Everybody likes coming for the Spring Steelhead runs I suppose, guess that is why like going Streamer Fishing for browns about the same time, so I can get away from the crowds! Some of the biggest trout every year, if not the biggest, comes while fishing the early season when the BIG Brown Trout are coming out of their winter holds to feed hard for the first time since pre-spawn. There is no better way to engage these early browns then with a larger sized fly on a Sink Tip fished with attitude and intent. No Dead Drifts here, this is more like Rapala or Spinner fishing with a fly rod for fish that normally don’t feed on bugs some much as the other fish feeding on the bugs. Stoneflies, Mayflies, and even Caddis flies all catch fish this time of year, and occasionally a good fish but most Trophy Hunters will agree on one thing, BIG FLY=BIG FISH and that is what makes streamer fishing so great even when Spring Steelhead fishing is OFF THE HOOK!!
An avenue I also like to travel is when things start to thaw in the early season, when steelhead are in thick, is the Brown Trout Egg Bite behind spawning chromes. This isn’t the Fall Bite when things are nice and warm and the water is gin with King eggs the size of peas; at the same time, in the tinted water of spring, your fishing to larger browns that are more likely to make a mistake because they can’t see as well and haven’t been fished since fall. Whether your targeting browns or steelhead, there is a window of great fishing on its way when the snow melts every year on the Pere Marquette and surrounding streams.


Warm nights and hot afternoons make summer the most pleasant of all fishing conditions we have. Everything from Nymphing a #20 hares ear to Waking 1/0 rodent pattern after dark, all hours of the day become possible premium fishing! There isn’t an hour of the day or night you can’t fish. Varieties of flies you can try before and after dark almost outnumber the different colors of Bikinis you might see during daylight Terrestrial/Hopper fishing but not before a solid month of hatch fishing to Hendrickson’s, Sulfurs, and the highlight of the lights on Hatches… The Gray Drake! The HEX HATCH launches before the solstice and can be fished passed Independence Day. As far as Hatches and Brown Trout are concerned, The Hex Hatch is IT; IT will bring more LARGE BROWNS and EVEN STEELHEAD to the Surface then any other hatch I am aware of in the Midwest, that’s right, Steelhead on Dries!
Mouse fishing, or after hour waking here on the PM is our longest lasting technique in that the approach can be used for more than four months of the summer and is one of the three ways a trout fisherman in Michigan is likely to break the Two Foot Barrier! Size of the fly is more or less equivalent to a rodent, frog, or even a freaky sized leech variation and triggers fish that would feed on such proteins! Hopper fishing does produce the big fish too, just not with the same frequency as the Night Fishing practices. Hopper fishing is the most relaxing way to fish in the summer months while improving your cast, the bonus is catching fish during daylight hours it is so nice out. Summer is my favorite fishing season here in Michigan and the Midnight Browns are the brightest part of that season and I miss it more than any other season when it goes!!


Varieties and potential for quality fishing amongst many species is beyond likely, it is flat tough to get yourself skunked in the fall months with all the fish running, spawning and feeding in The Pere Marquette River and surround streams. Salmon bring a food source second to none for all the fish feeding or residing in the river, of which can sustain most of them till spring the gorge is so fulfilling. King and Coho salmon will enter as early as August and begin Spawning within a few weeks of their entry and for every group of salmon spawning; they have a fan club of feeding fish in their wake. You might find a steelhead, a brown, or even a rainbow trout feeding behind such Beds/reds which more or less become beacons for fish activity whether spawning or feeding.
Steelhead are without question the best ride in the park for us in Northwest Michigan, especially in early fall, when they can exceed the most seasoned fisherman’s expectations in 50-degree water while jumping and tearing line of a reel. Fall steelhead have different gears like a sports car and will use all of them to break loose of that perfect egg or swung streamer you tied up, at the same time there is a brilliance to the amount of time and thought involved with picking off wary, summer smartened browns that are in fact feeding pretty carelessly on eggs in less than a foot of water behind Kings! Exciting… you could say that; I usually end up sweating while fishing too them they get me so tuned up. Though I may not be as tickled about the less aggressive spawning salmon, there really is no better way to introduce a youngster or beginner to the sport with almost a guarantee of success thanks to their sheer numbers, that and they release all the eggs that make the steelhead and browns feed so well!

Though indicator and swing fishing are more conventional in popularity with fly fisherman when approaching steelhead, these days the stripped fly out fishes our swing techniques and almost keeps up with the nymphing/egging we fish to them all fall/winter/spring long.  Until you’ve seen steelhead chase stripped flies to the boat and annihilate the fly versus grab or take it… You haven’t really seen a steelhead in all it prowess and speed as a the true predator they are.  Bonus is you fish all the rivers miles, not spots; this and you get to play with all the brown trout that seemingly will chase a streamer all months of the year here.  Stripping in the fall is the bonus in between egging opportunities.


Winter is simply the best time to strip streamers for steelhead, and though the brown trout bite slackens, the gold you do score is fantastic on the big fly.  Following the lose of egg flow and bank debris due to frozen ground, the steelhead, grouped up and populated, need to fight for their calories and all at the same time are pissed they have to sit in a hole and go no where in freezing water temps… Cue The Drunk & Disorderly Flashy mess of Insult, and you’ll see more steelhead consider than any other time of the year!

With winter comes a time for solitude, magical pictures, and trophy steelhead. Though not as aggressive or acrobatic as the former fall selves, Winter Steelhead are the most over looked fishery we have! Harder to engage because of conditions, the winter steelhead of Western Michigan Rivers are available all winter pending river fluctuations, but even when the weather is cold, IT CAN BE HOT FISHING! Having been a steel header most of my life I often forget how cold I used to get fishing, so this season is reserved for those of us that just can’t put it away for three months of the year; We Fish… Therefore, We are!
Our trophy for braving such temps might be a double red winter bull just begging to say cheese for the camera, your email, and my website. Fish that normally in the warmer water months of autumn would kick your backside, now are somewhat tame and able to be netted, that is so long as your rod can hold the weight of the fish. Big head shakes and head shots for the camera make winter a real splendor with a fraction of the traffic on the stream, if at all. Post spawn brown trout will come back into play favoring a wide array of late season egg patterns and nymphs as will the steelhead, but if you are looking for a good hit that far exceeds the visual allure of a Bobber Down Scenario, there is nothing like “The Tug”. Fall and Winter Steelhead both favor the stationary but electric action of a well casted Spey or Streamer Fly fished on a Spey/Switch Rod swung and then hung in front of their Bad Attitude! Be prepared, your not fishing with an egg anymore and often the hit is quite viscous!! For allot of Fly Fisherman, winter is a time to go south or replenish the box… Not here, we fish ALL YEAR here on the Pere Marquette!


Early in February we assemble a group of clients/friends who all make the drive down to The White River in Arkansas to fish for GIANT post spawn browns that look to fill the void after the calories lost getting laid.  Fishing mostly during the day with larger streamers, but then again if the dam isn’t running water we typically flip to the dark side and fish at night with assorted streamers/mice/leeches to entice the MEGA GIANTS of that river.  This isn’t for the beginners as all on board are already savvy to the techniques in question and look to test those skills in such a magical watershed.  Typically, the groups are 4 days of fishing, 5 nights lodging for $1,300, which is all guided.  This group of guys takes their fishing very seriously after driving such a distance for trout, because lets face it…  Trout fishing here in Michigan isn’t that bad at all, and we have plenty of good fish!  Being there for a few weeks allows for allot of my clients to be in the right place at the right time, which is why we set up THE ARKANSAS UNICORN HUNT at that time of year… This and dodge a little of Michigan’s winter.