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Early Season Trout

Early Season Trout Fishing

Early Season Trout Fishing

When winter breaks and water temperatures start to warm it’s time to consider early season trout fishing.

Many anglers would ask, why?  They are steelhead in our rivers that will probably bite better than resident brown and brook trout. The reason is that if you are a big trout hunter early season provides one of the best opportunities of the year to score on a big ole wiley brown trout.

Why Now?

There are several reasons that I think Early Season Trout Fishing  provides one of the very best opportunities to land a significant trout in Michigan.

As the water temperatures increases so does the trouts metabolism. The urge to feed combined with the lack of insect activity creates an opportunity for an early season fisherman.

The fish haven’t seen a lot of angler pressure since fall. That makes them a little less wary and making mistakes more likely.

Water is usually still little high from spring runoff and will most likely still have more color. Makes it easier to pull bigger trout out of cover.

All of these reasons plus the lack of angler pressure and my motivation to get out and fly cast to resident fish makes this one of my favorite seasons in Michigan.

Water Temperatures

Water temperatures play a big role in early season trout fishing.

When the temps are below 40 degrees we don’t usually see the biggest browns but we do get those mid to upper teen fish that always make for a good day.

When the temps go above 40 degrees, this time of year will often produce a few really big fish for those willing to go on the hunt.

Once the water hits 40 degrees I’m looking for those big game anglers that can take the risk and go hunt those browns that we never forget.

How to early season trout fish in Michigan

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.

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.  The Hawkins Little Racal is a great place to start.

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

Where

Many of our best rivers like the Manistee, Pere Marquette and AuSable River’s are open all year so that’s a good place to start. A favorite of mine is to hunt big trout with streamers in water that also has steelhead present like the Manistee River below Tippy Dam. That gives you two bites of the apple because steelhead, especially drop backs, will eat streamers. Many times I’ve scored both on big browns and steelhead fishing streamers in the same day.

If you are motivated to get out and cast a fly line and looking for some excitement give Cherie a call at 231-228-7135. I’m sure any of the Hawkins guides would love to chase trophies with you.

Tight lines,

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

 

 

Drake, Isonychia, Hex Patterns

Drakes, Iysonychia, and Hex Patterns

Drake, Isonychia, Hex Patterns

Drake, Isonychia, Hex Fly Patterns

Drake, Isonychia, Hex Patterns

Brown Drakes, Isonychia, and Hex Patterns

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.

Fly Shops

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!

Tight Lines,

Ed

Fly Lines for Spring Fishing

3 Fly Lines for Spring Fishing

3 Lines for Spring Fishing

Fly Lines for Spring Fishing

Fly Lines for Northern Michigan Fly Fishing

One of the most important parts of your fly fishing gear is the fly line. Having the correct fly line for spring fishing conditions is not only important to catching fish, but can relieve some of the hassle. We are blessed and cursed to have fly line manufactures developing so many speciality lines for anglers. This is great when you’re targeting a specific species at a certain time of year. The downside is a curse for the wallet and trying to organize your fly line closet. If you’re fishing this spring for either Trout, Steelhead, or Pike here are three of our favorite fly lines for Spring Fishing.

Trout Streamer Line

Spring Streamer fishing is one of the best times to target trout with a streamer. Two sinking fly lines that you should be aware of are the Sonar Cold 25 and Sonar Cold 30. Both are great for fishing in Michigan because of the braided multifilament core inside the fly line. This is the mot supple core used by Scientific Anglers. As a result it allows the line to remain tangle free under the coldest  conditions. Braided multifilament cores are also great in floating line applications as it has a hollow core which aids in flotation.

Sonar cold 25

The Sonar Cold 25 is a personal favorite for most angles and most of the rivers we fish. As the name implies it has a 25’ extra-fast sinking head with a handling line. We really like this line on the Upper Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Pine River. It can turn over any streamer that we throw for trout, but based on the “handling line” section it is an easier line to roll cast.  We also recommend this line for the wading angler as the rear running line will float.  Most importantly this line was made with the wading angler in mind. 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

CCC Boat Ramp Construction

CCC Boat Ramp Construction

CCC Boat Ramp Construction

CCC Bridge

I’m happy to announce after nearly super human efforts from Jim Anderson and Dave Boberg of UMRA and the very generous contributions from many of our clients the new boat launch near CCC Bridge on the Upper Manistee is nearly done. Way back in August I let you all know it was in the works. Predictably Jim and Dave ran into a bureaucratic nightmare getting 4-6 agencies to sign off and to then pull permits. Without going into which agency was the logjam I’d like to congratulate these gentlemen and all of our donors on a job well done. Thank you.

The new launch is just downstream of CCC Bridge on river left (as if you are looking downstream) just below the large dock. Notice the bridge in the photos. The construction includes an increase in parking along with the standard slide that has proven so bullet proof in the past.

The Upper Manistee River Association jumped into this project the minute it was realized that we had a problem with the loss of a private launch just downstream. I encourage all of you that use the river with boats, kayaks, canoes, even tubes to join and support UMRA. You can join here. I encourage all those guides to commit and send a few bucks too!

Thanks to all involved!

Hawk

CCC Boat Ramp Construction

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michigan

In Northern Michigan, the larger mayfly  hatches are done around July fourth. That begins one of our favorite pastimes, summer fly fishing in Northern Michigan. Many anglers put away their rods when the Hex hatch is over thinking that the best fly fishing of the year is behind us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Summer fly fishing in Northern Michigan can produce many surprises!

Summer fly fishing in Michigan can be broken down into three categories, terrestrials, mousing, and warm water species. These three pursuits are all very different, consequently they attract anglers with different desires and skill levels.

Terrestrials

 

First of all, let’s talk terrestrial fishing, hoppers, beetles and ants! Because we fish primarily foam imitations of these insects it is some of the most aggressive dry fly fishing we do. Forget the classic dead drift! We animate these flies, make them move. We twitch, bump, pop and strip these critters to attract Summer Fly Fishing in Northern Michiganattention to their presence. Due to the proximity to Traverse City we fish the Upper Manistee River mostly in and around the flies only water. In addition, we will fish the Pine River, the Lower Manistee and the Boardman Rivers with terrestrials also.

Read more

Gray Drake

Gray Drake

Gray Drake

photo by Ann Miller

Gray Drake

Gray drakes are a very important hatch in some area rivers. Most notably the Pere Marquette and Muskegon Rivers though they occur in most of our trout streams.

Starting as early as mid May these size 10 or 12 mayflies are the first really big bug to show up. Gray Drakes spin at dusk generally in large numbers over riffles.

Gray Drakes are very easy to identify, the have a thin body and a very visable white stripe around the head.

Life Cycles

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Isonychia

Isonychia bicolor Dun – Slate Drake

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 […]

Steelhead

Hawkins Outfitters Best Fishing Memories of 2016

Do you have Fishing Memories of 2016? We do! Hawkins Outfitters is fortunate to have a very large repeat angler business. Most of these repeat anglers are friends, we’ve spent many days together in the boat. I often get asked “why did you and the guys on your team choose such a difficult job”? There are […]