It appears that Winter has come in fast and hard dropping both air and water temperatures not to mention some of the white stuff. Back a week ago when it was still Fall, we received significant rainfall in the region increasing water levels and the number of fish in local rivers like the Manistee, Betsie and Boardman. While the water was high and dirty, it has come down and once/if more seasonal weather comes back anglers will find plenty of fish around to play with throughout the winter. Right now the challenge can be getting to the river rather than catching the fish.
As the water continues to drop in levels and temps, look for steelhead to be sitting in those soft pockets and the tail-outs of the deeper holes. Drag free drifts using indicators and floats with egg and nymph combo on the business end would be a good place to start. Those who enjoy the two-hand approach to swinging flies will find fish still looking to eat, but that window where fish will chase a fly down is getting pretty narrow as water temps creep into the upper 30′s.
Good luck, stay warm and keep an extra change of clothes just in case.
After a change in the weather the past week it appears that mother nature has made up for the mild fall we experienced in the beginning. After some snow, rain, temperatures below freezing and lots of wind, it appears most anglers are looking to pick their days based on the weather. Traffic on the water is down with plenty of steelhead around to play with. With the dropping water temps, fish are starting to act a little lethargic when hooked, but not all of them. Look for the steelhead to start to move into the transitional water between the quick runs and the soft side of the seam and some of the larger holes. A little sunlight can make a big difference as it warms up the water a degree or two and can help trigger more activity.
Eggs continue to be the primary diet of fish as the millions of salmon eggs continue to drift down stream even though the salmon are pretty much gone. Pale colored egg patterns like nuke and rags seem to be working best: egg/steelhead orange, Oregon cheese/burnt orange, tetra yellow/light roe have been good color combos lately. Smaller natural nymphs are starting to have their effect on both steelhead and trout in waters like the Manistee below Tippy Dam – caddis, pheasant tails, and scuds are great candidates. Olive and copper streamers have been the effective pattern colors when swinging flies. Look for the streamer bite for trout on the Manistee to get going as the fish drop back into their lies after a fall of having their noses close to the spawning salmon.
More fresh fish continue to move up the Betsie and Manistee rivers thanks to the rains which have provided fish throughout the river systems. Water is slightly stained and running a little higher than normal for this time of year but is generally in good shape. Be prepared to fish a few ways – drift fishing, indicator fishing over structure and even swinging a fly on a sink-tip.
Friday Nov. 15 th is opening day of firearm deer season. Be careful and respectful of hunters and wear a some blaze orange to be safe while fishing. The season extends through Nov. 30th.
The past week has been a wet one in the northwestern part of Michigan with significant rainfalls shuffling fish around and bringing in new ones. Water levels were coming down nicely before we received another batch of rain raising the levels and adding some stain to rivers but also bringing in some new fish as well.
As water temps continue to drop into the mid-40′s on the Manistee the fish have become a little more lethargic when hooked and the fish are starting to transition into some deeper and slower runs. But don’t overlook the water that has been fishing well the past month as the steelhead can be anywhere. While majority of the fish have been eating egg patterns – often big, bright ones in the dirty water, the nymphs and streamers have been working on fish, too. As the water gets cooler look for alternative presentations to add to your approach – indicators, swung flies and picking small buckets apart for a fish here, and a fish there.
The fall steelhead fishing on the Manistee has been inconsistent lately – doing well for a few days in a row and then experiencing a slow one. When its on, its on! Lots of weather systems have been through northern Michigan over the past week and even some snow fell between the rain showers which may have had something to do with the fish’s attitude. The recent rains brought the water up and should continue to bring fresh fish from the lake – there are fish from the dam to the lake. The report on the Betsie River is that there are some steelhead scattered throughout the river and a few scraggly salmon on gravel making the dark water behind them a great place to start fishing for the chrome ones. After the significant rainfall at the end of last week, most of the Betsie is running dark – be careful wading.
When fishing below Tippy dam, natural eggs and small, natural nymphs like pheasant tails and baetis are working on the pressured steelhead and brown trout. In the lower sections bigger, brighter egg patterns fished in tandem with larger nymphs and small streamers have been the ticket lately – it seems that the “bugger bite” has improved significantly since the last report. Each day is different and this is only a reference as to what has been working for us. To read the Top Five Steelhead Flies article, click here.
With the water temps hovering around 50 degrees and fresh fish around, this is a great time to swing a big fly for steelhead. Olives and tan/brown patterns with lots of gold and copper flash would be a great place to start and always have a black pattern on deck and ready to go.
After a long six weeks of great weather, things have changed with lower temperatures, fewer leaves on trees and even some snowflakes in the air but the steelhead remain willing to test our abilities and tackle.
Steelhead fishing on the Manistee took a little dip the past week but things have started to improve again. With just a few salmon around spawning, the fish aren’t as concentrated in easy to identify water and as we go through this transitional period – which is typical this time of year, it’s time to alter the plan of attack, focus on different water and presentations. Now we have to work a little for the fish.
Eggs continue to be the primary diet and focus of steelhead with the millions of eggs drifting downstream. Egg pattern colors range from egg/cream/light yellow to Sockeye and Apricot Supreme. Look for Oregon Cheese and Chartreuse variations to become more popular in the near future. “Bugs” – patterns like hex nymphs, steelhead buggers and caddis seem to be increasing in effectiveness in the tail outs and lower sections of rivers where the eggs aren’t so concentrated. When there is a heavy flow of leaves in the water, look for bugs with sparkle and egg patterns that are big and bright (clowns) to bring some attention to themselves making it easier for fish to recognize them from all the debris.
Water conditions are ideal – clarity, level and temperature. Temps are hovering in the low-50′s and I suspect the recent and forecast weather might get that to drop below the 40 degree mark slowing the fish down a bit when hooked. The steelhead this year are running big and have been hard to handle and bring to the net, however no one is complaining.
With another week of mild weather its hard to believe that it is mid-October. Since we haven’t had a frost yet in the region the fall colors aren’t as brilliant as usual, but the fishing has been making up for it.
After last week’s rain, river levels came up and have since dropped while leaving the water with a slight stain – which is a good thing with all the bright sunshine we have been experiencing. The spawning salmon continue to populate the gravel sections of local rivers, most notably the Betsie and Manistee. Below Tippy dam there are countless numbers of salmon on gravel spawning with others right behind them in pocket water and still some fresher staging fish in the bigger, deeper holes waiting for their time to come. Look for steelhead to be in the dark water right behind spawning fish and the egg collecting runs below spawning areas. With water temperatures near 60 degrees the fish tend to jump out of the water a bit and make it hard to bring them to hand. Majority of the steelhead have been coming from egg patterns with smaller, natural color’s being best. Mix it up throughout the day as sunlight and angling pressure changes.
I haven’t been on the trout waters nor have I heard reports of people fishing the Upper-Manistee, but I imagine the terrestrial fishing on the surface is going strong considering the mild temperatures. The brook trout can be amazing this time of year and we are getting closer to when the browns spawn and sometimes – given the right weather conditions, the streamer fishing can be outstanding.
Steelhead -A few fall steelhead dates remain and it’s not too early to book your Spring 2014 Steelhead dates.
With the flip of the calendar, a look at the fall color in the trees and chrome in the water- the only thing wrong is we only have four weeks to enjoy what the month has to offer.
October Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan is one of my favorite months to fish. Cool mornings, clear days and big fish. Steelhead fishing has picked up a little on the Manistee as they take full advantage of the salmon eggs drifting downstream. There are still good numbers of King Salmon in the Betsie and Manistee Rivers with the majority of the fish on gravel doing their thing. Steelhead take note and residence in the holes, pocket water and slots below them taking advantage of the “protein drip”. Egg patterns have been the most effective patterns lately with a few nymph patterns also proving worthy – caddis, pop’s buggers, and pheasant tails. The water is still clear demanding light leaders and the steelhead have been hard to land with water temps being as warm as they are – the fish are spastic to say the least.
Even though trout season has closed on a number of rivers throughout the state, certain sections of certain rivers like the Manistee remain open. Brook trout fishing remains solid and the brown trout are becoming a little more responsive to our antics now that they are getting closer to their spawning season and angling pressure has dropped off. The streamer bite has picked up a bit – still smaller patterns with the clear water vs. the really big stuff and on top: BWOs and terrestrials like ants and beetles and the occasional smaller Isonychias.
Now that the equinox has passed and we are fast approaching October the weather feels a little nicer than normal. Salmon fishing is taking precedent on local rivers like the Betsie and Manistee with good numbers of King/Chinook Salmon in both of them. Last week’s rain moved some fish around and they are scattered throughout the river systems; a north wind and some rain would drive even more fish into the systems including steelhead. There are a few steelies fish around but numbers are still pretty low.
The salmon have turned a little darker as a lot of fish have begun their spawning activity in the gravel sections of the rivers. The water’s clarity is a little too clear right now and lighter mono and fluorocarbon tippets are a must with the bright skies. With natural eggs in the system drifting down the fish are taking note and eating realistic size and colors. Click here to read more on egg patterns and fishing them for steelhead and salmon.
Trout fishing has been up and down on the upper Manistee as it too is running very clear. Cloudy days are better (as usual) but a mix of sun and clouds is best as it warms the water a bit and gets the brook and brown trout looking at food. Smaller terrestrials like ants and beetles have been working as have other patterns like Fat Alberts and other foam and rubber leg creations. It seems like the fish aren’t interested in eating the big terrestrial and attractor imitations lately – after all, it’s been a long trout season. fall colors on the Upper Manistee are just getting going and if you haven’t fished up there this time of year, you should – the Brook Trout are beyond vibrant. Please note that some rivers and certain sections are closed to fishing beginning October 1.
It still feels like summer with the warm weather but temps more fall-like are forecast for later in the week.
Salmon fly fishing has taken most of the notice of anglers lately as the runs in the Betsie and Manistee Rivers have been good this year. Those of you that have been out know that the fish are running a few pounds bigger on average and have been tough to land. Being salmon, some days they respond to flies well, other days not so. Mix up your patterns, your presentation and even a slight angle change to the run/hole which can make the difference.
There hasn’t been a predominate or favorite fly pattern lately, just the usual nymph patterns like caddis, stones, hex fished in tandem with an egg pattern. Floating lines with indicators have been coming in handy when fishing the insides of runs where staging salmon often sit, but most of the time clients have been using the duck and chuck method with success. (Read more about rigging for salmon here.)
The trout fishing remains decent for those fishing terrestrials and small streamer patterns on rivers like the upper Manistee and Boardman rivers. Water levels are decent for this time of year and clarity is a little too good after a long season, but have the river to yourself while you catch brown and brook trout.
Now that Labor Day is behind us, the kids are in school and the salmon are in the rivers, it’s time to look forward to a long fall season of fly fishing.
While summer-like temps are usual throughout September, the cool summer brought the salmon closer to river mouths and into rivers much earlier this year. The Betsie, Mansitee, Bear and Pere Marquette all have fish in them and should throughout mid-October. The salmon – so far, have been on average a few pounds bigger than years past but the past week we have started to see some smaller fish swimming with the big ones. The big ones – while fresh, were hard to hold onto! We are a ways from spawning so look for fish to be in the deeper holes and eating nymphs and eggs and the occasional streamer fished on a sink-tip. Being salmon, some days they just don’t want to eat anything – mix up your fly patterns and put in your casts – it only takes a fish or two to make it a great day – more than that, even better.
There has been no shortage of anglers with this year’s early start and with the big fish come less than desirable anglers and their methods used to “catch” the salmon – program your cell phones with the DNR’s RAP Hot line (Report All Poaching) and report any violators you see: 1-800-292-7800. It only takes the word of a few tickets issued to curb some of the activity so your call can make a difference.
The warm weather over the past few weeks has warmed the trout waters but they will start to drop again with the cool down and cooler evenings. The Manistee and Boardman are running very clear right now but still have trout fishing going on. Terrestrials like hoppers, flying ants and beetles are a good bet as are some attractors. Sub-surface, try your bead head nymphs in the runs and slots and a small streamer twitched will keep you in the game. Look for the brook trout to get feistier as their spawning season approaches later this month and their colors become even more vibrant. You should have the trout rivers pretty much to yourself so enjoy the solitude and some technical fishing – there has been a decent BWO hatch on the upper Manistee in the early evenings and some remaining trico spinner falls in late morning.
It appears that Summer has started again with warmer temperatures and plenty of sunlight.
These conditions have been good for the trout fishing on the Manistee and Boardman as terrestrials thrive in these conditions. Hoppers, ants, beetles and foam and rubber leg attractors are the ticket for those fishing on top. Windy conditions can make it difficult to cast, but blow some bugs in and the fish are waiting. Very little is hatching: Tricos in the mid-mornings with smaller trout rising to them making for fun “target practice”. Have a few small Isonychias in your box as well as #14 tan caddis and #18 BWOs. Smaller streamers fished in the little runs and cuts around wood have been producing some fish also and days that are mixed with sun and clouds have tended to be better.
The cooler weather made for good water temps at the river mouths and some salmon moved up the area rivers. With the warmer weather the fish aren’t as eager to come upstream, but the ones that did over the previous weeks are scattered throughout the river systems. Egg flies, small streamers and classic nymphs like sparrows, stones and buggers have been producing. A good N.W. wind and some rain would really get fish moving upstream again.
Bass and bluegill are still eating the fly on local lakes. The bigger gills are harder to come by but there are plenty of small ones to keep you busy and the bigger bass have been eating the larger flies – both on top and bottom. The warm weather will improve things further for those looking to fish the weed lines, beds and structure for largemouth bass.
Trout fishing has been consistent these past weeks as water temps have been much cooler than normal for this time of year due to the mild air temperatures. The Trico hatch has been going a little later in the morning on the upper Manistee River once the sun gets higher and warms things up a bit, however the water is very clear and too much sun is a good thing. Not much else is on emerging on the Manistee and Boardman but attractors are working well for the brook trout and smaller browns where the larger terrestrials and foam and rubber patterns are bringing up some bigger fish. With the weather forecast calling for warmer conditions, look for the terrestrial fishing to get even better.
Bass and Bluegill on ponds and lakes has slowed a little with the cooler weather, but fish continue to play the game and eat flies – poppers, sliders, diving baitfish and baitfish streamers. The warmer weather should bring things back to where they should be for this time of year. Bluegill and panfish are taking smaller dry flies – small terrestrials like beetles, ants and small hoppers are great places to start. Smaller streamers fished just below the surface have been working, too.
The cool weather and water has brought some salmon closer to the river mouths and some fish have slipped up some of the local rivers but they are still low in numbers. It appears the fall run of salmon should be a good one this year.
Trout fishing has been pretty consistent in the morning hours with dries, and terrestrials. Early morning Trico hatches are still going strong with some nice fish looking up, but be prepared to make some long, accurate casts and solid presentations. I was out yesterday and the fishing seemed to pick up with terrestrials as the afternoon approached. There are tricos, some caddis, bwo's popping up throughout the morning. The last hour before dark has been productive in the last week for some nice browns twitching bigger, rubber legged attractor patterns or running isos. Water temps are really good for this time of year and the fish are not stressed out due to heat on both the Boardman River and Upper Manistee.
The lower Manistee has a few kings starting to show up for early morning streamer or crankbait action. The smallmouth seem to be a bit scared because the kings have started showing up in better numbers. The Betsie has a trickle of fish starting to make their way upstream as well. A few more kings are being caught "in the hole" at the mouth of the Boardman River, but nothing even close to thinking about hitting the river. It appears the that we should have a great fall with the water levels and temperatures being really good for the fish and the early run salmon.
Local lakes and ponds have really been super productive in the evenings for bass and bluegill on poppers, terrestrial patterns and streamers. This is a ton of fun and is so overlooked by most fly anglers. Find a small lake and work around the edges in the evening for some great action. Fishing for bass and bluegill is a great way to work on your casting and introduce new people and kids to fly fishing.
Fall dates are booking up very quickly, so if you are looking for dates, call soon and reserve your dates for September and October.
As much as we appreciate the cooler weather this past week, it takes a little while for the fish to get use to the change in water temps. Cooler water temps are good for the fish and after a day or two off relative consistent weather they are happy and playing our game again.
The hatches on the upper Manistee and Boardman have been quite limited lately with just a few bugs around including Isos, Cahills, Big Olives, and Tricos. Fishing a bead head nymph in runs has produced some fish as they aren’t looking up too much with the bright sun. A very small streamer fished on a floating line has been a good approach, too. When those two presentations don’t work, try the big rubber leg and foam creations – hoppers, Chernobyl Ants and other large profile bugs that have a little motion in them. The rivers are pretty quiet and a morning spent on the river this time of year is not only a great way to stay cool, but have it to yourself while catching brown and brook trout
Fishing on the lakes and ponds has been good for those looking to cash in on bass on large swimming flies and large poppers. Weed beds and lilly pads have been the ideal place to target these fish especially when they are adjacent to cover like wood and drop offs. Keep in mind leader size is important when casting those big wind resistant flies. Bluegill have been playing along too and closer to the shallow water since the big fish in the deeper water tend to eat them – small dries like hoppers, ants, spiders and beetles have been working on top with small baitfish streamers working bellow.
The Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Lower Manistee continues to improve. Medium to large streamers with lots of flash fished on both floating lines and short sink-tips have been the ticket. Crayfish bounced along the bottom and twitched are always good around rocks especially with the big moon that is out right now. While they aren’t as big as the fish we catch in the bay, the river smallmouth fight hard, get us on the river and make us better fly anglers.
Some hot weather has been with us all week making the mornings and evenings the best time to be on the water – river or lake. The lack of cloud cover has really made a difference on the trout rivers making the low light periods the best time to fish. It also happens to be cooler making it more comfortable. The forecast is calling for a return of cooler temps over the weekend and I doubt anyone will complain.
The Manistee and Boardman have a few bugs on them including Isonychias, Light Cahills, BWOs (#16), and some Tricos. Look for Trico numbers to build over the next month providing a lot of rising fish – albeit smaller ones, making for some fun fishing with lighter rods. The Tricos are typically found in the mornings while the other bugs listed tend to be present in the evenings. The terrestrial program is taking shape and bringing up a few nice fish – hoppers, ants, beetles, and those attractor patterns that suggest big, awkward things twitching on the water and easy to eat – have all been producing.
Lake fishing for largemouth bass and bluegill continues to offer some great fishing. Some big bass are just off of the drop offs near weed beds looking to eat sliders, swimming divers, and the realistic streamers that look like perch and bluegill. During high sun, go to the lilly pads with a weedless popper and/or frog imitation and watch what comes out from underneath to eat. Bluegill/panfish are in the shallower water staying away from the bass on the drop offs and have been a lot of fun for those casting small dries, poppers and spiders.
The lower Manistee is improving for smallmouth bass as water temps further increase. The most consistent fishing has come from casting mid-sized streamers and crayfish patterns but diving sliders and poppers are producing fish on top in the slower water often on the inside bends, typically around weeds.
The late start and odd month of bugs and weather of June is spilling over in to July and we are still experiencing some bugs on the water and match-the-hatch dry fly fishing. The Upper Manistee and Boardman both have some Hex bugs coming off on them but the section of river and even bend makes the difference of whether there are bugs or not. Being the holiday weekend the rivers are seeing lots of use by canoes, tubes and kayaks making the morning and evening the best times to fish.
The recent cooler evenings have dropped water temps below the 70 degree mark on the Manistee and the Boardman has been running much cooler this year now that Brown Bridge Pond is gone. Other bugs that can be found on the water include Little Yellow Sally Stones, Isonychias, Brown Drakes, Light Cahills, BWO/Drunellas, Gray Drakes (Boardman). Bead Head nymphs fished in riffles and tail outs can be a good way to cover water when wading this time of year.
Carp and smallmouth bass are still around in the flats of Grand Traverse Bay but the smallmouth bass tend to be smaller this time of year as the big fish have slipped into the deeper water. The carp are still doing their thing but have been hard to find some days – crayfish and hex nymphs are ideal flies to have tied on. Plan to cover a lot of water and look for fish where boat traffic and pressure is low. This time of year the mornings can make for some great carp fishing.
Bass fishing on local lakes is getting better with the warm water and their tendency to hammer sliders and mid-sized poppers. With good weed growth look for the fish in the middle of lilly pads, off of breaks/weed beds and other forms of structure. Bluegill continue to be in both shallows and along the edge of weeds and drop offs.
It took a while but some big hex flies can be found on local rivers. The hatches have been sporadic and very isolated – each bend in the river is different so if you don’t have success in one place, go around the next bend and see if there are bugs and fish. Then again, it is the time of the year where the “Annual Angler” makes his pilgrimage to the river so you might not have the ability to cover water. Duns and Spinners have been the mix and most nights the duration – at least on the Manistee, has been relatively short. Fish fast.
While waiting for the hex bugs, the Isonychia fishing has been pretty solid sometimes providing the best shot at fish as there is still some light out and good fish eating them. Fishing a hex emerger is a good way to spend an afternoon as is swinging an oversized hex nymph near the muddy banks to kill some time before the hatch. In addition to hex and Isos, have some Brown Drakes, Little Yellow Sallies, Sulphurs and Bat Fly patterns in your fly box.
Please practice catch and release and with the water being so warm (70 degrees) – get the fish to net quickly and revive them a long time before letting go. The Upper Manistee, Boardman and parts of the AuSable are not stocked with trout so the fish’s survival is paramount to future fishing.
Carp fishing on Grand Traverse Bay continues with a lot of fish in post-spawn mode and in shallow eating the hex and drakes in the silt beds. Spawning fish are still around, but each day is different which makes this fishing so fascination and frustrating at the same time. The heat and sunshine of the week has really warmed things up and is pushing this season closer to the end. The smallmouth bass can be found from time to time in the shallows but they have mostly moved out into deeper water. Fish that are still around have gotten pretty wise to the fly angler but a well presented fly (crayfish and hex) for cruising fish and around rocks should find you a fish or two.
The lakes are still fishing good for bluegill and largemouth bass are becoming more active especially on sliders and poppers – a fun way to spend some time on the water. Work the lilly pads, weed beds and drop offs for your best chances.
The fish over the past week has offered inconsistent fishing – not only because of so many species we have fished for, but also the fish’s cooperation. One day it’s good, the next day not. Things aren’t making sense as far as why things are “on” one day and not the next, but we keep on fishing and take what comes.
The Manistee’s hatches have been inconsistent and often sporadic over the past week. Lots of bugs can be seen on any given evening or throughout the day even – some days they are plentiful other days sparse. Look for sulphurs, mahoganies, little yellow sallies, BWOs, Isonychias and Brown Drakes with the best concentrations typically in the last hour or so of light. Water conditions are ideal – the Manistee and Boardman are at good levels but the clear water has made the streamer fishing tough. While it only takes one cast to make it a great day, there are a lot of casts with the streamer before that happens. But it’s worth it when it does.
The Carp, too, have been up and down. I think the lack of sustained warm weather and therefore water temps have kept the fish from really coming into the shallows and offering fly anglers great shots. Some days they can be found in good numbers but just not interested, other days small numbers of fish can be fished to with success. Just get out and fish and cover ground. Wind direction is crucial as is overnight air temps when determining when/where to go. The smallmouth bass on the Grand Traverse Bays have been good with a mix of spawning and post spawn fish.
The lake fishing remains a great choice for those looking for easy going, still water fishing. There are some local lakes with fish in shallow protecting nests and willing to eat a fly where other lakes are better in the evening as the fish migrate from the deeper water to the shallows to feed. Largemouth bass have been active eating sliders and some mid-sized streamers.
Some cooler temps have made fishing comfortable and sometimes cool, but fishing has mostly been good for the variety of species anglers can chase this time of year in the Traverse City region.
The trout streams are looking good and fishing decent thanks to some good dry fly hatches. The cooler weather- it seems is creating emergences and spinner falls a little earlier in the evening to help see what is going on. Small bugs and fish dimpling the surface in low light can be frustrating so the early emergence is a treat. There are a number of bugs that can be found on the water – Sulphurs, Mahoganies, March Browns, Little Yellow Sallies, Med-Brown (Mattress Thrashers) Stones, BWOs, and a few others. A Borcher’s Drake seems to do a pretty good job right now of imitating a lot of the spinners and a number of the duns on the water whereas the Robert’s Yellow Drake in 14-16 is starting to take a number of fish on top. Look for brown drakes to pop on the Manistee and Boardman any day now. The rivers are full, have good clarity and the fish have been chunky from all the subsurface feeding they have been doing making for some inconsistent streamer fishing. Remember, you are only one cast away from making a slow day a great day so keep at it. It’s a great time of the year to dry fly fish the Manistee and Boardman.
Carp fishing has been up and down because of the weather – cold nights, strong winds from different directions each day and the lack of a hot sun are all contributing factors. One day they are in shallow, the next they are not. Some days they eat, some days they don’t. In other words, they are acting like carp which helps add to the challenge of carp fishing on the flats. The smallmouth bass on Grand Traverse Bay tend to be a little more stable near rocks guarding beds in shallow water, but it seems that in the popular areas, they have seen a lot of flies. Mix it up and fish off less pressured waters if you can.
The lakes and ponds have been fishing well – some lakes have had a lot of shallow water bluegill fishing with some fish being done with the spawn and others just getting going. The deep “kettle lakes” are examples of the latter. Top water flies/poppers/spiders and small nymphs swum subsurface have been working. Largemouth bass are in the shallows too and are eating both flies on top and below – swim a diver for the best of both worlds.
There is a lot to choose from right now for those fly fishing the Traverse City / Northwest Michigan region. The rivers, lakes and Grand Traverse Bay offer anglers everything from graceful trout to the temperamental and brutish carp – from dry fly fishing rivers to bottom bouncing weighted patterns on the bay.
The trout fishing has been decent on the Upper Manistee and Boardman Rivers. There is a diverse collection of bugs on the water most days making for some of the fun match-the-hatch chess games and head-hunting. There have been some prolific Sulphur spinner falls the past week as well as the last of the light Hendricksons, mahoganies,caddis, bwos, black quill/Borchers and a few stones – both little yellow sallies and medium browns. Look for more of the same bugs to emerge over the week and pay real close attention to what bug and what stage the fish are keying in on. Emergers and spinners – flies fished in the film, seem to be working best. The smaller flies can be tough to fish in the dusk light – look for smooth water and slight dimples and underwater bulges for your targets as the broken water can make it tough to find fish. The streamer bite has been up and down with the cloudy days being ideal, as usual. Water levels are good – the rivers are full, have great clarity and temps are hovering around 60 degrees.
Smallmouth bass have moved into the shallows in the bay – many of the large rocks that offer some shade hold some fish, but keep your eye out for cruisers on the flats. Crayfish and minnow imitations are standard patterns you should have in your box.
The pre-spawn carp have move in, but remain transient with the weather changes, fishing pressure and low water of the bay. Water temp is key and if we continue to get warm weather, mild nights and favorable winds, it will only improve. The shallow water of East Grand Traverse Bay is a great place to look for the “golden bone” right now.
Bluegill continue to be in the shallow water offering the fly angler great opportunities and some great fish. The fish took a bit of a beating over Memorial Day weekend with many of them taken home, but the strong survive and require additional stealth to catch them.
Up and down weather this week has provided everything from hot and humid to cool and rainy. While the dry, warm days provided good hatches on the Manistee and Boardman Rivers, the other days were ideal for the streamer angler fishing below the surface and covering water looking for trout.
The potpourri of bugs lately have included: Hendricksons, March Browns, Mahoganies, Black Quills, and a few Sulphurs. Inconsistent weather has broken the mold of evening-exclusive spinner falls and they can be found at all times of the day including late mornings – one just never knows so it’s good to be prepared and be flexible. Look for the warmer weather to return this weekend and for the bug emergence to become a little more reliable and stable. If heading out, you will find that the most prolific hatch lately has been the mosquitoes; be sure to take some bug spray – not having any isn’t an option right now. To read more about the various mayflies that emerge over the next month, click here.
Streamer fishing has been decent as the water conditions are ideal with a slight stain, overcast skies and good temps. With chestnut lampreys active right now and the rain washing worms downstream, streamer patterns resembling such are catching some fish. Other successful patterns are those with lots of movement and orange/brown color schemes looking like crayfish and/or juvenile brook trout – at least that seems to have been a recent preference. As always, mix it up, donate flies to deep structure and keep moving for that rewarding brown or rainbow trout.
The Bluegill/Panfish have moved into shallow water on most of the local lakes and are making for some great fishing. Targeting the “bull-gills” on light rods is a blast. Fish have been taking both dries and nymphs with dries being best when the water is calm. Fish small nymphs by swimming them or try a real small streamer slowly striped.
Some carp have been moving closer inshore from the Grand Traverse bay’s depths but they are far from where they should be in regards to numbers and ideal depths. These weather changes – I think, negatively affect carp more than any other fish we fish for. Smallmouth bass, too, are starting to move towards shallow water to do their spring spawning ritual. The fly fishing in the bays surrounding Traverse City will only get better over the next month.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Good luck.
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PS: If you are visiting Traverse City, The Northern Angler is located 426 W. Front Street. We're on the same block as Folgarelli’s and North Peak Brewery
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