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Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Manistee River below Tippy Dam

Manistee River Fishing Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Fishing Report

The Manistee River Fishing Report for early July has us hitting our peak smallmouth bass season. River clarity isn’t gin, but clear with a little Manistee River green. Water temps are in the high 60’s and with the bubbler keeping water temps in that range for most of the summer it keeps it from reaching un-fishable reaches. We recommend leaving the trout alone just below Tippy Dam, so they can survive this heat wave. But smallmouth bass, largemouth, bass, and pike fishing in the lower section is good now until the end of August.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass are in good numbers this season, back in April we had the opportunity to get our first glimpse at the size of run this year. Yes these fish are migratory as well. Smallmouth bass use the Big Manistee below Tippy Dam as a summer time feeding zone. Smallies usually start migrating during the spawning cycle and then hold residence thru out the summer until the King Salmon start showing up.

Besides Smallmouth Bass we have been finding largemouth bass and a good population of pike as well. Only have seen a few summer-runs and no King Salmon yet. We have just come off our prime trout season, so only have a handful of days hunting smallmouth so far. But now that hatches are done on the Upper Manistee, we will be fishing hoppers for trout or smallmouth bass during the day.

Flies and Food Source

Every year if feels like small changes occur in what is the favorite food source, but you can never go wrong with flies that imitate smaller baitfish patterns, crayfish patterns, and some sort of topwater pattern. Just like back in the day with the DVD we did on Smallmouth Bass. This year so far has been a good topwater year, with good smallmouth bass looking up. Frogging with a Titan Long has been the first rod that I’ve been pulling out of the sleeve most days. Normally I can tell pretty quick if these bass are in the mood to look up. You’re not looking to pop the frog as your looking for nice slow long strips. This is very visual as you will see Bass track your frog pattern from a pretty long distance.

Manistee River Fishing Report
Smallmouth Bass fishing below Tippy Dam

Booking a Trip

If you’re looking to book a fishing trip give us a call (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email . Not too early to start thinking about Fall Dates for Steelhead. Steelhead fishing on the Manistee River below Tippy Dam is some of the best in the state. Dates will fill up quick. In the mean time this summer we will Smallmouth bass fishing and still pursuing trout with Hopper Patterns and Ed has a night or two open for his Mousing Trips.

Tight Lines,

Jon Ray

Upper Manistee Trout Fishing Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Manistee River Trout Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report for the first week of July has us transitioning our fishing to focus more on the early morning and late night programs. With another warmup and some much needed rain the past couple of days, the water conditions, have rebounded nicely after a hot Fourth of July weekend. It looks like we have a couple more days of rain this week, but the overnight temps look good for keeping water temps in check. The Hex hatch is winding down and we are looking forward to chasing trout with foam attractor patterns in the early mornings. Evenings will still provide anglers with decent spinner falls of Cahill’s, Isonychia, and the occasional Hex, but it’s time to switch gears and the morning fishing has been heating up.

Water temperatures were at dangerous levels in early June this year for catch and release trout fishing. Water temps once again were pretty warm for the Fourth of July holiday on the Upper Manistee River. We have since received some rain and water temps have recovered, but anglers will need to continue to be vigilant over the next 3 weeks and check the water temps at these gauge stations before heading out. Please use the USGS site at 72, USGS at Sherman, and the Monitoring Station at 4 Mile Access to give you the best up to date water temperature information.

Big Bugs

The Hex hatch is continuing to thin out and on most sections of the Upper Manistee River it is pretty much done. We had a great season overall, but the bugs were very inconsistent and we had about a week with very limited bug activity due to a cold front. Things fired back up heading into the first part of July, but the feeding windows were getting short and the fish were growing long in the tooth. The very upper sections of the Upper Manistee River will probably still give anglers a chance at a couple more Hex spinner falls, but we are moving on to the next phase of our summer program. We are beginning our transition towards other times of the day to target fishing now and the morning foam attractor sessions are beginning to heat up.

Foam Attractor Season

The early morning trips are starting to gain traction and the fish are beginning to hunt throughout the day instead of just the last couple of hours before dark. This can be a fun time of the year to fish, especially for beginners as there aren’t really any rules and the flies are user friendly. I love the medium to larger flies right now as they can elicit some violent strikes, but also understanding that as the day wanes on you may need to downsize and play with color. Fishing tight to structure this week has been key to finding some of the larger fish in the Upper Manistee River. How close? If it’s not rubbing it’s not close enough! I have had a couple reports of flying Ants in people’s yards including mine, so better have a good selection of Ants on hand as well.

The Trico hatch is probably not that far off and I would expect to see them show up this week if they haven’t already. The summer olives started about 3 weeks early this year and the fish have been on them when they are present. Smaller hoppers and Stonefly patterns are also going to be key on some of those cooler mornings. If the water gets a good shot of rain fishing a small streamer or twitching a wet skunk on a floating line can produce some exciting fishing as well. Basically we have entered the part of the season when you can try just about anything and you will find some success.

Isonychia

We are still seeing a few Isonychia hatching throughout day and we should continue to see some Iso activity heading into mid-July. This bug will typically hang around for quite some time post Hex so I would still have a few of the All Day Iyso size 10 and 12 stashed in a box somewhere. We have also had a few Iso spinner falls this past week and the new All Day Cherry (new for 2021) is still producing some great fish for our customers. The Iso spinner falls aren’t always long in duration, but the quality of the fish rising to this bug can be as good as any other hatch so make sure you aren’t caught unprepared.

It’s finally starting to feel a little more normal for this time of year and hopefully that trend will continue for a while. The hatches were definitely early and highly compressed, but the fishing has been good on our most recent outings. July should be a productive month as the fish are getting more active throughout the day now that we are post Hex. We should continue to see some pretty good fishing right thru the end of July if the current weather patterns continue with some scattered showers and cool night time low’s.

Trout Guide Trip

You can reach us at 231-631-5701 (leave a message) or shoot us an email if your looking to book a trout guide trip. We are also fishing Smallmouth Bass currently on our local rivers and reservoirs. To keep updates on the smallmouth bass report check out the Lower Manistee River page. Summer time fishing trips are more relaxed and the rivers quiet down from other anglers. From now until mid September is a great time to get out and enjoy Northern Michigan.

Tight Lines,

Ed

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?