Its official, dry fly fishing is here! We’ve been seeing good to mediocre hatches of BWO’s over the last week with light numbers of hendricksons. I even saw my first black caddis of the year yesterday afternoon!
I have some great openings throughout May, now is a great time to experience northern Michigan. Morels and wildflowers are starting to pop, trees are budding, and the fish are looking up!
I’ve found its a lot easier to book float or wade trips down any of the storied trout streams in the area than it is to book a stillwater trout trip. So until I find a client base interested in stillwater trout fishing in northern Michigan, I’ll take advantage of the resource and enjoy them all to myself.
Fishing for midge-eating stillwater trout is a lot more like fishing for permit than it is fishing for trout. A dorsal fin to tail rise here, a v-wake there. Sometimes its a solo fish, sometimes its a pack. Sometimes a fish will remain in an area long enough for you to take a few cracks at it, others, you only get one shot. Usually, its one or two false casts or you’ve wasted too much time, or the fish will be out of casting range.
So I found a little cove out of the wind and watched midges hatch until the flurry of v-wakes appeared out of nowhere. I put a cast in front of them, a rainbow in the mid teens ate, and just like that, I had my first dry fly fish of 2015. Its really not supposed to be that easy, but sometimes you get a break.
We’re still being forced to deal with the white stuff
What a difference a week makes. I’m firmly in pre-season mode now, stopping by one lake or another every other day to check for open water. Scouting various stretches in the boat or on foot to see how the river changed over the winter. There is some fishing mixed in, but nothing too serious. Metaphorically, we’re still playing with our food.
April showers bring May flowers, and they also swell our rivers to nearly unfishable levels right when we’re ready to stop playing with our food and start digging in.
Last year’s runoff was much more severe than normal- it was kind of a perfect storm. We had near record snowfall over the winter that was melting simultaneously with the first major rain events of the year, and oh yeah, the ground was still frozen. All that water had nowhere to go but downstream.
This year, most of our snow is already gone. Its completely gone around Grayling. We’ve had enough warm’ish weather that the ground is already starting to thaw. Unless we just get dumped on, this year’s runoff event should pale in comparison to 2014. In short, we’re shaping up for a really nice opener.
John with a solid steelhead
Our northern steelhead run has started. John and I hit a local stream for a few hours the other day and he hooked up with a solid steelhead in the 4/5-pound range on about his fourth cast. John is an excellent nympher, so I picked his brain as much as I could and learned a few new tricks. In fly fishing, there is always something new to learn. Thats one of the big reasons why I love this stuff so much.
What else is new?
- I have photos in both the Spring Issues of The Drake Magazine and Fly Rod & Reel.
- For every inch of snow we lose, 100 piles of dog poop appear in my back yard.
- I revamped much of the website over the past month or so, take a look around and let me know if there is anything you’d like to see.
See you on the water,
If this year is like last year, we’re still about a month and a half away from hendricksons. Fortunately, this year- as long as winter seemed- is not last year. This year is going to be what I consider normal. And looking through my journal, last year really wasn’t that abnormal once June 1st and the first wave of brown drakes came off.
What that long winter we experienced last year did was goof up the timing on the early season hatches. Don’t expect that to repeat this year. My journals following more “normal” winters like the one we’re wrapping up have hendricksons starting in the second or third week in April. Thats right, in three weeks we’ll be fishing hendrickson hatches- and even though today is April 1, thats no April-Fools joke.
I haven’t been targeting trout too much yet, just steelheading mostly. We’re solidly in the early stages of the steelhead season now, and I expect things to get markedly better by the day until our northern season peaks. This year, I expect that peak in the last two weeks of April.
If my crystal ball is accurate, that means we’re in for quite the dilemma in a couple weeks- hendricksons or steelhead?
Most years, I think I’d side with steelhead, but this year, dry flies sound awfully nice…
Tomorrow marks the first day of spring. It doesn’t even seem real writing that. Maple syrup flows, we had a stunning display of northern lights the other night, and we’ve had our first gush of spring runoff. Don’t tell anyone, but I even saw open water on a local lake the other day. It since froze back over, but I have a feeling a few more warm days will mean its time for stillwater trout.
The first month after ice out offers some of the best stillwater trout fishing of the year. Its some of the most fun you can have with a fly rod. Football shaped trout cruise below the surface, sipping midges and mayflies, sometimes launching themselves out of the water, but mostly just denting the surface. You chase rise rings, one cast goes 30-feet out at 3 o’clock, and almost just as soon as it lands, the fish has moved and you need to pick up and cast to 40-feet at 5 o’clock. Don’t relax now, the biggest trout you’re going to cast to all season just rose 60-feet out at 11 o’clock.
Did I mention how much fun these fish are?
If you want to get out now, there are steelhead trickling in. But its still a touch early to go gung ho. Streamer fishing can be the best day you’ve ever had in your life, or if the fishing gods aren’t in your favor, it can make you think that cabin fever wasn’t as bad as you thought it was.
Just a little longer, now, and it will be warm and the fishing will be good everywhere again and the biggest problem will be figuring out which river or lake to fish.