Upper Manistee Trout Fishing

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Manistee River Trout Report

The Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report for the third week of July has the mid summer programs are picking up.  We have finally entered the “Junk” season when you can fish any and every crazy concoction that comes off the tying vise.  The foam bite has been gaining momentum and we still have a few key hatches getting some fish up.  July is always a fun month and the dog days of summer can provide some relaxed fishing.  This time of year matching the hatch isn’t as critical like we saw in June.  

Overall the Hex hatch was pretty solid during the first week.  Just like in recent years, big cold fronts can stretch the hatch out.  As of right now we are still seeing small windows of hatching and spinning bugs.  The Isonychia is still producing some good fishing.  Recently the Hopper and Terrestrial bite has been our primary focus.  Fishing foam is a great way to just go after an impact bite.  Foam flies this time of year can create lots of action and some pretty savage eats at times.  

Water conditions have been all over the board the past couple of weeks.  We continue to receive decent amounts of rain on a weekly basis which has helped to buffer the river from getting too warm.  The river has been dropping and clearing all week and water temps have been mostly in check with fishable water temps this past week.   The water temperatures have ranged anywhere from 59-68 over the past week.  We have a little cool down coming over the next few days so fishing should pick up.  I’m looking forward to a steady pattern of daytime highs in the 70s over the next week.

 

Streamer Fishing

The Streamer bite has been put on the back burner for us.  Our focus right now is primarily on the dry fly fishing.  However, if we get a big storm or rain event the streamer could produce more opportunities especially in rising flows.  Smaller streamers have provided the best activity, but the fish are still focused towards the surface when insects are present.  Grinding through the slow periods and keeping the faith is always the key to success.

Warmer cloudy days are always the best, but this time of year I look for a cold front or bump in flows.  With water temps peaking in the low to mid 60s the best times will be early in the morning.  Water temps in the 60s will usually motivate the Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing towards the surface.  The fish have shown this shift over the past few days.

Late Summer Programs

The Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing has been pretty good in the mornings and the evenings.  Our Hex Hatch has been past peak and winding down over the past week, but we still have had a few spinner and hatching events.  Over the last few years we have seen the Hex push into August, however the feeding events have always been inconsistent at best.  Isonychia and Light Cahill’s have also been present in decent numbers and the fish will key in on them when they are active.

Fishing in the morning vs the evening can have different experiences, but one must pay attention to the water temps.  Make wise choices based on cooler water temps to decide when to go fishing this time of year.  Usually the middle of the day is the hottest and heat waves can make the water temps get questionable until well after dark on the really hot days.  Mornings will always be the safest bet for water temps safe enough to fish.  Usually the coolest water temps will be found in the morning during July.  

Terrestrials

The mornings have been dominated primarily by the Summer Olives, but the Trico’s are making a run for the title of the most abundant food source.  This hatch will test your presentation and your patience.  Tiny size 20-24 mayflies and small trout that require perfect presentation will quickly test your skills and attitude.  Outside of the cooler periods of the day the “Foam” bite has been picking up steam and the Hopper and Terrestrial patterns are getting the most attention from our trout.  This is a fun time of year, somedays the impact bite can be silly, but you can also catch a few nice fish from time to time.  

As the cool weather moves in this week look for the fishing to become more consistent throughout the day.  Stable weather has been the recipe for more consistent fishing this year.  The unstable atmosphere this year has been the most limiting factor for our hatches and consistent fishing.  July is always a fun month to fish, the pressure of bugs or no bugs is no longer an issue.  This time of year you just base your decisions upon when and where based upon the daily conditions and just go fishing.  In July we create our own hatches, no bugs are required!

Didymo

Upper Manistee Trout Fishing

Didymo on the Upper Manistee continues to be a problem with a high level of concern.  I would consider the whole Upper Manistee River System to be contaminated with this Diatom. There was new Didymo growth above CCC bridge and it has been documented as far upstream as Yellow Trees Landing.  The Didymo mats in sections below CCC are still breaking down and to my knowledge there isn’t any blooming like we saw in the 2022 season.  Didymo is considered a very resilient invasive species so you need to educate yourself on safe cleaning techniques.  River Users will need to clean their gear or anything that touches the water.  Didymo can easily be spread between watersheds and can be detrimental to our trout streams.

I would consider the ENTIRE RIVER TO BE CONTAMINATED and treat it as such. Clean, Drain, Dry your gear before entering another Body of Water.  Currently, there are no effective methods to eradicate didymo once it is established in a river.  To prevent spreading Didymo and other aquatic invasive species to new locations, it is critical for users to thoroughly Clean, Drain and Dry waders, equipment, and boats upon leaving a waterway.

  • Clean by removing mud and debris from all surfaces.
  • Use a 10% Solution of Dishwashing Soap with hot water for 10 minutes (Example 1 gallon of water is 12.8 oz of Dawn Soap). Then it must dry for 48 hours (mandatory if your fishing different water systems).

New Shop Items

Check out the latest Mangled Fly T-Shirt plus Flex Fit Hats are back in stock. 

Trout Guide Trips 

We have very limited openings available during the peak hatch season, so make sure to book your dates now!  If you’re looking to book a Trout Guide Trip you can reach us at 231-631-5701 (leave a message) or shoot us an email.  We are excited for the upcoming Trout Season.   Also make sure to follow along on our social pages and our online fishing report page . for more updates. 

 

Tight Lines,

Ed

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass fishing on Grand Traverse Bay the past 10-14 days has been solid.  The past two weeks a small piece of the puzzle started to come together. I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about the post spawn habits of these bass.  Which has been great.  With the up and downs of the Hex Hatch on the Upper Manistee.  This opportunity to target post spawn smallmouth in what I would consider shallow water, has been a great experience. Water temps still remain in the area I have been working in the mid 60’s.  These bass on eager to put back on the weight from the riggers of spawning.

A good population of 3-4 pound smallmouth are hunting and looking for food.  Next few weeks should give plenty of opportunities to anglers looking to catch smallmouth shallow before they venture out deep for the summer.  Saying that I’ve been looking some deep spots I learned last summer and starting to see population building.  Another piece of the puzzle.

Smallmouth Tactics Post Spawn

Northern Michigan smallmouth bass are now mostly post spawn, aquatic insects play a vital role in recovery.  With that crayfish just went thru a huge molting in the last moon phase, and that was a solid bite.  That presentation was key the last 10 days, bouncing thru the rocks on a slow crawl.

While on the bay it’s harder to find fish feeding actively on top.  Brown Drakes, Hexes, Dragonflies, and June Bugs are all on the diet.  Carry a selection of subtle topwater offerings when fish are cruising  shallow can be very beneficial .  Never know when you migth stumble on a top water opportunity.

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

As I mentioned the last 10 days the crayfish molt was key to success.  Fast sinking crayfish looking flies on Intermediate lines or Type 3 lines like the SA Sonar I23 were great to fish in the shallow rocks.  Early in the morning finding smallmouth cruising shallow was pretty easy.  As the sun got high and boat traffic increased then the deeper spots played better.  On the gear sides when the wind was blowing tube jigs in the 2.5″-3.5″ range worked well colors that fired this week Green Pumpkin , Amber Purple, Dark Melon, and something Black based in the clouds.

Booking a Smallmouth Trip

Interested in booking a Smallmouth Bass Trip or going for Lake Trout on light tackle, drop us a message via email, or text/call us directly 231-631-5701. We have open boats available this Summer if your want to fish for Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass.

Jon Ray

Mousing for Trout

Match the Hatch with Ed McCoy

Ed McCoy Podcast

Since Jim Bashline wrote the Bible on night fishing in 1973: “Night Fishing for Trout”, our passion for stalking big Truttasaurus browns at night on big mayfly hatches like drakes, Hexes, Isonychia and big stoneflies has become an obsession! Add in the whole new mousing craze, you now have fly fishing in the night a state of art much different than just feeling the tug and hearing creepy things that go “ bump in the night” . With Infrared night vision head lamps, and glo- in- the dark lines and fly materials, we have perfected the passion to the next level. Our Night Stalker guest is a trained fisheries biologist and guide who rows in the night in search of sounds foretelling a big, night monster Truttasaurus brown on the hunt for flesh and blood- don’t miss this one!

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

 

Hello Fishing Friends! It is the time of the year to get the dry fly box out. In the evenings we have seen some ok hatch fishing. This style of fishing should improve as the weather warms up. Look for Gray drakes, Sulfurs and stone flys to begin any evening now. It is the time to chase monsters at night on top.

Streamer Fishing

The streamer fishing has been good on cloudy days. We have moved a good number of trout on minnow patterns, olive and white streamers and yellow based streamers. Start early and fish the timber. Brown trout love to chase their prey and ambush them from the logs. The lure fishing is slowing downa bit. We had a good spring on lures. Historically as the bugs start to hatch the lure bite gets slow. If the lure game is your favorite way to fish you should plan to start as early as possible. The trout will chase early before the sun breaks the trees.

Headed to Alaska

As the insect life gains power the lure bit usually suffers. This will be my last report before I leave for Alaska. This will be 28 years of guiding up there. My second home is at Anglers Alibi on the Alagnak River. Thank you to everyone that fished with us this spring! i’m looking forward to spending the day with you guys this fall. Be safe and tight lines

Capt. Jeff Topp

 

 

 

 

Manistee River Steelhead

Manistee River Steelhead Report below Tippy Dam

Manistee River

smallmouth bass below tippy dam

Trout/Bass fishing Below Tippy Dam

The Manistee River fishing report below Tippy Dam for the early part of May has us switching gears and targeting Trout and Smallmouth Bass. The trout have been actively pursuing small streamers and Black Caddis. The Smallmouth Bass pre-spawn run continues to offer anglers a fly/lure friendly day on the water.  May is always a fun and exciting month of fishing in Northern Michigan.  With the Michigan Trout Opener on the Upper Manistee and the Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth fishing firing up, we find ourselves with a new focus and some warmer weather. 

Trout

Currently the Manistee River below Tippy Dam  Water Levels  are up a bit as some recent rains have blessed us with another water bump.  Flows on the Manistee River are currently 2050 cfs with water temps hovering around 57.  Trout are beginning to chase small streamers and take advantage of the abundant Black Caddis hatches that have started to pick up this week.  Swinging soft hackles this time of year and fishing small salmon parr imitations can be a fun way to spend the day.  The “Big Man” can offer an enjoyable experience for anglers of all skill levels, but its broad expanse offers a great setting for both beginning and intermediate anglers alike to dial in their casting and angling skills. 

Smallmouth Bass and Pike

 

Jon and I have both noted how we have switched programs to the Smallmouth Bass earlier this year than during previous seasons.  Jon has been busy exploring the river and many  Inland Lakes for a couple weeks now and I have joined in on the fun when I could.  The conditions the last few weeks have been perfect for Smallmouth Bass entering their pre-spawn phase.  The pre-spawn Bass are pretty receptive to throwing some of the largest swim flies of the season and can offer some epic visual eats.  So far the overall size of the fish and numbers in general have been very good.  

Northern Pike have been showing up more in our catch this week as well with the warming water temps.  Typically this time of year we like to run fine wire on our Swimbaits so we can fish any water type without prejudice.  The tax man is always lurking and if you don’t want to lose your favorite fly or lure wire up and fish without fear.  This time of year Smallmouth Bass are a great option for catching fish when we are facing tougher conditions on the trout streams impacting the bite.  Of course this can work both ways, so I went into more detail on how we adjust in this latest blog post.

Salmon Fry

The river is currently loaded with Salmon Fry.  We are seeing small bait balls just about everywhere in the slower edges of the river.  This is a great way to introduce someone to streamer fishing for trout or bass.  Fishing small streamer patterns on light sink tips is a fun way to dial in some critical angling skills.  Brown trout, Smallmouth Bass, Pike, and drop-back Steelhead are all utilizing this food resource.  Now is a great time of the year to get out learn, practice, and enjoy the water as the warmer weather adds a green landscape over the next week or so.

Booking a Trip

Manistee River below Tippy Dam is one of the best west side rivers in the state of Michigan.  Mangled Fly guides are starting to fill up their Summer Opening’s so give us a call soon to join in the fun at (231-631-5701) you can also shoot us an email.  Also it’s not too early to get your Fall Steelhead trips on the books.

We have a new sticker available in the shop, this sticker is pretty cool so make sure to get yours today.  We also have some new additions to the shop this year.  Hand tied Night Leaders for those of you that like mousing for brown trout.  We also put together a Night Fishing Assortment that saves you a few $$’s and comes with an easy box to store them in.

Ed 

Fly Fishing the Manistee River

Trout and Steelhead on the Manistee River Podcast

The Wadeoutthere Fly Fishing Podcast

I had the opportunity to give my opinions on a few different topics ranging from Steelhead to Trout and everything in between on the Wade Out There Podcast.  If you looking for a fly fishing podcast to listen to give this one a try.

I go into some of my thoughts on what fish see.  How I use colors, sun, and water clarity to crack the daily code of catching a few fish.

 

Conditions Matter

Conditions Matter

Conditions Matter

Every spring we enter a transitional period between our annual spring steelhead run and our peak dry fly fishing for trout. In some years this period can be long and drawn out while others transition rapidly. This period is often overlooked and regarded as “hard fishing” as weather conditions can change rapidly and behave differently from year to year. However, if you use a conditions based decision making process to plan your outings, you can eliminate some of the frustrations often associated with transitional fishing. After all, you’re only as good as the conditions you’re fishing in. As a guide, dealing with changing conditions is a daily consideration and I am constantly looking for the best conditions based approach for my anglers.

April and early May can often be characterized by inconsistent weather patterns, but the angling opportunities available at this time are unique and often overlooked. Two of my personal favorites are 1) streamer fishing for trout while searching for the first hatches of the season and 2) the pre-spawn smallmouth bass fishing. Both of these angling opportunities offer different types of fishing, but more importantly they require different conditions for success. Having multiple opportunities to choose from allows us to cater to a conditions based approach to what, when, and where, we will fish on any given day. This is just one example of two overlapping fishing scenarios that have independent factors determining the outcome.

Trout Opener

The annual trout opener is always met with great anticipation, but more often than not we find ourselves fishing during a cold front during this weekend. Negative conditions will often make fishing tough, but understanding your target species and how it will respond to these changes is really what we should consider under these circumstances. Another scenario we often experience under stable conditions are weather patterns that impact the effectiveness of certain techniques making the fishing less productive. Understanding how certain weather parameters affect the behavior of the fish we target is important, but how do these same conditions also impact the food resources available to the fish during these same times?

One of the most common examples of this that I often have to consider is; how does a bright sunny day impact the trout fishing during early spring? Understanding that under low water conditions and bright sunny skies the streamer fishing for trout will often be tough. Another consideration I will make here is understanding how these same conditions will impact my dry fly fishing for trout. I know that under bright skies and colder conditions my hatching Hendrickson’s will be low in density. Even under bright skies and warmer conditions the Hendrickson’s tend to be lower in number, but more importantly the bugs have an easier time leaving the waters surface making them less visible to the trout. When these early hatches of insects are not drifting long distances on the waters surface, trout will often not key in on the surface to feed.

Smallmouth Bass

Under these same conditions smallmouth bass may be far more active and provide a much better alternative species to fish for especially on the bright sunny days. Cold fronts will often push bass into deeper and slower water, but I still feel that they will be more receptive and less neutral than trout under these same conditions. On the flip side, if conditions are calling for heavy cloud cover and moderate temperatures, I know the trout will be more receptive to streamers and the hatching Hendrickson’s will typically last longer and drift further on the waters surface. Not everything in nature is black and white, but if you consider the fishing conditions that are presented to you, often you will find your success improves even in the face of adversity.

Over my guiding career I have seen a lot of changes, weather patterns today are definitely less predictable and the timing of our seasons feels different as well. Being adaptable in my approach and considering the conditions I’m presented on a daily basis has definitely led to more success over time. I have always been passionate about the spring fishing for trout, but often it has been met with frustration as day to day conditions didn’t provide the opportunities I was looking for. Having a backup plan for those situations is a far less stressful strategy and it will often prevent you from getting stuck in a rut. So when planning your next trip consider choosing your target species based upon the fishing conditions you are presented, it may provide everyone with a better overall angling experience.

Ed McCoy

Best Time to fish Grand Traverse Bay for Smallmouth Bass

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Grand Traverse Bay

"Fishing

Throughout the year, the changing seasons play a significant role in smallmouth bass fishing.  Seasonal change affects both the behavior of the fish and the strategies employed by anglers. In particular, the optimal month for Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass fishing can vary depending on the season. Spring often boasts a period of heightened activity as smallmouth bass feed aggressively coming out of winter. As the waters warm up in late spring to early summer, smallmouth bass move shallower for the spawn. Therefore, anglers may find the months of May and June to be particularly ideal for targeting smallmouth bass.

Summer

During the summer fishing for Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass can be an exciting and rewarding experience for anglers of all skill levels. With the warming temps Smallmouth in Grand Traverse Bay will tend to go deeper than they do in the Spring.  However, this doesn’t mean they are too deep for topwater offerings, especially if you’re willing to get up early.  Fishing smallmouth bass on topwater is truely an exciting approach to fishing the Grand Traverse Bay.

When targeting Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass in the summer it is important to focus on areas with structure.  Rock structures such as rocky points, ledges, and rock piles, are all areas where these fish like to feed.  Goby and Crayfish patterns are a key food source for smallmouth bass.  The key to success here is to find the preferred bait which usually means you will find the smallmouth bass.  One thing about smallmouth bass that translates well universally is no food = no smallmouth bass.  These guys love to eat and will be found very close to their food source.

Goby

Invasive Gobies provide plenty of food for Smallmouth Bass

Fall Fishing

Fall is a prime season for smallmouth bass fishing in Northern Michigan. The Fall is particularly renowned for its abundance of trophy-sized smallmouth bass. As the temperatures begin to cool, these elusive and aggressive fish become more active.  They can often be found moving into shallow waters in search of food to prepare for the upcoming winter. The crisp autumn air and vibrant colors of the changing leaves provide a picturesque backdrop for anglers seeking the thrill of battling these hard-fighting Grand Traverse Bay smallmouth bass.

Whether casting along rocky shorelines with Umbrella rigs, targeting submerged structure with swimbaits, or working shallow flats with the fly rod, the opportunities for landing a trophy smallmouth are plentiful during the Fall in Northern Michigan. With the combination of ideal weather conditions and the smallmouth’s voracious feeding habits before Winter, Fall smallmouth bass fishing offers anglers an unparalleled experience on the water.

With more anglers focused on King Salmon and Steelhead fishing many of the best inland lakes and Grand Traverse Bay can be barren of other anglers.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing methods for smallmouth bass can range from using gurgle bugs on a fly rod to drop-shotting deep rock piles off a point. While we primarily enjoy using a fly rod with various patterns such as Goby, Crayfish, and Topwater flies, we also recognize the importance of having a spinning rod as a backup.  Windy conditions and the need to approach larger fish in clear water from a distance are conditions that at times are better managed with spin tackle.

In the clear waters of Grand Traverse Bay, smallmouth bass may not always be approachable with a fly rod thus prompting the need for spinning gear. Grand Traverse Bay is known for regularly yielding smallmouth bass weighing in excess of six pounds. These larger bass are old and wise and often require long casts to catch.  Additionally, many anglers appreciate the exhilarating challenge of catching and fighting a smallmouth bass on light spinning gear.

Conclusion

Want to experience the thrill of smallmouth fishing in the pristine waters of Grand Traverse Bay where the breathtaking natural beauty meets unparalleled angling opportunities. Northern Michigan is home to some of the finest smallmouth bass fishing in the country.  This picturesque bay offers the perfect setting for both seasoned anglers and beginners looking to hone their angling skills. Grand Traverse Bay promises a fishing experience like no other!  So come and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Grand Traverse Bay, feel the excitement of each bite, and savor the joy of reeling in a prized smallmouth bass.

Chestnut Lamprey

Chestnut Lamprey

Chestnut Lamprey
Chestnut Lamprey attached to a Brown Trout

Chestnut Lamprey

The Chestnut Lamprey, Ichthyomyzon castaneus, is a Native Species commonly found in Lakes and Rivers throughout the Great Lakes region. They are considered to be an indicator species and their presence in a body of water has been closely associated with healthy clean water. There is, however, one negative component to their presence in a watershed and that is the negative impact they can have on fish populations during their parasitic phase.

The chestnut Lamprey has two primary life stages to complete its life cycle. The first life stage is the larval phase, commonly referred to as ammocoetes, in which the larval form is primarily a filter feeding organism. The larva will live in the fine and silty bottom sediments in slower backwater pools for an average of 5-7 years. When the larva reach 4-6 years of age they go through a metamorphosis and develop teeth and a sucking mouth disk characterized by the adult parasitic phase of their life cycle.

The metamorphic phase appears to take place from October through the end of January as the ammocoetes enter the second life stage as parasitic adults. As the water begins to warm up in April the larva exit their burrows and enter the parasitic feeding phase of their life cycle. The Chestnut Lamprey tends to be more active at night and during low light periods. Peak feeding periods for the adults range from May through July with some adults holding over until the following spring to spawn. The adult chestnut lamprey will continue to feed until the peak spawning season occurs from June to July. After spawning the adults will die and the cycle is repeated. (Hall, 1963)

Manistee River

In Michigan, most of our trout streams have an established population of Chestnut Lamprey, but, the Manistee River has been mentioned as having a highly abundant population in the upper portions of the watershed, especially from County Road 612 to Sharon Road. As the water temperature reaches 50 F degrees the adults begin to feed. (Hall, 1963) This temperature change coincides nicely with the obvious annual appearance of Chestnut Lamprey on the trout we catch throughout the first half of our trout season. Most of the trout in our streams will react to streamer patterns tied with a long and “leechy” appearance and lots of undulating movement in the materials.

Matching the Hatch

Chestnut Lamprey will range in size from 4-5” early in their adult development and will attain lengths of +7” at maturity. It’s not a coincidence that as the lamprey continue to become more active that the streamer fishing becomes more consistent for us, especially on the Manistee River. The trout are not only actively feeding at this time, but they are also combating the presence of an “alien intruder” that will parasitize them if they let their guard down! It is not uncommon to see some pretty exciting visuals while fishing “leechy” patterns at this time of year. Some fish will recklessly chase them out of their territory and oftentimes will strike with violent takes.

Take this information for what it is worth, but having an understanding of the natural phenomenon that occurs during this time of the year can only help you. Fly selection, fly movement, and presentation are all critical components to angling success and having one more arrow in the quiver can only be a positive. The Chestnut Lamprey life cycle is really just an example of one more hatch that you should pay close attention to as we move closer to the opening day of trout season here in Michigan.

Hall, J. 1963. An ecological study of the chestnut lamprey, Ichthyomyzon castaneus, in the Manistee River, Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

 

Hooks for Steelhead

Top Steelhead Hooks

Hooks for Steelhead

Top picks for steelhead hooks, talk about a sticky topic! I’m sure this is going to open a can of worms, but I wanted to address this topic as it gets a lot of attention amongst our guide staff. Every day, no matter what we are fishing, every rig we tie starts with a hook. It doesn’t matter if we are tying up a batch of streamers for steelhead, or if we are twisting up a bead rig for Alaska or Northern Michigan. The hook is usually the first item we start with.

Hook choices have consequences! Personally, I know I will never run a B10S hook again for trout. I’m fine using it for smallmouth bass, but I don’t have a scientific reason for it. Basically it’s the same reasoning I use when putting my right sock on first followed by my left. The same holds true with our favorite hooks for steelhead. It’s not really about scientific findings, but more about having confidence.

In order to shed some light on choosing the best hooks for steelhead, I have included a list of hooks preferred by Mangle Fly Guides below. This list of hooks has been proven over time and is Guide approved. For the purpose of this discussion, we chose hooks you can use for both swing and egg fly presentations. My hope is this list will help you decide which hooks to use this winter to prep your spring steelhead box.

Streamer Hooks

Streamer fishing for steelhead is not easy and you typically must capitalize upon fewer opportunities. You need a hook that is strong enough to land the Big Boyz, but light enough for your fly to move properly. The following is a Guide recommended list of streamer hooks for steelhead.

  • Owner Mosquito – is our number one choice for steelhead swing flies. This hook is a top choice personally and for Ed McCoy and Steve Pels as well. Most importantly, this hook has proven to be strong enough to handle the biggest Manistee River steelhead. Another advantage with this hook is the light wire, allowing me to pull a high percentage of my flies back from the log jams on 16# fluorocarbon. I like this hook in size 1 for most of my steelhead streamer patterns.
  • Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap – this is another one of Ed McCoy’s go to hooks. Ed runs this hook in size 1/0 and 1. He likes the big gap and very positive hook up ratio on fish that eat the fly from behind. This is a great hook later in the season to capture those fish that are nipping at the tail.
  • Daiichi 2557 – This hook has a super sticky point and will not bend out on hot fish. It has an oversized eye and makes passing trailer wire through the hook eye very easy. As is the case with most of our swing flies, we use wire or braid to attach the hook to our shanks. Steve likes this hook from size 1 to 4.
hooks for steelhead
Streamers for Steelhead

Bonus Streamer Hook

The bonus streamer hook is a “baby treble” and I was scared of what might happen upon hooking up. Baby trebles in size 10 or 8 work really well and more or less pin the steelhead upon contact. This is one of my late season hooks that might ruffle a few feathers. I only run this particular hook when temps are dropping from 40 degrees into the 30’s. I prefer this hook for days when one bite is likely all we will see on the swing. When you’re searching for one bite and only getting lethargic tugs or pulls, this hook can save the day. Try this treble hook on your next cold front fishing trip.

  • VMC 9650 – I use this hook in size 10 and size 8. It’s super sharp and strong enough to land most steelhead. An added advantage to these light wire hooks is you will get all of your flies back from the many log jams along the Manistee River. Another bonus with this hook is the oversized eye makes passing wire or braid through them a breeze. One point of caution regarding this hook. I would not recommend using these treble hooks in October or during heavy spring run off, it will not hold. If the steelhead is super charged up it will bend them right out. Please understand, when you hook up with this hook you have to take your foot off the gas. You can’t pull as hard as you normally do with the bigger heavy wire swing hooks.

Egg Hooks

The meat and potatoes fishing in the Great Lakes area is with egg patterns. It’s not uncommon for me to fill the tackle box with 1000’s of egg hooks in my preseason orders. Having tried a slew of egg hooks over the years, here is where we stand currently on the best of the best.

  • Blood Run Tail Out Ed McCoy favorite hook for pegging beads. The Blood Run Tail Out works great in size 1 to 4. It has a straight eye, so snelling your knot is a top selling point here. These hooks are super sharp and they will not bend out! This is not as ideal when fishing around all the wood, but there is never a question in confidence when fighting big steelhead on our float rigs.
  • Raven Specialist – is Jon Ray’s go to hook when fishing beads.  Especially the size 6 option for size 10mm or 8mm sized beads.  The benefits of this hook are the smaller diameter gauge metal, along with the micro barb make for better penetration and great hook up ratio. This is the perfect all-purpose hook. It is considered the most dependable Steelhead hook on the market with its great hooking and holding power.
  • Owner SSW – when it comes to fishing beads and egg patterns, no one on our staff has more experience than Jeff Topp. Having guided in Alaska for over 22 years, when Jeff recommends a hook I listen. For bead fishing he likes the size 4 hook with 10mm beads and the size 6 hook with 6mm to 8mm beads. The number one reason he likes this hook is the wire. This hook has a very strong thin wire making hook penetration better for Alaskan Rainbow Trout and Manistee River Steelhead. This razor sharp hook serves him well from size 6 to size 1 depending upon the bead size he is fishing.

Closing Thoughts

With so many hook options available at your local shops to choose from it can get confusing. I know this is just a sampling of choices, but the idea here is to help you make educated hook selections. Over the last few years we have been tying fewer yarn eggs, but the same hooks we use for fishing beads also work really well when tying big rag style yarn flies. For instance, the red Owner SSW listed above is one of my favorites to tie oversized egg patterns on for Spring Steelhead.

Treble hooks in the fly fishing world are nothing new, but I personally had no experience with them back in the day. Ten plus years ago, when I first ran treble hooks, I was very nervous and pessimistic to be honest. What would happen to the steelhead? How torn up would the mouth of my prized fish become? Would my fly just get tangled up in all the treble hook points? Experience has played a big part in answering some of these concerns. For example, the bigger hooks listed above actually do more damage than the VMC treble hooks.

This current list of hook choices is what we prefer for most of our fishing situations. I’m sure over time I will edit this list as new hooks are forged and some of the old standby’s are no longer available. Please feel free to add your favorite hooks in the comment section below and thanks again for checking out the blog.

Jon Ray