Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay

Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay

Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay

Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay

Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay for Smallmouth Bass

Just recently myself and two of my new guides, Steve Pels and Tim Gibs all had the same day off from the dry fly hunt. We decided to take a break from drift and river boats and go Fly Fishing in Grand Traverse Bay. We were on the hunt for smallmouth bass and carp!

Equipment

First I checked the status with a friend that lives at the base of East Grand Traverse Bay. Tom said “no carp yet but smallies in five feet of water and getting close to hitting the beds”. Second get the proper equipment, a 7wt rod loaded with a 250 grain sink tip. I like the Scientific Angler Cold 250 grain. Also, an 8 wt. loaded with a floating line with or without a clear tip. Third a box full of Carp Crayfish Flies, Clousers and buggers in different colors and maybe a Lapdancer or two. Finally, we are ready to go.

Where

Mid-June to early July is the easiest and best time to fly fish Grand Traverse Bay. The smallmouth and carp move into the shallows to spawn. They are in skinny enough water that we can get a fly in front of their noses. All up down both side of East and West Grand Traverse Bay and at the tip of the peninsula you can drive or walk looking for both species. Preferred places are parks or turnouts where you can park your car and get out and look.

How

These fish can be pursued both wading or from a boat. Both have their advantages. Wading you can get closer and the fish will be less spooky. In boat, you can cover more ground to locate fish.

Smallmouth are aggressive eaters and usually take a fly very well. Fish to any structure you see and also hit the spawning beds. The males protecting them will smash your fly.

Carp can be moodier. They don’t have great eye sight so the fly needs to be close, think a paper plate from their nose. Laid up fish need the fly placed in the paper plate and moving fish need to be led enough that the fly will be on the bottom as the fish goes by. Either way when the carp get close enough to see it give the fly a little strip and then let it sit. If the fish looks at it give another strip. Watch the fishes body, they suck the fly in so they will react to it. When something looks different, set!

Fly fishing Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City Michigan is great fun and a good, inexpensive way to experience what flats fishing is all about.

Hawkins Outfitters has a few openings in the next few weeks if you’d like to try the Bay! Contact us via the web or give Cherie a call 231-228-7135.

Tight lines,

Captain Chuck Hawkins

Jeff Topp

Fly Fishing friendly Salmon

Fly Fishing Friendly Salmon

There are five species of Pacific and one Atlantic salmon. The King, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum salmon. The biggest difference between Atlantic and Pacific salmon are Pacific salmon are semelparous, meaning they die after they spawn. Atlantic salmon are iteroparous which means they may recover, return to the sea, and repeat the migration and spawning pattern. Spawning takes a huge physiological toll on a salmon, though, and most Atlantic salmon do not survive to spawn a second or third time.

All six of these species offer quality sport for fly anglers but they are not all created equal. Of the six, three are fly fishing friendly salmon.  The three best fly rod salmon are the Atlantic, Coho and Pink salmon. I make this statement based on their willingness to take a fly after entering freshwater and the fight that they put up when hooked. Luckily for us Hawkins Outfitters has a venue for all three. All three are truly fly fishing friendly salmon!

Read more

dry fly

Fly Patterns for Michigan Hatches

Fly Patterns for Michigan Hatches

I remember way back (45 years ago) when I was learning to fly fish out west, the most intimidating facet of the sport was bugs. Pale Morning Duns, Blue Wing Olive, Green Drakes, I had no idea what these were or how to proceed in learning more.

Fast forward 35 years. One night during Hex and Brown Drake (the big bugs) season my son, Zach, was wade fishing while I was on the water, working. When all the guides and customers gathered in a friend’s garage Zach was showing a picture of a nice brown that he landed that night. A customer of one of the other guides asked Zach “how did you know what fly to use”? Watching from across the room I wanted to make sure that Zach was polite and respectful. He said to the angler “ just a moment sir, I’ll be right back”. Minutes later he returned with his fly box, opened it and told the angler “I catch the bug that the fish are eating, set it in my fly box and pick the bug that looks like the natural”! At 10 years old he had that figured out. Read more

Pine River

Pine River

The Pine River

Pine River

Pine River, the Lower Peninsula’s most unique river

 

 

The Pine River

The Pine River, near Cadillac, Michigan is a tributary of the Manisttee River. It joins the Manistee in Tippy Pond above Tippy dam. The rive is 53.5 miles long. Dominated by groundwater inflows, it is the coldest, fastest river in Lower Michigan. This groundwater keeps the Pine River temperatures always 69 degrees or colder.

The Pine River, like most northern Michigan Rivers, has been abused and neglected. The Pine River was dammed by an earthen dam in 1918. The dam was quickly rendered useless by the large sand load that built up behind it. Prior to the dam the river was used, to it’s great detriment, to move saw logs down stream.  It’s banks were torn up creating huge erosion problems.6px;”>

The dam remained until 1997 when it was slowly removed as part of a negotiation for the relicensing of Tippy Dam by The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Dam removal was completed in 2003. Since removal of the dam the stream channel is forming again, gravel substrate is increasing in quantity and size, and fish populations are spreading in the river. Fish populations, especially brown and rainbow trout have increased by more than 250%. Read more

Hendrickson Hach

Hendrickson Hatch

Hendrickson Hatch

Hendrickson Hach

Hendrickson MayFly – Dun

The Hendrickson Hatch is  the first major mayfly hatch of significance. It usually arrives around opening day in Northern Michigan. Being a size 12 or 14 it is a big bug that hatches at the beginning of the season.  Many times on the Ausable below Mio dam, or the Upper to Lower Manisttee I’ve encountered good hatches and spinner falls during the same float. Getting two bites at the dry fly apple with big fish rising is a great day.This larger morsel brings good fish to the surface! Hendricksons are the first and one of the best.

Life Cycles

Like all of our mayflies Hendricksons hatch and spin during the best time of day. In the case of hendricksons most hatches occur mid afternoon (the warmest time of day) however on some rivers there can be a pre-emergence around 11:00 in the morning. This is why Hendricksons have the nickname of the gentlemen’s hatch. You can stay up late playing cards and drinking and still be on the water when the action starts! The spinner fall is usually in the early evening before temps fall to low. The Hendrickson mayfly is one hardy little guy. I’ve seen hatches where I had duns landing in my boat on three inches of snow. Read more

Manistee River Smallmouth Bass

Red Bridge on the Manistee River Closure

Red Bridge on the Manistee River will be closed this summer!

The bridge on Coates Highway crossing the Manistee is slated for replacement this coming summer. Beginning on or about April 2nd and through August the road will be completely closed while they replace the approximately 200 foot long bridge. The project is slated for completion at the end of September, 2019.

Smallmouth Bass and Trout Fishing

The water above and below the bridge is one of our favorite big smallmouth destinations in July and August. Where the bridge crosses the river is the back waters of Tippy Pond. This area has great smallmouth bass water. It’s also the take out spot for the trout water above the bridge coming down from Hodenpyl Dam near Mesick. In addition to great fishing water the river from Hodenpyl to Red Bridge is a very popular canoe and kayak destination.  Along with amazing hiking along the North Country Trail.

Manistee County Road Commissioner, Mark Shodden has stated that the boat ramp will stay open during the entire construction process. He has requested that all river users be cautious when on the water near the bridge. The good news is that we will still be able to fish that water though detours will be required to get to it.

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead in Michigan

Spring Steelhead

Spring steelhead fishing in Michigan is a different animal from fall steelhead fishing. The difference is due to several factors, water temperature, the urge to spawn, and available food supplies.

Steelhead begin moving into our rivers in fall. Their motivation is available food and the urge to spawn.  The salmon spawn puts millions of eggs in the river that the steelhead feast on. During the salmon spawn it’s almost difficult to catch steelhead on anything but egg imitations. The steelhead spawn doesn’t occur until spring. No one knows for sure why steelhead that ascend the river to eat steelhead eggs in August and September stay after the eggs are gone. Sometimes they don’t! Coming early and staying is likely due to some of our original steelhead planted had to travel great distances to spawn so they started early. That urge may have remained in our Little Manistee River strain of steelhead.

Temperature

Water temperature plays a big role in determining where to look for spring fish. The smaller rivers like the Pere Marquette River warm faster than the Big Manistee River. The earlier warm up has the fish moving up river to different runs, closer to spawning gravel. Spring Steelhead are motivated by Mother Nature , the spawn is the primary trigger for them to migrate the river.  When fish are moving up river towards spawning gravel how do you change your tactics?  Fish pinch points, funnels, and heads of pools versus the tailouts.  We definitely find more fish in the spring at the head of runs, most of these spots are deeper and slower and you find fish there moving up river toward the spawning grounds. This is likely to occur in a normal year (who knows what that is anymore??) in February. On bigger waters with dams this movement generally takes place in very early March. Read more

Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror

Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror Glasses

Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror

For the last year or so I have been wearing  Costa’s Sunrise Silver Mirror glasses. At first I was thinking I would only use this color lens for a hour in the morning and a hour in the evening. I assumed they would fit a niche time of day when the darker, daytime Costa Sunrise Silver Mirrorlenses where too dark. I was dead wrong! The sunrise silver mirror was far more of an all day lens than I thought it would be. Even though the sun rise silvers are a lighter color lens I was impressed with the way they cut glare and how well you can see in to the water.

Overcast Days

The sunrise silver lens really shines for me on overcast, drizzly days. The low light days where the light conditions don’t change. The days that you feel like every fish in the river should be biting. The first time I had these lenses on in dull light conditions I was amazed. The way they seem to gather the light and still cut the glare was a true eye opener. Another big plus is the way the sunrise lens performs in the dark.  If your are fishing dry flies at night for nocturnal brown trout or fishing bridges at night for tarpon they have got you covered. This is very important because we should always wear glasses while fishing.  Now there is a lens that allows us polarization without the dark shade. Its very hard to see a fly heading your way in the dark and there is no replacement for our eyes.

Changing Lens

I do tend to change out the silver sunrise lens to the green mirror copper lens when the day goes to blue bird conditions . High sunny skies are a bit to bright for the silver sunrise. The green mirror is a great choice for river and backcountry fishing on sunny days.
Now that Costa offers the sun rise silver in the 580 glass lens, they have all the bases covered. The 580 lens cuts haze and glare for a more crisp view. The 580 also filters out the yellow light enhancing colors of blues and greens helping in reading water.
With the number of frames styles to choose from and it being offered in the 580p and 580g there is a pair for everyone. Check out Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror at your local fly shop. Working on the water in Michigan and Alaska this lens has been the best choice for me most days.

Jeff Topp

trying with beads

Tying Flies with Beads

Tying Flies with Beads Alaskan Trout and Steelhead anglers have known about fishing with beads for years.  Bead fishing is an effective way to imitate fish eggs.  Fishing with beads has really exploded here in the midwest over the past few years especially when targeting fall steelhead . While most anglers use beads by themselves […]

American's Favorite Flies

American Favorite Flies, New Book

Chuck Hawkins and Russ Maddin featured in a new book, America’s Favorite Flies

American's Favorite Flies

This is a new book, America’s Favorite Flies. It showcases 224 favorite flies from such notables as Yvon Chouinard, Lefty Kreh, Joan Wulff, Craig Mathew, Huey Lewis and others including Russ and I. All of the profits are given to two nonprofit organizations. They are the Native Fish Society and the James River Association.

America’s favorite Flies is fun to read. In addition to Russ and I, I’ve seen other Michigan anglers featured. John Kluging and Dennis Potter are in the book. Each fly tier answered some questions and did a write up about themselves and or the fly the called their favorite fly. I’ve enjoyed both the stories and the photos,  I’m sure you will too . There is also a ton of artwork by well know artists including Dave Ruimveld, Bob White and others. This is a substantial book, 656 pages, 1700 color images, it weighs 7 1/2 pounds! It is is a great coffee table book for the avid fly angler! You can get more information about it at American’s Favorite Flies.

How to Purchase America’s Favorite Flies

America’s Favorite Flies is available for sale for $145, shipping included, directly from the printer. It may be purchased by emailing me at chuck@hawkinsflyfishing.com or by calling 231-228-7135. If you would like Russ and I to sign it, we will be happy to! Just add $10 to the price to cover the extra shipping.

As Jason Borger says in the introduction “These pages represent the diverse fly patterns of a diverse group of anglers,but more than that  these pages celebrate experiences and revere waters. With an underlying mission of preservation and conservation, America’s Favorite Flies is a visually engaging storybook for all fly fishers who share such ideals”

Many thanks to John Bryan and Rob Carter for inviting Russ and I to participate and for creating such a beautiful book.

Capt. Chuck