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 June has us fishing late into the night.  Over the past couple of days a heat wave drove our water temps into the “hot” zone.  With the heat our Hex hatch has started throughout the watershed.   This past week was filled with some great Isonychia hatches and the Brown Drake even made a comeback.  The Great Houdini Hatch best describes the Brown Drake this year. 

Water conditions have been dropping and rapidly warming this week.  With some intense heat and warm overnight temps, water temps have been on the HOT side.  There is some rain in the forecast and a slight cool down coming so keep the temps in mind while planning your fishing trips.  Water temps this time of year are mostly driven by solar exposure so even a cool day can get too warm.  The water temperatures have ranged anywhere from 63 to 71 over the past few days.  Typically water temps will peak around 8pm this time of year as we are in the summer solstice.  A little cool down is coming, but stay vigilant and keep an eye on the temps over the next few weeks.  

 

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Upper Manistee Trout Fishing

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.

The best streamers have been primarily small baitfish and leech patterns.  The fish have seen a lot of presentations at this point so I’m always looking for something different to throw at them this time of year.  Best colors have been Ginger, Tan, yellow, and Black, but you need to play with color and size as it changes frequently.  

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.

Peak Hatch Season

The Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing with dry flies is at peak now as our Hex Hatch has ramped up over the past couple of days.  Last week saw some pretty solid fishing during the Isonychia hatches.  Anytime the weather cools the Iso loves to show up and provide a great opportunity at some quality fish during the daytime. Most of the Isonychia activity has been light hatching, but there have been times where a few Isonychia spinners were on the water.  The best flies for us during the Iso hatch have been McCoy’s All Day Dun Isonychia- Grey, McCoy’s Boondoggle Grey Isonychia, and McCoy’s Iyso Dun Grey .

The Brown Drakes, which appeared to be finished, made a strong come back with the warmer weather.  As the hot weather arrived the Brown Drakes finished up over a couple of nights and our Hex hatch started to gain momentum.  The Dry Fly fishing has been pretty solid this past week with the warmer weather.  However, with warmer weather comes warmer water temps.  During the past few days water temps have made fishing difficult outside of the early mornings and after dark.  

Hex Hatch

The Hex hatch has been reported throughout most of the watershed.  With the heat, so comes our largest Mayfly.  The size and appeal of this bug is a main attraction for big fish and anglers alike. People come from all over the world to fish our streams during the Hex hatch.  The river can get crowded, busy, and water temps can be on the warmer side for safe trout fishing.  Just remember to check your water temps and respect other anglers space.  If you’re not sure of what to do when you encounter other anglers then just ask them.  They should tell you where they want you to go and do your best to try and accommodate.

This heat will make things go quick and I expect the hatch will fizzle out in typical fashion compared to recent years.  Typically this hatch is about 2 weeks of good hatching and spinner falls.  So far the best flies for us have been the McCoy’s All Day Dun, McCoy’s Boondoggle Hex, Reagan Hex Spinner, and larger Robert’s Yellow Drake.  Remember to be safe, have fun, and take time to adequately revive your fish for release.

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

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

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.

 

Manistee River Tree Drop Update

Upper Manistee River Tree Drop Update

Yellow Trees

Manistee River Update

I recently had the opportunity to float below Yellow Trees and take a look at what impacts the tree drop had within that section. In September of 2022 Michigan Trout Unlimited helicoptered in almost 200 whole trees and placed them strategically throughout the river between Yellow Trees and Rogers Landing access sites. This was a prescribed woody debris addition through a collaborative habitat rehabilitation project lead by Michigan TU with assistance from several governmental agencies and private donors. I have been patiently waiting to see what the outcome of this wood addition would look like.

As many of you know, the Upper Manistee River is suffering from systemic habitat decline resulting from several external factors and from years of hands off management practices. The scope of this project is one of the largest wood additions we have seen within the watershed. My hope was that the added trees would help the river to cut down again as opposed to the widening stream width we have observed over the past decade. My first impression was mostly positive as we floated into the section where the majority of the trees were placed.

Desired Outcomes

There were several aspects I was hoping to observe in the areas where the trees were placed. Increasing depth and scour, silt bed formations in the calm water behind the trees, exposing woody debris on the stream bottom, and funneling the current to the middle of the river channel. To my surprise all four of these conditions were being created by the new wood additions. To me these conditions I have described are what makes the Upper Manistee River unique and slightly different from other trout streams in Michigan. Most of these attributes were declining or have become completely absent in this section during the past ten years.

Depth and Scour

Manistee River Tree Drop Update

I would say that 90% of the areas that woody debris was placed in the river went through some sort of change. There were a couple of stream reaches where the depth had more than doubled around the new wood. Increasing stream depth is important for several reasons. Deeper water is more stable from temperature change, this is something that has been lost over recent years as water temperatures in that section are quite volatile and can change by as much as 8-12 degrees in a 24 hour period. Deep water habitat is also critical for large trout abundance and overall population dynamics within a stream. The more suitable places there are for trout to live equals more trout, it’s a pretty simple concept.

Silt Beds

Sand has always been an issue on the Upper Manistee River, but it is even a bigger problem today in our ever changing environment with the current hands off approach. Overall, the erosional issues we dealt with in the past have been lessened to a certain degree by other projects focusing on this problem. However, rain events have changed how the river behaves during high and low flow periods. As the river began to cut out (or widen) instead of cutting down (or deepening) the sand bed load was continuing to increase. As a result the majority of the large silt beds that previously lined the river edge were filled in by sand. As we floated through the treated section it was eye opening to see how much new silt has already collected behind the trees and in the calm water in between tree placements. This is good news for burrowing insects like the Brown Drake and Hex.

Exposing More Wood

One habitat aspect of the Upper Manistee River that makes it unique is the amount of large woody debris that lines the stream bottom. As a result of the extensive logging that occurred over a century ago the volume of large woody debris trapped in the stream channel and buried by sand is mind blowing. This is one habitat variable that has been buried with time. There were a couple of reaches where multiple tree placements have exposed some of that buried wood. This was one of the habitat aspects I was really hoping to see maximized as a result of this project. Exposing more of this lateral woody habitat will only increase the amount of cover in the stream and create more favorable ambush sites for more fish to utilize. It’s a “more bang for your buck” scenario and will provide more cover for larger fish as well.

Channelizing Flow

Overall my first impression is mostly positive. The current appears to be funneling more to the middle of the treated areas and with some high water events more scouring should occur only improving the overall habitat conditions in this section. I believe the value of this work will continue to improve the overall stream health as we move forward. More work needs to be continued in reaches upstream and downstream of the Yellow Trees section. Some of the treated areas will need to have additional woody structures added to see the desired outcomes, but overall it’s a great start to mitigating years of neglect. The positive take home message here is that most of this change has occurred during low flow periods and we are just now entering our spring runoff period.

Ed McCoy

New Fly Patterns for 2023 

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

Spring Steelhead

Spring Steelhead and What Changed

Environment or Angling

What is it that feels like its changing? Is the environment around me changing, or is it my angling mindset? I remember back 20-25 years ago fishing for Spring Steelhead meant an April float down the Pere Marquette River. Now its seems Spring Steelhead for an angler/guide means a shift to fishing more in February and early March. What has changed? Why is that I’m more excited to chase Smallmouth Bass in April more than Steelhead nowadays? Why is it that my February steelhead fishing is as good as my November adventures if not better? I think we can all agree the environment is changing on many levels and Steelhead fishing in Northern Michigan is no different.

Spring Steelhead

To be completely honest, Spring Steelhead fishing has shifted ahead of what we considered to be our normal timing. The Spring Steelhead calendar has been pushing forward, simply put, February is becoming the new March. This isn’t a one year trend either! For the past couple of years fishing in February has been really good. I would argue that February has been as good as our best October/November days. There are a number of reasons causing this current trend.

First of all, this is the lowest angling pressure during the steelhead calendar (October to April). Most of the popular boat ramps only have a trailer or two on most days. During the weekdays it is usually light traffic and even on most weekends you normally only see a few other anglers in the know.

Second, we have a solid population of fall and winter fish already in the river along with some early Spring Steelhead pushing in from Lake Michigan. Spring Steelhead are now starting to push in February, a common occurrence over the last few years. This year was no different and we saw really good numbers of steelhead throughout the months of January and February. Just like last few years, February is now setting up like March used to when I started guiding back in 2001.

I used to associate the start of the Steelhead run with the popular Warren Fly Fishing Show during the second week of March. I used to always hate working that show as I knew the fishing was so good on my home waters. Now I know that by Valentines day I need to be ready, almost a full month ahead of schedule.

Environment

The third reason for the change is linked directly to environmental conditions. Our winters have been milder by nature and not as harsh over the past 8-10 years. True, this winter saw plenty of cold days, but with far less snowpack than we are used to receiving. We now seem to have a roller coaster of temperature swings with small to big warmups. These warmups will bump flows and trigger runs of fish to come home early. The environment is beginning to show signs earlier that she is ready for our Steelhead to begin their trek home to their spawning grounds.

Other environmental cues also start speaking to us earlier in February. As the winter season has become less severe we are seeing blue birds and sand-hill cranes migrating back sooner. This past week we had little Black Stones fluttering on the surface on Feb 27th as water temps were peaking at 38 degrees on some smaller streams. The calendar is shifting and as anglers we need to take notice. If you enjoy steelhead fishing take a good look at your calendar and start taking notes because change is happening.

Spring Steelhead
Spring Steelhead

March

March fishing is still one of the safest months for Spring Steelhead fishing as you are less likely to get weathered out. This is the biggest negative for February, however fewer anglers on the water can make up for temperamental weather. Even though our winters seem milder, we can and will get long cold spells. If you can time the weather breaks and have flexibility in your schedule, February has proven to boast some solid Steelhead fishing.

Even though March can offer better weather and a good number of steelhead in pre-spawn mode, the number of anglers is increasing. It’s really a simple mathematical equation and fish divided by more anglers equals less of a shared opportunity.

Top 3

Can steelhead still be caught in April? Yes, absolutely! That is not what I’m trying to say here. As anglers we sometimes get stuck doing what we used to do and not what we should. I have enjoyed fun fishing for February steelhead the last few years and I need to share with our audience that this has become one of the top 3 months for Steelhead fishing in Michigan.

Applying the same mathematical principle leads me to this conclusion. The Fall Steelhead fishing is truly fantastic and will always lead the way for steelhead fishing for me. These fish are amazing and water temperature gives them the ability to do things I just don’t see with other Great Lakes fish. However, for pure numbers of Steelhead hooked in a single day, it’s really getting hard for us to beat February.

With Fall and Winter Steelhead in pre-spawn mode, Steelhead are more eager to feed. With fresh Spring run fish just showing up the Manistee River, Pere Marquette, and other Norther Michigan streams are at there peak spring-run numbers earlier in my opinion.

Streamer Season

What other trends have I noticed when I start thinking back on my angling career? One thing that also stands out is the big differences in the Spring streamer game. The Spring streamer season is for those anglers that want no part of the Spring Steelhead gong show. Streamer fishing gives an angler that escape. Now, just like with our Spring Steelhead, we are targeting Trout, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass much earlier than in years past. This past April in 2021 opened my eyes to what the possibilities are.

On a side note, one of the best things that happened two years ago at Mangled Fly was the opportunity to work closer with Jeff Topp and Ed McCoy. The ability to learn more from each other about tactics/techniques and fly vs lure has expanded our guiding in new directions. The angling opportunities in April are now more diverse than just Spring Steelhead and I for one am all for it.

What I’m really excited about for this upcoming year is taking what we learned from last season and applying it to new waters. With so many of my past streamer trips painted into a trout corner, no matter what you did on some days, it was going to be a tough day on the trout stream. However, we now have a back up plan. No more sunny day April Trout-less days!

https://youtu.be/J5J2_kX1JyM

Trout

Trout fishing in April is still a very realistic option to pursue most days. However, what do you do during a cold front, especially one with bright sunny skies? It’s not to say you could’t catch the fish of a lifetime, but let’s be honest the sun is not going to help your chances. Having a second option to chase with streamers makes more sense and allows us to focus our Trout efforts at times where success is more likely. I will gladly fish for Trout with streamers on cloudy days knowing my chances are going to be much better.

What are the options now you say? How about targeting Spring Pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass as a viable option. These fish are a super fun and really don’t care if the sun is shining all day. Having diverse fishing opportunities is important for success. Conditions are never really consistent and during the Spring even less so.

Smallmouth Bass

https://youtu.be/HN4AvDrrolo

One of the highlights of a tough April steelhead run was taking time off to learn a few sections of the river for different species. The 2021 Spring Steelhead season was one of the warmest on record. Looking back we had river temps warming up at a record pace. As Steelhead to hit their preferred spawning temperatures weeks ahead of schedule we were forced to try and figure out a different program. Let me tell you, Spring Pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass are a lot of fun! The Smallmouth Bass in April tend to be bigger on average and very, very eager to take both Fly and Lure.

The big mature Smallmouth are migrating in from the lakes on their way to their spawning grounds. Smallmouth Bass spawn when water temperatures reach 60 to 63 degrees. We were starting to find these fish eager to crush flies and lures in the high 40’s. We had success over varying conditions and these fish were still weeks away from spawning, making them super aggressive.

Tactics

One tactic that I personally spent some time on was the lure fishing. A lure that changed the way I used to think was the Z-Man Jerk Shad. Fishing this lure over several days opened up my eyes on how to properly fish a Jerk Changer and how to better imitate a dying minnow presentation. This lure changed the way I tie flies and how I fished them. I’ve always prided myself in applying lure fishing tactics to my fly game in an attempt to get better. Now some of you might not have heard of either these two styles, but if you’re into fishing for predatory game fish this style of fishing is so important.

This method of fishing also paved the way to what Ed and I did later in the year with Muskie in the fall. Watching a Muskie interact with a Jerk Changer will change your world. If I had not spent time with the Z-Man Jerk Shad I’m not sure I would know how to properly teach and explain how to present your fly (Jerk Changer) to Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Brown Trout, and Muskie.

Rods and Reels

When fishing for Spring Smallmouth Bass in early spring we tend to beef up our rods just bit from our summer program. One observation was the Spring Pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass really keyed in on bigger baitfish patterns. A 7wt or 8wt rods teamed up with a slow sinking line such as the Scientific Anglers Triple Density I23 were most commonly used. The leaders can be heavy this time of year as the water is usually a little murky or stained. It was NOT uncommon for us to run 16 pound fluorocarbon and even a steel leader.

Jeff Topp, once again our resident lure professional, recommends spinning rods in the 7-7.5 foot range with Medium Light to Medium Heavy power that can handle lures in the 3/16-1/2oz range. Choose your rods based upon the depth and cover type you are fishing. Jeff’s preferred line setup for river Smallmouth uses 15 or 20 lb braid for the mainline with 2-3 feet of 15 lb fluorocarbon as a leader.

Better Angler

I have for years felt like fishing for Smallmouth Bass make you a better angler. When Kevin Feenstra and I did our Smallmouth video together it really opened my eyes to the benefits of Crossover species like Smallmouth Bass. One of our mantras at Mangled Fly is teaching you how to be a better angler. Smallmouth Bass will not only teach you to be better angler, but they will give you more opportunities to learn from.

Crossover species allow you to work on proper streamer presentations that are also effective for trout

by Ed McCoy

Too often in the spring we are faced with bright and sunny conditions. How do you become better streamer angler with fewer chances? You need to catch fish. You also need to practice setting the hook and learning how to fish your fly (ie Jerk Changer) at the right speed. As streamer anglers with a fly, we always have slack in our presentation which can cause failure. There are plenty of times this has caused the angler to say, “I didn’t feel it” on the eat.

Crosstraining

To be a good angler you need to practice and learn from your opportunities. The same holds true for lure fisherman. Learning to fish your lure at the correct speed and understanding what your lure is doing under water is no different. Sunny day smallmouth bass trips allow you to practice all of these skills. Being adaptable as an angler will only maximize your Brown Trout chances on the next cloudy day.

Fishing both a fly and a lure has made me a better angler by far. My understanding of gear fishing has made me a better fly angler and my understanding of fly fishing has made me a better lure fishermen.

by Jeff Topp

Smallmouth Bass, unlike trout, are not shy when it comes to sunny days. Sometimes in the spring, Bass can be found out sunning themselves. They are feasting on the many different minnows that are also migrating to spawn. Gobies, Chubs, and many other baitfish, will provide the Smallmouth Bass with numerous prey choices. Smallmouth are not afraid of the sun and always appear to be hungry. This makes them a perfect teaching tool for anglers of all skill levels. No matter if you’re fishing a fly or a lure, Smallmouth Bass are the perfect crossover species.

Closing

I’m not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom for those that love to fish in April for Steelhead. I am just trying to bring some much needed attention to what trends we have been seeing over the years. I truly understand February Steelhead fishing is not for everyone. I’m fine with that and I know I will continue to enjoy the fishing as much as I can over the next few seasons. With the changing landscape regarding Spring Steelhead, and Steelhead in general, the Great Lakes populations provide an exciting opportunity.

However, as things change, new options become available and our angling experiences begin evolving. In Michigan we are very blessed to have so much water to fish and a diversity of choices within. As a guide and avid angler, I am always trying to get better and its my job to make you a better angler as well. As an angling community, learning more about what other fishing options are available, should always be one of our goals. I hope everyone enjoys your spring season and good luck on the water no matter what fish you’re chasing.

Jon Ray

Mousing for Trout

Night Fishing

Night Fishing
Mousing for Big Brown Trout

It’s the middle of July and the majority of our hatches are complete. The terrestrial fishing is heating up, our weather is shifting to more humid and warmer days/nights, and the larger fish in our rivers still prefer to hunt at night. Night fishing is a way of life here in Michigan, traditionally it was a quiet pursuit that was only whispered about in the back of a fly shop or amongst anglers that were already in the know. It’s popularity has grown quite rapidly throughout the past decade and Night Fishing has quickly become a popular pursuit among anglers chasing the largest trout of their season. The Night Fishing arena offers a very unique venue and one that offers its own set of challenges with respect to presentation and tact.

Hatches Wind Down

As the Hex hatch winds down a lot of folks will retire for the season and start breaking down their gear and hanging up their waders for the year. In my opinion, this is the time of year that the Night Fishing really takes off and an approach we commonly refer to as “Mousing” provides us with the means to catch sizable trout in the dark. The crowds are mostly gone and food is limiting making for some hungry trout hunting at night. This is our second chance to seek out the larger trout we couldn’t catch during the Hex hatch. Simply put, as much as I love the Hex hatch and the opportunity it provides, I still firmly believe Mousing is your best shot at the largest trout of the year.

Mousing

Mousing is a form of Night Fishing that has gained considerable popularity here in the Midwest over the last ten years. This technique has been around since before my time and has provided anglers with a legitimate chance at a River Dinosaur while utilizing a completely unique time of the day to achieve success. Unfortunately in Michigan we need the darkness to make it work with conviction. Trust me when I say, “the night time is the right time and mousing is a hair raising experience!” Mousing is an aggressive and explosive way to fish, and much like streamer fishing you are targeting the larger predatory trout in a river system.

Fishing on rivers such as the Au Sable, Pere Marquette, and Manistee River will provide anglers with plenty of shots at trophy trout often leaving you on the edge of your seat. As with most fly fishing techniques presentation is very important. Fly placement, casting angle, pace, and moon phase are all primary functions to consider for your success. Understanding all of these critical variables will dictate your outcome and impact your chances for catching larger trout.

Mousing for Trout
Night Fishing in late Summer

Mousing is a searching technique and you want to cover the water thoroughly during each outing. Casting your fly tight to the bank and moving your fly with popping strips while creating a wake behind the fly are important for success. Remember mousing is a game of cat and mouse and you want to keep the fish interested as long as you can in order to elicit a strike.The darkest nights tend to provide the most productive fishing. Knowing when the full and new moon cycles occur will further assist you in determining the best times to go. There are plenty of Lunar Charts and Lunar Apps currently available on-line or for your phones. Having a couple of your favorite Lunar Charts book marked will aid you in planning your next night time adventure. The brighter nights surrounding the full moon tend to be less productive and the fish are often more shy about eating the fly.

Gear

Life is full of lessons and when it comes to fishing in the dark and you should never approach an outing unprepared and under-gunned. When it comes to choosing the appropriate gear and equipment essential to Night Fishing, I have a very short list. First off keep it simple (K.I.S.S). As far as Tippett goes there isn’t a need to get super fancy or overly creative here. I simply use Maxima Ultra Green in 30# for the butt section and I will often taper down to 15# or 12# on the terminal end for a total length of 4-6 feet based upon conditions. However, when it comes to the rod and line I have very specific needs for these categories.

For starters I want a “Big Stick” that can deliver consistent casts over multiple distances.  The Scott Sector 8’10” 7wt and 8 wt rods have been a work horse in my arsenal this season and they are definitely the customer favorite in the boat.  This rod loads quick and is very accurate from short to long casts with flies of varying size.  This rod has tremendous lifting ability which allows you to play fish quickly and confidently, both of which are important aspects to fishing in warmer weather and at night when you can’t see the bottom structure.  The overall performance of this rod has been impressing me with every use from the streamer fishing earlier in the season and especially now casting for giants in the dark.

The Scientific Anglers Frequency Magnum taper lines have been my favorite Mousing line for the past few seasons.  They are available in both Glow and Non-Glow versions.  I come from an old school approach, so NO glow lines in my boat. The line taper is the same in both Glow and Non-Glow versions so pick your poison.  The Magnum Frequency line is a very good choice for casting larger flies.  One thing I find helpful is to over-line my rods with a line that is one line wt heavier, i.e. run an 8wt on a 7wt rod.  By doing this it has greatly improved the short game which is ultimately where most people struggle in the dark.  I have tried a bunch of different lines and tapers, but I keep coming back to the Magnum as it is functionally superior for all my casting needs in the dark. 

Flies

Mice, frogs, Waking Flies, and Gurglers are all examples of fly designs we fish at night, just to name a few. Mice and frogs are pretty self explanatory. Flies that imitate the size, color, and silhouette of your local mammal and amphibian populations found along most river edges are a great place to start when building up your fly selection. Waking Flies and Gurglers are designed to float high and move a lot of water all while creating a very well defined wake.

Having flies that can perform well at the surface interface are very important. Two of my personal favorites are McCoys Mouse and the Amphibious Assault .  However, patience is the most important aspect of Mousing and being patient before setting the hook is really important. Most people pull the trigger too soon on the strike and 9 times out of 10 will fail on the hook set. Having nerves of steel and waiting for the fish to turn on the fly before setting the hook is critical. You won’t catch all of the fish that blow up the fly at night, but much like streamer fishing, you should be able to capitalize on a handful per outing.

Many people are apprehensive about fishing in the dark. Mousing is not for everyone and Night Fishing can be safe and effective as long as you take the time to learn the water you are fishing before the lights go out. Fishing with a friend or a guide is a great way to increase your safety and knowledge of the water you will be fishing. The advantage of fishing in a boat is priceless, not to mention the safety factor compared to wading, but the ability to cover water can make all the difference in the outcome of your trip. If you love to hunt big fish and if chasing Trophy Trout is a passion, mousing can provide the angler with one of the best windows of opportunity to cash in on Michigan’s bigger trout.

Peak times to target trout while Mousing range from July to September. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and opportunities may present themselves earlier or later pending conditions. There really isn’t anything else in the world that can compare to the peace and tranquility of a clear star filled night being violently interrupted by the explosion of a large trout. The intensity of the eat and the anticipation of the next take is what keeps us up all night and by the night’s end it leaves you craving more. When all of your senses are on high alert and the fish are playing there best game with your fly, this is where the addiction becomes reinforced. These are the visions dancing through my mind that keep me up all winter craving/thinking about the next opportunity to take on the darkness in search of the next Personal Best fish.

Ed McCoy

top dry fly hooks

Top Dry Fly Hook Choices

Choosing the Correct Hook for Tying Dry Flies

Top Dry Fly Hook Choices
Top Dry Fly Hook Choices

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.

Tiemco 5263


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.

Gamakatsu B10S


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.

New Fly Release McCoy’s All Day Spinner

McCoy's All Day Spinner
McCoy’s All Day Spinner

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