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

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

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 […]

Manistee River steelhead fishing

Manistee River Steelhead Fishing

Manistee River steelhead fishing is some of the best steelhead fly fishing in the Great Lakes, maybe even the lower 48 states. Anglers from all over the country travel to Michigan for Manistee River steelhead fishing. The Manistee and other northwest lower Michigan rivers have steelhead in them from late September to well into May.

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 […]

orvis underwader pant review

Orvis Underwader Pant Review

Orvis Underwader Pant Review

orvis underwader pant

Orvis has recently produced an upgraded version of their Underwader Pants and I must say it is a significant upgrade! Boasting a dark charcoal color and chartreuse stitching these pants offer a comfortable contoured fit. The pants are very warm and will keep your pant legs from crawling up your legs as they easily slip into your waders. I also find the Underwader Pant great for lounging after a long day on the water or afield yet stylish enough to run my errands or grab a bite to eat on the way home.  Other features include two deep front pockets, zippered rear pocket, elastic waistband, and a drawstring to fine-tune your fit. Hands down my favorite under wader pant on the rack, TWO THUMBS UP!

manistee river fishing report

Manistee River Report & New Newsletter

  • Couple New Manistee River Fishing reports have been posted the past couple days.  Jon Ray and Ed McCoy have been out chasing winter steelhead.  The Manistee River is fishing well, with a good mixture of chrome hens and winter double stripped bucks.
  • New February Newsletter – new fly pattern for matching the salmon parr hatch this is about to occur.  This little guy matches the hatch, you don’t need to always throw big to catch nice trout.

manistee river fishing below tippy

Manistee River Brown Trout, Winter Trout Fishing

Manistee River and Fly Patterns Page

  • Couple new reports the past few days on the Manistee River and both Ed McCoy and myself had a chance to get out.  Water is still not that clean, so making fishing still a little more difficult than we like, but some nice fish are around.
  • 2016 Winter Project is to expand the Fly Patterns Page, so far have added the Triple Double and Mad Pup.  Look for this page to grow over the winter, as Ed McCoy, Russ Maddin, Chuck, and myself sit down and tie patterns that we can share.
  • Speaking of new Patterns the Flash Monkey is coming soon to Mangled Flies VOD page.  The Flash Monkey is a Russ Maddin pattern that has been a work in progress for the past 2 years.  This pattern has caught all the major predators pike, trout, salmon, and steelhead.