered forage color phases per individual river, and what water color phases one can expect to fish in varied watersheds, this per client request for their specific rivers and situations. Tying flies for allot of my regular clients, that are using them local to them is allowing for different float recovery, size of train, and even the target species as I’ve tied a few musky variations this winter upwards of a foot long, yet still light and easy to cast, and the bigger that Triple D gets, the more filthy that witch wiggles… Pardon my French! Sales pitch is everything as the popularity of the sport grows, and leaded, or jigged fly variations will fall second to flies that move and have movement post strip, and on their own locomotion, via glide and rudder, or mechanical shanked advances like the changer. Fishing some of the most, if not the most pressured watershed in the state keeps me up to speed with the curve of evolutions needed to stay in front of the growing heard as I’m sure you’ve all noticed in most watersheds in the lower 48… Hell, even the smallmouth are getting smarter, or at least that’s what I’ve heard, and they’re on a 3-month growing season. Needless to say, Covid punched and pushed to sport as hard or harder than the movie did… This coupled with the very aware angler of today versus yesteryear; fish will get smarter and need more skill to engage. Between social media, internet, and YouTube… people are showing up to the river almost at an intermediate level versus beginner, as many learn so very much in a shortened time while drunk on the beginning mysteries of fly fishing that need to be understood before the journey really begins. In that knowledge and awareness in shortened order, those many newer people are fishing smarter, and therefore the fish will be wised up faster, but yet still be available and there for the percentage of anglers looking to stay in front of that downloaded talent in that need and sport to always notice, process, and then demonstrate the data in the improvement of the game to keep the buttery bastards interested. Watersheds don’t swell like the popularity of the sport, but your overall game should unless you’re just going for casting practice. Notice why fish do, or don’t take, adjust, and then adapt game that tips the brown trout into the predation instead of getting yet another follow, which by the way shouldn’t be celebrated as much as considered, as it was more a glorified refusal, than a miss. Your perspective should indirectly change from yours to the browns if you dive deep enough down the rabbit hole, and that’s the only perspective you should consider while making these needed adjustments in the fishery of today versus yesterday where curiosity is now being replaced with a critique not to be trifled with when a fish first notices opportunity… In short, Sell it better… See more trout, or don’t, and simply enjoy the loop tightening!
1884 Fly Shop is your one stop shop for all that is buttery here in Western MI. Dan’s trout shop is just that, a trout shop, of western knock off, and for that matter, long overdue in such a trout playground the Huron/Manistee National Forest is known for. There are so many trout streams in my locale, I’ll never get to see them all, and I’ve already been at it for 4 decades. Be it hatches, hairballs, hoppers… and especially streamers, Dan’s got the best fly selection around for trout hands down. Open for a couple years now, Dan’s gotten quite an awesome handshake from the local trout fishing community, and what a fantastic surprise to know just how many of them were out there, we just needed a proper trout shop to bring them out of the sticks. Trout season is opening in just a few weeks, Dan is fully stocked up and really a swell fella behind the counter with a wealth of knowledge to point you in the right directions. Located just north of the river on M-37, 1884 fly shop is a celebration of all that is trout fly fishing in northwestern lower MI… Be sure and check out those fly bins, as Dan has really taken that to another level, this and all the wade/hike gear that line the walls.
This time of year, (pre-opener), I work a bit on the waters for The Brown Trout, but with snow melts and cooler water temps more typical than current conditions, it’s an even better time to catch up on everything from family time, truck repairs, boat/trailer maintenance, fly tying for myself and the regulars… This and a strong amount of trout scouting for the up coming season, which mind you, is only a few weeks out now; with trout opener landing every year, thankfully, on the last Saturday of this month. Till then I’ll fish open waters as hard as momma will allow with two beautiful boys that are doing as well in school as they are in afterschool sports, which keeps me from returning to my younger versions where fishing binders might last a month before any phone calls should be made….ha-ha Love watching my boys growing up and becoming young men, they really are the highlight of my life, even now when they are learning to give dad a little talk back… ha-ha Choosing not to engage my home waters of the PM this time of year with any frequency is a choice I made a long time ago, as I could see the carnage that the river would end up suffering with the popularity of lining/snagging migratory fish off their beds during the spring and fall months where our incredible fishery is handed over to a bunch of googans, dressed like anglers, lining and snagging fish off beds… something I even practiced and was taught by others four decades ago. It’s become an embarrassment to show my clients this tragedy the DNR considers an opportunity, even when it’s written that snagging is illegal in MI. So my question, if that’s true, and the guides and many of the anglers are fully aware the fish aren’t feeding or taking in the act of procreation, and yet they dress up to the nines in Orvis this, or Simms that, and then go out there looking to impale them with hooks dressed like patterns, where does fishing end, and snagging begin??? It’s just sad seeing the river get raped twice and year, and I suspect we will have to completely trash the watershed, and get some fish depletion before anybody notices the train crashing, this as fishing pressures during these migrations is already destroying those sections. Dead birds, so many hooks and mono in the water, it’s become a dangerous place to wade fish, much less swim or fall out of a canoe in… Our Blue Ribbon has been officially thrown under a bus for some out of state license sales, and a couple seasonal shops that couldn’t survive without bedded fish to target. I’ll just leave it there this time…
As for as the impending goodness known as trout season on the horizon, I’ll continue to take a couple trips here and there, and fish whenever the windows open and I’m not booked… But the fun stuff is just starting this year. Added flows promise a good streamer happening whenever they occur, but having the waters warming earlier usually leads in the direction of secondary hatches being primary, and primary, secondary as the watershed will likely dry up and warm a bit more than normal during those later, larger mayfly, cycles. Writing is already on the wall as I noticed dry fly feeding at the end of Feb this year on midge clusters as the water temps had been in the 40’s for some time by then, this thanks to a limited snow pack and mild temps most of the winter. You can almost dance to the beat of stone flies getting nipped from the surface anytime it gets sunny right now on most rivers, and yes we’ve already have some BWO activity on those couple warmer, cloudy days last week. Sulfur hatch is setting up nicely, and maybe even a good PM Henny if we lucky?, but I’m just hoping for a solid drake this year, as the HEX HATCH is all but a wash in our lower sections with as many people are fishing for an even fewer count of fish due to the overfishing of the BIG HATCH! Mayflies always need to fly/emerge to be relevant, where simply the thought of a GOLDEN hitting the water keeps a fish on the ready most of JUNE, and even available mid river with some less than perfect mending. This year I would really like to push that late May agenda, as it may start landing early May this year and offer and extended season. Between Goldens and Drakes, you can keep the Hexs, and the gong show of anglers that comes with it. Hatches that have limited areas, lead to limited fishing in the end, and it’s nice when there isn’t a wrong section to choose when the hatches may occur over the entire watershed at one time or another. Hoppers, goes without saying… Much like hatch fishing, with bigger surprises as the fish rarely is known before the take and leads to solid butt puckering hook sets… Which is all a guide can ask for… Excited clients that giggle and curse! We are almost there… Just a few more snagging weekends, and a couple more hook sets, and the steelhead will be gone, as well, most of the guides that sell that shit, then off to Alaska for some more sockeye lining for the bulk of them. Things are starting to green, and peepers are in the mix… Trout season on the brink!
So I’m booking a little further out these days, and being in the book a clean year out isn’t really a bad call anymore, especially for those peak mouse, streamer, and swing seasons… Most of the summer, during brighter moon phases, I’ll have some openings, but around the dark moons and early streamers, it’ll be tough. Right now I’ve got 7 dates left in June, but still 10 open in July… August is about the same. Late September hopper and mouse windows are still pretty open, but if you want to see the hatches this year, we should talk soon before all those days are spoken for. Give a ring if you’re interested. Also, I still have 4 open dates this month, and 7 openings in May which I’ll post below, all will come HIGHLY recommended as this year, with as much moving weather as we’ve had, we really haven’t had many bad days out there, which can be common during the snow melt months, but this year… There was hardly any snow.
Thanks for a stellar ’22 folks, it’s been on cruise control now for about 5/6 years now as far as the bookings, and even a few newer clients, and this all thanks you guys keeping a fat guy busy. It’s really my pleasure being your fishing guide, this, my 32nd year of guiding western MI rivers. Both boats are fully operational, as is the raft, and the fly boxes are getting tough to close. If your out and about on the PM, and are tired of playing mouth hockey with those past peak spawners, and are looking to get a better vantage of the rabbit hole, grab a some trout indicator nymphing gear and tap any an all water being ignored by the gravel fishermen, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised on just how many biting browns are available to an angler looking for a bite over a bump… Streamers this year has been so very impressive considering the dates and higher flows, they are just snapping well and even on a couple of those sunnier days. Trout fishing pressure is really tough to find, but the trout are not. Try some Double Fry, or break out the “MEAT” and swing a bit for the fence. As long as the color and flow hold, the streamer bite lives, and the bigger fish may be out. The trout are really feeding that heavy right now, and are all but ignored, till the steelhead leave the building. Good luck out there, keep your tippets consistent with those larger, darker flows right now, and for the love of Mary, make sure you’re careful wading for the next few/four days while that river deflates those thunderstorm muscles.
Drive Safely On The Way Up…
Deer will be plentiful this year thanks to the mild winter, and those early roadside grasses are a delicacy at twilight!