Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Pere Marquette fishing reportStaying Warm during Winter Fishing

Steelhead are cold-water critters.  Steelhead anglers need to learn how to Stay Warm during the Winter while chasing them. Steelhead can be caught all winter long in water temperatures as low as 33 degrees.  Steelhead will feed all winter long, fight extremely hard when hooked and don’t seem to give a damn how cold it is!

As cold bloodied animals, steelhead have that advantage over warm blooded humans. To be a successful steelheader you need to learn to deal with and be comfortable in the cold.  Steelhead season lasts almost 6 months, and some of the best fishing is during the dead of winter.

Base Layer

In pursuit of warmth start with base layers. It’s hard to beat capilene or Patagonia’s capaline Air which is half merino wool and half capaline. I wear one or two of the thinner long sleeve crew and long johns versus thicker singles. It seems to keep me as warm as the thicker versions but is less bulky, more comfortable.

Feet

On my feet I use a thinner wool baselayer sock followed by a thicker wool sock. About your feet, if you are fishing from the boat, which is what we do most of the time, waders and wading boots aren’t your friend. Bigger, insulated boots are the best. We wear calf high Boggs or Muck boots that are heavily insulated.  Snow pack boots will also work well.

If you are wading, boot foot waders are warmer than stocking foot waders and wading boots because they aren’t as tight and allow better blood circulation to your feet.  You actually want blood and air to circulate around your feet. It helps keep them warm. Also when wading don’t wear felt soles. Snow builds up on the bottom of your boot into a big ball. Wear the rubber soles to avoid this.

A great option for non-felt wading boots is Patagonia’s Tractor Boots featuring aluminum bars on the soles for traction on rocks and in muck. I wear these boots on the Garden River, they are fantastic.

Core

My next layer on the bottoms depends on temperature. If it’s below freezing I wear Patagonia’s Nano Puff pants or the Patagonia Snap T Fleece pants ,a very warm option as well. If it’s warmer I’ll wear just an average pair of wool or capilene pants. On the upper half of my body, after the baselayer, I move to all wool, usually a medium weight wool zip front crew, followed by a wool hoody and finally a Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. If it’s really cold I have a light weight wool hoody that I’ll add into the layers.

Wool and down are natures greatest insulators. Wool will keep you warm even when wet. The latest and greatest wool is Merino wool. It isn’t itchy when next to your skin, it’s very soft and comfortable. I buy almost anything that I need in wool if available.

One of Jon Ray’s new favorite items for those extremely cold days is the New Extreme Core Tops by Simms , the built in Ergonomic hood and integrated neck gaiter really keeps your upper body warm in the coldest of days.  I do not recommend this item if your going to do alot of winter walking though. It’s too warm of an item, great for long days in the boat only.  But if your breaking trail you will over heat.

Shell

The exterior layer has to protect me from two things, wind and rain/snow. There are a variety of bib/jacket combos that Hawkins Guides have tried through the years. Orvis, Simms and Patagonia all make a variety of insulated outfits that work. Personally, for the last five years I’ve been wearing Gill sailing bibs and my Simms heavier rain coat. I look at the exterior layer for wind rain protection not insulation, I’ve covered that underneath.

If you are wade fishing your waders and a good quality rain jacket will protect you from the elements.

Either way black clothing is best in a cold weather situation. It absorbs more heat and is less visible to fish than bright clothes.

On Top

On my head I wear a wool or synthetic beanie type hat on top of a normal billed hat so that my eyes have sun shield and my ears and head are kept warm. Then I can pull the aforementioned hoodys up over the beanie for additional warmth.

A Buff or some type of warm gator around your neck between your shirt and chin is very comfortable when its’ cold. It should be capable of being pulled up over you nose, nice when the wind blows!

Gloves

Finally, and the most difficult for me, is hands. Years ago, guiding an elk hunter I got very close to frost bite on

Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Hand warms are a must have on Winter Trips.

my hands. Since then they are more difficult to keep warm and pain free. I’ve tried every glove and glove combination I’ve seen for years and have come to the following solution. I were the best quality fingerless gloves I

can find, currently Simms Wool Gloves are my personal choice. Inside that glove I have a heater pack in each hand. In addition I have another heater pack in each coat pocket that I can hold in my hand when possible. Also a heater pack in your boots is a warm, comfortable thing on colder days.

I also carry a small towel to dry my hands that get wet from handling the line while fishing.

Side note, the fingerless gloves with the pocket flap are not good. You will lose fish when line warps around that flap. Finally a pair of thick mittens, I use ice fishing ones, can be put on when we are running from spot to spot to take the edge off when not fishing. The mittens are also good to have when wading. You can put them on during a break to help warm your hands.

Conclusion

Steelhead are a fantastic gamefish, beautiful, strong and a prize worth pursuing. You’ll enjoy the pursuit more if you are comfortable in a steelhead’s favorite weather, cold, wet, and miserable. With today’s modern materials there is no reason to be cold. Be prepared, you’ll be happy you are!

Capt Chuck Hawkins

 

 

 

 

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

Alaska Katmai Lodge

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!

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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

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 […]

Atlantic Salmon AuSable River

Atlantic Salmon fishing AuSable River

Atlantic Salmon in the AuSable River

Atlantic Salmon fishing AuSable River

Atlantic Salmon Fishing in the AuSable River

Atlantic salmon are one of the world’s most sought after and prized gamefish.  Fly fishing for salmon is now a fantastic and exciting late summer/early fall angling option for Hawkins Outfitters on the Lower AuSable River. Let us help you pursue these unique and aggressive (close relative to brown trout) fish while providing another high quality angling experience on new water. If you have ever wanted to see an Atlantic Salmon chase down and crush your streamer, or swing through a nice run and have your line come tight with the thrash of a nice fish, now you can.

AuSable River

Located at the terminal end of the fabled AuSable River, there lies a much different AuSable than the fabled Holy Water. This section of river is just outside of the towns Oscoda and AuSable. It is fishable from Foote Dam to the mouth at Lake Huron. Foote dam was constructed in 1918 and bears the name of Consumers founder, William A. Foote. It stops all migrating species. This section of the AuSable is stunningly beautiful. It boasts large scenic overlooks, slow meandering deep outside bends and nice gravels runs. Fly anglers dream about water  like this. This area along the lower river also provides primitive campgrounds, hiking trails and some walk in/wading access. Read more

Garden River Fishing Report

2017 Salmon Fishing Garden River Recap

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Garden River 2017 Recap

Fly fishing on the Garden River First Nation for King, Pink and Coho salmon, along with steelhead is the best in the Midwest. The reason is privacy, this section is private,owned by the Garden River First Nation, a band of Ojibway Natives. No one is fishing where we are! The lack of pressure makes the salmon more likely to eat a fly and the steelhead beyond willing!

The Garden River fly fishing in 2017 started with a run of very large pink salmon. Usually when we have larger than normal pink salmon the numbers of fish is less than normal. That was not true in 2017, it was huge run of pink salmon. Fresh fish continued to move up the Garden River until the end of September!

Weather Struggles

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Garden River Steelhead

The dominant characteristic of 2017 season was the lack of rain and high air temperatures. The last significant rainfall was in the week of Sept 10th. After that a couple of small thunderstorms was it. The rainfall in the week of Sept 10th brought a nice run of large king salmon upstream along with a nice surprise, steelhead! For the next 10 days or so we had great fishing with all species available.

The Garden River Fly Fishing was humming right along until mother nature threw us a curve ball, 5 straight days on 90 degree temps and a continued lack of rain. This shut off the fish tap and started reducing water levels. The fishing suffered accordingly. Most noticeable was the lack of steelhead.

Salmon and Steelhead

The day that the weather broke we had high temps in the low 60’s with clouds and drizzle all day. That brought in another small push of kings but not many steelhead. That gave us enough fish to finish our Garden River 2017 adventure.

Many thanks to all of the anglers that fished with us up north in 2017. All in all it was a pretty good year. Weather hurt us a little but didn’t kill us!

Most of the customers rebooked their spots so we have limited availability in 2018. We have Sept 8-10, 4 spots. This date may be reduced to two days as it is prime pink salmon time and great for kids. Call for details of reduced pricing for children. On Sept 20-22 we have 4 spots available. These are prime time for all species with historically steelhead start showing up. Available dates are subject to change. Learn more about the Garden River on our Travel page.

If you have any questions or want to book one of the remaining openings give Capt. Chuck a call at 231-228-7135 

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

In Northern Michigan, the larger mayfly  hatches are done around July fourth. That begins one of our favorite pastimes, summer fly fishing in Northern Michigan. Many anglers put away their rods when the Hex hatch is over thinking that the best fly fishing of the year is behind us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Summer fly fishing in Northern Michigan can produce many surprises!

Summer fly fishing in Michigan can be broken down into three categories, terrestrials, mousing, and warm water species. These three pursuits are all very different, consequently they attract anglers with different desires and skill levels.

Terrestrials

 

First of all, let’s talk terrestrial fishing, hoppers, beetles and ants! Because we fish primarily foam imitations of these insects it is some of the most aggressive dry fly fishing we do. Forget the classic dead drift! We animate these flies, make them move. We twitch, bump, pop and strip these critters to attract Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michiganattention to their presence. Due to the proximity to Traverse City we fish the Upper Manistee River mostly in and around the flies only water. In addition, we will fish the Pine River, the Lower Manistee and the Boardman Rivers with terrestrials also.

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Gray Drake

Gray Drake

Gray Drake

photo by Ann Miller

Gray Drake

Gray drakes are a very important hatch in some area rivers. Most notably the Pere Marquette and Muskegon Rivers though they occur in most of our trout streams.

Starting as early as mid May these size 10 or 12 mayflies are the first really big bug to show up. Gray Drakes spin at dusk generally in large numbers over riffles.

Gray Drakes are very easy to identify, the have a thin body and a very visable white stripe around the head.

Life Cycles

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Hex hatch

Hexagenia Limbata

The Hex Hatch The most highly anticipated may fly hatch in Michigan is the hex hatch. These large mayflies bring the largest fish in the river up to the surface to feed. Hexagenia Limbata is a floating filet mignon to a trout. Therefore the Hex Hatch, whether duns or spinners probably produces more large trout […]