The warm weather the past 7 weeks should make this year’s opener one of the best in years. Water temps are in the 50’s and the fish are out of their post hibernation-funk and eating streamers and some dry flies. The insect activity has been sporadic thanks to the cooler nights of late, but look for black stones, Hendricksons, black caddis, black quills/borcher’s drakes on the Upper Manistee. The Boardman - running cooler - has had some “henies” coming off too, but not many fish eating them. This time of year, insect activity is best when the temps are warmest so look for sun, light winds and mild overnight temperatures - the rest of the time, fish streamers and nymphs.
If you are heading out this weekend, have a box of big streamers to tie onto your sink-tip line if you are looking to score the bigger, more aggressive fish. Be around gravel and riffle areas on your favorite section of water for the best Hendrickson activity; the nymphs call that water home and the spinners come back to it when depositing their eggs. Fish a nymph and or wets – down and across, or, when you see some surface activity or an emergence tie a wet or a nymph behind a dead-drift emerger. The fish haven’t seen much activity for a while on the closed sections so use some stealth when fishing to keep fish happy.
Steelhead fishing is still going, but is winding down. Since it has been such a strange spring for steelhead, who knows what will happen – especially after our next rain. Some fresh fish are still trickling up the Manistee, Betsie, Boardman and Platte Rivers, but in small numbers while drop-back females are slipping back to the big lake. Many people are willing to subject themselves to the cold weather of winter steelhead for a chance at a few fish, but it amazes me that more people don’t pursue drop-back and the remaining fresh running fish this time of year in the warmer weather. With the warmer water, it’s the best acrobats and fighting fish of the year. Lots of Oregon Cheese eggs patterns, larger hex nymphs and steelhead buggers have been working in the deeper water with the small, pale colored eggs, small stones and caddis around gravel. With water temps in the mid 50’s it’s not necessarily a bad time to swing some flies looking for non-spawning fish to eat your bigger presentation of streamers and spey flies.
Often out of the lime-light for fly fisherman are all of the lakes in the Lower Peninsula and the other seasons that share the same opener: Pike, Musky, Walleye and catch and immediate release Bass fishing starts this Saturday, too. See the MI-DNRE for specifics on regulations.
Good luck this weekend and be sure to be considerate to other anglers you encounter on the water – we made it through another winter and opener is another confirmation that spring is here!