The longer days confirms that winter is progressing along, but it’s still winter. Fishing continues to be limited to steelhead and trout in some local rivers by those looking to shed cabin fever and bend the rod. When the sun pops out and gives off some solar heat and Vitamin D – it’s time to be on the water.

Steelhead Season. Photo by Surrealis_uk, Copyright 2006.

The significance of a slight temperature increase can make all the difference; look for late mornings and early afternoons to be best as the sun is its highest. While a blessing, the sun can be the curse when combined with the clear winter water; this is the time to make your best drag-free presentations with lighter tippets – preferably fluorocarbon. An indicator will not only help monitor your drift, but help you suspend your flies off the bottom to get a presentation to fish near and in structure.  Eggs in paler colors combined with your standard assortment of nymphs: hexes, little black stones, larger black stones, and caddis in green, cream and “cased” are all effective this time of year.

There are steelhead throughout the Manistee river system and the closer you get to Tippy dam you will find them mixed with trout.  Trout anglers fishing nymphs under an indicator are finding midge, bow nymphs and caddis to be preferred with an occasional steelhead rendering the 6x tippet useless. Fishing on the Betsie seems to be more a matter of the day as both hold-over and newer fish move throughout the system.  Urban anglers in Traverse City are finding a fish here and there throughout the Boardman system but more skippers than adult fish. Regardless of the river, look for the slower and deeper water to be the home of chrome right now and make sure your first cast in each hole and run is spot-on and the same with your last – this time of year be sure to fish the water thoroughly since fish aren’t moving a whole lot to eat.  Fish throughout the all rivers seem to be a mix of fall and early winter holdovers along with some brighter fish too.

The bright side is the days are getting longer and the calendar says that March and the spring steelhead run isn’t that far away!

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.

NOTE: Ted is offering a great winter fishing special of five hours of guided fly fishing and lunch for only $250 — available through March 15th. Check it out.