Always feel like a squirrel this time of year trying to gather up as many acorns of summer as possible… and while it pours, I finally found some time to drop a report after tripping in the woods on some really skinny, tight water exploration, and sticking myself with an old beaver chew; to the tune of a couple stitches… My wife, a nurse by trade, says I’m not allowed to get it wet for a few days. Summer is slipping for sure now, and writing reports during the warmer months just seems like a waste of time that can be spent with the family, good hopper fishing, or my favorite way to angle the butter… MOUSE FISHING! If it’s a cloudy moon, or just that beloved NEW, the days are spoken for… High noon hours are for sleep, dinner with family, and preparation for the next evolution of presentation on the black ink in hopes of a golden response. Afforded more often than not, the bridge between smallmouth productivity, and elusiveness of brown trout shortens and allows a predator in his favored killing condition to give you the audience your well-educated cast finally would deserve. And while I can tell you I’ve met many fine night anglers, especially in our great state of predator persuaders here in MI and about, that would wander the black and beg for nothing seen, with only faith as a guide… It’s going to be awhile before anybody catches up with my OCD approach to the “Darkside”; that is now better than a few decades in the making, on several playing fields, with an array of variance based on those arenas. If the moon is dark, class is in session, and I’m never late for school… at least if teachers are buttery. Learning each and every time I go, and pushing myself to find out what doesn’t work during certain windows, as much as what does, gives some midnight perspective; this without being able to see these considerations given by our adversary daylight affords. If you don’t fish your data, your truly are fishing blind while angling the black! Presentations have finally become a factor in productivity here in MI’s most pressured night favorite sections on the Mani/PM/Ausable, but what seems very interesting too me is how my numbers don’t slip because I’ve been evolving with the fish in that afterhours pressure now in play. Too many are stuck in a rut, and are simply waking mice in hopes of a suicide takes, which are still there, but not like it was when they were naïve to any nocturnal approaches. Those who have fished the darkside inside the last decade can certainly notice this awareness and critique that wasn’t there in any abundance just 5 years ago. Much like the early days of caviar crusaders that were simply drunk on salmon eggs and wouldn’t hesitate to take really any variation of an egg… Today, you have to play the same games you would while trying to break down a quad-droople hatch scenario right down to size, state, and color… Which again begs evolution.
Point to take from all this chatter… be it, nymphing, dries, hoppers, mice, streamers; don’t get stuck in a rut spinning your tires if you productivity slips with the popularity of the sport, but instead evolve. Fish still have to eat, and the numbers don’t slip as much as they get savvy, contrary to what many believe… Notice why you caught a fish always, but also notice why you didn’t! Biggest hint, rarely is it the fly as long as the baseline is satisfied; it’s likely more the presentation of it that begs some variation. Don’t fish a bead to compensate for lack of action if you’re fly fishing, fly fishing is supposed to be harder… Which is why you would learn to tie a better egg, then present a better dead drift to better waters read. There are differences between anglers and fisherman, where fisherman need more fish to happen in their success, and an angler experiences success in the happening and the knowledge taken from whatever incites the watershed offers up; this when a fish only offers the idea of a good train of thought instead of a finality. If catching is your mainstay… Leave the fly rod, grab a centerpin & spawn, or hardware, and take all the guesswork out of the affair… Many do, and that’s just fine too as everyone gets tickled differently.
Salmon are certainly in the river as told by the traffic of guides now back to work after a summer of plumbing, laying cable, or painting… Some even head north to Alaska where snagging sockeyes and kings is cool too. For me, I’ll be hitting every smaller piece of water, or at least those waters that don’t have migratory fish in them until the steelhead start to show up and give us a real bite worth breaking out the big rods for. Swing fishing for the steelhead, aka, lake run rainbows, has most certainly taken over as a preferred way by most in the fall in my boat, but stripping and getting the visuals of the same ruthless streamer takes has got to be my favorite way to engage fall steelhead/brown trout and several of my more adequate anglers that know the workings of a sink tip while using a swim fly, like the Drunk & Disorderly, couldn’t agree more. This and they are willing/get to fish more of the river, with 20x the casting, while staying warmer doing it… Oh, and bonus browns are much more in play than say nymphing a #8 egg or swinging flies in only limited areas. Unlike browns, steelhead are, very ready to a fly without all the considerations a savvy river resident always brings to the sporting table. Steelhead are first curious, then courageous in their notice of a fly; whereas the brown trout are first wary, then terribly critiquing, even after giving initial chase. Steelhead, offer my clients a great way to tango with large trout on large flies without having to win the lottery in the happenstance where yourself and a trophy cross paths. Cool fish in so many respects and a client favorite for several months of the year. Look for middle October into Christmas as typically the best of the fall steelhead fishing when considering coming and/or booking. If your cold tolerance is up to speed, arguably the best numbers of biting steelhead can be had through the winter into early February as all the fall pushes have not only entered the river by Christmas, but have also moved up river and settled into trout like waters in full color and are still feeding very well. Often the largest fish of the year are taken late season as the water temps cooling take some of the fire out of the battles and allow you to potentially get close to those larger fish that in October & November, often hand us our hats during battle. By the middle/later part of February, seemingly, the steelhead will switch motivations to more social and spawning, and feeding a close, but distancing second. We have a few open steelhead dates still, but if I’m not open, surely I can find you a good veteran PM guide, versus some Cut & Paste version of one. There’s allot of fly guides in Baldwin… But NOT really…
Good friend, and way above the curve, client… Tony Cummings took me to the North Umpqua River to fish steelhead on big Spey Rods and Dry Flies this summer… And what an incredible trip that was for me, essentially seeing the source of our great lake knock off fisheries here in MI. Can’t thank that savage enough for having me tag along on such an incredible experience… Even managed to get myself hooked up, and almost landed with of the True Native strains!!! We can sum up the summer with a big Hell Yeah… And I can’t remember the last time I fished 29 different trout streams in one summer, but I’m planning on a few more next summer with the boys now coming of age for such small stream coolness. We have so many miles of trout stream here in this great state, and though I can tell you it’s nice knowing the PM like a family member, new water is always it’s own reward, especially when you don’t have to see a soul in that effort. Mouse fishing was above par this summer with the early, low and clear conditions giving way to an epic early start to the rodent dance, with Beetlejuice running that show while the waters weren’t lush with vegetation. We certainly had some severe storms and rains that affected two of our dark moon phases this year, but with the Gypsy moth biblical happening, and the overall lack of fishing pressure, coupled with the stained water hopper engagements… I’d say we came out more than shiny on the trout season this year. Truly was an earlier end to the streamer bite with the early heat and low water; since then the weather has been catching up, and for now, it’s raining and starting to draw what’s left of the dwindling King Salmon runs these days, and likely the first of the fall steelhead pushes. We did manage to land one of the five steelhead hooked on mice this year, but summer runs don’t like to be held and it was in the water before the shutter dropped; but what a sincere battle those fish offered us this year in the dark ON THE SURFACE. As it happens, the four other steelhead hooked in the dark made us look like children, and all but one of those took the mouse on 16lb! Egg fishing is still very much on the agenda for all beginners that want to learn the most productive way to hook a biting steelhead, and too say they prefer a big fly over a little one may be a reach most of the time; but one could also argue between the line control issues beginners have, awareness of tippet strengths, and the idea of quality dead drift, that swing fishing is the most productive way to not so much hook more fish, but instead land more. Pending on your skill level, most of my clients are hooking/batting about 1 out of 3-5 too the net when fishing eggs or assorted nymphs based on tippets breaking, weak hook sets, and tension needed during battle to keep the game afoot… With swing fishing you hook more than half what you might on smaller flies and tippets, but you land 3 out of 3-5 with stronger tippets, fish that almost set the hook themselves in the vicious kill versus take of a fly, and a direct tension to the reel where line control post hook up is almost taken completely out of the equation, this and your muscling a fish with a rod suited to the quarry, and for that matter it’s ability to whip your ass proper. Don’t show up to a gunfight with a knife, and leave the x tippets at home unless you’re offering the smaller stuff. Swing fishing’s high point is certainly the take, as if someone dropped a cinderblock on your line, all of a sudden like… Stripping for steelhead is an acquired taste, first nestled in the idea of trout streamer fishing with some migratory twists to cater to the different styles of holding water, and offenses a good streamer fisherman should consider when fishing too a fish that likes to feed instead of be finicky, and certainly more easily offended by any type of disco.
It really has been a great summer, and now finishing. Here in Michigan, I believe we are all products of how many summers we sponge and value. Almost as if on a shopping spree of allotted time, we scurry about, looking to squeeze as much from the summer sponge as possible. Nights are certainly full of darkness when the moon slips this late in the season, and your allotted night attempts are long and fulfilling, this unlike the shorter engagements around the summer solstice where darkness never lasts long enough. Hopper fishing during the full moon phases this year was just awesome… Mouse fishing is just always productive. Though we don’t take pictures like we used too, it certainly has afforded more time to cast and add more ease to each fish caught and released. Steelhead season is just around the corner, and I would like to say we can offer some great salmon caviar fishing for the browns, and maybe even some streamer fishing on the PM right now, but watching all the snaggers get it done on our blue ribbon, makes me just want to drive too some other rivers, that just don’t have king salmon to snag. Sad but true, and maybe I’m just getting too old to watch the tragedy without getting myself in trouble verbally with someone that wants to tell me again how they are feeding on stone fly nymphs, unaware that a King doesn’t even have the capacity to feed once matured. Surely the egg fishing for brown trout is good right now, I’m just afraid of getting hit with split shot, or a rod tip with as much hook setting going on in our so called Flies Only Section. Fly Fishing Only is the only hope for we can have for the sections of water that seasonally get raped by less than ethical anglers and guides still teaching that bullshit; which won’t end the tragedy sadly, but it will at least take off the tourniquet around the neck of our beloved stream, and maybe even let a few fly fishermen actually fish the Flies only instead of handing it over to the googans for several months every other season. Suppose it is what it is till the DNR takes a real stand against the fly snagging practices here in MI, but I’m not holding my breath anymore with the current powers that be.
For the next couple weeks I’ll be running some late season hopper and maybe some mouse trips, though condition based this time of year, and starting to transition into the streamer season of swing & strip to mix it up with the chrome likely already turtling a bit in the lower river. Would also like to get some time up north playing/guiding on rivers without the migratory pressure for some bigger pre/post spawn butter for those interested in moving bigger chicken on sink tips. Planning on some lower PM river stripping events to test my streamer guys into that kind of chrome chasing as we dive deep into October… This and too see the absolute rodeo of the lower river fish that are literally leaps and bounds meaner than the up river fish, that can occur on the single handed strip action… With our only edge being that we are off anchor when the connection occurs so too chase and adjust immediately. Three boats now in the stable to engage all watersheds… Hyde Montana Skiff for larger tail waters and the colder months of varied techs and stance, with motoring options… Hyde Rocky Mountain Skiff for added help in constant back row of spring and summer, with seated fishing options, and what we fish most of the summer in. Also now very into the new Stealth X from Fly Craft that I’ve beat into shape nicely this summer and got to some very naughty waters with/for as many one man trips I’ve been taking in smaller waters. Incredible customer service, and about as timely as a pizza in delivery Fly Craft is. Contact Brandon at Fly Craft as it was a quality experience. Those in the market for a drift boat… Hyde has always been my preferred choice as the hulls are made the very best with less materials making for a stronger hull under better designed materials, this and the little angling details they constantly upgrade or option. They aren’t heavy, nor are the hulls several pieces, spray glassed together… ONE PIECE laid, woven, glass… Do your homework and choose the best, instead of buying it twice. As it gets colder the next month or so, I only guide and fish when it’s daylight, which will allow for a couple more reports this year. For now, lets keep our eye on the steelhead ball being pitched here real soon, but not forget all the brown trout action, pre-spawn bite windows with not only salmon egg patterns, but the streamer bite that turns on as soon as it really cools off this month. Yesterday did a trip on the Upper Mani with streamers and did well on assorted predators… So that window seems to be opening, and I’m looking forward to fishing the river with some color following the rains hitting the roof right now.
Andrea/Mommy is still taking some time off doing the shoulder recovery, so daddy has to stay busier then originally planned this fall. But we want to be sure we go into winter with a nice nest egg, so I’m going full time guide mode till she’s back in the saddle. This would be a great year to get some new talent in the boat with my calendar being opened by a few more trips late in the season. Next week I start getting busier, primarily on the Upper Mani till the salmon traffic slips like the flesh off the kings most folks are targeting now. Middle this month I’ll be mixing in some chrome hunting missions, and this year I’ll be mixing up the steelhead hunt in some newer locations, including some smaller watersheds. By Halloween, I’ll be doing as many or more steelhead swing trips, where November is mostly steelhead, all the way into Christmas. Going to post some extra openings this fall for those looking for some great fishing for the fall steelhead & browns, and know that if you’re an angler looking to improve his or her skills in shortened order… My instruction skills are well above the par and what you may learn in a day with me is more than you might learn in years with the wrong guide. Ask around, and you’re likely to find out my truck has more guiding experience than the cut & paste/chuck & duck guides that simply give you lead & beads, fishing with mono instead of fly line to toss instead of actually learning how to fly fish or cast… True Story!
Make sure you’re driving safe on the way up; it certainly is that time of year when the deer move the most, and whenever possible, avoid driving around dawn or dusk. Start dressing like it’s fall… I’m still doing flip-flop trips, but that can’t last much longer. If you have specific questions in how to rig you spey/switch rods for your trips… Feel free to reach out, and we can point you in the right direction, and do remember when talking with my wife Andrea May fellas… She managed The PM Lodge for several years, and has been putting up with me for way too long, so she’s savvy with the gear questions as she too angles. We actually have a REAL trout shop now in Baldwin… 1884 Fly Shop, located ½ NE of where M-37, crosses the mainstream of the PM. This isn’t a split-shot/chuck & dork shop… This is anglers shop… REALLY up to date fly bins, SIMMS, HATCH, AIRFLO, RIO, and a ton of cool FISHPOND… All the good stuff! Those that know how I literally roll… SAGE Rods can still be found at MI’s flagship/finest warm water shop, as well as enough tying materials to sink a drift boat… Schultz Outfitters, where anything new new, was there first. Boyne Outfitters in the north is your troutiest access to waters and gear for the smallest water approaches. Promoting these shops is very easy for me as none of them push the West Michigan tragedy of snagging, nor do any of their business models encourage people to do so. It’s refreshing going into my 30thyear as a Michigan fly fishing guide, that we now have such shops, and even a few guides that are starting to turn the corner against the tragedy of MI fly snagging… My hat is off to you guys, as like you… Choose not to profit off poor ethics that are tainting our watersheds. And those of you that like to throw the looks my way for these opinions, just know that I took a pay cut to start telling the truth, while your still selling and profiting off that lie, while you know full well what’s going on… In short, KISS MY IRISH HAIRY ASS!
Thanks for a great summer folks… Really is my favorite time of year too. Let’s get ahead on all our hopper & mouse dates for next year as we had some great times this year. Again, with all the walk & wade trips, boated, and rafted variations… And just a plethora of different waters I’m guiding these days, week long trips will have you fishing different bodies for trout each and every day if requested next summer. Not a bad way to spend a week in summer. Will post my few fall dates still open, and December is always a sleeper of great fishing and has openings… And with these warmer winters, December really is the new November. Spring strip trips will start around the first part of April with water temps… good hatches will start soon after.
Just one more thing… Been trying to follow Mike Schultz’s lead on the NO Lunch, bring your own, save a few bucks and gain some more casting time. It really has been working well for me, and it saves you folks $25 per person per trip. All away trips are $600, $550 without a lunch for two person! All Pere Marquette/Home trips are $550/two person with lunch; without a lunch $500. One person with lunch is $500… $475 without. Again… Thanks for everything folks… Really is my pleasure being your guide over the last few decades!
FALL OPEN DATES…
Weather Depending following the 21st of December!