XL Steelhead

2018 XL Steelhead

XL Steelhead

I like to think of the steelhead season like a hockey game.  It has three periods to the game, that last a total of 6-7 months.  Period one is the Fall-Run, then Winter Steelhead, and the final period is Spring Steelhead. In the first period of this game, the Fall Run  we have had some XL sized Steelhead show up.  In my personal experience fishing the Manistee River, we had some epic battles with steelhead.  These battle would make your cry on one hand, and almost laugh on another.  The pure strength , speed, and power of these fish left my anglers helpless, and these XL steelhead finished them off so quickly that we didn’t even know what happened.  I relate this too a UFC Fight.  Round 1 first 10 sec TKO.

Steelhead Guides

But two of my fellow Steelhead Guides had the opportunity of landing two extremely large steelhead.  Fellow Guides and Scott Fly Rod Pro’s. Kevin Feenstra and Brad Petzke shared these images and my mouth dropped.  Kevin’s fish came from the Muskegon River on a swung fly.  One of his Halloween Leech patterns.  (FYI now available commercially for sale)

XL Steelhead

20 pound Steelhead caught on the Muskegon River

The second fish of XL size was shared by Brad Petzke who guides the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, less is known about this fish as Brad works really hard to find steelhead hot spots so we are going to respect that and provide no additional details. But if your looking to fish the UP you have to give Brad a call.  I’m not sure if this steelhead was eating baitfish out of the Great Lakes, or Big Macs at McDonalds.  The girth on this fish is very impressive.  Great job Brad and thank you for sharing.

XL Steelhead

Amazing Steelhead from the UP in Michigan

Second Period

I look forward to the second period as winter steelhead fishing probably provides one of the best opportunities to land a XL Steelhead.  With water temps dropping these big Boyz don’t have full speed anymore.  Still have plenty of power to pull us all into deep timber but, the best chance to land a XL is starting now.  Stay tuned hopefully for more XL Steelhead pics to come.

Scott fly rods

Review of Two Handed Rods, the Scott Radian 1257 and the Scott Radian 1259

Scott Fly Rod, Two-Hand Review

I just wanted to share my personal experiences with two of Scott’s flagship two handed rods, the Radian 1257 and the Radian 1259.

A while back, we reviewed the 1308 Radian, and were very pleased with it as a great big river rod. The Radian 1257 is a 12’6″ 7 weight rod. Many of the 7 weight two handed rods that you might cast that are on the light side. You would not consider them as a primary rod for big rivers like the Muskegon or the Manistee. However, the 1257 has some nice horsepower, and can elegantly cast a 480 grain skagit head with 8-10 feet of t14 (Note that the recommended Skagit with this rod is 520 but given the tips I use, I prefer 480). This will cover a lot of the scenarios encountered on our river systems.

Because of its light weight and sensitivity, I find myself using this rod to fish the edges of the river in the winter months. Fishing in the winter in this manner requires a rod with a lot of tactile feel because you are mending the line, allowing the fly to get to the bottom, and then engaging it. In a nutshell, this rod is very sensitive and is a pleasure to use for this purpose. Furthermore, because the edges of the river often contain trout as well as steelhead, using the lighter rod keeps things fun for me and my clients. This rod is capable of long casts, but I find myself using it in close. When fighting a fish, it protects tippets well.

Though I have only used it for swinging, I could see this as a good indicator rod. If you do not want the added weight of an 8 or 9 weight, this 7 weight can handle most situations you will encounter on medium to large rivers in the Great Lakes region. It is a very sweet rod indeed.

Scott Radian 1259

Now let’s talk about the Radian 1259. As you can imagine, it is a totally different beast than the 1257. This rod is very stiff and very powerful. This is a new rod in Scott’s Radian lineup, and as such, I have been using it for a couple of months. During those months, I have put it through its paces. For my purposes, this rod is best for down and dirty fishing at short to medium range. This is not a rod for everyone, and does not have the agile feeling of the 1257 or the 1308 Radian. Typically, I use this rod with a 560 or 600 grain Freightliner Intermediate Skagit, and a significant amount of T14 or a short and compressed head of T17 or T20. In this configuration, it makes easy work of casting a heavy line with a heavy fly. If I had to point out one drawback of this rod, it does not inspire as much confidence when fighting a quick moving steelhead. The rod is very stiff and those panicked head shakes are nerve wracking with this stick.

I see the best applications of this rod as specialty rod for big fish, big tips, heavy tippet, and big flies in relatively close quarters–steelhead in timber or big king salmon in coastal regions come to mind. For these applications, this rod is a gem. I could also see an application for this in surf fishing as it could shoot line well into wind and waves.

I hope you enjoyed this review. If you have any questions about Scott rods, please contact Scott pro staffers Kevin Feenstra or Jon Ray.

Thank you for reading! Tight Lines!

Kevin Feenstra

steelhead

Same line new name – Freightliner Skagit

Same great line (with a few minor changes) but with a new name.  SA launches the Freightliner Skagit, which is the same line from the past few years that we have been using.  The blue line as we called it in the boat.  The Intermediate Skagit gets a new name and a much requested cosmetic improvement , the rear loop will now have a black highlight to help you see the transition from the head to the running line.

New video from SA feature SA Ambassador Jeff Hickman.

Scientific Anglers Freightliner Skagit from Scientific Anglers on Vimeo.

We wanted to completely re-work our Spey offerings, and we started with our Skagit heads. Meet the Freightliner Skagit, an all-new design for Scientific Anglers. Featuring a textured, black marker at the rear of the head, and available in both floating and intermediate heads/kits, the Freightliner will become your next go-to Spey line. SA Ambassador Jeff Hickman dives into the details in this short video.

spring steelhead

Kamchatka Steelhead Data Research

YETI Presents: Kamchatka Steelhead Project from YETI Coolers on Vimeo.

On Russia’s eastern coast, the remote Kamchatka Peninsula is teeming with wild Steelhead, kept protected by the country’s strict endangered species regulations. Follow Dr. Kuzishchin, Big Sasha, and their group of anglers as they document and preserve the legacy of Kamchatka’s Steelhead population.

steelhead

Happy New Year!

2016 was a good year to be an angler in Michigan.    I was going through some of my fishing images and found a few that liked.   I thought I would share them in this post:

This image was a foggy morning on a lake rumored to have muskies in it.    Although I caught a lot of pike and bass, the muskies proved to be elusive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is one of my favorite lakes in Michigan.    I fished it in September for a couple of days.    It never fails to rain when I fish here, and soon after this very scenic moment, I was drenched.

Steelhead are so beautiful, and so majestic.    This one put up a tremendous fight in early November!

I hope you enjoyed the photos!   Good fishing to you in 2017!

Kevin Feenstra

 

swing pattern

Fly Tying Beverages

swing pattern

Well, it’s that time of year again.  I’ve inventoried my fly boxes and I am scrambling to fill my spring, summer & fall fly boxes for the upcoming seasons, as old man winter starts thinking about taking his nap, I hope!  This winter has been full of tinkering with new materials and techniques for favorite fishing, steelhead on the swing. Per usual, I completely forgot to do what I always intend, which is to fill the holes in my boxes from a spring, summer and fall of fishing.  Ugh, production tying.  Not a fan.

The most enjoyable part of tying for me is the development stage or learning of new patterns.  When I sit down to let my mind wander and relax into it’s artistic side & start free styling, my default is steelhead streamers.  The array of colors and materials that one could imagine using and attracting this quarry is astounding.  So I play with color combos and styles of flies deep into the night while sipping on something brown.  Bourbon, rye and scotch being the likely suspects.  Sometimes the next day I awake with a headache, grab some coffee and go critique my flies from the night before.  The bigger the headache, the more likely it’s “WTF was I thinking!”  Sometimes I impress myself and sometimes the razor comes out & the hook is shorn of the monstrosity.

Which begets a question that I hinted to in the title- what are my beverages for tying flies?  Sure, whiskey has turned my brain and fingers into madness & what transpired on the vice was abominable, but some nights it’s more about the drink than the tying.  Then there are the nights that a neat dram of whiskey is the perfect accompaniment, as a sip every so often soothes my soul and the whiskey’s temperature does not change & some of the resulting flies have found permanent places in my boxes.

So, here’s my guide to what to drink when tying flies.  Yours may very as we all have preferences.

  1. Production/Repetitive tying- I have three schools of thought here…
    #1 Drink coffee to keep you rolling and the mind free from the numbing effects of doing a dozens of the same pattern.  I know a few guides who really like tying production, as it gives them a “check out time” when they don’t have to think about what they are doing as they done the fly hundreds or thousands of times.  Especially the dreaded egg patterns.
    #2 Drink water- no better time to hydrate.  Until it catches up with you and you spend more time in the bathroom than at the vice.
    #3 Drink a low alcohol beer.  Think macro brew or old world Pilsener.  Pabst has been a fly tying staple for some for many years.  Personally, I go with a craft “Session” beer.  Short’s “Ale la Reverend” is my favorite when it’s available and  Founders “All Day IPA” is good to go all year long and comes in 12 pack cans.
  2. Dry Flies/Nymphs- kind of falls in to the same category as above.  They are not my strong point, so I stick to H2O.  Sometimes red wine is a good option.  It’s a sipper, doesn’t loose it’s temperature and gets better as the air mixes in and it “opens up”.
  3. Wet flies/Soft Hackles- tradition would call for a fine dram of Irish or Scotch as these patterns were originally from the British Isles.  But be careful, as once you start working on the wet flies with tented or married wings, your fingers and mind need to be nimble.  On the other hand, simple soft hackles like the Partridge and Red/Yellow/ Orange that work so well, can be done when a wee bit addled.  The other traditional drink that I partake in if it’s summer and I am refilling the Wheatley box would be a tall Gin and Tonic.  Nothing says summer like a G&T while tying wets/soft hackles!
  4. Traditional Steelhead and Atlantic Flies- Once again a glass of whiskey does well and for me, it has to be a Single Malt Scotch, likely from Speyside and even more likely it’s Mortlach 15yr or Macallan 10yr Fine Oak.  I savor this traditional beverage slowly, maybe only taking a sip as I put the hook in the vice and when I take the finished fly out.  I need all my wits about me when trying some of these complicated beauties.
  5. Streamers- Beer, beer and more beer!  I love tying streamers and nothing goes better than beer.  Likely something with a little kick, like a Stone IPA or a Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”.  Beer keeps my juices flowing and my thirst quenched.  I tend to wet down and pull back materials on my streamers as they can get in the way of the next step.  Usually all that is needed is a little saliva and beer aides in this process!
  6. Freestyle/Creative Session- Bourbon…on the rocks.  When I’m messing around testing new ideas or materials, bourbon fuels the fire!  It is also my go to spirit, period.  When I am creating new flies, my concern is not for the immediate finished product, as it’s very rare that something comes off the vice and doesn’t get tweaked and refined.  Most of the time it’s put somewhere on the desk where I look at it and critique the shape, size & proportions of materials.  Then I tie it a second time with my improvements.  Then I repeat this a third time.  But I stop there until I can see them all on or in the water.  Some patterns of mine have looked great until water tested and afterwards, straight into the garbage or under the razor.

One last thought…when it comes time to clean up your tying area, as I know most of us let it go until we can’t stand it, I advise a strong cocktail to ease the pain!  Maybe a Dark & Stormy, a Moscow Mule or a Manhattan.  My desk is a mess right now and will be until I knock out all my spring & summer flies.  Then it will get cleaned up and likely stay that way until after the summer, as I will be too busy fishing & not tying.  Unless I blow through a certain pattern that is lighting them up, then it’s back to it and the dreaded production tying begins.  Ugh, production tying…and you better bet there will be an adult beverage involved!

Slainte!!!

winter steelhead

The Dead of Winter and Fishing Tactics

The last week was one of the coldest of this winter.    We didn’t get much snow but it sure was cold!    After a couple of days indoors, I needed to get outside, if only for a little while.    I know most of you can relate to this after being indoors for a while.   I went down to the river to take some photos on a dreary day.

One of the things that I look for is falling water when it is very cold.    Often times, falling water makes really cool ice formations along the banks of our great rivers.

Another great photo opportunity is when there is lake effect snow in the area.    Often the sun will break few for a little while in the afternoon, making for a beautiful array of pastel colors in the dwindling light.

It may sound crazy but winter is one of my favorite times to photograph things underwater.  The reason for this is that the water is extremely clear at normal water level in the winter.   Additionally, most fish and insects move very slowly in the cold water, making them easy to photograph.

I sure was glad when the weather did finally break today, allowing me to hook a few steelhead.    My favorite places to fish in the dead of winter are the inside of bends and behind fallen trees.    Trout and steelhead to a lesser degree congregate in the slower water as it holds oxygen and food sources in the winter.

Last year, we were fishing quite large baitfish patterns as there was a lot of lake run browns in the Muskegon.   Each year is different, and this winter we are fishing smaller patterns in the same types of water.   These smaller patterns catch as many steelhead as last year’s larger flies.   Since the lake runs aren’t as abundant, the smaller swung flies take advantage of the stream trout that are biters.   A slight change in tactics makes for some relaxed fishing, sometimes with many bites in the course of a day.

A lot of times I look for sandy bends that have a bit of deeper, darker water between the lighter colored bottom and the swifter current.    Often times these are productive places for a variety of game fish.

As spring gets closer, there will be a period of excellent fishing in these areas as stone fly nymphs move in close to shore, and king salmon begin to hatch.   You don’t need to necessarily match these hatches below the surface, as the increase in subsurface activity makes the fish search out moving targets.

When you look at rivers every day, you see the subtle changes that occur day to day.    Soon the signs of spring will be apparent.   For now, I am happy to fish whenever the weather breaks.

Enjoy this time of the year!–Kevin Feenstra

mangled fly

The Icy Cold Rewards

Cold air into cold water

These are a few of my favorite recent photos.   Without a doubt, January is one of the hardest times to fish for steelhead, especially if you are waiting for a pull.    It really is rewarding when you have a chance to land one.   This year it is even more so, as it was a challenging fall.

The Reward of a Very Cold Day

The fish above took a fly after the better part of a day without a bite.    I was very excited to fish on this day as I had a pair of battery powered heated gloves.    The gloves were a $120 failure but near the end of the day, the fish made the time on the water a success!

Until We Meet Again

 

A steelhead is a flash of lightning and a  splash of color in an otherwise dreary day.    This fish viewed its home and went there….See you next year, I hope!!!!

-Kevin Feenstra