What a strange spring, weather wise: It certainly had its effects on the fishing and in some cases helped things, but there are a lot of people in waders scratching their heads.
The steelhead fishing has slowed the past week and last week’s rain didn’t bring in a push of fish like most hoped for. Still, there are some fish moving up and down the Manistee and Betsie Rivers right now but fishing is spotty. Most of the fish are on or near gravel and are skittish to say the least after angling pressure has taught them to be nervous. Targeting drop-back fish has provided some good action and has also produced some fresh fish on their way up to do their spawning thing. I imagine fish will continue to trickle into the river for a few more weeks, just not in the numbers one would expect when looking at the calendar. Eggs in Oregon Cheese/Orange, and in Sockeye, have been the better egg colors with black stones, hex and steelhead buggers for the nymphs. With 50 degree water temps, look for fish to be there one day and gone the next — proving, yet again, that steelhead are predictably unpredictable. One thing you can count on are hard-fighting and jumping fish — thanks to the warm water.
The good news about the warm water and early spring is that the trout fishing has been good. Water levels are about right and the angling pressure is light on certain sections of water that are currently open. Streamer fishing is the method to use the majority of the time right now, giving those well-rested trout a mouthful. Tans, browns, white and olive patterns have been the better colors with some larger baitfish patterns provoking territorial aggressiveness. If you are fishing water stocked with trout, now is the time to fish with patterns that resemble the bait – TA Bunkers, Deceivers, CF Minnows and Fin Clips. Keep an eye on the water’s surface too as there has been dry fly action on the surface with stones and Hendricksons popping off and some fish eating. Look for the dry fly action and hatches to build significantly thanks to the weather forecast.
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.