Introduction and Where
Hawkins Outfitters is excited to introduce a new option to pursue steelhead in the Southwest portion of Michigan. This is a great choice for those folks traveling from Chicago, Grand Rapids, or Detroit that need a quick chrome fix! Hawkins Outfitters now has the capability to fish several of the southwestern tributaries of Lake Michigan for steelhead. These fisheries get astonishing numbers of returning steelhead and the season can extend well into December. Ambient air and water temperatures will remain a few degrees warmer in these tributaries compared to our northern tribs. Additionally, these rivers are under 3 hours from Detroit, Chicago and approximately an hour from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
Much like the rest of our west side Michigan tributaries, the fall steelhead runs begin in early October and peak from mid October through December. Mid winter fishing opportunities still exist, however we are more selective on when we decide to go and target our efforts around the most productive times of the day.
Spring fishing picks back up in March and can extend as late as early May. Additionally, these tributaries have impressive numbers of summer run steelhead that enter the systems starting as early as July and are present through September.
These fish can only be targeted from a boat. These rivers are large and deep therefore, wading can be treacherous. In the boat, we are able to cover water, remain comfortable in adverse conditions and locate the next chrome bullet!
Steelhead are aggressive in the fall and take stripped and swung flies exceptionally well. I can think of fewer things more exciting than
fishing a beautiful stretch of a quiet Michigan river, swinging a fly with a tight line, only to have your line come tight with an angry steelhead at the other end.
The most common way to target these fish would be to utilize two-handed rods, typically 13-14 foot rods in 8 to 9 weight. We load them with either with either floating or intermediate Scientific Anglers Freightliner skagit lines, in 480-560 grains depending on conditions. Our flies vary from small and natural to fairly large and quite flashy, again. Our fly choice depends on water and weather conditions. Here are two links for tried and true Hawkins Outfitters swing flies. The first is a more natural sculpin pattern, despite its purple color scheme.
The second fly pattern, named “The Perch” has proven itself over the years to be a top producer for the Hawkins Team. It can also be used as a template for other swung flies. Vary the color and flash combos and dial in your new swing fly creation. (video below)
Another method we utilize is stripping streamers in the fall and spring. Typically, we use 9 foot 8-9 weight rods loaded with Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 30 in 200-350 grains. Much like streamer fishing for trout, we target structure and tempt the steelhead to attack! It is much more visual, especially when you see silver roll and eat right at the boat.
While these rivers are ideal for swinging and stripping flies, indicator fishing also produces great results. We fish the same way we fish our northern rivers.
Whether you are a seasoned Spey angler, indicator angler or a streamer junkie, these river systems have something to offer for all skill levels.
Hawkins Outfitters is very excited and happy to provide a new experience to our customers. We still have a few openings in the next few weeks during prime time steelhead season if you’d like to try this new opportunity! Contact us via the web or give Cherie a call 231-228-7135.