After some warmer temperatures and rain along with the sun coming back after a long winter of hibernation, the snow banks have been reduced as has a lot of shelf ice on the local rivers including the Betsie, Manistee and Boardman. Water temperatures are still just above freezing and levels are close to normal as the run-off appears to have seeped into the water table leaving the water clear and cold.
If heading out be prepared for lethargic fish. Those days the sun comes out and bumps the water temperature just a degree or two can really turn the steelhead on. Majority of the fish that came in the river systems in the fall have wintered over and are mostly taking hold in the deep, slower holes. Dead-drift presentations are optimum as fly anglers use indicators and floats to also help with keep the flies suspended above structure. [More on steelhead rigging here]
Good patterns to have tied on right now include salmon fry and alevins as they increase in numbers developing from the salmon’s natural reproduction. – another reason why we believe in Catch and Release fishing. These small baitfish and other natural looking nymphs are a good fly choice when fished in tandem with an egg pattern. Other good fly choices this time of year include: hex nymphs, pheasant tails and black stones. As the water becomes stained, go with larger patterns that include flash, but there isn’t anything in the forecast that looks like that should happen anytime soon. A nice prolonged thaw /run-off would be great and ensure a long spring steelhead season through April and into May.