The Hex Hatch The most highly anticipated may fly hatch in Michigan is the hex hatch. These big mayflies bring the largest fish in the river up to the surface to feed. Hexagenia Limbata is a floating filet mignon to a trout. Therefore the Hex Hatch, whether duns or spinners probably produces more large trout […]
Fly Tying and Patterns, what separates your ability to catch fish on a daily basis. Learn from some of the best fly tiers in the Midwest. From Chuck Hawkins Nutcracker, to Russ Maddin Circus Peanut. Hawkins Outfitters guides share their knowledge on how to tie the perfect streamer or dry fly.
New Drakes, Iysonychia, and Hex Patterns
I am excited to announce a new partnership with Montana Fly Company and myself. I have recently released several new dry fly patterns from my arsenal. They are now available through Montana Fly Company this year. It’s been a while since I have put anything new out there. The flies that are included in the two series I have released are mainstays in my arsenal. They are for the Isonychia, Brown Drake, and Hex hatches and have provided countless memories for our customers. The flies are all foam based Mayfly patterns designed to imitate the Isonychia, Brown Drake, and Hexegenia species. You can fish them all day with some realism and an impressionistic silhouette fish can’t resist.
Here is a breakdown of the flies that are now available through MFC:
McCoy’s All Day Dun, Isonychia
The Isonychia hatch is one of our best and most lengthy hatches of the season. This fly is designed, much like the name, to be fished all day! It has a very realistic profile and is a great fly to fish over rising fish. This is also a great searching pattern throughout the day with or without actual bugs on the water. This one is a must have!!
McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner, Isonychia
This fly just looks crazy on the water! Like the name, the Boondoggle Isonychia has a “fishy” profile and just flat out hunts . It often creates some chaotic moments of intense excitement. This fly is more of a searching pattern that has a silhouette that will get the fish looking up with or without bugs on the water. Once the Iso hatch gets started, the fish are always looking for it.
McCoy’s All Day Dun, Brown Drake
Brown Drakes on our home water of the Manistee are often a complicated puzzle, often leaving you scratching your head. We commonly refer to this hatch as the “Great Houdini” hatch as it can disappear for days and then suddenly reappear in epic fashion. This fly fishes great with bugs on the water, but I will do just as well fishing it blind during the Brown Drake season. This fly was designed to be fished blind or over rising fish. It fishes well even during the rare daytime emergence that we will commonly see a few times each season. This is also a great pattern during the spinner fall especially on the cooler evenings when they spin early.
McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner, Brown Drake
Like the Isonychia version of this fly it has a very fishy appeal to it. I have fished it during both the daytime emergence and more typical evening timeframes and have had success with it in both situations. With the white calf tail wings it is easy to track in the low light periods and floats like a cork! It gives me all the confidence knowing my fly is still fishing even when I really can’t see it.
McCoy’s All Day Dun, Hex
The Hex hatch is truly the busiest time of year on our waters. I wanted a fly that I could fish that was different from anything else. I wanted a fly that would work during the day and night, but more importantly when it was bright and no bugs to be seen. This has been my best daytime Hex pattern for a while now. When you get a rare, but not too uncommon daytime emergence, yeah…..this is the one!
McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner, Hex
The Hex version of this series is where the template all started for me. The original versions were getting smashed in the evenings well before the hatch would start and then again after the bugs disappeared while fishing blind and hunting for sipping fish in the dark. I love this fly, it just flat out hunts!! It was so good over a broad spectrum of circumstances that I had to have it for the Iso and Drake hatches as well. Thus began the evolution of this series.
Check with your local fly shop for availability. If you can’t find it drop us a line and we will help to get these patterns in your hands. Look for more to be coming out in the near future as I have expanded on some old favorites and I am constantly tweeking new stuff and expanding on my boxes. Good luck fishing this season and I am looking forward to the upcoming trout season and some summer like weather!
Top Five Spring Steelhead Flies Many fly anglers eagerly await the start of the spring steelhead run. In this blog post I will point out what I believe are the top five spring steelhead flies. I will show you how to tie them and explain when to use them. Any list of the top five […]
Last spring, I was fishing below Tippy Dam throwing streamers for trout. There were lots of bank anglers fishing spawn sacks and a lot of heavy pressure from boat anglers. The trout were refusing most of our offerings of big streamers and we hadn’t had any steelhead activity. It was a sunny day which usually spells tough times in Michigan trout fishing. That’s just what we were having. As white is a go-to color in sun and olive and white is the most productive color combination that I’ve experienced, I tied on two Little Rascals in those colors for my clients to change things up. Fifteen minutes later we had landed a gorgeous steelhead that darted out from a mid-stream logjam and devoured the fly. Shortly after that we landed that a 4.5 pound brown trout. A star was born.
How come a smaller streamer worked for big fish when big streamers usually get the job done? At Hawkins Outfitters, we fish streamers almost everyday in early and late season because they do catch big fish. Along with my pattern, the Nutcracker, we throw a lot of large streamers that entice big predator fish. But, those same large trout and steelhead see a lot of big streamers and, I believe, grow wary of the same big patterns they see over and over again. Even the best big pattern can start to produce fewer fish if fished too much or too often.
Trout key on different sizes and profiles. Some days it’s four inch sculpins, other times it’s smaller leech or lamprey profiles. That’s why I created the Hawkins Little Rascal. It’s a smaller, slimmer pattern, that imitates leeches and lampreys well. Plus, it has a great, lively movement and action in the water. I tie the tail with rabbit strip to get that movement that trout love. Combine that with the conehead and you get that all-important jigging movement that predator fish often can’t pass up. Plus the conehead gets the fly down better in deeper and heavier water.
We don’t just fish Little Rascals in the spring. You’ll find that you’ll have luck with them year round. You’ll get the best results if you vary retrieves and colors depending on water temps and sky color. When fishing colder water, use a slower retrieve than you would fishing warmer water. The fish’s metabolism is down and the fish themselves are slower at these times and will travel less distance to feed. If your streamer is retrieved more slowly, the fish will see it better and be able to strike. As the water warms, you can quicken your retrieve.
As far as color goes: on dark days use dark colors and on bright days use bright colors. However, there are a couple times that the Little Rascal is a good imitation for a natural food source. In spring there are two food sources, lampreys and salmon fry that can be imitated by a Little Rascal. When you start seeing lampreys on the trout you are catching try a black Little Rascal on cloudy days. I’ve had some great success doing this. When fishing where salmon and steelhead hatch try a small white Little Rascal, it works well. You can fish the Little Rascal in any water conditions except when the water is extremely dirty. Then, you’ll want to stick with a larger streamer. You can also use it for just about any freshwater species. I’ve caught brown, rainbow and brook trout; king, pink and Coho salmon; plus small and large mouth bass on the pattern just this year alone.
Little Rascal 2.0
One of the fun things about owning Hawkins Outfitters is hanging around and trading information amongst the Hawkins Guides. Jon Ray, Ed McCoy, Jeff Topp, Russ Madden, and Steve Pels are some of the fishiest guys I’ve ever known. We constantly exchange information, fish locations, new patterns and techniques etc are community property.
The Little Rascal 2.0 is a result of that sharing. As new materials come along or different tying techniques are learned it is a good thing to look back at some of our patterns. Jon Ray did just that with an old standby of mine, the Little Rascal. What he created we now call the Little Rascal 2.0.
Jon made two big changes to the fly. First he added a vertical mono loop in the rabbit tail to reduce the instance of the tail fouling around the hook. This is a dynamite idea that will be incorporated into all of my rabbit tail flies in the future. The second addition is a dubbing brush palmered up the body along with the original rabbit strip. You know Jon Ray he loves flash!
These two changes are fantastic additions that create a better fly. Less tail wrapping on the hook and a bulkier body with more flash makes this good fly even better. Thank you Jon Ray.
Watch the video blow to see how to implement these changes and tie yourself some 2.0s!!
Captain Chuck Hawkins
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 […]
Chuck Hawkins and Russ Maddin featured in a new book, America’s Favorite Flies
This is a new book, America’s Favorite Flies. It showcases 224 favorite flies from such notables as Yvon Chouinard, Lefty Kreh, Joan Wulff, Craig Mathew, Huey Lewis and others including Russ and I. All of the profits are given to two nonprofit organizations. They are the Native Fish Society and the James River Association.
America’s favorite Flies is fun to read. In addition to Russ and I, I’ve seen other Michigan anglers featured. John Kluging and Dennis Potter are in the book. Each fly tier answered some questions and did a write up about themselves and or the fly the called their favorite fly. I’ve enjoyed both the stories and the photos, I’m sure you will too . There is also a ton of artwork by well know artists including Dave Ruimveld, Bob White and others. This is a substantial book, 656 pages, 1700 color images, it weighs 7 1/2 pounds! It is is a great coffee table book for the avid fly angler! You can get more information about it at American’s Favorite Flies.
How to Purchase America’s Favorite Flies
America’s Favorite Flies is available for sale for $145, shipping included, directly from the printer. It may be purchased by emailing me at email@example.com or by calling 231-228-7135. If you would like Russ and I to sign it, we will be happy to! Just add $10 to the price to cover the extra shipping.
As Jason Borger says in the introduction “These pages represent the diverse fly patterns of a diverse group of anglers,but more than that these pages celebrate experiences and revere waters. With an underlying mission of preservation and conservation, America’s Favorite Flies is a visually engaging storybook for all fly fishers who share such ideals”
Many thanks to John Bryan and Rob Carter for inviting Russ and I to participate and for creating such a beautiful book.
Isonychias, are the best mayfly for anglers in Michigan! In Michigan, and elsewhere, the Isonychia mayfly provides the best dry fly opportunities of the year. That’s heresy to many in fly anglers in Michigan, who would argue vehemently that the mighty Hex beats Isonychias hands down. Isonychias are the best mayfly in Michigan for many […]
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 but 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.