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Early Season Trout

Early Season Trout Fishing

Early Season Trout Fishing

When winter breaks and water temperatures start to warm it’s time to consider early season trout fishing.

Many anglers would ask, why?  They are steelhead in our rivers that will probably bite better than resident brown and brook trout. The reason is that if you are a big trout hunter early season provides one of the best opportunities of the year to score on a big ole wiley brown trout.

Why Now?

There are several reasons that I think Early Season Trout Fishing  provides one of the very best opportunities to land a significant trout in Michigan.

As the water temperatures increases so does the trouts metabolism. The urge to feed combined with the lack of insect activity creates an opportunity for an early season fisherman.

The fish haven’t seen a lot of angler pressure since fall. That makes them a little less wary and making mistakes more likely.

Water is usually still little high from spring runoff and will most likely still have more color. Makes it easier to pull bigger trout out of cover.

All of these reasons plus the lack of angler pressure and my motivation to get out and fly cast to resident fish makes this one of my favorite seasons in Michigan.

Water Temperatures

Water temperatures play a big role in early season trout fishing.

When the temps are below 40 degrees we don’t usually see the biggest browns but we do get those mid to upper teen fish that always make for a good day.

When the temps go above 40 degrees, this time of year will often produce a few really big fish for those willing to go on the hunt.

Once the water hits 40 degrees I’m looking for those big game anglers that can take the risk and go hunt those browns that we never forget.

How to early season trout fish in Michigan

Here are three tactics you can use for early season trout fishing success.

Streamers

First and foremost the best method for early season success is streamer fishing. Streamers are a great tool for searching out and engaging aggressive fish. After a long cold winter trout will be on the search for food even while water temps are still on the cold side. Look for trout to sit in areas with darker bottoms trying to absorb any sort of thermal relief from their surroundings.

Early Season Trout

Streamer Fishing for Brown Trout

It’s not uncommon for trout so sit in really shallow water during the colder periods of the day. So if your wading or using a drift boat, make sure to pay attention to the bottom. We have seen trout in less than a foot of water on several occasions.

Chasing early season trout with a streamer is not a numbers game and we usually don’t find a lot of giants early either, but a common trout at this time on the Upper Manistee is 14-18”.  It seems as this size class of trout is the most active during the early season.  Make sure to have a combination of conehead or dumbbell streamer patterns and fish them with a slow jigging action around structure.  The Hawkins Little Racal is a great place to start.

Dry Fly

While one of the hardest methods during the early season is Dry Fly fishing, it can be possible and very rewarding. With the largest BWO hatches of the season occurring in the early spring, along with little black stones and plenty of midges, there is always a chance of some trout surface activity on any given day the bugs show up. Now midges work best in the tailwaters like below Tippy Dam. You can have a fun few hours in the afternoon midging for trout on bright sunny days on  tailwater sections or on a cloudy day when the BWO hatches show up in numbers.

Normally during the Early Season we carry two separate rods, one rigged with my streamer set up and one with an Floating Line set up. As we are drifting down the river, look for bug activity on the water and active fish feeding. On most days during the early season it is typical to only see a few heads rising per day within very short windows of activity on the surface. But if you capitalize on your opportunities it can be great fun.

The little black stone is probably my favorite early season bug.  The Stonefly loves to lay it’s eggs in a fluttering almost tantalizing manner. Flying just above waters surface and even in the film of the current, the little black stones can cause some pretty explosive eats by trout. This doesn’t happen every day, but having the rod rigged and ready for action has brought a few nice early season trout to hand.

Nymphing

This little dirty word doesn’t come up too many times when you think about trout fishing in Michigan, but spring time can be a great time to get out the nymphing gear.  If I have to be honest here, nymphing is not in our every day program and while we tend to push the nymphing game on our migratory streams, nymphing for trout is often ignored. Nymphing for trout behind

Early Season Trout

Trout Nymphs

spawning steelhead or spawning suckers can be great fun. With Spring Steelhead in the peak of their spawning run trout will gorge on eggs and dislodged nymphs behind active spawning areas. While we are big on letting steelhead spawn, fishing the dark water for trout can be very productive, especially on the Pere Marquette River where this has been a staple of the spring program for years.

Now if your thinking about nymphing for trout above the tailwater’s be ready to lose a few nymphs to all the wood that lines our Northern Michigan trout streams. With the amount of wood around keep your nymphs selection simple. Don’t spend lots of time either tying or buying elaborate nymph imitations. Instead try running nymphs like Pat’s Rubber Legs and smaller Squirmy Worms, espically in tandem with a small bead head pheasant tail or hares ear and you will do just fine.

When trout are not chasing streamers or conditions are not right for the bugs to hatch, trout will have to eat something.  Nymphing the runs can be the most productive technique for the utterly slow times on the water.  Here is an early season trout tip: while nymphing, focus on the gravel areas more than the deep sandy pits as aquatic life in the gravel runs is more active earlier in the season.

Where

Many of our best rivers like the Manistee, Pere Marquette and AuSable River’s are open all year so that’s a good place to start. A favorite of mine is to hunt big trout with streamers in water that also has steelhead present like the Manistee River below Tippy Dam. That gives you two bites of the apple because steelhead, especially drop backs, will eat streamers. Many times I’ve scored both on big browns and steelhead fishing streamers in the same day.

If you are motivated to get out and cast a fly line and looking for some excitement give Cherie a call at 231-228-7135. I’m sure any of the Hawkins guides would love to chase trophies with you.

Tight lines,

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

 

 

Huron Manistee Forest

No Alcohol in the Huron-Manistee Forest

Huron Manistee Forest

Huron Manistee National Forest

Update to the story

The US Forest Service has decided to not implement the ban in 2019 but instead has agreed to let local authorities address the problem in 2019. They have reserved the right to implement it in 2020. It seems obvious that they have bowed to pressure from the merchants.

Capt. Chuck

No Alcohol

Alcohol is no longer permitted on parts of three of our favorite rivers in Northern Michigan.  All are within the Huron-Manistee Forest. This new policy affects the National Wild and Scenic River sections of the AuSable, Manistee, and Pine rivers.

The Huron-Manistee National Forests announced the decision recently.

“This closure order is intended to address persistent public safety issues and protect natural resources on rivers of outstanding recreational value,” said Huron-Manistee National Forests Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo.

“Our goal is to create a safer, more sustainable, and more enjoyable experience for the thousands of visitors who recreate on our National Wild and Scenic Rivers each year.”

Rivers

In Norther Michigan the AuSable National Wild and Scenic River begins below Mio Pond and extends to the upper end of Alcona Pond. It makes up 23 miles of the 138-mile waterway that runs through Northern Michigan and enters Lake Huron.

The Manistee and Pine National Wild and Scenic Rivers are each 26 miles with the Manistee section running from Tippy Dam to the M-55 Bridge.

This order will remain in effect throughout the summer recreation season, which runs from May 24 to September 2.

Specifically, it will apply on and within 200 feet of the:

· AuSable River between Mio Dam Pond and 4001 Canoe Landing
· Manistee River between Tippy Dam and the Huron-Manistee National Forests’ administrative boundary (map)
· Pine River between Elm Flats and Low Bridge.

Private lands, developed campgrounds, and designated campsites within those river corridors will not be affected. Violation of the order is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

Fishing

This will not effect the fishing, should only make the weekend experience even greater with some of the silliness now being eliminated.  While we all enjoy a few cold ones from time to time, please keep this in mind this summer and save yourself a hefty fine.

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line – Product Review

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

The SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line is a specialty line for those that enjoy the pursuit of big brown trout in the dark.  I have been fortunate to use this fly line guiding since it’s release.   Scientific Anglers is based in Midland, Mi.  This glow line was tested by the pros on the AuSable and Manistee Rivers.  This is home of some of the best night time fisherman in the country.  Michigan has had a long history of night fishing because of some of our mayfly hatches. Some believe mousing was actually created by anglers in Michigan.

Better Dead Drifts

The SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line main goal is to help anglers achieve a better dead drift.  One of the secrets to hooking big brown trout is having a perfect drift.  Big browns are big for one reason, they are wary.  One of the most difficult things about fishing in the dark, is knowing what your fly is doing.  The SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line is charged with a headlamp or small UV light. You  actually see what your line is doing. This works even in some of the darkest corners where the big trout live. 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

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

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