Late Fall and Early Winter Steelhead Fishing

  • Late Fall / Early Winter steelhead fishing is off to a great start make sure to check out the Manistee River steelhead report, with strong winds and some much need precipitation this past week steelhead were on the move.  Along with the Mansitee River, another great tailwater to fish this time of year is the Muskegon River.  Both rivers offer great steelhead fishing the month of December .

 

 

underwater steelhead photo

Pic of the Day – Underwater Steelhead by Erik Rambo

Erik Rambo captured this amazing shot of a Big Manistee River Steelhead on a bright sunny day.

steelhead mangled fly

Steelhead Mangling a Fly

One of the original sculpin patterns that Kevin Fenestra showed me so many years now getting Mangled up by a nice Manistee River Steelhead.

Big Manistee River meat eater. #mangledfly #sonargetdown #korkerslife #seewhatsoutthere #hedronflashabou

A photo posted by Mangledfly (@mangledfly) on

Steelhead Country Preview

Steelhead Country preview from Wild Steelhead Coalition on Vimeo.

The Wild Steelhead Coalition, Patagonia, and award-winning filmmaker Shane Anderson have teamed up to produce a new film series called Steelhead Country. The six-episode series explores the rise and fall of angling for wild steelhead in Washington State – from the heydey of steelheading on the Puyallup River to the litany of legendary rivers that are now closed throughout Puget Sound, including the mighty Skagit. Follow along as Steelhead Country explores the past, present, and hopeful future for this iconic species.

Washington is Steelhead Country, the epicenter of the wild steelhead world. For generations, Washingtonians have been raised with a fishing rod in their hands and a love of steelhead in the hearts. This passion has proven infectious and inspired anglers from all corners of the globe to make the pilgrimage to the state’s famed waters in search of wild grey ghosts, some reaching sizes found in few other places on earth. But while the allure of Washington’s majestic wild steelhead continues to grow, regrettably the state’s steelhead stocks have suffered the opposite fate, as their numbers have plummeted to a fraction of their once great abundance.

Steelhead Country dives deep into how Washington’s mismanagement of its iconic State Fish has caused the precipitous decline of its wild steelhead populations. Moreover, Steelhead Country encourages the state to move toward a more sustainable, conservation-oriented management model for wild steelhead – a model that preserves angling opportunity while also helping restore and sustain wild runs for future generations. It’s not too late to bring them back.

Stay tuned for the full series coming in September.

#WildSteelhead #BringEmBack

Life Cycle Midwest Steelhead

Life Cycle of a Midwest Steelhead

I was thinking about steelhead this weekend–they are still quite a ways off but it is hard not to think about them from time to time.    Things look optimistic for this fall; the reports from the big lake are pretty good and the fish are abundant and healthy.     Another indicator that we have about steelhead is by looking at the summer steelhead.   I spend most of my time on the Muskegon, and though we don’t have a sustained summer run, we do get stragglers.   This year  stragglers have been big–this is another indicator of health of the steelhead in the lake.

This spring, we had a period of high water, and I spent my time when the river was flooded photographing steelhead that had moved up into tiny springs that were now swollen.    The photos of these fish can be found here.      You think that steelhead are an awesome fish and then you watch them go through water that seems impassable and realize they are even more amazing than you once thought.

Eventually their mission is complete, fry hatches, and the life cycle continues.    Those fish that were hatched in these tiny streams have a better chance of survival.  The water in these small streams  is cold all year.

Thanks for looking and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Kevin Feenstra

 

anchored podcast

April Volley Anchored Podcast – Kevin Feenstra

anchored podcast

Make sure to check out Kevin Feenstra on April Vokey’s Podcast – Anchored.  Kevin Feenstra who is a great friend, an incredible guide on the Muskegon River, and a Mangled Fly Contributor.  Was Interview by April Vokey at his home in November.  April and Kevin discuss Midwest Steelhead, you will enjoy this episode click this link to go to iTunes – or go to April Website and find the episode as well.

migratory fish

Respect for Migratory Fish

Fighting the Current

Each spring, the river floods, and at some point I have a few days off.   It is not that steelhead can’t be caught on those days.     Fly fishing, however, requires that the fish see the fly and if I don’t feel that this minimum requirement can be met, cancellations are the likely  result.     Steelhead are of course a great gamefish.   They are my favorite fish.     I also have a tremendous respect for steelhead and other salmonids as they migrate.     They really do amazing things as they traverse rivers big and small.     When I had some cancellations last week, I visited several small streams and witnessed these marvels of nature working their way up river.

Steelhead take advantage of small creeks when they are flooded.      As soon as this tiny, tiny creek became high enough for travel, up came the fish in droves.

In any creek, steelhead take advantage of breaks in the current.    In fishing terms, these are snags.   Steelhead love structure just like any other fish.     They need the structure for protection in small places but they also need the break in current that these provide.

In this stream,  a series of tiny water falls existed.    I did not see the steelhead leaping over them, but they had definitely been clearing them, most likely at night.

The fact that there was little water in the stream was not an issue to these fish at all.   I saw some fish temporarily stranded as they worked their way through the shallows.

Steelhead are a precious commodity, this year more than ever.   The Great Lakes fisheries are in a period of change, with the decline in baitfish populations and the subsequent increased pressure on other species, such as steelhead.    Now more than ever, they need a little respect.     This means protecting the fish while they are in the rivers, and protecting them on the small scale even as we fish and handle them.    They deserve it!

Kevin Feenstra

 

 

streamer colors

My Favorite Colors from January-May

I have no affiliation with the people who make a certain product, but I have to say that some of their stuff is  brilliant.    The product that I am speaking of is ice dub, and between ice dub and the various colors of flashabou, I could guide every day with little else than thread and hook (though I do like some feathers and fur too:)).        During the months of January-March, I rely very heavily on one color family of ice dub.    The colors are olive, peacock-eye, peacock, and black peacock.     These colors seem to imitate the same things to the fish.     It could be that the sheen on this color scheme is just plain appealing to fish (it is an attractor color).   On the other hand, it could be that many of the bait fish in the river take on a peacockish tint during the winter months.

When I started looking underwater in the winter, I was surprised at just how many creatures had a bluish/green tint in the winter months.    The darter above is just one example of this color scheme in nature during the winter and spring.    Crayfish, scuds, gobies, and other fish also have this peacock overtone to their colors.

Whether it is just naturally attractive, or whether it is due to the colors occurring in nature, or some combination of the two, I am not entirely certain.    At the end of the day, these colors of ice dub just work great for catching predator fish.

Through the first half of the year, flies with this color scheme can be fished in several different ways.    They can be swung on sink tips through flat runs during the winter months for steelhead.      Another option is to fish the soft edges of the stream for resident trout with smaller olive or peacock based flies.     I really enjoy swinging wet flies for trout and this is a great extension of wet fly fishing through the winter months.   Yet another option is to tie weighted sculpins and fish them below an indicator for trout.    Often times a nymph pattern is fished on a dropper between the indicator and the weighted sculpin.

This post mentions the months of January through May.  However, as a guide, these colors are in my box year around, no matter what species I am guiding for.     Give this color family a shot on your local stream.    I am pretty sure that it will work!

Thanks for reading this!

Kevin Feenstra