Early Season Trout

Early Season Trout Tactics

3 Tactics for Early Season Trout Fishing

By the time the end of February arrives it could be  4-6 months since some trout anglers have wet a line. For most the Early Season Trout fishing can’t get here soon enough as cabin fever is at or near its breaking point. While most of the press around spring fishing in Michigan is focused on steelhead, there are some great opportunities for the trout angler.

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.

Another great spot to look for early season trout is on isolated structure, not so much the bigger log jams, but the single logs or man made objects  midstream and in medium to shallow depths of water. It seems like trout  use this as both ambush spots and warming areas during colder periods. Some of the best structures that we have found sit in the middle of the river.

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.

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 rising activity on any given day the bugs show up. Now midges work best in the tailwaters, ie below Tippy Dam, but you can have a fun few hours in the afternoon midging for trout on bright sunny days on the 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.

Conclusion

Early season trout fishing is definitely worth pursuing if you need a trout fix before the major hatches start. Be flexible with your techniques and happy with small successes as it generally is not a numbers game. However if getting out and having the river o yourself sounds like a good day try early season trout fishing.

Capt. Jon Ray

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.

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

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

Pine River

Pine River

 Pine River

Pine River

Pine River, the Lower Peninsula’s most unique river

 

 

 Pine River

The Pine River, near Cadillac, Michigan is a tributary of the Manisttee River. It joins the Manistee in Tippy Pond above Tippy dam. The rive is 53.5 miles long. Dominated by groundwater inflows, it is the coldest, fastest river in Lower Michigan. This groundwater keeps the Pine River temperatures always 69 degrees or colder.

The Pine River, like most northern Michigan Rivers, has been abused and neglected. The Pine River was dammed by an earthen dam in 1918. The dam was quickly rendered useless by the large sand load that built up behind it. Prior to the dam the river was used, to it’s great detriment, to move saw logs down stream.  It’s banks were torn up creating huge erosion problems.6px;”>

The dam remained until 1997 when it was slowly removed as part of a negotiation for the relicensing of Tippy Dam by The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Dam removal was completed in 2003. Since removal of the dam the stream channel is forming again, gravel substrate is increasing in quantity and size, and fish populations are spreading in the river. Fish populations, especially brown and rainbow trout have increased by more than 250%. 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

Manistee River Smallmouth Bass

Red Bridge on the Manistee River Closure

Red Bridge on the Manistee River will be closed this summer!

The bridge on Coates Highway crossing the Manistee is slated for replacement this coming summer. Beginning on or about April 2nd and through August the road will be completely closed while they replace the approximately 200 foot long bridge. The project is slated for completion at the end of September, 2019.

Smallmouth Bass and Trout Fishing

The water above and below the bridge is one of our favorite big smallmouth destinations in July and August. Where the bridge crosses the river is the back waters of Tippy Pond. This area has great smallmouth bass water. It’s also the take out spot for the trout water above the bridge coming down from Hodenpyl Dam near Mesick. In addition to great fishing water the river from Hodenpyl to Red Bridge is a very popular canoe and kayak destination.  Along with amazing hiking along the North Country Trail.

Manistee County Road Commissioner, Mark Shodden has stated that the boat ramp will stay open during the entire construction process. He has requested that all river users be cautious when on the water near the bridge. The good news is that we will still be able to fish that water though detours will be required to get to it.

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

American's Favorite Flies

American Favorite Flies, New Book

Chuck Hawkins and Russ Maddin featured in a new book, America’s Favorite Flies

American'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 chuck@hawkinsflyfishing.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.

Capt. Chuck