With the arrival of March, so came the warmer temperatures and sunshine. After months of weekly snow and thaw cycles we are starting the spring steelhead season with a lot less snow on the ground than normal. Water levels are up a bit from where they typically are this time of year and water temps are still in the mid 30s on the Manistee below Tippy Dam and upper 30s on the Betsie river. As the sun comes out, look for the water to warm as the day progresses and the fish to become more active.
The fall steelhead were late making their way upstream, but when they did in late Nov. and into December, they weren’t overly pressured. Look for those fish that wintered over to be hanging out in the deeper holes and just off the bubble lines/seams in the slack water. With longer days and sunlight, more fish should start to congregate at river mouths and with increasing frequency and start their migration. Any warm rain along the way will only intensify the migration. I am guessing that because of the lack of snow pack, the spring steelhead season will be long and drawn out, unless we get substantial rainfall which often creates a burst of fish in the resulting high water.
With the sunshine, keep an eye on any remaining snow along the riverbank for little black stoneflies crawling around. As one of the first aquatic insects to get active, these little stones are important to the steelhead angler. Other key fly patterns this time of year include green caddis, hex nymphs and larger egg patterns. As the water get’s dirtier through the season, increase the size of your pattern.