- Happy February! For those ski bums out there, better get it in before it’s gone. Winter is already on the downhill slide. In the world of unemployed fishing guide (like myself), what February means is only 1 more month until Prime Time starts again. New fishing reports for the Manistee River and the Muskegon River after a great weekend of weather. With a good mix of steelhead around on the west side of the state, and new fish starting to already show up for the Spring push, things are looking good. February has been a long time favorite, with plenty of fish around and less people. Makes for some good fishing.
- Fly Tying Event at Muskegon River Fly Shop , I’ll be tying February 19th and will be focusing on baitfish patterns for Pike / Muskie. Contact Justin to sign up. If you can’t make the 19th, check out Drew Rosema on February 5th , Drew will be tying Steelhead Patterns. Check out Kevin Feenstra on February 26th as well, you will not be disappointed. Should be a great couple events, if you haven’t stopped by Justin’s shop he has one of the best fly tying selections in northern Michigan.
- February 12-14th I’ll be in Milwaukee , WI at the Muskie Expo, if you happen to be in the area stop by. I’ll be hanging out with Brad Petzke of Rivers North, with some new things (that I can’t talk about yet) in the booth. Plus I’ll have the new muskie shirts available, they just showed up this weekend. They look great. Will get them on the web here soon as well. I’m looking to expand my Muskie calendar, if your interested in a trip contact me. Going on my 5th year of chasing these amazing predators. I look forward to learning additional water this year, and piecing together more of the puzzle.
Check out the video from Chagin River Outfitters featuring Jerry Darkes covering the basics of why Tube Flies are a good option for when fishing steelhead.
Kevin Feenstra shares his image of Drew Rosema holding a beautiful Great Lakes Steelhead.
New and fancy patterns are always coming out, but sometimes going old school is the best policy. The ESL is a standard pattern. ESL stands for Egg Sucking Leech. Yesterday we got on the board with a fresh steelhead up from the lake that very morning, if I had to guess. On a orange headed black rabbit strip egg sucking leech.
A photo posted by Mangledfly (@mangledfly) on
Our Two Hands by Bloodknots Fly Fishing. This project has recently been brought to our attention and is worth your time & maybe your hard earned money.
The idea behind this film is to raise awareness of the plight of the Wild Steelhead in the western states, it’s native home, whose stocks are dwindling. Most of the individuals who are involved in this project are “in the fishing biz”, who spend the majority of their time fishing and guiding for steelhead, using the two handed rod, aka, the Spey rod, using the swung fly method. Some of them are our friends. All of them care deeply for wild steelhead.
Fishing the swung fly with a two handed rod requires skill, patience and lots of faith. The only method I can think of that might be harder to catch a steelhead with is with your bare hands! The attraction for me to fishing in this manner is complex…be it the fact that the technique was developed along the Spey river in Scotland hundreds of years ago to fish for Atlantic Salmon, where there is little backcast room and long casts are needed. Be it the beauty of the casts. Be it the beautiful flies and their histories. Then there is fact that you feel the fish take your fly, sometimes savagely, after you have enticed or irritated it into doing so, as opposed to “feeding” it below a bobber and not feeling anything until you set the hook. Fish when hooked on the swing set the hook themselves, shaking you out of the medatative trance of cast, swing, take a step or two, repeat. You are asking the fish to play along in your game, to join you on a journey of trust and to have faith that you will release it to make more beautiful and perfect creatures. Some of the reasons we love to fish this way is the fight that our beloved steelhead puts up…watching that backing peel off your reel and hearing that drag sing keeps us casting through those slumps and times where you feel like you are on cast number 957 and working towards number 1,000 that this fish is fabled for.
I learned to steelhead fish with a 15′ Sage 8 weight and a floating line on the Salmon River in North Fork, Idaho, swinging flies with names like Silver Hilton, Muddler, Green Butt Skunk, Macks Canyon, October Caddis, Greased Liner, Purple Peril and Skykomish Sunrise, at the beginning of the really hard times for these fish. The steelhead of the Salmon River, ID, swim hundreds of miles to return to their spawning grounds, through the perils dams, netting, seals, eagles and osprey, along with a host of the oceans creatures that are big enough to eat them. The biggest disadvantage against them is what we as humans have done and continue to do to impede their ability to return and propagate their species. Steelhead have the ability to live after they have spawned. Here in the Great Lakes, it is very easy for them to swim back out to the freshwater sea and put that all important weight back on so that they can come in and spawn again. We don’t know how many of the west coast steelhead actually make it back to sea. The coastal river fish obviously have the advantage of a shorter migration, whereas the fish of the Upper Columbia basin have the odds stacked against them.
These fish are majestic creatures who deserve our love and attention. In the lifetimes of our fathers, the steelhead on the west coast has gone from a bathtub like faucet turned full on to a drip out of the kitchen sink.
Please support this film to bring awareness to the greatest of our native fishes.
Getting a double header is a pretty unique experience, but something in the fall we actually do see with waves of curious steelhead pushing up the river and grabbing the first piece of food they see. I love curious steelhead! So getting a double header steelhead combo I would say is not a hard combination to come by. But the Lake-Run Brown steelhead combo I’ver personally only had the chance to see twice here in Michigan. I’m sure in other parts of the country the combo is more common. But for us currently with a declining LRB population the past 10 years the opportunities are very rare. Well last week (in the spring season no less) my clients Blake and Steve put a LRB / Steelhead combo in the net. It true was a surprise.
The only other time I’ve had a chance to catch this combo is a day I will never forget. With good friends and great guides Kevin Feenstra and Jeff Hubbard. We were fishing on Kevin’s b-day when Jeff and I put these two great fish in the net while fishing streamers on the Muskegon River. Photo below courtesy of Kevin Feenstra.
Now is the time to swing the big flies, as our lake-run rainbows from Lake Michigan are not so focused on the egg bite. November historically is one of the best months and this year is no different as fish are on the hunt for something more.