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Fall Steelhead Fishing

Manistee River Fishing Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Fishing Report

The Manistee River Fishing Report for the third week of October has a little feel of fall in the air. Temps for the most part have been too warm for our liking, don’t get me wrong catching a few steelhead with sandals and shorts isn’t that bad. But lets be honest with each other. This is meant to be steelhead season. Bring on the weather! Time for cold weather gear!

Steelhead Report

Steelhead Report for the Manistee River Below Tippy Dam. The Manistee River is running at 1630 CFS and about 58 degrees.

With this weather change we have had the past couple days its finally feeling like fall steelhead weather. We are still finding a fair amount of steelhead behind the spawning kings. Steelhead love king eggs! I feel that with the water temps dropping and the fall weather on its way this is going to come to a end. As the kings finish up the spawn look for the steelhead to move from the spawning area into more traditional steelhead holding lies.

With the rain and dropping temps the fish should move into the longer, deeper runs. We have been finding the majority of migrating steelhead in the heads and tails of the runs. The river conditions and water temps are perfect for fish to be moving. Beads and egg flies have been the go to. With the amount of salmon eggs floating down river the steelhead have been getting fat and happy on them. Yellow and pink egg colors are working best. Fishing egss on bottom and under floats are both effective methods for this time of year.

When the eggs stop flowing look for the streamer bite to turn on. Swinging flies with sink tip lines and streamers can be a very exciting way to catch a steelhead. The bite is so powerful. Hold on tight! Fall IS the time of the year to get out and enjoy the trees changing colors. Eagles flying and the steelhead that are hard to handle. Lets go fishing!

New Swag

Jon has a new sweatshirt this year for the Fall Steelhead run. Make sure to check it out and we just got a reload of the popular Green Beanie from last year. Two great items to help keep you warm this Fall and Winter.

Booking a Trip

If you’re looking to book a Fall Steelhead Fishing Trip give us a call at (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email . We will continue to update the Manistee River below Tippy Dam fishing report on a weekly basis. We also get last minute cancellations so let us know if you want to be on that list.

Tight Lines,

Jeff Topp

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

This will be my last report for a few months. I will be leaving for Alaska in early June. Looking forward to seeing the boys at Anglers Alibi. I have been lucky enough to see a few lodges over the past 20+ years. Anglers Alibi is the most fisherman friendly and well run lodge I have been involved with. Its a small 12 guest lodge on the banks of the Alagnak river in south west Alaska.

Dry Fly

Its dry fly time!!! After doing a evening trip with flies and also a morning trip with lures I can tell you that it is for sure time to put the lures away and switch to night mode. We had good night fishing a couple days ago and turned around the next morning never moved a trout. This tends to happen every year around this time. The trout will wait until the bugs hatch. Sleeping in the log jams all day and moving into their feeding lanes for the evening hatch. A variety of bugs hatching and a buffet of insects for the trout to fill up on. We have had Sulphurs, Brown Drakes and some Caddis on the water. The trout seem to be liking them all. The caddis have been popping from mid afternoon on. Look for your mayfly hatch to start around dinner time. The best of it just before dark. Check out Ed McCoys all day boondoggle. It has been a goto for me as the weather and river temps start to warm.

Lures

If you are planning to fish lures start early. Very early. I would plan on getting out there a bit before the sunrise. I would bet the lure bite will be done by mid to late morning. The river has a fair amount of small minnows in the eddies. 2-3 inches in length. also some small stocker browns. The key to catching some nice trout on lures will be to get as close to the size of the food source. AKA match the hatch but with baits. Try to get a close as you can to the size of the minnows in the river.  Learn more about how I crank-bait fish, check out the YouTube video we did.

Future AK Trip


Mangled Fly is putting a AK Trip together for September 2022!! We are reserving the lodge for a week. This is going to be EPIC. The majority of the fishing that week will be hunting for monster rainbows. This is the time of the year when the trout are the fattest and fastest. Beads, Flesh and Mice will be the flies of choice. Mousing during the day! We are also planning on spending a day or two chasing Silver Salmon. Cohos if you are from the midwest. Silvers love the fly. And sometimes the silvers will eat topwater skating bugs. We also have spin rods ready to go for those windy days or after a few fish have worked your arms over. I am super excited to show our mangled fly friends the neighborhood I have spent my summers in for the past 25 years. Check out link to our future AK Trip

If your looking to book trips with this fall, contact Jon Ray via our contact page or give him a call.  I will be difficult to reach most days, Jon has my schedule.

Jeff Topp

hooks for steelhead

Top Steelhead Hooks

Hooks for Steelhead

Top picks for steelhead hooks, talk about a sticky topic! I’m sure this is going to open a can of worms, but I wanted to address this topic as it gets a lot of attention amongst our guide staff. Every day, no matter what we are fishing, every rig we tie starts with a hook. It doesn’t matter if we are tying up a batch of streamers for steelhead, or if we are twisting up a bead rig for Alaska or Northern Michigan. The hook is usually the first item we start with.

Hook choices have consequences! Personally, I know I will never run a B10S hook again for trout. I’m fine using it for smallmouth bass, but I don’t have a scientific reason for it. Basically it’s the same reasoning I use when putting my right sock on first followed by my left. The same holds true with our favorite hooks for steelhead. It’s not really about scientific findings, but more about having confidence.

In order to shed some light on choosing the best hooks for steelhead, I have included a list of hooks preferred by Mangle Fly Guides below. This list of hooks has been proven over time and is Guide approved. For the purpose of this discussion, we chose hooks you can use for both swing and egg fly presentations. My hope is this list will help you decide which hooks to use this winter to prep your spring steelhead box.

Streamer Hooks

Streamer fishing for steelhead is not easy and you typically must capitalize upon fewer opportunities. You need a hook that is strong enough to land the Big Boyz, but light enough for your fly to move properly. The following is a Guide recommended list of streamer hooks for steelhead.

  • Owner Mosquito – is our number one choice for steelhead swing flies. This hook is a top choice personally and for Ed McCoy and Steve Pels as well. Most importantly, this hook has proven to be strong enough to handle the biggest Manistee River steelhead. Another advantage with this hook is the light wire, allowing me to pull a high percentage of my flies back from the log jams on 16# fluorocarbon. I like this hook in size 1 for most of my steelhead streamer patterns.
  • Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap – this is another one of Ed McCoy’s go to hooks. Ed runs this hook in size 1/0 and 1. He likes the big gap and very positive hook up ratio on fish that eat the fly from behind. This is a great hook later in the season to capture those fish that are nipping at the tail.
  • Daiichi 2557 – This is Guide Steve Pels go to hook for early fall. This hook has a super sticky point and will not bend out on hot fish. It has an oversized eye and makes passing trailer wire through the hook eye very easy. As is the case with most of our swing flies, we use wire or braid to attach the hook to our shanks. Steve likes this hook from size 1 to 4.
hooks for steelhead
Streamers for Steelhead

Bonus Streamer Hook

The bonus streamer hook is a “baby treble” and I was scared of what might happen upon hooking up. Baby trebles in size 10 or 8 work really well and more or less pin the steelhead upon contact. This is one of my late season hooks that might ruffle a few feathers. I only run this particular hook when temps are dropping from 40 degrees into the 30’s. I prefer this hook for days when one bite is likely all we will see on the swing. When you’re searching for one bite and only getting lethargic tugs or pulls, this hook can save the day. Try this treble hook on your next cold front fishing trip.

  • VMC 9650 – I use this hook in size 10 and size 8. It’s super sharp and strong enough to land most steelhead. An added advantage to these light wire hooks is you will get all of your flies back from the many log jams along the Manistee River. Another bonus with this hook is the oversized eye makes passing wire or braid through them a breeze. One point of caution regarding this hook. I would not recommend using these treble hooks in October or during heavy spring run off, it will not hold. If the steelhead is super charged up it will bend them right out. Please understand, when you hook up with this hook you have to take your foot off the gas. You can’t pull as hard as you normally do with the bigger heavy wire swing hooks.

Egg Hooks

The meat and potatoes fishing in the Great Lakes area is with egg patterns. It’s not uncommon for me to fill the tackle box with 1000’s of egg hooks in my preseason orders. Having tried a slew of egg hooks over the years, here is where we stand currently on the best of the best.

  • Blood Run Tail Out Ed McCoy and I both agree, this is our favorite hook for pegging beads. The Blood Run Tail Out works great in size 1 to 4. It has a straight eye, so snelling your knot is a top selling point here. These hooks are super sharp and they will not bend out! This is not as ideal when fishing around all the wood, but there is never a question in confidence when fighting big steelhead on our float rigs.
  • Owner SSW – when it comes to fishing beads and egg patterns, no one on our staff has more experience than Jeff Topp. Having guided in Alaska for over 22 years, when Jeff recommends a hook I listen. For bead fishing he likes the size 4 hook with 10mm beads and the size 6 hook with 6mm to 8mm beads. The number one reason he likes this hook is the wire. This hook has a very strong thin wire making hook penetration better for Alaskan Rainbow Trout and Manistee River Steelhead. This razor sharp hook serves him well from size 6 to size 1 depending upon the bead size he is fishing.

Closing Thoughts

With so many hook options available at your local shops to choose from it can get confusing. I know this is just a sampling of choices, but the idea here is to help you make educated hook selections. Over the last few years we have been tying fewer yarn eggs, but the same hooks we use for fishing beads also work really well when tying big rag style yarn flies. For instance, the red Owner SSW listed above is one of my favorites to tie oversized egg patterns on for Spring Steelhead.

Treble hooks in the fly fishing world are nothing new, but I personally had no experience with them back in the day. Ten plus years ago, when I first ran treble hooks, I was very nervous and pessimistic to be honest. What would happen to the steelhead? How torn up would the mouth of my prized fish become? Would my fly just get tangled up in all the treble hook points? Experience has played a big part in answering some of these concerns. For example, the bigger hooks listed above actually do more damage than the VMC treble hooks.

This current list of hook choices is what we prefer for most of our fishing situations. I’m sure over time I will edit this list as new hooks are forged and some of the old standby’s are no longer available. Please feel free to add your favorite hooks in the comment section below and thanks again for checking out the blog.

Jon Ray

Changing Floats based on Water Type

Changing Floats based on Water Type

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

Fishing Story

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

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Fall Steelhead

Fall Steelhead 2019 Update

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

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

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

Jon Ray

brown trout

Finished Huron Drifter

Here is a link below to the Finished Huron Drifter on their Facebook page,  if you followed along in the building process post. A don’t be worried I’ll be taking many more water pics with this craft in the coming months.  Happy with how she turned out, thank you Jason and Tracy for all your hard work.  Any questions about this boat give Tracy a call, let them know I sent ya, you will be well taken care of.

Jon Ray

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 .

steelhead mangled fly

Steelhead Mangling a Fly

One of the original sculpin patterns that Kevin Fenestra showed me so many years now getting Mangled up by a nice Manistee River Steelhead.

Big Manistee River meat eater. #mangledfly #sonargetdown #korkerslife #seewhatsoutthere #hedronflashabou

A photo posted by Mangledfly (@mangledfly) on

salmon fry

Fishing Salmon Fry

Each year, in February and March, salmon fry pop out of the gravel and quicky grow to be an inch in length.   They feed on anything, including the remnants of their ancestors.    As this process begins, they become a food source for everything else in our rivers, including all manner of fish, birds, etc.    Steelhead feed heavily on salmon fry, and there are things about these fry that make them vulnerable to a predator like a steelhead.

Often times, water is high in the spring.     When water levels become high, the fry are pushed to the edges of the river.   Any run that holds steelhead near the edge of the river in these conditions will be a great place to look for a steelhead on a fry pattern.

Notice from the picture above the prominence of the eye in the salmon fry.   Your fly must exhibit this trait if it is going to be effective.   This is especially true if you are fishing the fry pattern as a nymph.   The slow nymphing presentation will make the fish picky about whether the fly has this one prominent feature.

Fry patterns can also be morphed into good swung fly patterns.   Because they are prone to be towards the surface of the river,  a small swung fly that is the shape of the fry, but not necessarily the same color, works great throughout the spring.    A small black and copper leech, for example, the size and shape of a fry, is deadly during the spring.       Often times it pays to swing small and colorful flies in the spring.

This is a typical night of tying for me at this time of the year; fry patterns in one form or another are always on the menu.   You can tie the thorax of these patterns any color, but pink always seems to work the best.      Typically, some of the holographic colors of flash work well on sunny days, as they make the fly twinkle in the current.

As the salmon fry head downriver and grow to a larger size, the process is repeated as steelhead and sucker fry emerge later in the spring.   These are on the menu of steelhead, brown trout, and every other predator too.

Thanks for reading this post!   Get out on the river and enjoy spring-like fishing conditions!

Kevin Feenstra

Catch and Release – Pic of Day

Manistee River Steelhead