The last couple of weeks has provided some opportunity to get on the water with some warmer than normal days for the season. It is now winter and while it isn’t white outside, the thermometer isn’t showing a lot of red, either. The long term forecast calls for below freezing temps which pretty much puts us into winter fishing mode.
With both air and water temps as low as they are, look for window of opportunity to get out when the conditions are right – no or low winds, slighter warmer air temps and maybe a little sunshine (do you remember what that is?).
Steelhead are scattered throughout the rivers (Manistee, Betsie, Boardman) – there are fishable numbers but you will want to cover water and look for those fish that want to eat. It’s a good time to fish indicators and look for fish to be in the slower, deeper water often just inside the seam or bubble line. With the rivers full thanks to recent rain, you can get away with a larger egg pattern fished in tandem with a natural looking nymph; this time of year patterns with a lot of movement to them like hex nymphs are a good place to start.
Trout fishing has slowed but still remains an option for those looking to fish streamers and nymphs. If fishing streamers, go with a shorter sink tip or even a floating line with a weighted pattern and really slow the presentation down while implementing a lot of action into the fly as you cover the slower water – both holes and slots.
This time of year it’s just good to get outside and on the water since we haven’t traded the fishing poles for ski poles just yet. Keep in mind that some sections of some rivers close at the end of the year. Not into winter fishing? Here are some ideas to stay busy this winter.
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.