Sipping Dries

Had a great email back and forth session with Simon today, check out one of his videos. Working on getting this type of footage and working on getting this good in the editing room. Thanks for sharing Simon! Nice work!

Sipping Dry trailer from Sharptail Media on Vimeo.

Stoneflies and Michigan Trout

Stoneflies make easy meals for Michigan brown trout

One of the bugs that I’m falling more and more in love with for Michigan trout is the stone-fly.  With so many species of stone-flies in Michigan rivers, trout are very accustom to seeing and feeding on stones.  While michigan does not get the notoriety of having a “salmon stone-fly hatch” like some of western rivers.  Here in Michigan we do have plenty of stones, and as an angler we need to have a little understanding of the what’s, where’s, and when’s of this big morsel.
One of the biggest misperception of stone-fly nymphs is that they are not very active swimmers.  Actually the only stone-fly that curls up in the fetal position is the Pteronarcys.  The Pteronarcys is the big boy that we have all read about.  But unlike the Pteronarcys all other stone-fly nymphs are great swimmers, their wiggle like swimming motion pulsates them threw the current.  Letting them move around and feed and find shelter.  Now they do not dart around like sculpins or black nosed dace.  But there is no need to dead drift most stone-flies.
Most definitely my favorite stone is the Golden Stones or Paragetina, which run size #6-8, and are very common in the Upper Manistee river.  These yellow to olive colored stones can be found in gravel runs, on downed wood, and are found in a variety of water conditions.  Making them very easy to target in the nymph or dry fly phase.
Understanding that stones are always in our rivers lets us know that trout are used to feeding on them, but May and June you should really take notice as they stones start to crawl around even more and become active, as it’s time for them to emerge.  Stones are crawlers, you will find them on random stumps and logs near river banks.  When you don’t see fish rising in early season to Hendrickson’s or Black Caddis don’t be afraid to put on a stone!

A big meal that is easy to fish


New Michigan Trout Regulations

Russ Maddin enjoying open water on April 1st

When the news came out that new regulations from the State of Michigan were coming out in 2011, I was very supportive of the changes made to opening additional sections to help spread out the angling pressure.  On April 1st, 2011 from M-72 to Lake Michigan on the Manistee River will now remain open year round.  Providing anglers with the opportunity to fish these waters whenever the calling comes.
Yesterday when the day finally arrived.  First time since 1910 that the Manistee has been open in these sections.  Russ Maddin and I jumped in the boat with Erik Crissman from the DNRE and floated a section of water that just opened.  Russ as he usually does showed Erik and I how to do it, with a nice fully grown female brown trout. If you have not fished with Russ or tried to tie some of his innovative streamers, you owe it to yourself.  One of Russ’s signature patterns is the Mad Pup, check out at the Hawkins Outfitters page and tie some up.

For additional information about the new trout regulations go to the State website or pick up the new regulations when you buy your 2011 fishing license at your local fishing tackle locations.

Using Ice to Learn more about Trout

Russ Maddin showing me the way on the ice

So January and February are for the most part a michigan fishing guides off season.  Besides breaking down the rivers and learning new spots for the up coming spring run, or tying a couple hundred more flies.  I’ll try to venture out on the ice a few times a season on the vast amount of inland lakes.  Living in northern michigan, more lakes than I previously thought are stocked with trout.  I have to be honest, I am way more adept at reading a river than I am a lake.  But with the use of a couple maps and a Vexliar  getting my bearings on the breaks and drop-offs is not that hard.  Also with the added benefits of having a good friend and ice fishing master in Russ Maddin showing you a couple hot spots helps too.
The key reason for venturing out on the ice this time of year is to have those bearings for when the ice out occurs.  As you can argue my next point all you want, but it’s the honest truth.  If you are a big trout chaser, the biggest brown, rainbow, or laker trout are going to come from a lake.  This light-bulb was turned on after reading Bernie Taylor’s book 5 years ago.  Example is the world record brown trout caught a few years ago from the Manistee River.  This was not a river trout, it was a lake-run brown that ventured up the river.  Big trout meaning trout over 10 pounds, get big in a lake not a river.   Trout that live in a lake can eat and be lazy, while a river trout has to keep battling current.
With so many inland lakes being stocked with trout (browns, rainbows, and lake trout) the fly angler has a great opportunity to target these trout in the spring after ice out.  All three species are going to be looking for that warmer water in the spring, and most days this warmer water is shallow.  Perfect for the fly angler! Thermal warming from the sun brings the bait-fish shallow, and if you can find the bait-fish you will find the predator’s that hunt them.
Now how I use the ice, is when you can’t find these trout shallow, you have to know where to find them when they go deep.  Just like in a river their are certain hunting grounds that hold fish.  Being able to find these hunting grounds with a foot of ice underneath you will give you a head start for the upcoming spring melt.  Michigan anglers have so many opportunities, getting out and finding them is the fun part.

Inland lake brown caught on a smelt pattern

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.

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.

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

Biggest Trout Memories

Being a fishing guide first and photographer second, being part of somebodiesbiggest trout ever is always something special. First to be there and walk them through the experience of the the fish you can hear but just can’t see. Helping them locate what log the fish is sitting near, how to wade into location, how to make the cast, how to mend the fly, and what to do if the fish eats your fly. As a fly fishing caddy, helping the angler choose the correct angle like a pro golfer working with his caddy before a really important putt on a difficult green.

Guiding is my love, I have so many special memories of so many people’s firsts. The first day they went fly fishing seeing their cast progress, the first day they landed a steelhead and got that monkey off their back, the first time they heard a big trout eating hex in the middle of the night and they calmed their nerves and made the cast. All are so special is actually why I love my job so much.
But now being a photographer to be able to capture the image, to see the joy in the anglers eye, as they beam with joy. To burn these memories onto film and to have these memories for the rest of our angling days. Now to have been the guide and the photographer is making these experiences even more special.

Trout fishing with Dry Flies

Warmer days have really kicked in the dry fly fishing the past three or four days! Is there a better way to catch a trout than with a Dry Fly? Watching a trout no matter what size come up and taking a dry fly is such a special part of fly fishing. With May and June being the prime time months here in the state of Michigan to get your full enjoyment of the dry fly season.

Last night Ed McCoy and I enjoyed a section of the Manistee River were we had Caddis, Yellow Sallies, Mahogany’s, Hendrickson spinners, Medium Brown Stones, and a couple unidentified bugs in the air. While May understanding what the fish are actually eating can be difficult the reward of catching a couple fish on top is worth the couple fly changes for success.

For the next 6 weeks look for the best dry fly fishing of the season. I am working on trying to get that perfect shot of a trout eating a bug. Never did relize how much work it was going to be. Almost had it last night on video, working with zoomed in shots with a tripod in low light, and a unstable platform (by boat) is not that easy. But I love the challenge an I look forward to the next evenings spinner fall.

Catch and Release


There is something special about holding onto a very big fish and feeling the power of the fish as it swims away. Working with Chuck Hawkins today, on a two boat streamer trip on the Manistee River. I had the chance to photograph Chuck as he let this 21″ brown go. The experience of catching and then releasing these magnificent fish is something that I hold dear. As I spend close to 200 days guiding individuals through out the state of Michigan, one of my favorite every day experiences is to hold and watch our catch swim away to be caught again another day. The couple seconds that I take to look over steelhead, trout, or salmon before release is my personal “QT”, the quick bond before they swim to the depths.

Chuck Hawkins holding the prize catch today before release. As spring steelhead continues to give us questions marks, brown trout fishing shows every positive sign for an amazing season ahead of us. Streamer fishing on many rivers and at many sections is thumbs up. I can’t wait as steelhead gear begins to stay home and trout gears takes the front seat, to capture more images of big Michigan brown trout. Dry fly fishing this season I think is going to be special.