Fly patterns from Chuck Hawkins, Jon Ray, Ed McCoy and Russ Maddin. The patterns that catch fish.

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

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.

When

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.

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

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.

Methods

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

Southwest Michigan Steelhead

Assortment of steelhead Swing Patterns

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.

Tight Lines,
Steve Pels

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

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

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 […]

Isonychia

Isonychia bicolor Dun – Slate Drake

Isonychias, are the best mayfly for anglers in Michigan! In Michigan, and elsewhere, the Isonychia mayfly provides the best dry fly opportunities of the year. That’s heresy to many in fly anglers in Michigan, who would argue vehemently that the mighty Hex beats Isonychias hands down. Isonychias are the best mayfly in Michigan for many […]

Sulphur Dun

Sulphur Hatch

Sulphur Hatch

Sulphur Hatch

Many anglers that I know in Northern Michigan consider the Sulphur hatch to be the very best hatch of the year. It is a fairly long and usually very prolific hatch. It can last as long as a month in northern Michigan. Due to the usually large numbers of bugs, Sulphurs will produce some very large fish for the size of the dry fly.

There are two Sulphurs, the Ephemerella  invaria and the dorothea. The first to hatch the invaria is a size 12-14 and the next bug, dorothea is a size 16-18. Don’t worry, that’s the last of the Latin!

What you really need to know about sulphurs follows. It is good to carry Sulphurs from size 12 to 18. I’m a big fan of the Robert’s Yellow Drake pattern and use it primarily for my sulphur imitation. I carry it in all four sizes. Hatch times vary by bug and weather Sulphur Dunbut look for them anytime from mid afternoon until dark for the little guys. Fish can get very selective on these flies. At times you may encounter duns of one size hatching and spinners of another size falling at the same time. They can also get focused on emergers of any size. Close observation is key here.

Speaking of spinners, they are a different color than the duns. Instead of the sulphur yellow they spin having changed to a tannish to rusty color. So again you need to have three or four sizes of rusty spinners. Sulphurs will spin over riffles very late in the day, even at dark.

To effectively fish the Sulphur hatch a fly angler should have emergers, duns and spinners in at least two sizes, 14 and 18. It is better to carry them in all four sizes, 12-18 if possible. You should be on the water by 3:00 pm and stay until close to dark.  You need to be very observant because this time of year is generally the most complex time of year hatch wise. In addition to all of the sulphurs there are many other mayflies that may be present.

Good luck, see you on the water.

Hawk

steelhead flies

Top 5 Spring Steelhead Flies

Top Five Spring Steelhead Flies Most fly anglers eagerly await the start of the spring steelhead run. In this blog post I want to point out what I believe are the top five spring steelhead flies and when to use them. Any list of the top five steelhead flies for spring or for anytime has […]

streamer fishing

Upcoming Fly Tying Demo’s

Scientific Anglers Muskie

Any questions about location or time, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to let you know more details.  Also feel free to call the shops, as they can explain the layout of each event a little bit more in detail.

We continue to work on the site, as you will see in the main navigation there has been a new tab added.  FLY PATTERNS, we are trying to make the navigation easier and have added three sub categories.  New patterns are being photographed and filmed now, we have added only 4 patterns so far, but new ones are on the way.  Check out the layout and let us know if you have any thoughts.

Thank you

dragon fly

Dragonfly Hatch

dragon fly hatch

Dragonfly Hatch

Tips and Techniques for fly fishing in Patagonia!

 

On my recent tip to Rio Manso Lodge in Patagonia near San Carlos de Bariloche, I had some eye opening experiences. I learned a lot about the dragonfly hatch. I learned some tips and techniques from the guides there that showed me ways to catch trout unlike anything I’ve seen in Michigan. Fishing the dragonfly hatch in Patagonia will blow your mind!

 

Those of you that know me realize that I’m an unapologetic streamer junky. If I go fishing I throw streamers unless I see good fish rising to dry flies. Fly fishing in Patagonia I’ve always brought my streamer staples, Nutcrackers, Hat Tricks, Triple Doubles and Lapdancers. These streamers, along with some simpler, bugger kind of stuff, has yielded me many large fish all over Patagonia.

 

On this, my most recent trip to Fly fish in Patagonia, dry flies were king. We left Michigan a couple days after Christmas on the advice of John Bleh. He’s the marketing director for Rio Manso Lodge near Bariloche. John advised that we would hit the dragonfly hatch. This hatch is like having an all day hex hatch. We caught brookies to 22 inches, rainbows to 24 and brown trout to 25 inches.

 

Fishing dragonflies is different then most other dry fly fishing I’ve done. The dragonflies are hatching mostly near the reed beds so that’s were the majority of the action happened. We were fishing mostly 2X, 9 foot leaders. You would cast as close to or even into the reed areas and twitch the fly. If you were in the reeds a very light touch would allow you to work the fly through the reeds and clear it before casting again. If you pulled you hooked the reeds, which were very unforgiving, you had to row in to retreive your fly. That alerted the fish to your presence and “blew” that area for awhile.

 

The other different thing to learn was the set. Most of the time the fish blew up on the dragonfly imitation, many times going straight up in the air with it in their mouths. So you set on fish flying through the air. A different method, but very cool.

 

It’s hard to describe the excitement of the dragonfly hatch and its importance in fly fishing Patagonia. One of the best patterns was a staple in our boxes here in Michigan, it’s our Damsel Pattern (see video below) , invented by Jon Ray. In this video I will show you how to tie this dragon fly, damsel fly pattern. We tie it in three colors, black, blue and green. The black variation was dynamite for the dragonfly hatch recently.

 

If you love dry fly fishing, big trout and explosive takes, fly fishing in Patagonia for the dragonfly hatch is for you. Join us next year!

 

Hawk