Pine River – Secret Trout Water

Spring Steelhead – Times have Changed

Spring Steelhead, Times have changed!

Timing of our fishing opportunities has been changing the last few years. Is it global warming or just a cyclical change, we don’t know. There is however no doubt that things are different than in past years. One example is spring steelhead.

For the past few years, the spring steelhead run has been arriving earlier than we would consider our historic normal.  The February fishing on the Manistee River has been consistently very productive the last few years.  Our winters have been much milder and drier than years ago. Sure, its Northern Michigan and we do still have our share of cold spells, but there seems to be more warmups throughout the winter.  Each of these bumps in temperature will also bump up river flows and bring fresh fish in from the lake. This coupled with respectable numbers of fall and early winter holdover fish has made for good steelhead populations earlier in the season. February has become the new March, with far less angling pressure.

March has perhaps been the most consistent month of our spring steelhead season.  Numbers of pre-spawn steelhead in the river are typically very strong and spread throughout the entire river system.  Weather also is typically more consistent than February. February, while offering some great fishing, can have tough weather days and cold snaps. However, this nicer weather does generally mean an uptick in angling pressure. Another advantage to February steelhead fishing is that we offer half-day trips, the only time of year that we do that.

April is still a very viable month to target steelhead as well, though the fishing the past several years has become less consistent.  Last year we had some very good fishing in April, but the April of 2021 was tough.  It is best to be adaptable this time of year, and we are luckier than most to have a plethora of options up here.  The mild weather and warmer temps have led to some dynamite, early season streamer fishing for resident trout. There are miles and miles of productive trout water, most of which takes us out of the busier migratory fish sections.

With warmer temperatures in February, both air and water we can target this great gamefish with all our preferred fly-fishing methods. This includes bottom bouncing, indicator fishing and swinging flies. February is particularly productive due to the lack of traffic on the river. When booking February dates the reservation is weather dependent, if it’s too cold, windy or just uncomfortable we will cancel.

Give Chris or Chuck a call at 231-228-7135 and some spring dates in the book

Hawkins Outfitters Puerto Rico-Tarpon

Fly fishing for tarpon in Puerto Rico

I had my first experience fly fishing for tarpon in Puerto Rico with Zach, Jay and Steve. The tarpon came in all sizes on many different flies. All anglers landed fish with several in the 80-110 weight range. This was an urban fishing environment, while the area was pretty we were in the City of San Juan with the related noise pollution etc. However the sheer number of fish made that perfectly acceptable!

Flies were all over the board with black variation form two inches to 8 inches producing the most action. All of our fishing was with floating lines on 8-9 weight rods. We would start early morning then break mid day for a siesta then hit it again mid afternoon on.

Along with great fishing  we enjoyed superb dining, easy flights and great people.

I think fly fishing for tarpon in Puerto Rico should be enjoyed by many, it’s the best tarpon fly fishing I’ve ever seen. Also it’s a spouse friendly destination if a non-angler wants to join you. In 2022 I’ll be hosting two or three, three day trips. I’m already in the process of setting this up, I’ll keep you posted!

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

Grand Traverse Bay Fishing Report for 6.9.20

Grand Traverse Bay Fishing Report

June 9, 2020

After a slow and cold start to the spring many fishing opportunities on Grand Traverse Bay are starting to materialize. The water is beginning to warm and Lake Trout and Cisco have moved into many of the rocky shallow shorelines of the bay. These fish are congregated in 10-20 feet of water and offer the a great fishing opportunity to either the fly or conventional angler. Both species are ferocious feeders and when found, can be caught regularly. Flies or lures in tan, gold, and silver imitating small baitfish and crayfish are the ticket at this point. We are using 7-8 weight fly rods and 250-300 grain 25′ sink tips to get down to these fish.
Surface temps in much of the bay are climbing into the upper 50’s. We are on the very front edge of Smallmouth Bass and Carp fishing. As the water continues to warm we are out every day looking for bass and carp to slide up into the shallow flats where they can be targeted with a fly.
I fished yesterday with a father and son from Grand Rapids. We started the morning fishing for Cisco and Lake Trout. We had great action throughout the morning, landing several nice fish of each species. As the day progressed we turned our efforts to Smallmouth Bass.  Grand Traverse Bay is well known as a world class smallmouth fishery, specifically for very large bass. Bass in the 5-6 pound range are not uncommon. The fishing was tough as the water is still a little cold. However, we did manage to land a very nice Northern Pike on the fly.
Check back for regular fishing reports on the bay. As the water warms we are looking forward to fantastic Smallmouth Bass and Carp opportunities in the coming weeks.
We are the only northern Michigan Fly Fishing outfitter to have  custom boats dedicated to fishing waters of the Great Lakes. We are running a custom 24 foot and a 20 foot Young Boats. Grand Traverse Bay is big water, having  boats of this caliber allows us the speed, comfort, and safety to be able to offer fishing opportunities others can not. Our boats are DNR inspected, USCG licensed and fully insured to operate on the waters of the Great Lakes. Captain David holds a U.S.C.G. 25 ton Master Captains license is very experienced running boats on the big water.  Chuck Hawkins is also a Coast Guard Captain and is a very experienced fly angler that lives overlooking the bay. Either of these Captains can put you in position to enjoy the world class misery of Grand Traverse Bay.
Give Cherie a call at 231-228-7135 to check availability!
Dave Tropf

Cold Weather Gear for Steelhead Fishing


The recent drop in temperatures has us fishing everyday in very cold temperatures. That’s the life of a fly fishing guide. We fish in all kinds of weather. Yesterday when we got in the boat it was 17 degrees, clear, and no wind. Cold indeed.


Last year my wife bought me a new base layer , Patagonia’s Capilene Air Crew Base layer. A combination of Capalene and Merino Wool. It is seamless, has a 3-D knit structure that produces the most amazing warmth and comfort. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable against the skin. It is truly an innovation!


At $129 retail it isn’t the least expensive base layer that you’ve bought but I’m telling you it is the the most comfortable and warmest I’ve worn.


Capt. Chuck Hawkins