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Stripping Streamers

Streamer Stripping Helpful Tips

Stripping Streamers

Stripping Streamers for Brown Trout

How many times have you heard the phrase “don’t stop moving your streamer”, when streamer fishing?  It’s an interesting phrase and there is it a lot of truth to it for a lot of situations.  However, there are always “exceptions to the rule” as multiple other scenarios might play out in your fly fishing career where you’re going to want to stop moving the fly to have success.

Spring streamer fishing season in Northern Michigan is just around the corner so let’s dive into some of the situations that might play out for you while stripping streamers on Michigan Rivers.  Like most things in fly fishing, there’s always an exception to the rule. No matter how rare the exception, a fly fisherman should always be willing to experiment when traditional tactics aren’t producing.

Now let’s break down the “don’t stop moving your streamer” phrase based on species. To be a really good streamer fisherman you need to have a well rounded streamer game.  Meaning you better be able to fish for multiple species, i.e you want to become the Bo Jackson of fly anglers.  Trust me, having as many experiences as possible is going to make you a better angler even if the only thing you want to catch is Brown Trout.

Trout

Trout especially, Brown Trout, are prime targets to a streamer presentation.  During the spring one of the most important factors to pay attention to is water temperature.  For example, if water temps are still in the 30’s stopping your streamer pattern can be really effective.  I’ve had some of my best streamer days on cold rainy days while barely moving the fly, almost vertically jigging the fly back to the boat. Keep in mind how water temps can affect trout behavior and then change your presentation to match the conditions.  When jigging the fly it’s important to stay in contact with your presentation as the bites are usually soft.  Make sure to maintain control of your slack line and keep your rod tip low when not moving the fly.  Use flies like Russ Maddin’s Circus Peanut or a variety of conehead patterns that sink faster.  I really like Tungsten cones in this situation as they sink really fast.

Another factor to keep in mind when stripping your streamer is the kill shot.  Brown trout love to swirl or hit your fly on the constant-strip retrieve.  Having the ability to stop after the swirl can lead to success . One our Hawkins Outfitters Guide, Jeff Topp likes to say;

If a trout misses the bait for sure pause it/stop the fly.  If you see them swiping at it half heartedly trying to “kill it” and if they don’t bite it on the stop they will most likely eat it when the fly takes off again. Trout will bite on a steady retrieve but the twitch and pause seems to bring more bites for me.

As with most predators Brown Trout are keying in on the weak and helpless.  in other words don’t be the fastest minnow in the group.  Stopping your fly on occasion near structure or even in the middle of your retrieve can bring you surprising results.  An example of this can be observed with how native baitfish move in their environment.  Sculpins often tend to use a few quick bursts to propel themselves several feet and then they’ll quickly settle to the stream bottom and remain motionless. Fly anglers should keep this in mind when they’re fishing sculpin patterns.  Don’t be afraid to stop your sculpin pattern! Read more

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

 

 

 

 

Manistee River Trout fishing

Fishing Foam Patterns

Fishing Foam Patterns Fishing Foam Patterns during the middle of the summer is pretty standard because there is less natural aquatic insects hatching.  Trout are keying in on terrestrials, like grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.  While simply throwing out a foam pattern into the river will work, their are a few techniques and tips that we […]

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

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.

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

Spring 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 […]