smallmouth bass

The Midsummer Bass Shift

When you spend a lot of time on a river, you eventually learn some of the subtle changes that over the course of a season.   These small changes can have a big impact on the fishing.

Through the late spring and early summer, I spend a lot of time fishing along rocky banks with crayfish patterns or poppers depending on the activity levels.   This type of  fishing becomes inconsistent in the middle of the summer on my home river, the Muskegon.

The target species in the summer is smallmouth bass and any other warm water fish that will bite.    Smallmouth are built to eat crayfish, but they are glutonous fish, gorging on whatever is most available to them.

You would think that this would be obvious but it was not always clear to me–during the summer the slower edges of the river become weedy, and in many places smallmouth simply shift over to the weeds.  They cruise these weedbeds in search of mature minnows that have become super abundant.  Often these weedbeds are directly opposite of the rocky, classic smallmouth spots.   On a large river, this makes such spots easy to overlook.

These  baitfish are the  shiny type minnows such as shiners, chubs, and daces.   They permeate the water column.   I do a bit of snorkeling in my free time.   It is enjoyable and very educational.   Typically the biggest species of baitfish are toward the bottom of the water column.   They can be quite large and there are silly amounts of them in the tailwater rivers.    It is not uncommon to see common shiners and chubs that are over 6-8 inches in length.  Because of the large size of many of the baitfish, large attractor patterns can work very well around the weeds.   Utilize colors such as yellow and white for best success.

Hornyhead Chubs are a classic example of a large baitfish living in the weeds

I used to be fixated on the bottom of the river when snorkeling, until one day I happened to look up agains the surface.   There, in the top few inches of the water column, I was shocked to see a large number of colorful shiner minnows.  These minnows move very quickly!    I came to know these fish as rosy face shiners and they are a very abundant food source among the weedbeds.    These small and quick fish are typically 2-4 inches in length, and this size is often preferred by smallies.  A good imitation of these can be tied simply:  bead chain eyes, wing of gray-olive craft fur, flashabou, and a head of cinnamon ice dub (or red foam if you want a sly and deadly popper).   This fly should be fished stripped quickly with a pause.


Rosyface shiners are common along weeds in the upper part of the water column

If you are fishing rocky smallmouth habitat and have a hard time finding fish, don’t hesitate to fish a shiner pattern above the weeds or a big baitfish pattern a little deeper.    A lot of times a change of fly selection and  habitat is all it takes to find fish.

-Kevin Feenstra

 

costa fly fishing

Costa Fly Fishing – Pic of the Day

Costa Fly Fishing grabbed one of our images yesterday for their Instagram feed

Monday #puremichigan #steelhead from Costa pro @mangledfly. #seewhatsoutthere #flyfishing #underwater

A post shared by Costa Fly Fishing (@costaflyfishing) on

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

 

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.

DNR using unique technology

DNR is stepping up the technology game read more here 

smallmouth bass

Pic of the Day – Yellow streamer and Smallmouth Bass

Underwater Bass with yellow streamerLow clear water and aggressive smallmouth bass, make for some fun images.  Always appreciate the time that customers give me on days when I can get out of the boat.  Special thanks to Jerome for letting me take a few minutes and capture a quick photo or two on your smallmouth adventure.

Smallmouth Bass fishing continues to be really good, with some big bass around this year.  Make sure to follow along on the river reports page at Hawkins Outfitters for the Manistee River and Kevin Feenstra’s Muskegon River Report.

Jon Ray

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

 

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