It’s not much of a secret that the summer’s cool weather has kicked off the salmon run a bit early this year. So with the fish running bigger this year, it’s not much of a surprise that anglers are choosing to fish for big Kings rather than trout. To each their own, and thankfully we have a choice.
The Betsie River has fish passing through the system, migrating upriver until it is time to spawn. The fish are moving through channels, slots and hold in the deeper slower holes when the sun is out and has them sitting. I call it “sand-dancing” as they spin around not really sure of themselves or why they left deep, cold water for a small stream. Successful flies are no secret – the typical: caddis, buggers, pheasant tails, sparrows, muddlers and always tied tandem with an egg pattern.
The Lower Manistee has some fish in it and activity/response varies from day to day. The big bright sun keeps them stationary and often in wood so it’s important to focus on the first and last light for your best shot at big fish on big streamers. When the bite is off, consider fishing for smallmouth bass. While they don’t pull as hard as a salmon, they are a little more eager to eat the fly and are lots of fun on a six-weight. You might even get a chance to land a salmon on a ‘six’ as a result; just make sure the rod’s warranty card is filled out! For both species, fire tiger and chartreuse-and-white baitfish patterns have been the most productive.
The Upper Manistee is in fine shape for the trout angler. Water levels are a little higher than normal for this time of year and temps are perfect. With this week’s sun, the terrestrial activity along the banks has improved. Hint: use terrestrials right now (grasshoppers, ants, beetles and the like), but wait until late morning as the sun warms things up. There has been limited bug activity, but look for BWOs, Lt. Cahills, and a few caddis. Now is also a good time to start fishing streamers again – start off a little smaller and mix it up until notice a preference on size, color and action.
The Boardman River continues to fish decent this summer because of the cool weather – proof that the fishery will be better in the future once the dams and their warm-water contributions are removed. Smaller terrestrials, wet flies/soft hackles and small bead head nymphs fished without an indicator are good choices and the last of the Tricos are falling to the water in the a.m., while some caddis are bouncing around in the evening.
Ted Kraimer is a professional guide and fly tier, owner of Current Works Guide Service, and field editor for True|North|Trout. His fishing reports will continue to appear in T|N|T and on his website.