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Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Steelhead Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Manistee River Steelhead Report
Manistee River Steelhead Fishing

Fishing Report

The Manistee River Steelhead Report for late January has the Manistee River running really clear. River levels are about average to a little low for this time of year, water temperatures hovering around 35 degrees. Water flows are currently at a good to low level, and running at 1740 cfs. So the game has gotten stealthy. Downsizing presentation, and changing up presentations.

Typical fishing report for this time of year, with cold water and surprising clear water it has fish in the deepest darkest parts of river. Go deep and fish where the wood is. Might cause you to tie a few more knots but that is where they have been hiding. Just as what Jeff Topp is seeing on the Pere Marquette, you need to invest in the lumber runs. Also softening up the presentation. Rag style eggs and bugs are making a difference.

Winter Steelhead

Egg Flies for Steelhead
Egg Flies for Steelhead

Steelhead on the Manistee River have entered the stage where mixing up the program pays dividends. One of the tactics that we like to work into the program is movement. To do this best you need to add weight to your flies. The bug bite has started, so doing what you do to imitate the wax worm & jigs is paying off. We like to use feathers and plastics to get the movement.

When fishing this way you will also find that you need to usually change out your float as well. I find I get the better movement on my jig or euro patterns with a slim float design. I personally like the loafer.

Something else we saw this week, is that beads are always effective but could talk steelhead into a bigger meal, so rag style egg flies bounced into the timber runs did the trick. Coaxing out a steelhead with a single large egg fly is a great way to fish the dirty runs. As the bead rig gets hung up with how the hook dangles in the rigging.

Add slight purples or blues to your egg patterns is a good idea when water is clear, really not sure why other than it works. I think the lavender tones dull out the hotter oranges and yellows. Creating a different mix of colors and pulling on the curiosity factors of steelhead.

Booking a Guide Trip

If your looking to book a guide trip give us a call or shoot an email (231-631-5701) and email . Spring steelhead is just around the corner, phone has been ringing, so if you’re looking for dates give us a call. Make sure to check back to this report and see how we are doing. We have been playing on the Upper Manistee River trout fishing as well. Make sure to follow us socially as Ed McCoy will be tying some his patterns in the next few weeks online. Both the Northern Angler and Shultz Outfitters have him on the docket.

Jon Ray

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report
Winter Steelhead fishing on the Pere Marquette

What a blessing to have this mild of a January. The Pere Marquette looks great, water levels are low but has found some stain to help with the fishing. It has been great to float the river and not freeze. Ramps look good as well, with less snow pack than normal.  So you can pretty much get in and out through out the system.

Steelhead and Brown Trout

The Steelhead and brown trout are hunkered down in the wood. Slow runs with lots of lumber seems to be the game at this time. We have had good success with streamers and lures. The bead bite has seemed to go soft. My guess would be that the fish aren’t holding in the runs that you can present an egg pattern to them.  They are loving the lumber runs.

Steelhead and Brown Trout have been liking small Minnow patterns, sculpins and other dull earth tone streamers with little to no flash. I would think that the egg bite will turn on when we get a fresh push of Steelhead. The fish are willing to chase and crush the bait on the right day. Winter fishing can be hit and miss day to day. The fish are there but some days they want to sulk.

What a beautiful time to spend a day watching nature on the Pere Marquette. If you’re out wading be safe the river has some stain to it. This can make the underwater structure hard to see. No need to take a swim in January.

Be safe and enjoy what mother nature has to offer.

Booking Trout Trips

Drop us an email if your thinking about booking a steelhead fishing trip this winter on the Pere Marquette or Lower Manistee River. You can also give us a call at (231-631-5701) and we will get you on the water! Our calendars have opened up and January and February can be just as good as any month if you’re looking to get out on the water. Also not too early to think about Spring Dates.

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