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

 

 

 

 

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

dragon fly hatch

Argentina Anticipation

Argentina Anticipation

Very often during this time of year I find myself anticipating my annual trek to Argentina. I go to Patagonia every year to fish for Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout in lakes, rivers and spring creeks. We base out of Spring Creek Lodge near Junin de los Andes. Most trips also include a short camping trip to access waters that can’t be floated in one day. We usually fish dries (with or without droppers) and streamers. Depending on the water you fish one or the other may be more productive. Fishing also varies with the time of year, trout season opens November 1st and closes May 1st. Remember, the seasons are reversed, November is spring, April is fall.

Some years I also go to northern Argentina to fish for Golden Dorado on the Parana River. Both locations are among my favorite places in the world to fish. At both locations the Argentina experience is the full package, the fishing, people, food, wine, guides and equipment are all top shelf. Every need will be met and most likely exceeded!

In 2019 we have two hosted trips, one to each location. Jon Ray and Ed McCoy are hosting a group at Parana on the Fly, January 5-12, 2019. They have one spot available. The cost is $4750 for 6 days, seven nights all inclusive except travel and gratuities. I’m hosting a trout trip to Patagonia with Andes Drifters from December 29, 2018 to January 5-7, 2019. The dates are flexible you just need a minimum of 7 nights. The cost is $5250 all inclusive except travel and gratuities. This is super prime time for dry fly fishing, especially the dragonfly hatch. Big fish eating on the surface during the day! I have two spots left!

Watch this short video on trout fishing in Patagonia. It will wet your appetite.

If you want more information on these two opportunities give me a call at 231-228-7135

Northern Patagonia Best Trout Fishing from Andes Drifters on Vimeo.

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska, the last frontier!

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Alaska. The first week I spent chasing rainbows, Arctic char, silver, pink and chum salmon. We were  at Angry Eagle Lodge with Hawkins Guide, Jeff Topp, General Manager, Derek Boschma, and Owner, Andy Miller along with several long time Hawkins Outfitters friends.

The Fishing

We caught all of the above species on egg patterns, swung flies and top water wogs. My two best fish were a 25+ inch rainbow (think steelhead) that I caught on aAlaska Trip 2018 swung fly and had to wrestle out of a log jam! The second was actually multiple silver salmon that ate top water wogs (think poppers) with reckless abandon. It was epic! In addition to fantastic fishing we had great bear viewing! The bears were enjoying nature’s bounty and seemed to care less that we were around.

The Lodge

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Manistee River Trout Fishing, Night Fishing, Mousing, Midnight Creeper, Frogs

Transitioning to Fall

Transition to Fall Fishing

August is the time that we transition to fall fishing. Towards the end of August, we start to wean ourselves off terrestrials, mousing and smallmouth and begin to think migratory fish, salmon, steelhead, and muskie. Between now and then our focus remains on resident trout and smallmouth bass.

Pine River

August and September is prime time for the Pine River, Lower Michigan’s most unique river. Cold, fast and the lower peninsula’s most prolific rainbow trout fishery, the Pine River is a blast to fish.  In summer the Pine fishes very well with foam hopper creations. As the water begins to cool in early fall the streamer bite can explode. Fishing smaller offerings that are heavily weighted in natural colors. If you streamer junkies are looking for one more streamer excursion before switching to migratory fish, the Pine River should be in your sights. We don’t have a lot of days available in August and September but check with Cherie to see what’s available.

Streamers for Kings

By the end of August King Salmon are in our rivers in good numbers. This is streamer time for these fresh brutes. While rarely a numbers game, the pull from a fresh king slamming your tight line offering is something you’ll never forget. Throwing streamers in low light then switching to smallmouth is a fun day on the water. If you want to give this a try make sure to have plenty of Flash Monkey’s tied up.

As we move into September Kings and Muskie take center stage. Steve and Tim generally have available days for king salmon fishing below Tippy Dam. This is a great venue for beginning anglers and kids. Lots of action sight fishing for big fish.

Garden River Salmon

Garden River fishing report

If it’s salmon you are looking for the Garden River in Sault St Marie, Canada, is a special place. This is private water owned by the Garden River First Nation. I’m there usually there from around September 10th to the end of
the month. The earlier dates are perfect for children and beginners as most of the fish will be pink salmon. There will 100’s of them and they are fun to catch. We offer a two-day special, one adult and one child for $1000. The later dates are when in addition to kings, we start to hunt cohos and steelhead. These trips are three days and run $995

Muskie Fishing

If muskie fishing intrigues you Jon Ray and Ed McCoy have a September venue that they fish every year. The area is in Michigan but shall remain unnamed unless you have a serious interest in capturing one of these elusive, apex predators! Contact us about open dates and more information.

Manistee River Fall Steelhead

Finally, a quick reminder, fall steelhead is the highest demand time of year at Hawkins Outfitters. Jon, Ed, Jeff and I might have a few days available, but not many. Our newest team members, Steve and Tim have days available. If interested give us a call to check availability and then get some days in the calendar.

Years ago, Kirk Deeter stated in Field and Stream Magazine that Michigan is the best state in the union to fly fish mainly due to the great fly fishing for a huge diversity of species. The transition to fall fishing is the epitome of that. Trout, smallmouth, muskie, salmon, and steelhead. So many fish, so little time!

Give Cherie a call to book any of this at 231-228-7135

Tight lines,

Capt. Chuck

Manistee River Trout fishing

Fishing Foam Patterns

Fishing Foam Patterns Fishing Foam Patterns during the middle of the summer is pretty standard because there are 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, there are a few techniques and tips that we […]

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

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 for Grand Traverse Bay

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 and When

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 to Catch Smallmouth and Carp in Grand Traverse Bay

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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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