It’s mid-December and it feels kind of like mid-November should have. Air temps have increased a little and are forecast to remain that way until early next week. Anglers looking to fish for steelhead are finding fish in the local rivers including the Betsie and Manistee. It sounds as if all rivers have some fish in them as they begin to winter over. Water levels are in good shape for this time of year after rain, snowmelt and a water table that is filled. This is a good time of year to fish with an eye on the forecast.
With the water temperatures in the mid-30s choosing a day with a little sunshine and/or mild overnight temps can have a difference – steelhead and trout do not like significant drops in water temperatures (2-4 degrees). As the fish pretty much get into their lethargic mode look for them in the deeper holes and just off the side into the slower current. Fishing a float/indicator with an egg and nymph combo is one of the best ways to get a drag-free drift to fish residing in that water. Those looking to swing flies are finding that some fish will still play the game – especially when fishing above wooden structure where some fish have taken up residence. As the water continues to drop, look for the window of successful opportunity to get even smaller.
Trout fishing remains strong on the Manistee as fish are eating the streamer knowing that winter is a head of them. Rather than fish the big, heavy sink-tip lines, use some shorter sink-tips to allow you to fish the streamer a little slower in the cold water. When you see a fish come behind the fly be sure to activate it with some shorter strips giving life to the pattern but keeping it an easy target for the brown and rainbow trout.
Old man winter came in with force and a little early as our friends from Canada sent us a powerful cold front that should be with us for a while. Just how long is unknown.
Steelhead fishing has improved after a pretty dismal couple of weeks. Not sure if that’s because there are less people fishing in this weather or if the nice bump in water levels over the weekend encouraged some fresh fish to move into the rivers (Manistee and Betsie). For those willing to fish in below freezing weather look for fish in that transitional water – long tail outs and start to probe those deeper holes with water temperatures taking a plunge…. temps are right around 40 degrees. Nymph and egg combos are a good place to start or for those looking to swing a big streamer/spey fly – now is a good time to fish olive/copper and brown/copper patterns.
Streamer fishing for trout has been good for those looking to fish sink-tips and streamers. Both big and small fish are actively eating before winter and you never know when the big fish will come out and try to eat the small fish on your line….. kind of like those stories or experiences common with walleye/pike fishing. With the water temps dropping, fish some smaller patterns on lighter sink-tips and really put some action in the fly. Click here to read more on how to fish streamer s seductively.
Keep in mind that firearm deer season opens Saturday Nov. 15 through Nov. 30th – Wear some blaze orange for safety.
There hasn’t been much of a change in fishing the past week – one day we do good, then it is tough again for a few. The bottom line – in my opinion – is that fishing has been inconsistent and tougher than it should be for this time of year and basically has been all fall. The number of Steelhead in the rivers seems to be pretty stable with a few fresh fish trickling into the Manistee but less fish than what should be in the rivers. Water temps remain in the 40’s so when hooked-up you know it as they are still sassy and are a handful to land. Reports on the other rivers in the region including the Betsie seem to be about the same.
The weather forecast is calling for cooler weather and a little of the white stuff which should contribute to lower water temps which ultimately should start getting those fish to move from the shallow water to the slower, deeper water – at least in theory. My advice would be to cover as much water as possible fishing a combo of an egg and a nymph. Then again I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what the fish really want and where.
The streamer bite on the trout rivers has improved as the browns are done spawning and looking to eat before winter sets in. Rather than cast the really big articulated patterns, consider casting some mid-sized patterns (3-5 inches long) like the Autumn Offender or Brook Trout on smaller sink-tips as the fish seem to be out of the deep holes with the lack of pressure and their desire to eat.
With a day like today (high north winds, snow and rain) we can’t help but think that it is fall and the fall steelhead should get their act in order and show up in a little more force since they have been trickling in the past 6 weeks. Then again, all bets are off this 2014 fishing season as very little has been predictable throughout the year.
Fishing the past week has been up and down but overall still a bit slower than what it should be for this time of year. When we are finding fish they have been hot and a handful as the water temps on the Manistee are hovering in the high 40s. The fish that are playing along seemed to prefer egg patterns however the nymph bite is starting to improve a little bit with caddis and steelhead buggers out performing other nymphs tried. As far as egg colors…… mix it up but focus on the orange or Oregon cheese shades/colors.
Not much has changed in the past week in regards to fishing. The fall steelhead have been inconsistent and hard-earned as their numbers aren’t what they typically are for this time of year. The decent days keep us motivated and coming back as these fish test our determination but when they do play nice, it is awesome and is a testament to why we choose to fish for them.
The Manistee has dropped to closer to normal levels and the water has cleared up quite a bit with just a slight stain thanks to a week without rain. And, the sun came back out making it comfortable once the morning frost melts while increasing the water temperature which is just about 50 degrees.
There are very few salmon around right now and as a result the egg bite is starting to give way to a bug-bite – caddis, steelhead buggers, pheasant tails and even a swung fly. With water temps as warm as they are, this can be a good time to get out and fish a big sink-tip and a big fly on a two-handed rod.
Trout fishing is reportedly good on the open waters of the Upper Manistee and AuSable rivers – look for the post-spawn behavior to be one that likes to pounce on a streamer. If you come across spawning browns, please leave them alone to do their job of creating a sustainable fishery.
It’s the middle of October – fall colors are at peak but the salmon are past peak. The salmon are dwindling in numbers on local rivers like the Manistee and Betsie; it doesn’t appear that another push is coming. Sure, some may continue to trickle in but look for a lot of empty gravel and some carcasses wrapped around logs – it’s pretty much over. What they did leave behind are lots of eggs that are drifting downstream and the steelhead have been taking advantage of.
Steelhead numbers are also down so far this fall making it tougher than normal. But ever optimistic is the steelhead angler and with our recent downpour of rain this week (I may have burned out my bildge pump this month) more fish should start to migrate upstream. Water levels are up a bit and slightly stained on the Betsie and Manistee while the lower Manistee is stained pretty good with various tributaries contributing their silt and tannins.
Egg patterns in natural and pale colors have been working – golden, sockeye, apricot, grapefruit and Oregon Cheese have been working. The nymph bite hasn’t been too strong but as the egg drop diminishes, look for that to change. More on egg patterns- click here.
Another nice week of weather made for some good fishing, but marginal catching. Some days the steelhead and salmon played along nicely, other days they were simply not playing.
The Manistee has salmon in it and they are mostly on spawning gravel near Tippy Dam. There seems to have been a lull in the run as far as fresh fish moving up through the system but after an inch of rain today we are hopeful that some fish in the lake pointed themselves upstream along with some additional steelhead. Numbers of both species are less than normal for this time of year as water temps at the lake are still too warm to have fish concentrated and looking to move upstream. A lack of northerly winds on the lake the past two months – I believe – is largely behind the run being stalled. Some more seasonal weather is in the forecast which should help things get closer to normal.
The Betsie also has salmon in it and are mostly on gravel although being a smaller river it is easier to see some fish moving through the system and easier to target them. After the rain look for the water level to be up a little along with a little more of the “Betsie Stain” to add some color to it. I suspect the run on the Betsie will continue through much of October. Please keep in mind that the Betsie is a natural reproducing river and catch and release is important to a long-term and sustainable fishery.
With October comes the end of trout season on a number of rivers and sections there within. The upper Manistee and lower Manistee remain open and the fall colors have been great on the upper. With the rain today and the cooler weather, look for the streamer fishing to improve as fish are in their pre-spawn mood. Most of the Boardman is closed -check the DNR’s regulations on the other rivers for what remains open.