After a very pleasant September with blue skies and no rain, October has been the opposite: rain, wind, more rain and then wind gusts. Think of September as the Ying and October as the Yang – we are getting fall weather and some of the best fall rains and water levels in years which should make for an excellent Fall Steelhead season. With the water levels coming up and the winds blowing hard on the lake, conditions are ideal.
The Betsie still has salmon moving through it with the higher, dirtier water. Fresh fish are moving through the river and dark ones are on and near gravel throughout the system. A few steelhead have been caught by the salmon angler but more Coho/Silvers are in the system than the lake run rainbows. Egg-sucking leeches, Stone Flies, Hexes, Steelhead Buggers, Caddis and eggs in chartreuse, Oregon cheese and clown patterns have been working — run one egg high and a nymph below it.
The Manistee has salmon throughout the system from the dam down to the mouth. The largest concentration of fish and anglers is below the Tippy Dam as it is the furthest upstream limit spawning fish can get to and it is surrounded by ideal spawning gravel. A good number of steelhead are in the upper river in the darker holes and runs behind the spawning salmon and are looking to eat the eggs and nymphs getting dislodged from the active salmon. For the steelhead, try realistic looking egg patterns – nukes in chart/pink (grapefruit), Oregon cheese, golden, and pinks. These same colors should work well for the salmon if you are focusing on them. Try using smaller nymphs like pheasant tails and caddis for the steelhead with larger buggers, stones and sparrows for the salmon. The lower river has a mix of adult and skipper steelhead moving though but not really holding. With all of the leaves getting washed into the river and the higher, dirtier water, try patterns that are a little bigger and brighter than normal.
The Platte River is going strong thanks to the change in weather. There are lots of Kings in the river and a good number of Cohos. Because of its proximity to Lake Michigan, conditions and fish numbers can change within hours and usually for the better. Another nice attribute of the Platte is its stability of water levels – it rarely gets too high or dirty where it hurts fishing – no clouds and sun is the Platte angler’s enemy. The typical flies mentioned above are working with the addition of Muddler Minnows, buggers and smaller baitfish patterns like Cross Dressers. Remember that the Platte has a hook gape restriction of 3/8” so be careful what size fly you have in your box while on the river.
The trout fishing on the Upper Manistee has been O.K. With the rain and water levels coming up and the aggressiveness of the alpha brown trout, the pre-spawn bite should be strong over the next couple of weeks. This is a great time to go streamer fishing – adjust your retrieve based on water temps and the response you are getting from the fish; some days they like it ripped through the water, other days slowly jigged. Please leave spawning browns alone – this is a natural reproducing river!
Good Luck getting out and hooking up – this is truly one of the best times of the year to fish – so many species and rivers – Northern Michigan really is a Sportsman’s Paradise.
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.