Every now and again we all need to take some time for some R&R to “sharpen the saw”, as Steven Covey would say. So, I took a break last week to take a step back from everything and enjoy the outdoors and one of my passions – fly fishing.
FlyFishing Western Michigan For Steelhead
April 21st and 22nd – 2010
Big Manistee & Muskegon Rivers
Guide: Sean McDonald at CenturyCircle
Thanks to Jon @ Chicago Flyfishing Outfitters for connecting us up with Sean
My neighbor Phil and I made the 5 hour drive from Chicago to Baldwin, MI on Tuesday night. We pulled into Baldwin about 12:30am local time and got settled. Sean, our guide, met us promptly at 6:30 in the morning to drive us to the Big Manistee River. It was a brisk 30 degrees in the morning. Sean has an 18ft. jet sled for on the river that was very stable and amply powered by an 88hp Mercury.
We put in at the public boat launch called High Bridge. From there we headed upstream, stopping a few hundred yards down from Tippy Dam. There were a handful of other boats on the river, and many fisherman wading the banks of the river the closer we got to the dam. Even with polarized sunglasses, it was very difficult spotting any fish in the morning due to the glare on the water.
We fished hard and Phil hooked the first chromer of our trip just before noon. Water temperature by this point of the day was nearly 54 degrees and sight-fishing to steelhead became the name of the game. We’d anchor the boat and cast the 30 or so feet to spawning fish laid up on gravel bars.
That fish succumbed to a #14 black stonefly nymph. A beautiful hen, and Phil’s first steelhead on a flyrod. As you can see, it was a crystal clear day with bluebird skies. Soon after, I hooked into a my first fish of the trip, on a #12 hares ear.
Phil and I both landed one more fish each that afternoon, both on #12 hares ear nymphs. That’s Sean in the pic with Phil. I also had a real nice chrome hen that I battled for a few minutes before she dove down and wrapped around a submerged tree. Phil also lost a real nice buck at the end of the day too. We did see some spawning Sturgeon that were in the 200+ lb range.
We had a great meal that night at Na Tah Ka – neat little bar where we had walleye and perch.
Thursday 4/22 on the Muskegon River
Met up with Sean again at 6:30 and we followed him South towards the Muskegon River. It’s a good hour’s drive, but it put us a bit closer to home too. The morning started out at 28 degrees, but it remained calm most of the day and warmed into the upper 50’s. Water temp held around 53 degrees, mighty warm for this stage of the game. Similar to yesterday, the river was running low and gin-clear. The Muskegon is primarily a gravel-bottom river with ‘bumps’ of gravel bars throughout – perfect spawning grounds for steelhead. We launched the jet boat above Newaygo, MI and headed up river. We found a nice pod of 5-6 fish holding in some skinny water near shore, laid up on gravel just downstream from a submerged tree. We casted long and hard to these fish with various flies, but in the end, they won the battle of will…so we headed downstream to eat a shore lunch of sandwiches and regroup.
I ended up hooking into this bright chrome hen in some skinny fast water using a size 10 hex nymph.
and then landed this beautiful big buck all colored up in spawning colors. This fish was part of a group of about six fish that were holding together back down near where we launched the boat. We did hook a few of them, but never brought any to hand. Phil had a beauty that got off right next to the boat.
note how crystal clear the water is in the background of this 2nd pic!
We did see another monster Sturgeon swim by the boat on this river as well. There was also a pretty prolific hatch of size 12-14 tan stonefilies popping off in the afternoon. There were a few trout rising to insects, but they seemed to be taking the midges rather than the stoneflies. Then, there’s this little guy who was content gorging himself on steelhead eggs. Hefty little guy that was pretty plump.
That same orange colored egg fly is what fooled the big buck in the above pics too. That big buck was the only steelhead to fall to an egg pattern.
Phil and I had a great time, and can’t recommend Sean McDonald enough as a guide. Great guy who knows the rivers, and the fish. Phil and I are on the books for another steelhead trip the 1st week in November with Sean.
All fish were CPR’d – Catch, Photo, Release