Steelhead fishing in the snow

First Snow of 2023 and Steelhead Fishing

Steelhead and Snow

Something about the first snow of the year and turning on the bite window of our Northern Michigan Steelhead.  Not only does the first snow of the year bring some much needed cover up to all the brown landscape, but it does seem to trigger a good bite from our local steelhead population.  Here are two clips from 2023 and 2022 showing off a few nice fish the last two years during the first falling snow of the year.

 

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Steelhead Report below Tippy Dam

Fall Steelhead

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Steelhead fishing Below Tippy Dam

The Manistee River fishing report below Tippy Dam has us in late fall or early winter mode.  Received our first significant snow yesterday with 3-5″ of the white stuff blanketing the ground and boat ramps.  With water levels remain low and clear, the fish that are here are on high alert .  We continue to only receive small trickles of new fish coming.  But I will say my last few trips I’ve noticed an uptick in hook ups.  While mostly because I’ve had a down trend in other fishing boats, I have been finding a few more steelhead per trip.

Here is a link to the NEW NRC Amendment for the 1 fish limit for steelhead.

Manistee River

Currently the Manistee Water Water Levels  is on a slight rise with the small amount of rain and snow lately .  We are currently at 1560 CFS and would love to see some more rain or snow.  Manistee River is low and clear in most sections and downsizing your presentation is key once again.  Water temperatures on the Big Manistee are still in the low 40’s (currently at 41 F).  

Definitely been noticing some dropping water temperature tendencies , meaning you better start fishing some slower seams and looking for some slower moving water.  This temp drop from the 40’s into the 30’s can be one of the toughest scenarios .  But once it settles and levels out fishing will be good for the rest of the winter months.

Egg Flies and Swung Flies

I was all over the board this week with fly colors.  One day size 12mm was my best with the biggest brightest stuff I had in the box firing, to the next day with high sun and blue bird skies I had to run the dullest 8mm I own.  Looking for colors such as Sunny D or Mandarin.

Same can be said for the swung flies, early fall firet iger one day to the smallest black with hardly any blue flash would be our only action.

Best advice I can give you is be ready to tie a few extra knots each day and change out until you find something that works .  Simple concept this year I’ve been employing is to have faith in the fly or presentation.  It’s probably not the color if the steelhead are there they have been active in the first few casts.  Have faith in what you’re throwing just keep fishing.  It’s not the fly.

Booking a Trip

Manistee River below Tippy Dam is one of the best west side steelhead rivers in the state of Michigan.  Mangled Fly guides are starting to have some openings now that we are almost to December so please give us a call at (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email Guides are open to a full or 1/2 day trip.  With winter fast approaching some of the best fishing can be from 10am to 2pm.  

If you haven’t noticed we finally have the Amphibious Assaults and McCoy’s Mouse (both sizes) in stock.  These flies look really good.  Buy them online at the links above.

Jon Ray 

Holiday Deals and Cyber Monday Sales – 2023

Holiday Shoping, Sales, and Deals

With so many sales and Holiday deals hitting the inbox you might be losing track of all the options that you have.  So I asked the guides at Mangled Fly to share some of their favorites .  We will be updating this over the coming days and weeks. Check out them out below and you will find a few different links to help with your Christmas Shopping.  I’m also hoping over the next few days (okay maybe longer), to add a few Mangled Fly Shop bundles / savings.

 

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Manistee River Steelhead Report

New Steelhead Bag Limits

New Steelhead Bag Limits

On November 9th, 2023 the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) passed a fisheries amendment regarding Steelhead bag limits. A list of specified rivers and streams were changed from the current 3 fish bag limit to a one fish bag limit for steelhead on a year round basis. The NRC adopted the changes with a 7-0 vote to pass the fisheries order amendment. The new regulations will go into effect on April 1, 2024.

The following backyard rivers were included in the new Regulations taking effect on April 1, 2024:
– Betsie River
– Bear Creek
– Big Manistee River
– Little Manistee River
– Pere Marquette River

Here is the updated amendment with legal descriptions of streams to be included in the new Steelhead Regulations:
 

 

Drone image of the Big Manistee River

Birds Eye View Fall Steelhead

Taking a look from above down on the Big Manistee River  while we step thru a run looking for a steelhead.  Fall colors are about done, as heavy winds have really blown away our fall colors.  Water levels continue to be low and clear this 2023 Fall Steelhead season.  But we keep grind out most days finding a few steelhead to play.

Upper Manistee Trout Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Manistee River Trout Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report for the third week of October.  The colors are popping and the Brown and Brook trout are nearing their peak spawning period.  The river is low and clear and the water temperatures have ranged from 48 to the low 50’s.  It looks like our weather is going to be fairly seasonal moving forward and some much needed rain is heading our way.

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Upper Manistee River in fall colors

Streamer Fishing

The Fall Streamer Season, the hunt for large fish, has been decent to productive pending conditions.  The streamer bite has been primarily on baitfish and leech patterns.  Cloudy days have been the best, but the better fishing can be during or after rain events.  Water temps have dropped into the low 50’s and with the right conditions the streamer fishing should improve until the fish begin to spawn.  

October can be a good time to go as the fish are in pre-spawn mode and want to eat.  As the fish begin to spawn the streamer fishing will lose its effectiveness.  At this time the fish just need a break until they are done with their spawn.  The post spawn window is one of my favorite times as the fish are looking to put some weight back on heading into winter.

Upcoming Post Spawn Streamer Season

Brown Trout on a Streamer

Sometime around the second week of November the fish will finish spawning and the streamer fishing will pick back up.  The post spawn bite can provide some good fishing especially on cloudy/wet weather days.  It will pretty much be a streamer game moving forward.  Late fall and winter can give the angler who is willing to go hunting for the opportunity plenty of solitude.

Didymo

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).

 

Trout Guide Trip

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 currently have limited availability, so if your looking to book a trout trip I would encourage you to do so soon. October and November brings with it a mixed bag of opportunities as we are on the Lower Manistee chasing Fall Steelhead.  So make sure to follow along on our social pages and our online fishing report page .

Make sure to check out the new mouse and frog patterns from Montana Fly Company that have finally arrived.  Check out our online store for these flies and availability.  They have been a staple in my box for several seasons.  Both patterns have provided personal best trout for our customers.

 

cold weather fishing gear

Cold Weather Fishing Gear

Cold Weather Fishing Gear
Cold Weather Fishing

Fall and Winter Steelhead Gear

One of the more difficult challenges we face in the Midwest during Steelhead season is staying warm. This leads to many questions when preparing for your fishing trip. What do I wear? What cold weather fishing gear do you bring on your trip? With over 30 years of fall/winter steelhead fishing under my belt, I thought I would share how I layer myself before each steelhead trip.

I live by the philosophy that if I get hot I can always take it off. I’ll also share a few bonus tips, tricks, and some new technology along the way. We found some new tech last year that we used with great success and I’ll share that as well.

Base Layer

Once I determine wether the day is going to be wet or dry and what the overall forecast is, I can make my base layer choices. I have two layering systems that I can choose from based on what the weather forecast might be for the day. If I believe it’s going to be wet I prefer my base layer to be a Merino Wool based material. Having tried almost every other type of layering fabric, wool is my go to choice for wet days. No matter how cold and wet I get, wool based materials still keep me warm. The majority of my favorite wool base layers I purchase have been from Patagonia and now Duckworth. Duckworth is a new company for me, but to say I’ve been impressed is an under statement . Make sure to check out the Mens Powder Hoody, you will not be disappointed.

One more quick tip here, no matter if it’s a wet or dry forecast, I will NEVER wear cotton based materials! Even on the unseasonable warm days I still go with a synthetic base layer on dry days. Synthetics are always my go to base layer, wether the forecast is wet or dry. I always start with some sort of wicking layer for my base. Some of my favorite wicking layers range from our hoodie less sun-shirts to any of the Simms fabrics.

To complete the base layer system I choose for the day, I may double up on my base layers depending upon the low and high temperatures for the day. It’s not uncommon for me to start with lightweight layers and then add a mid or expedition weight base layer before adding one of my favorite layers of all, the Puffy Jacket.

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smallmouth bass

Late Summer or Early Fall Smallmouth

Smallmouth fishing in Late Sumer or Early Fall can be one of the best times of the year.  Smallmouth bass are putting on the feed bag as they are starting to anticipate the winter months.  After a nice long summer of a diversified diet smallmouth want to put on as much weight as possible for the upcoming winter.  To do this their main focus is protein.  What gives them the best bang for their buck on the protein scale.  Baitfish!

Baitfish

As water temps start to drop baitfish start to congregate and form big balls of bait.  Some popular techniques to imitate these baitfish balls are umbrella rigs, spinnerbaits, and with the fly rods a two fly rig I like to call the Donkey Rig.  Covering water is key, as you have to locate the baitfish.  Using your electronics or understanding wind direction or current flow should help you and point you in the right direction.

 

 

Summer Smallmouth Fishing

Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

As we get into the dog days of the summer in Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass on the big water of Grand Traverse bay I have to be honest got tough.  I knew that my first year on the bay I would have periods of “learning”.  I don’t mind these periods of learning as lessons will come about, and patterns of understanding these fishes behavior are processed.

The last few with smallmouth moving to some of the deepest water has made it hard to get them to play.  Finding fish hasn’t been the problem.  But getting them to interact with my presentation has been the challenge.  While I’ll keep testing my skills over the next 6 weeks until Steelhead Season starts on the Lower Manistee, I did jump back into the river action the last few weeks.  With really low water this summer, smallmouth are definitely grouped up.  Lessons learned last year with low water prepared us for what to have ready in the fly box this year.

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth

Grand Traverse Bay Smallmouth Fishing

Northern Michigan smallmouth bass the last few weeks on the bay has been a challenge.  As learning the deep tactics has been a process.  But knew this process was going to take years to learn.  With a high percentage of the fish in deeper water than we have fished the majority of the season, getting them to interact with our presentation has been a struggle.  With water temps at their warmest of the year, learning how to find colder water has been the challenge.

Like I said I have about 6 weeks until the river calls with steelhead trips, so still have some limited time to learn how to catch the late summer smallmouth.  Do have a couple tricks I want to try here in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

River Smallmouth

River fishing for smallmouth bass

River fishing for smallmouth bass

With the bay given me a few speed bumps we transitioned to some of my old beats, I guess you would say comfort zone.  Bouncing around a few different river systems we found some good smallmouth bass fishing even with the low water.  Food sources that have been working the best pre and post full moon were on two different spectrums.  Pre full moon you couldn’t touch a fish on a baitfish pattern, it was all about the spicy crabs or crayfish patterns.  But since the full moon, mega amounts of baitfish have bloomed and smallmouth are hunting these bait balls.

Continue to play with the Donkey Rig I talk about in this Northern Angler Fly Tying session , I need to get this tutorial done on our YouTube page.  One of my favorite rigs to run late summer.  Have another rig that is in it’s infancy phase, that I truly believe can work on the bay as well.  Just need to dial the flies and leader setups.  But fall baitfish is a key trigger on most of our lakes and rivers.

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 and Early Fall for targeting Northern Michigan Smallmouth Bass.

Jon Ray

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Hello fishing friends! Here is the latest Pere Marquette Fishing Report. 

Dry Fly 

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

It is time to switch gears and go into second shift mode. It’s dry fly time in the river. With a good amount of insects hatching starting mid afternoon and going into night fall. Look for caddis and stoneflies to start hatching mid afternoon. As the evening starts and the sun gets below the trees it’s drake time. Check out Ed McCoys All Day Dun patterns for the go to patterns for the night bite. They are foam so they float all night long.

Lure or Streamer

If lure or streamer fishing is your game you better start early. First light bite is by far the best time to move a big brown on a lure. As the insect hatch gets stronger the lure bite will get harder to find.The first couple hours of light night be the only hope this time of year. The browns at times will just sit and wait for the “hatch”. This makes it hard to catch fish during the day. Bottom line is get your dry flies out and enjoy the evenings on the river. The river is low and clear. Wading should be very doable. Watch your step and be safe out there. 

Booking a Trout Trip

If you’re looking to book a Trout Trip use our Contact Page 

 Pick up a few dry flies from our Shop, as the Pere Marquette Hex Hatch is only weeks away.  New Sun Shirts are also available, hood makes for a great mosquito barrier in the late evening as well. 

Jeff Topp