Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Manistee River Steelhead Report
Manistee River Steelhead Fishing

Fishing Report

The Manistee River Steelhead Report for late January has the Manistee River running really clear. River levels are about average to a little low for this time of year, water temperatures hovering around 35 degrees. Water flows are currently at a good to low level, and running at 1740 cfs. So the game has gotten stealthy. Downsizing presentation, and changing up presentations.

Typical fishing report for this time of year, with cold water and surprising clear water it has fish in the deepest darkest parts of river. Go deep and fish where the wood is. Might cause you to tie a few more knots but that is where they have been hiding. Just as what Jeff Topp is seeing on the Pere Marquette, you need to invest in the lumber runs. Also softening up the presentation. Rag style eggs and bugs are making a difference.

Winter Steelhead

Egg Flies for Steelhead
Egg Flies for Steelhead

Steelhead on the Manistee River have entered the stage where mixing up the program pays dividends. One of the tactics that we like to work into the program is movement. To do this best you need to add weight to your flies. The bug bite has started, so doing what you do to imitate the wax worm & jigs is paying off. We like to use feathers and plastics to get the movement.

When fishing this way you will also find that you need to usually change out your float as well. I find I get the better movement on my jig or euro patterns with a slim float design. I personally like the loafer.

Something else we saw this week, is that beads are always effective but could talk steelhead into a bigger meal, so rag style egg flies bounced into the timber runs did the trick. Coaxing out a steelhead with a single large egg fly is a great way to fish the dirty runs. As the bead rig gets hung up with how the hook dangles in the rigging.

Add slight purples or blues to your egg patterns is a good idea when water is clear, really not sure why other than it works. I think the lavender tones dull out the hotter oranges and yellows. Creating a different mix of colors and pulling on the curiosity factors of steelhead.

Booking a Guide Trip

If your looking to book a guide trip give us a call or shoot an email (231-631-5701) and email . Spring steelhead is just around the corner, phone has been ringing, so if you’re looking for dates give us a call. Make sure to check back to this report and see how we are doing. We have been playing on the Upper Manistee River trout fishing as well. Make sure to follow us socially as Ed McCoy will be tying some his patterns in the next few weeks online. Both the Northern Angler and Shultz Outfitters have him on the docket.

Jon Ray

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 is Guide Steve Pels go to hook for early fall. 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 and I both agree, this is our 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.
  • 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

Changing Floats based on Water Type

Changing Floats based on Water Type

I can still remember the day when the light bulb turned on and I finally understood the need to change my float to match the water type I was fishing. Changing floats based on water type isn’t something you hear much about. Actually it’s a simple change that can make a big difference, especially in the spring, when steelhead themselves are changing the water types they utilize.

Fishing Story

Let’s start with a real world scenario, or as I like to commonly refer to it, my lightbulb moment. It was December and I just spent the past 60 days fishing for steelhead on the lower Manistee River, the section closest to Lake Michigan. Most of those days were spent primarily fishing floats in the lower end of the river. I had my confidence rig all setup and ready to go and for whatever reason I decided to change it up and shift the guide trip towards Tippy Dam.

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Manistee River Steelhead Report

Pic of the Day – New Steelhead Swing Colors

New Swing Colors

Hard to believe after this many years that it took me this long to find love with the color purple on the swing fly program. But 2019 I finally did it. Have to thank Brett Howard for pushing me over the edge. This color combination has been in the Great Lakes Steelhead swing game for many years, but I just didn’t seem to ever gravitate to it. Well now that I have had success I find my self tying it more often. If your looking to expand you color scheme in your fly box here is a quick fly recipe.

Once the season slows down have goals of expanding this section of the Mangled Fly Blog, more details more videos and better fly patterns that need to be shared. Good luck this fall and hope this color can make it into your box.

  • I use cotter pins with medium weight dumbbell eyes
  • Hook is a size 1 Mosquito by Owner, this year using braid 50# to attach
  • Barred Rabbit or Marabou in Purple
  • Also experimenting with a sparkle brush as an underbody currently (purple)
  • Flash is Grape , as much as you like. I don’t count strands
  • Ice dub head ( defiantly chartreuse as the finishing color, but pink and orange have both worked as the core color)

Pics and Videos of the Day – Jumping Steelhead

Jumping Manistee River Steelhead

Todays post is a few hightlights from the past few days on Mangled Fly’s social media accounts if you haven’t followed us go check out the feed we have been updating a couple times a week on Instagram and our Facebook page. Video above was shot this week on my iPhone as we got an up close look at a steelhead from the Big Manistee River. These fish this year have been strong and full of power and giving us plenty of acrobatic displays. Enjoy the video

Big Colored Bucks

Jeff Topp again with an impressive colored up buck. We refer to male steelhead as bucks for those that don’t know. Males will color up the most and display some really intense red coloration the longer they are in the river. This male has been around since the beginning of the run we would guess. Awesome looking fish, and great work Jeff Topp.

Michigan Fall Steelhead

Pic of the Day – Jeff Topp Steelhead

Check out this great fish from Guide Jeff Topp’s boat. Client is Steve B. with a Big Manistee River steelhead

Fall Steelhead

Fall Steelhead 2019 Update

Fall steelhead 2019 update. The Manistee River continues to fish pretty well for fall steelhead. The last few days fish numbers have slowed down as we haven’t received a push of fish in a few days, but with a good number of steelhead in the upper sections opportunity still prevails. While pressure remains high with other boats and anglers you have to have a good presentation to get the job done.

The egg bite has been the main tactic but the streamer rods have started to make it into the rotation as well. Craig had a exciting morning yesterday that I want to expand upon in the next blog. Working with a new single hand set up that I want to go into more details about. Craig as seen above in the picture gallery landed a nice Coho on a ESL (egg sucking leech) and wait to you hear about our other encounter. For those interested in the streamer / Swing bite, Steelhead have set up in the runs where we like them. At least I’ve been finding them in that type of water with the egg presentation. So I believe that the time is right to start hunting the fall steelhead run with both eggs and streamers.

Wish everyone the best of luck this fall, more updates coming. Hope to get to the single hand line combo blog this week as well

Jon Ray

Pic of the Day – Big Steelhead

Manistee River Steelhead

Well so far the Steelhead run of 2019 is very similar to 2018, they are big again. If you remember one of my posts from last year I have the same feeling for this year. The elusive 20 pound steelhead is going to make it’s entrance at some point. Yesterday we had a 15-16 pound steelhead give us everything we could handle with an extremely long run, where the backing knot sure was tested for a longer period in time than I’m comfortable with as a guide. That amount of line out of the rod on the Manistee River with all it’s log jams is never a good thing.

Jim my client did everything he could to just hold onto this beauty. After landing the steelhead everyone was in awe and a simple picture in the net is all Jim wanted. We revived this beauty and off she swam to continue on her journey.

As your headed out this fall be ready for some big battles. Good luck and continue to check back as we share a few pics and stories from the fall steelhead run.

Michigan Fall Steelhead

Fall Steelhead on the Big Manistee River

Back on the Big Manistee for the Fall Steelhead season, wanted to share some quick pics of the first few days back. First impressions are we have some big fish again this year. They are strong and hard to hold onto. Without a doubt these are my favorite fish to chase during the season, the speed and power of these Great Lakes strain of steelhead is truly impressive.

Check back through out the week as I will continue to post additional images and links. Also make sure to follow Mangled Fly on Instagram as we post additional pictures and videos on our Feed and Stories.

Still have a few open dates at the end of November as well and plenty of availability in December too. Open Nov dates are 26,27,29. Contact me if your interested. As reports from my charter lake captains is this run of 2019 Fall Steelhead should be special. Have a great fall!

XL Steelhead

2018 XL Steelhead

XL Steelhead

I like to think of the steelhead season like a hockey game.  It has three periods to the game, that last a total of 6-7 months.  Period one is the Fall-Run, then Winter Steelhead, and the final period is Spring Steelhead. In the first period of this game, the Fall Run  we have had some XL sized Steelhead show up.  In my personal experience fishing the Manistee River, we had some epic battles with steelhead.  These battle would make your cry on one hand, and almost laugh on another.  The pure strength , speed, and power of these fish left my anglers helpless, and these XL steelhead finished them off so quickly that we didn’t even know what happened.  I relate this too a UFC Fight.  Round 1 first 10 sec TKO.

Steelhead Guides

But two of my fellow Steelhead Guides had the opportunity of landing two extremely large steelhead.  Fellow Guides and Scott Fly Rod Pro’s. Kevin Feenstra and Brad Petzke shared these images and my mouth dropped.  Kevin’s fish came from the Muskegon River on a swung fly.  One of his Halloween Leech patterns.  (FYI now available commercially for sale)

XL Steelhead

20 pound Steelhead caught on the Muskegon River

The second fish of XL size was shared by Brad Petzke who guides the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, less is known about this fish as Brad works really hard to find steelhead hot spots so we are going to respect that and provide no additional details. But if your looking to fish the UP you have to give Brad a call.  I’m not sure if this steelhead was eating baitfish out of the Great Lakes, or Big Macs at McDonalds.  The girth on this fish is very impressive.  Great job Brad and thank you for sharing.

XL Steelhead

Amazing Steelhead from the UP in Michigan

Second Period

I look forward to the second period as winter steelhead fishing probably provides one of the best opportunities to land a XL Steelhead.  With water temps dropping these big Boyz don’t have full speed anymore.  Still have plenty of power to pull us all into deep timber but, the best chance to land a XL is starting now.  Stay tuned hopefully for more XL Steelhead pics to come.