Brook Trout Fall Colors

Amazing colors from a brook trout from the Upper Manistee River, late summer and early fall are some of the best times of year for fishing and for photography. This brook trout was on full display. I can’t wait for the coming weeks as news of a couple steelhead are around, and fall browns start to show off their yellows.

King Salmon

King salmon have really start to invade the lower sections of most rivers on the west side of Michigan. As I have said before September brings the chance to pursue some of the biggest fish in our streams and rivers. I have been having success on streamers, both on sinktips and Intermidate lines. Finding out new flies that work and some that go right back into the trash can. This pursuit of a King on a big ugly fly is by no means easy, as the new approach I have taken is more like hunting for big browns. Streamer fishing for Kings is really no different than swinging spey patterns for Atlantic’s or Steelhead. The day you get one is a good day. Yes I have days of 4-6 fish to the net on big ugly flies, but I also have days of none to the boat. As Lake Michigan changes, as more invasive species crowd our waters. The hunt for salmon will continue but the day of how many I think are behind us. The good news!! As Kings continue to push and start their spawning run, this means that everyday I’m one day closer to hooking the first fall steelhead of the season. The power of the King brings with it the power of the egg, and we all know what steelhead really love.

Big Fish Chase

Wow have things changed in the past 24-48 hours, from highs of 90’s to now highs in the 60’s with blustering 20-25 mph winds out of the north. Feels more like fall now instead of summer. For more than just a few people, this change of seasons brings the feeling of hunting season rather than fishing season. I for one getting the feeling this is the time of year to hunt for the biggest fish in our rivers and lakes.

I do get asked more than a couple times a year, “what is your favorite season”, I often reply with the answer “I love the change in seasons”. All the opportunities that Michigan provides are special. I love the first dry fly day of the year, I love the first fall steelhead I find behind gravel, I love the aggressive nature of a bluegill in the spring. But September does bring the opportunity to hunt for the biggest fish. Be that King Salmon or monster browns. The opportunity presents itself because of the change in temperature, the struggle to preserve the species, and the fact that Old Man Winter is just around the corner.
The change in season brings opportunity to the fly angler. Go hunt your rivers, lakes, and shoreline. I for one have a box unchecked on the bucket list of a 30″ brown on a fly. This change in season brings opportunity. Time to go knock on some doors. Before Old Man Winter closes them until next year.

Best Day on the River!

Thank you Shawn for opening my eyes! If you ever have the chance to work with Project Healing Waters, I highly advise you do it. These men and woman are amazing. Thank yo for everything that you have done for us.

Understanding Exposure

By no means am I a pro photographer yet. Not enough time behind the lens, not enough time pressing down the shutter. But very similar to fly fishing I love the practice. As I was growing up I would just love to go cast, not really fish, even though I was mostly on the water, but just cast and practice the art of casting. Now I find I love practicing shooting with the SLR.

One of the first books I ever read was called “understanding exposure”. This taught me that I need to stop shooting in P or Auto mode and move onto M or Manual mode. One of the greatest advantages to the digital camera age is the amount of mistakes that you can make and it really does not cost you anything. I take thousands of pictures that are junk, can you imagine the cost of my hobby if I was still using film?? But what shooting in Manual mode has taught me is how to read and understand the light meter. What f stop to use and how to use the camera in a creative way.
So the picture above I wanted to focus on the crease fly. By the way one of my new favorite top water patterns for small-mouth. Not sure why it took me so long to fish it for small-mouth but so far it’s my favorite 2010 small-mouth fly. Anyway back to the picture. While shooting in Manual, I need to change my focus point as well. Adjusting the focus point to the crease fly, and then wanting a somewhat blurred backdrop I choose a f stop of 3.5. The next step is what ISO to shoot in. For the well being of the small-mouth I had to make a quick decision. I wish I could of made a couple shots at 100, 200, and 400. But as this was an evening shot and I wanted to get it right I choose 400 and snapped off a couple quick shots and released the small-mouth unharmed.
As I try to compare photography and fly fishing. In fly fishing especially when you are hunting big fish you get one chance and now in photography knowing and understanding your camera to get the right shot with the understanding of not harming a living creature, puts a little pressure on the situation. I love it!

Big Lake Blues

I really just like the different experiences when shooting, the different landscapes, horizons, or locations. Even though this is still Michigan, getting a chance to go out with Trout Scout Charters and take a couple shots of the big lake scene was right up my alley. With blue being my personal favorite color, finding the back drop of the sky very appealing to my personal eye.


Working with the blues of the sky and the clear Lake Michigan water. The day we were out we had some nice 3-4 foot waves, so the turn over of the lake gave me a very dark blue/black water apperance. I had to battle ISO trying to shoot in the 100’s but with all the movement it was hard. When shooting outside I love to use the lowest ISO that I possibly get away with. Next time on the Trout Scout I think I’ll bring a tripod and hope for less waves to really slow down the shutter speed and pull out even more color. Gotta love digital photography and the opportunity to just keep leaning from our opportunities. Thank you Capt. Lance to taking us out.


Fish Eye Len

Good news and bad news, first the good news bought a new lens this month. Now I have a Canon EF 15mm f.2.8 Fisheye Lensthat is going to add some creative shots to the picture gallery. Now for the bad news, my Canon EF 16-35 is in the shop, with a busted screw. I have grown to love my 16-35, it was my widest lens before buying the new fisheye. The fisheye is going to be fun to play with but I know I’m going to have to be careful, as distortion is one of it’s draw backs. Distortion as a fishing guide can give your photo’s a different look a creative look, but I also know it can loose you credibility if you are not careful. Holding and shooting your catch of the day in a particular way is creative art, but the line can be crossed if you use your shots for bragging rights. As the shot above shows, the focal point is the chartreuse fly and the brown trouts head. While the depth of field is shallow as I was trying to blend out the angler and emphasize the trout. Hoping to create a different look, while maintaining the size and shape of the trout without distortion. I think I did okay. I took this shot with an ISO of 200 at 15mm with a f/ 5.6 at 1/125.

Warmwater on Summer Days

With the dog days of summer upon us, there are pretty much a couple things you can do right now when it comes to fishing in Michigan. 1) Trout fishing with hoppers and furballs, 2) Warm-water species i.e. smallmouth and largemouth or 3) count the days until steelhead start showing up. I for one love my steelhead but also love the pursuit for the warm-water species. I personally think that smallmouth are the hardest fighting fish that we have in the great lakes area, pound for pound. They are also the most aggressive fish that we have, their curious nature usually gets the best of them when it comes to fishing with a fly. Big flashy flies both streamers and poppers get these fish to smash your offering. Also I believe that smallmouth are the best cross training fish that we have, that we need to use them as an angler to better ourselves as casters and fish fighters. It may seem simple but little techniques can be perfected on a smallmouth river that you can use later when fishing for trout, steelhead, or salmon. When opportunities might not be as plentiful (i.e. swinging flies for steelhead), but the practice of smallmouth has prepared you and your ready to cash in. The next 8 weeks are prime with July, Aug, and September being the best months. September is becoming one of my favorites as most anglers are hitting river mouths looking for Kings, Tippy Dam reservoir can be flooded with large smallmouth with the feed bag on. Make sure to take advantage of the warmwater season and cross train your angling skills.

Bring on the veggies


Enjoying the fruits or should I say veggies of our labor. Some of the first produce showing up in our first garden. It has been a very enjoyable process, digging, racking, planting, pruning, weeding, watering and now finally starting the eating.
As the intent of the blog is to show the many joys of out door activities, my main focus will for the most part be water related joys. Here are a couple pics of what working the land can provide. More fish related pics coming soon, as the hopper shots are starting to come in. Hot weather not only helps the tomatoes grow, but gets our hoppers going as well.

Hopper Time


I have my next project, and it is really one of my favorite hatches that occur in our area for trout. The grasshopper! Over the next couple weeks I’ll be accumulating footage for a short video with the star being the grasshopper. The main focus will be to show how this bug can pull up some dandy trout in the day light hours. Can’t wait to find more willing stars to shoot over the dog days of summer! For a personal plug for the guide business, I’ll be floating the pine, pere marquette, and manistee in search of trout willing to eat these tasty morsels. If you interested in booking a day contact me, plenty of open days to choose from. Enjoy and make sure to come back and see the finished video, hope to have it up in mid August. Contact me via email jray@hawkinsflyfishing.comor 231.631.5701

Tight Lines,
Jon Ray