Upper Manistee Trout Fishing Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Upper Manistee Trout Fishing Report
Streamer Fishing Northern Michigan

Manistee River Trout Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report for early April has us what feels ahead of schedule. With a mild winter , and record setting lack of snow. Water levels currently are lower than we are used to. Be ready to down size your streamer patterns.

Streamer Fishing

With less water in the Upper Manistee right now than in previous spring seasons, downsizing your fly choice has lead to the most success in our limited streamer trips so far. With most of our focus still on steelhead the past few weeks, we have only been out a few times. But now as the main focus turns to trout fishing with opening day only a few weeks away.

Streamer patterns that have been working the best are 3-4″ baitfish patterns, colors are more neutral or dull. With clear water the tans, olives, and gingers are working the best. With water temps hitting 50 degrees yesterday, you can worry less about slow twitching and speed up the retrieve. Wood is out fishing rock as is the case most of the time but especially early season, as browns are still pretty close to the winter holding lies.

Dry Fly Options

It would be a mistake not to pack the dry fly rod from now on, with water temps hitting the magic 50 yesterday and with a big warm up this week, I would not be shocked to see surface feeding increasing. Only busted a few fish so far but again limited opportunity to hunt for them, but that will be changing. Had great BWO’s yesterday with plenty of little black stones. Found one fish that fed once on a black stone, but as temps increase so will the metabolism meaning more surface feeding.

Water Monitoring Stations

With two water monitoring stations now located on the Upper Manistee River you should add this link here for temp and flow data near the CCC Bridge and you should also book mark the new USGS site at M72 to follow trends in water conditions when planning your next fishing adventure. As guides we use this information daily in aiding our decision making process when planning for our days on the water. Conditions dictate success and understanding what the conditions are before you arrive can help you make smarter choices regarding where and how you fish a certain piece of water.

This new site is going to be a very valuable tool for the longterm. Now that real time data is available at both water monitoring stations, anglers will be able to develop a better understanding of water levels as they relate to depth and how wadable a section of river is to the walk and wade angler for example. When you begin to understand what the actual cfs reading looks like from a conditions standpoint, you will also be able to visualize how high and dirty a piece of water might be.

New Sun Shirts

Check out the latest sun shirts for this trout season

Manistee River Brown Trout Sun Shirt
green sun shirt

Trout Guide Trips

We will be changing our focus from the Lower Manistee River for steelhead , and now fishing the Upper Manistee and the Pere Marquette. We are booking trout, pike, and early season smallmouth trips currently, you can reach us at 231-631-5701 (leave a message) or shoot us an email.

Tight Lines,

Jon Ray

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

Hendrickson Hatch

Prepping for Trout Opener

Trout Opener

With the Michigan Trout Opener quickly approaching, are you ready and prepped for Trout Opener? It seems like a simple question, but there is a series of steps you can follow to make sure you have covered most of your basic needs for success. My hope here is to outline some routine things I try to do while prepping for Trout Opener and the upcoming season. Spending a few short hours inspecting my gear aids in its performance and ultimately contributes to my overall success, especially on the Upper Manistee. The goal here is to eliminate the obvious shortfalls that will hinder our outcomes.

Fly Box Organization

Most of us spend our winter tying flies and trying to bulk up our fly inventories so we don’t have to spend as much time tying during our fishing seasons. This is a great way to pass the idle winter months and it gives us something constructive to do. One important step you can take prepping for Trout Opener and the upcoming season is to organize your fly boxes on a per “hatch” basis.

I will typically organize my fly boxes around a single “hatch”. For example, I will have one box that is completely focused on the Hendrickson hatch and another box for Sulphurs, and so on and so forth. In each of these “hatch” boxes I will have a sample of nymphs, emergers, duns, and spinners in all the appropriate sizes and colors to match all the stages of each hatch. Having all of your fly choices laid out in front of you is a good way to determine if your fly selection has any shortfalls.

Another recommendation would be to carry a second box filled with basic “attractor” patterns. This box should contain an assortment of your favourite old stand-byes such as the Adams, Robert’s Yellow Drakes, Borcher’s Drakes, Stimulators, and Elk Hair Caddis. Organizing my fly boxes in this manner allows me to carry less as the season progresses from one hatch to the next. When we begin to transition from one hatch to another, just replace the previous “hatch” box from your vest or boat bag with the next series.

Prepping for Trout Opener
Organizing your fly box
Read more
Ice Dub Minnow

Ice Dub Minnow

Tying Ice Dub Minnow

Our latest upload to our YouTube Channel is a super simple baitfish pattern that we call the Ice Dub Minnow. A favorite pattern to fish below Tippy Dam, but also works great below Hodenpyle Dam and in the backwaters for smallmouth bass on Tippy Pond. Of course these are only a few of our favorite spots, as it has worked really well for bluegills in the spring when they are shallow and pre-spawn.

If you honestly haven’t tried hunting big pre-spawn bluegills, and you want to test your skills this is a great activity during quarantine. No motor needed for this type of fishing. Get ready to be humbled by the big gills. Great casting practice before the big bugs start hatching on our trout rivers.

Kids Fishing

What also makes the Ice Dub Minnow so great is that you can easily teach it to kids and get them started in fly tying, but also it’s a great pattern to fish with kids, to get them a taste of fly fishing. As I mention in the video this minnow pattern really does fish well by itself, with a tiny split shot. I tend to like Sure Shot, but black bird shot will just work as well. Size No 4 or No 6, are both really small and easy to cast.

Let this fry pattern swing in the current with small twitches of the rod, and it will fish itself. Small minnows can’t swim very fast for very long, so they become easy meals for hungry trout. Fish this pattern in the shallows where small baitfish tend to hide. Good luck and Stay Safe.

Jon Ray

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.

Dry Flies for Trout

Dry Flies for Trout

Dry Flies

As many of you already know, in 2019 I entered a new partnership with Montana Fly Company to produce and sell some of my favorite patterns. Last season I released several new Dry Flies for Trout. These new releases are patterns from my personal arsenal that I rely upon heavily for catching fish within our region. I am excited to have Montana Fly Company producing and selling my signature fly patterns as we move forward, the quality and attention to detail is second to none! Their is a limited quantity available for sale on our site, but please shop local at your nearest Fly Shop.

The flies that I currently have in production are available in two series. All of the flies are foam based Mayfly patterns that are designed to be fished all day with a touch of realism and an impressionistic silhouette that fish can’t resist. They are all mainstays in my arsenal and have been tied in multiple forms to imitate the Isonychia, Brown Drake, and Hex hatches that are found in Northern Michigan.

Here is a breakdown of all the flies that are currently available through MFC to complete your arsenal of Northern Michigan dry flies for trout . Ask your local fly shop about these patterns and pick some up today!

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McCoys Boondoggle Spinner

McCoys Boondoggle Spinner

New Fly Release

McCoys Boondoggle Spinner
McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner – Burgundy Isonychia

Montana Fly Company New Fly Release for 2020 – McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner – Burgundy Isonychia

I am very excited to announce a new fly pattern that will be released by Montana Fly Company in 2020! This fly will be available in two sizes and will help to fill the Isonychia spinner gap in a series of foam based dry flies that I released through MFC in 2019. The McCoys Boondoggle Spinner is very durable, has an irresistible profile, and is generally a must have pattern for the streams in Northern Michigan. Check with your local fly shops for availability, a limited quantity is available here online at Mangled Fly.

Shop Local

As with anything new it can sometimes be hard to predict demand so make sure to stock up before the supply becomes limited. If you are having difficulty finding the McCoy’s Boondoggle Spinner pattern or any of my other fly patterns locally, please drop us a line and we will do our best to help you get these dry flies in your fly box for the upcoming season.

More Flies

Look for several more fly releases with MFC in the near future as I have been expanding upon some old favorites and tinkering with some new stuff for release. Good luck with all of your angling pursuits throughout the upcoming 2020 fishing season!!

Ed McCoy

Brown Trout below Tippy

Brown Trout Eating Something

Brown Trout Eating Minnows

Been a fun fall of shooting Mother Nature dining out.  Started with the Heron and Pike images.  Now here is another image of the cycle of life.  Had the opportunity to fish below Tippy Dam for Brown Trout.  While working on a few patterns that that we will be adding to the Hawkins YouTube channel here this winter. I shot some video of the flies in action and then extracted this still image of the brown trout showing off his main meal, with my small dinner mint sized fly in his mouth.

Brown Trout below Tippy

What minnow did this Brown Trout eat?

drier dry flies

Drier Dry Flies

Did a video on the Hawkins YouTube channel about a trick I learned a few years ago from angler Larry Webb.  Had to share this simple trick to keep your dry flies floating longer.  Thank you Larry for the helpful tip, has really saved my spinner patterns from an early grave.  Check out the video if you enjoy throwing around the dry fly this time of year.