Not much has changed since New Years, but it look’s like change is near. Thankfully Mother Nature is loosening up her grip and intends on giving us some warmer weather than what we have been experiencing lately. Those that don’t think 40 degrees is warm haven’t spent the winter up North.

The Big Manistee continues to be your best bet for steelhead right now thanks to the size of the river system and the dam’s influence on the water. With temps being cold and the clarity being a little too good, look to play by the winter’s rules: lighter line, smaller flies and stealth. Fishing pressure has been light which is a positive. Some trout are playing along too below the dam, but usually it’s the big fish that get us out to cure our cabin fever.

For those looking to fish a smaller river in the area, the Betsie has some fish in it too and if you use the winter’s rules as described above, you should find fish to play with. In either case, look for the slower moving water to be your best bet which is often deeper too.

Regardless of what river you are looking to fish, try suspending some flies above the bottom – not only for a natural drift, but to keep them a few inches above the bottom so you don’t get hung up covering all sorts of pockets and slots.  With water clarity being what it is, good patterns include neutral colored eggs with a touch of color and some nymphs like small hex patterns and cream and green caddis. It won’t be long before we start seeing our first early black stones, so get tying those so you will be ready.

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.