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Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Manistee River below Tippy Dam
Manistee River below Tippy Brown Trout

Fishing Report

The Manistee River Steelhead Report heading into the middle part of April has the Manistee River running a little above average and still pretty clear for what is typical this time of year. Water flows are currently at an above avg level, and running at 1800 cfs. Water temps are at 50 degrees already and the steelhead process feels its about done. Not saying you can’t find a fish or two, but with numbers dropping off we are past peak and we as guides have started to look for other areas to fish and different species to focus on.

Spring Steelhead

Fish numbers have been remaining on the low side for most of the spring, and now really the only fish we have been finding is dropback fish on the sand. With only a few new fish per week been hooked (chrome) it feels like the run has come to an end. Again some fish are still spawning near Tippy, but any new fish are few and far between. Dropbacks have been aggressive to bright colored egg patterns, and small streamers.

Smallmouth Bass

When I talk about changing fish species smallmouth bass early catch and release season, has been pretty good. Both in the river and local lakes, smallmouth bass are on pre-spawn mode and super aggressive. They are currently grouped up so once you find one, you can usually find more. But this also means you can have some dead spots. Baitfish patterns have been working best, with a hard strip and a long pause. Smallmouth have been eating on the pause.

Booking a Trip

If you’re looking to book a fishing trip give us a call (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email . We will really be focusing on the Upper Manistee River trout fishing in the coming weeks. Make sure to check out the new sun shirts that just came in, inventory is going fast. Three new styles for 2021. Have additional hats coming in soon, as we replenish some back orders.

Tight Lines,

Ed

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

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

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.

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!

Pic of the Day – 2018 Fall Steelhead Run

The 2018 Fall Steelhead run has begun, so far size of the fish is very impressive.  Looking forward to the next 2 months.  Make sure to check out the fishing reports for the Manistee River and the Muskegon River for more pictures and updated information.  Hope to see you out there, have a great fall.

Steelhead Eye – Picture of the Day

Late Fall and Early Winter Steelhead Fishing

  • Late Fall / Early Winter steelhead fishing is off to a great start make sure to check out the Manistee River steelhead report, with strong winds and some much need precipitation this past week steelhead were on the move.  Along with the Mansitee River, another great tailwater to fish this time of year is the Muskegon River.  Both rivers offer great steelhead fishing the month of December .

lake trout

Lake Trout, in the river?

What’s up with the increase in Lake Trout in the Big Manistee this year?