As many of you already know, in 2019 I began selling my signature fly patterns through Montana Fly Company. This year I am excited to announce several new fly patterns that are available through Montana Fly Company in 2023! There will be two new dry flies, a Mouse, and Frog pattern to round out the new releases. The dry flies are an Isonychia Dun and Spinner variation. The Mayfly patterns have been some of my most productive searching and hatch matching patterns over the years.Read more
INVASIVE SPECIES AND THEIR IMPACT UPON AQUATIC HABITATS
There are numerous threats to our aquatic ecosystems that will have lasting impacts upon our Great Lakes fisheries. Water pollution/sedimentation, habitat loss/degradation, connectivity, and the list of examples goes on and on. Invasive Species introductions is a topic that usually doesn’t get immediate attention until it’s too late. The intentional or accidental introduction of Invasive Species can have irreversible consequences upon our ecosystems. These invaders are often responsible for lost species diversity and altering food web dynamics within new habitats.
If left unchecked, the consequences are often disastrous to ecosystem functionality. The ensuing affects often result in dire consequences that can’t be fully understood until its too late. This demonstrates the importance of early detection and forward thinking approaches to minimize future introductions and spread. Most Invasive Species tend to be undetectable in low population densities, by the time the are discovered its usually too late.
In today’s world, people have the ability to travel to just about every corner of the globe. Sometimes a hitchhiker can find its way into new habitats. Albeit most of these introductions have been unintentional into our aquatic communities. However, there are some serious repercussions associated with these introductions. The aquatic invaders usually remain unchecked by natural control mechanisms and proliferate quickly as a result. The lack of natural predators usually favors the Invasive Species with a competitive advantage over time.
Predicting the outcomes of Invasive Species introductions is very difficult. In most cases there are cascading effects that ripple through affected ecosystems. As invasive populations grow, ecosystem sustainability is often lost or greatly impaired leading to reduced Native Species diversity. For the Great Lakes region this will ultimately result in reduced numbers of highly desirable game species.
The Great Lakes region has a growing number of Invasive Species concerns. Some notable examples would be the Sea Lamprey, Alewife, Spiny Water Flea, Zebra Mussels, Quaga Mussels, New Zealand Mud Snail, and now Didymo. All of these examples have consequences that go well beyond the physical parameters of water quality. The end result could have severe impacts upon the Trophic structure of our aquatic communities.
The Sea Lamprey almost wiped out the Lake Trout Populations thru uncontrolled predation. Alewife and Spiny Water Fleas had direct and indirect impacts upon Native Zooplankton populations and Juvenile Fish Survival. Zebra and Quaga mussels have changed the Trophic cascades in the Great Lakes from the bottom up through decreased nutrient loads, clear/warming waters, increased Algal blooms, and reduced Salmonid populations. Simply put these ripple effects have directly impacted the Economical value of our Recreational Sport Fishery.
New Zealand Mud Snail
One of the newest Invasive Species that is currently spreading throughout the Great Lakes Region is the New Zealand Mud Snail. The effects of this new invader are not yet fully understood. Researchers believe this invader will have adverse effects upon native snail species diversity by outcompeting native snails for food and space. Concerns have also been raised regarding how the New Zealand Mud Snail may effect primary production stream ecosystems. This will more than likely have dire consequences for macro-invertebrate communities and ultimately stream fish populations. In a trout stream this could be detrimental. As aquatic insect populations decrease, so will trout abundance in the affected streams. The New Zealand Mud Snail can clone itself! It only takes one female hitchhiker to start a colony. They are usually transported between aquatic habitats via anglers, recreational boaters, and other water-based recreational activities.
Didymo or Rock Snot
During the Fall of 2021, Didymo (or Rock Snot) is an Invasive Algae discovered blooming in the Upper Manistee River near Kalkaska, MI. According to an MDNR press release,
this is the first known Didymo case in the Lower Peninsula. The last Didymo bloom was documented in the St. Marys River near Sault St. Marie, MI in 2015. Experts were shocked by the discovery as it indicates the spread may be greater than originally thought. According to researchers, Didymo blooms form in low-nutrient cold-water streams. Trout streams to be exact!
Similarly to the New Zealand Mud Snail, Didymo blooms can cover expansive stream-bed areas. The blooms essentially suffocate macro-invertebrate habitat. Long term impacts could lead to reduced aquatic invertebrate abundance, ultimately impacting trout populations over time. Currently there are NO KNOWN MANAGEMENT solutions to eradicate Didymo so prevention is the only mitigation strategy available. Like the New Zealand Mud Snail, Didymo is commonly spread by anglers, recreational boaters, and other water-based recreational activities.
What to do
I encourage everyone to take extra precautions throughout the upcoming season. Throughly sanitize, wash, and dry your fishing gear and equipment after each use. This will be very important to help prevent further spread, especially if you plan on fishing multiple watersheds over several days. I would also encourage boat owners to invest in a separate anchor and rope for each river you fish. YOU CANNOT EFFECTIVELY CLEAN AN ANCHOR ROPE! Whenever possible, you should avoid using anchors with complex surfaces such as stacked plates. These anchors are more likely to spread aquatic hitchhikers and require disassembly to properly clean. A simple pyramid anchor is easier to clean without having to take it apart.
No matter what your preferred anchor choice is, I would encourage everyone to have one Anchor and one Rope designated to each watershed you fish. The same would apply to the wade angler, a separate pair of boots or waders per stream would be the preferred option. If you would like more information regarding Didymo, New Zealand Mud Snail, check out NZMS Collaborative. Join the fight, end the spread, and get informed.
Best Fishing Images of 2021
I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a “best of our fishing images” collage from 2021 from our Instagram Feed. These are the highest liked images from 2021. If you’re not on Instagram or do not follow us via social media, here is a chance to see some of our best liked images. I thought I would go thru a couple of images and expand upon their meanings to us this year.
Also make sure to read until the end, as Ed McCoy goes into detail about a sea monster he has captured two years in a row on the Upper Manistee while mousing the last two years.
- 20 Pound Steelhead – top left image and I believe the most liked image from the whole year. First these don’t come along very often, actually for me personally I have never seen a 20 pounder in the boat. With 20+ years of guiding, and too many personal casts to count I’m still on the hunt. Read more about this awesome guide trip below as Steve Pels goes into more depth about this once in a lifetime fish.
- Big Muskie – Always a great adventure is our month of Muskie fishing, this year was no different as Brian Pitser of The Northern Angler landed the biggest fish on the season, middle image on the top row. This fish was pretty cool, because it was a blind figure 8. Brian did an amazing job of making the big circles required to get this fish to eat his fly. Not only do these fish make great images, but the flies we throw are fun to photograph as well. As you can see on the middle bottom row. Chicken’ sized offerings are sometimes required, bring your big boy rods to this party.
- Underwater Image – every year I always wish I shot more of these, well this year I made a small purchase of new equipment and so far so good. Top right was my first day using the Axis Go and even though a few of my other shots didn’t make the top 2021 images they are my personal favorites.
- Middle Row – is all about the steelhead and for Best Fishing Images steelhead are some of the best images I can get for the likes on the Instagram. Middle row shows of a big spring buck, a true awesome winter specimen , and a big late fall buck that we recently just landed. We are lucky to have these fish in Michigan, and thank you to all that helped us with the new regs and let the DNR and NRC that these fish mean so much to us.
20 Pound Steelhead Highlights
One of the more memorable days in my boat occurred in mid November 2021. My clients were new to me and from our correspondence they have always wanted to try spey fishing but were unsure about it on this trip, thinking indicator fishing could be a good alternative. The night before our trip I double checked about spey fishing and told them that the conditions had been tough, with very low and clear water, not a huge amount of new fish coming in from the lake and a major temperature drop over night. After a short conversation about the challenges we were facing, they responded, ‘let’s go for it.”
On the run upriver in the morning my motor was acting up so I decided to stop sooner than I would have liked at a new run that I had not fished very much. I knew from conversations with my peers that the spot had major swing potential. After arriving to our first spot, we rigged up the spey rods and I began going through the basic mechanics of the cast, how we rig our rods and I jokingly explained rules numbers one, two and three if your fly gets grabbed. Rule 1: “Don’t do anything.” Rule number 2: “Don’t do anything.” Rule number 3: “Only do something when Steve tells you to.” We were getting into a good rhythm of cast, swing and step. My clients caught on quick and were getting their casts and swings dialed in. On our 8th anchor drop, the morning silence was broken by the most gratifying sound of short reel bursts, “ZZZzztt, ZZZzzt, ZZZzzt.” My first response is always, “leave it, leave it, leave it” but at this point, the fish was most likely already hooked. After a few more solid pulls and one sustained scream of the reel, I said, “go ahead and give me a light lift, it’s on!” The fish was clearly not pleased with its situation and proceeded to take multiple runs, jump 7 times and once we thought we had it beat, gator rolled and threw the hook.
Again silence filled the boat. We remained positive throughout the remainder of the day and had a lot of fun telling jokes and getting to know each other. Runs number two through four produced no action and I knew we were losing time. Run number five was a confidence spot and on our 3rd anchor drop my client fishing from the bow gets a promising rip. Then nothing. We worked that spot thoroughly, while thinking that was our last chance. Our time was up for the day but on the way out I thought, we have to hit one more, another confidence spot. We fished another hour after quitting time and I announced “two more casts guys.” On the last casts we were letting the flies hang down a little longer than normal and we admitted that it turned out to be a good swing day – they were pleased they learned how to cast and both got to feel the raw power of a swung fly take. Out of nowhere, the client fishing from the stern froze, his reel was screaming, I said nothing and he confidently lifted the rod, knowing that fish was on.
Its first run took us nearly to backing and each time it neared the boat, ran downriver like it was headed back to the big lake. The fish was tiring, never jumped, but as we were winning the battle, it would make large boils on the surface with its attempt to flee. Finally, the fish neared the boat and I saw a massive silver flash of its flank, I said “big lift!” and with a swift scoop of the net, we had it. This was not an average steelhead, I thought to myself, easy 16-18 pounds. But after lifting it out of the water for a quick photo and measurements, it turned out to be a 36.25” by 20 pound gorgeous wild female. A personal guide/client best in my boat and one that my client and I will never forget.
Two Years in a Row, same trout
2021 posed a lot of “interesting” scenarios on our local Trout water. Low water, big cold fronts in May, intense heat in early June, then followed by a wet and warm late season. Robert P. Joined me for a couple of nights mousing in August and he landed a personal best and the season’s best Brown Trout on our second night. This fish was truly a treasure, but after further inspection and a gut instinct, it occurred to me that Tim O. landed this same fish in 2020! So what’s the big deal? You knew the exact location where this fish lived, right? The cool part of the story is this fish was caught about 13 miles upstream from her 2020 location!
Kind of a cool story and it makes you think, why the big move? There are lots of factors that play into fish movement, but my best guess is this fish is just nomadic by nature. It also illustrates the importance of catch and release angling allowing future anglers to enjoy the opportunity at a fish of a lifetime!
Choosing the Correct Hook for Tying Dry Flies
When it comes to tying flies in today’s industry, the hook choices are almost unlimited and in many cases overwhelming. New Branding continues to increase the number of hook choices available in today’s market. However, if you pay close attention to some of the more important variables for good Dry Fly Hook choices you can eliminate most of the confusion. The purpose of this discussion is to help you think through your choices and to highlight a few of my preferred hook choices for tying Dry Flies. You can also check out the video where we covered some of our favorite hook choices on the Mangled Fly You Tube Channel.
Key Characteristics to look for in Hook Choices
Some important hook characteristics to consider in selecting an appropriate dry fly hook would be; hook eye orientation, hook gap, hook wire diameter/length, hook bend shape/point. Hook strength and hook up efficiency are very important aspects of hook choice and are directly related to the primary characteristics of the hook. The orientation of the hook eye, the length of the hook shank, and the width of the hook gap are all important components of hook design. that dictate your success. Finally a good range of hook sizes is also important in determining hook choice. If more hook sizes are available for a particular hook then you will have more variety of sizes to tailor your fly selection needs.
I prefer a down turned eye on my Dry Fly hooks. The biggest reason for this relates back to the hook setting angle of a Dry Fly presentation which is typically straight up. A down turned eye offers exceptional hook up efficiency with this type of hook set. For comparison a straight eye hook offers greater hooking efficiency with a strip set. Understanding presentation and how the hook will respond to the typical presentation you will be fishing with will determine how efficient your hook up percentage will be.
Whenever possible I will choose a wide gap hook for most of my Dry Fly hook selections as well. A bigger hook gap will tend to give you a better hookup percentage and more room for error while fighting hooked fish. Consider the style of fly you are tying as well. If you are tying extended body or foam patterns I prefer the wide gap hooks. Wide gap hooks have more of the hook point exposed and provide a bigger area for hook penetration. Most of the hooks I tie on are also chemically sharpened, this seems to be an industry standard, but hook penetration is very important.
The hook wire strength/length are important considerations too. Some of the larger insects we imitate require longer hooks to complete the platform for that bug. Longer wire hooks tend to give the fish an advantage for escape. Matching the length of the wire to strength, 2x or 3x heavy, and a wide gap would be my preferred choice. I don’t tie Dry Flies on a lot of long shank hooks basically for that reason. However, with that being said there are a few hooks available in this size combination that I have had great success with and I tend to use these hooks while tying my larger Dry Flies. Hoppers, Hex, and larger Stonefly patterns sometimes require that longer hook shank to get the appropriate size in your imitation. The TMC 5263 and Ahrex FW 570 are two of the long shank dry fly hooks I like for these larger bodied imitations.
Some of my Favorite Dry Fly Hook Choices
Here is the short list for the most commonly used Dry Fly Hooks that I prefer to tie my Dry Flies on. Feel free to substitute your own selections, these are just the hooks that I have the most confidence in for their performance on the water. You can check out the specs on the full Line of Tiemco Dry Fly Hooks
Tiemco TMC 100
The TMC 100 is the most commonly used hook for my Dry Fly tying. It is a standard Dry Fly hook that has a downturned eye, 1x fine wire, and a wide gap. This hook is available in a multitude of sizes from #8 to #26. I have used this hook in a number of flies and personally have a lot of confidence in this hook. The TMC 100 allows me to imitate countless hatch specific insects. I use this Dry Fly hook for most of my Parachute Mayfly imitations, Mayfly spinners, Mayfly/Caddis emergers, and Stonefly/Caddis adults.
Tiemco TMC 102Y
The TMC 102Y is a unique hook that has an unbelievable hook up efficiency! It was designed for fishing in Japan for quick striking trout. The TMC 102Y is a Dry Fly hook with a downturned eye, 1x fine wire, and a wide gap. This hook is available in sizes #9 to #19. The odd sizes are intriguing, but we do have some hatches here in Michigan where the insects are actually smaller than the even sizes commonly found in most standard Dry Fly hooks. The male Hendrickson Mayfly is one example that comes to mind. I have used this hook in Parachute Mayfly, Mayfly emerger, Stonefly, and Hopper imitations. It really shines as a great hook to use in a lot of my Mayfly extended body patterns, especially the All Day Dun series. This hook has quickly become one of my favorites for the majority of my Dry Fly tying.
The TMC 5263 has a downturned eye, 3x long shank, and a 2x heavy wire. This hook is actually a Nymph and Streamer hook, but I will commonly use it in some of my larger Dry Fly patterns. I prefer to use this hook in some of my Hex, Hopper, and Stonefly patterns where I have a greater chance of encountering larger fish. This hook has a good hookup percentage and is tough as nails. I have not had one fail or bend while playing larger fish. Confidence is the name of the game with this particular hook. This is one of the long shank hooks that has a good balance of length to strength and hook gap width. This is important when it comes to hookup efficiency and battling larger fish.
Ahrex FW 570
The FW 570 is a 2x long Dry Fly hook with beefed up wire and a large gap making it a great hook choice for big fish flies. This hook is available in sizes #4 to #14 and the smaller sizes are still beefy enough to manage larger fish easily. I haven’t been using this hook as long as some, but so far it has been a great hook for some of my larger foam extended body mayfly and hopper patterns. It’s quickly finding its way into more of my tying and my confidence in this hook continues to grow. This is another great long shanked hook that has a great hookup efficiency.
The B10S is a 1x strong Stinger hook that can be found in sizes #5/0 to #14. I have successfully used this hook in the smaller sizes from #6 to #14 in some of my Dry Fly patterns. It is a great hook for some of my larger foam extended body Mayfly and Stonefly patterns. It is very strong and has a pretty good hookup percentage. It has a wide gap which is great for extended body Dry Fly patterns. It meets a niche I needed to fill with a short shank hook paired with a wide gap.
Hook selection is a very important component to fly design. As you start to play with new materials and develop some pretty unique and effective fly designs, make sure you pay close attention to the hook selection. A fly is only as good as the hook it is tied upon! If you are struggling to hook fish with a certain pattern consider the hook choices available when you go back to the drawing board. Trial and error are all part of the game. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different hook types to find one that works better with a specific fly design.
McCoy’s All Day Spinner – Isonychia
I am excited to announce a new fly pattern to be released by Montana Fly Company in 2021! The McCoy’s All Day Isonychia Spinner is very durable, has a very realistic profile, can be fished all day, and is a must have pattern for our Northern Michigan streams. This fly will be available in two sizes, #10 and #12, and will complete the Isonychia lineup in a series of foam based dry flies that I released through MFC in 2019.
The All Day Isonychia Spinner is a great searching pattern and is one of my go to favorites to target rising trout during an Isonychia Spinner fall. Make sure to check with your local fly shops for availability and I expect we will have a limited quantity available here online at Mangled Fly. Read more
Most years Kevin Feenstra will post some sort of Monster Lake-Run Brown he has guided too and this year is no different great job Kevin. Awesome fish. Make sure to follow Kevin on Instagram for more amazing images. Also click the link to see both images of this enormous Lake-Run Brown Trout.
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SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity
A new line was introduced in the past month the SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity and have had the pleasure to test it out over the last month. Line showed up during Hex Season, even though my go to line for Hex is the Glow Line , but I have a few days each year that allow daytime fishing of the Hex Hatch. Turning over big dry flies into tight quarters is a must and the New Smooth Infinity was up to the task.
Location, Location, Location
During the last thee weeks the line continues to bring it’s A game to Northern Michigan. With the foam bite (hoppers, ants, and beetles) mixed in with twitching (small streamers on a floating line) these two methods are a huge part of my summer program for trout. Having a line that can deliver dry flies to within inches of a log, but still has the energy to turn over a small weighted streamer with a tungsten cone head into a deep pool. Is a must for me, nice to have confidence that the SA Smooth Infinity can do both without missing a beat.
Local Fly Shop
If you have ever spent much time with me in the boat, and we talk equipment you know how I feel about fly lines, it is the most important part of your equipment! Make sure to stay on top of the latest technology and check them out at your local fly shop. Also if you see me on the water and want to take a test cast just ask.
There’s a reason we call this line the Infinity: there is no end to what you’ll be able to do with it. The Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity taper is a half-size heavy freshwater line built for everything from panfish to pike. With a long rear taper and extended front taper, it’s delicate for dry flies, has enough power for streamers, and can mend line for nymph rigs with equal ability. Built with the AST Plus slickness additive, Infinity lines are 50% slicker than any other SA line, and will last, on average, eight times longer than any line from the competition.
Remember: REAL NERDS GET ALL THE FISH.
Not too often a trout makes me nervous when I’m in charge of the net, but a new PR on a Michigan Brook Trout.
With it being streamer tying season we have a new video on our Vimeo page to share. Russ Maddin shares another streamer that is a must tie. Using Egg Yarn for the head gives this Maddin creation great action. Add a few of his techniques to your box and have a great trout season. Make sure to watch until the end, as Russ breaks down what line and leader setup to use when fishing this great fly.
Photo by Ed McCoy of a Michigan Brown Trout snacking on one of his new mouse patterns. Thanks for sharing the pic Ed. Nice work.
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