Monday, November 7, 2016

November Chrome

Steelhead are here!

There is nothing sweeter than the first few seconds of hooking a dime-bright steelhead in November. It is a euphoric, exhilarating,  adrenaline rush. Whether it is indicator fishing, swinging or stripping a streamer, bottom bouncing, or some other tactic that hasn't been invented yet, the pursuit of these fish is magical. That moment when you realize there is an 8+ pound steelhead on the end of your line, there are an innumerous amount of things that can go wrong. Many times one of these things does go wrong, and the wild animal prevails over man. It is indeed that fraction of the time, that we are hoping for. The chance that the angler does everything right, or rather doesn't do much wrong. These steelhead are in the infancy of their journey upstream to spawn; they are full of energy from the high protein meals eaten in the great lakes. With water temperatures at the warmest these fish will see, plus the energy level, these fish are very tough to contain. It is merely that feeling of trying to catch up the entire fight that is so crazy and exhilarating.

    There are Steelhead spread out, throughout the Pere Marquette River system. Fish are from top to bottom. There are concentrations of fish that continue to change, shift, and evolve as they move upstream. Although these fish are on the move, there are still runs that should and do typically hold steelhead this time of year.
Come out and get your steelhead on with River Ninja Outfitters!
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Friday, May 13, 2016

Dry Fly Fishing is HERE!

    The weather is more like Summer, the water is warming, and the bugs are hatching. The Hendrickson hatch is the first big mayfly hatch of the year. It has been going strong on the Au Sable River for a few weeks. Typically that is as long as this holds on for. That been said, there are many other aquatic insects hatching to entice the fish to rise to the surface and eat.

The Hendrickson (Ephemerella Subvaria)
hatch throughout the East and Midwestern states. This hatch marks the beginning of dry fly fishing. The Hendrickson hatch typically starts some time around traditional Trout Opener (the last Saturday in April). Some years it can be a few days earlier and some years the bugs don't start hatching until a few days into May. This year we had bugs on opener. Regardless of when the bugs start hatching, it takes the trout a few days of bug activity to knock off the cobwebs from a winter of not feeding on the surface. For many of these fish it has literally been 8 to 10 months since they have eaten a bug off the surface. These mayflies are large and fish haven't seen anything this size hatching for a long time. With that in mind, it can make all sizes of fish rise with disregard to their surroundings. Now, don't get me wrong if you wade or anchor too close it will spook them. If you slap the water with a cast or put the fly line over them with a cast a few feet too long, it can also put these fish down. This hatch being the first consistent dry fly action of the Spring/Summer brings many anglers to the river to enjoy the resource.

The Hendrickson hatch is winding down, but that does not mean there isn't great fishing on our Midwest streams. Once the Hendrickson start to hatch it opens up the flood gates for the other hatches of Summer to start. We have been seeing a plethora of bugs on the water, including: large stoneflies, Mahoganies, BWO's, Dark and Light Hendricksons, among others. These bugs be joined by Sulphurs, March Browns, Light Cahills in the late weeks of May. During June there are many great insects on the menu for these trout, Isonychia bicolor (Iso's), Brown Drakes, and Hex just to name a few. The latter three are the big three of June that bring fish to the surface. Brown Drakes will hatch sometime in the range of the first 12-15 days of June. Hexes will typically hatch starting in the last ten days of June up North. Hatch activity is not easy to pinpoint on a calendar. Anglers from all of the country try to plan vacation to Michigan rivers for the Hex hatch in Late June to early July. They look at the Calendar and use whatever resources and knowledge they can tap into to predict the hatch. But like anything all these hatches happen on their own time.

The best thing to do is plan a trip to the "North Woods", lean on some local knowledge from a guide or the local fly shop, be prepared with a large variety of flies, and HOPE that the stars align.

I will be guiding dry fly fishing trips throughout May and the first two weeks of June 2016. At which time I will be making my annual pilgrimage to the runoff of the Southern Rocky Mountains in Vail, CO.

If you would like to book a Trout Fishing Trip in the next few weeks feel free to call or email for open dates to secure your reservation. If I am not available there are many guides and local fly shops that may have guides available that I would be more than happy to set you up with. If you would like to book a Hex trip after I have left for CO, I can knock on some doors and get you on the water with a great guide.

Alex Forsberg
River Ninja Outfitters

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why River Ninja? What does River Ninja mean?

The name of my Outfitter company, River Ninja, sounds like a narcissistic proclamation that "I AM THE RIVER NINJA". That is not the case. How did I come up with the name some clients have asked.

The name River Ninja Outfitters came from my guiding experience in Vail, CO. In Vail there are many families that are on vacation and want their children to experience the outdoors for a morning or afternoon. This leaves me with two to three little rascals to corral and entertain for four hours. Some would think this is a task fit only for a babysitter. I welcomed the challenge, and in doing so became very versatile at guiding all ages. Whenever I had kids trips, one child would always catch more fish, it's the nature of inequality in our society. It doesn't mean one is any better than the other. What it did mean is that I would have to entertain and make a game of the fishing to take the pressure off and distract his mind from not catching fish. I would always check to make sure the other child angler was doing well. What I would do next is figure out where I know there is a fish that does not see flies often. An example would be an eddy next to a large boulder, or a riffle where an approach needed to be stealthy. Here is where it all begins...

I would pull the struggling child aside, take the rod from them, so as to give them a little break. I would then crouch down to their level and whisper:

Alex:"Alright, are you ready?"
Child: "What do you Mean?"
A: "We're going to have a little adventure, if you're up for it?"
C: "Yeah, I'm in."
A: "Alright this is what we are going to do. We are going to fish up by that rock. But we aren't just going to march up there and splash around to alert the fish of our presence! We are going to sneak up there, not making any noise or any splash, kind of like a "River Ninja". Does that make sense?"
To which the response was always, "A River Ninja, cool." or something the like.

Each time a child was struggling to land his first trout of the day, I would pull them aside and have this chat. I would get them in the right "River Ninja" mind set. And then we would stalk the spot to be fished together. I would whisper reminders as we snuck up to the fishes lie. There was always a point that I would put myself in a netting position, and tell them to sneak into the casting position. We had rehearsed the entire game plan several times pregame and on the warmup walk to the spot. My little angler knew exactly what to do.

Whenever I used this "River Ninja" example with a child that had not caught a fish, it was like a light switch! Bam they hooked and landed a fish!

As many other guides have learned, if you have an analogy that is working and everyone understands it you keep it in the rotation. It like a comedy and jokes that just straight up kill the crowd. Those are your go-to's. Well this "River Ninja" analogy become a go-to on every one of my kids trips. And one day it just hit me, "River Ninja Outfitters!" Although I had been bending my mind for years to find the perfect fly fishing company name, here it came out of nowhere. And my company was named. Later that year after returning home from Colorado I would get my LLC and start Salmon guiding in Michigan.

And that is how River Ninja Outfitters was born.

Friday, April 22, 2016

How I became a guide?

Clients ask all the time in the boat, "How did you become a fly fishing guide?". And here is the story:

A great friend Ody and I were walking upstream from the Claybanks access on the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, MI one evening to do some steelhead fishing. It was a crisp Fall evening, gloomy and just above freezing. We were excited to get a line wet. While entering the river as the public land turns to private, we saw a boat approaching from the gravels above the Deer Lick cabin. I found it weird that a drift boat fit for three people was barren with only a rower??? Weird, right. So being the person that my father raised me to be I sparked up a friendly conversation. Once the salutation had finished the following paragraph ensued:

    Alex F: "Is everything alright?"
    Matt S: "Yes, why do you ask?"
    AF: "Well, we're not looking for your buddy floating down the river soaking wet are we?" Because we don't usually see lone rowers in a large drift boat.
    MS: "No, no, I am just in town with my family, trying to get a little time on the water and didn't have anyone to float with."
    AF: "Oh thank goodness, good to hear it. Where are you from?"
    MS: "Colorado. Hey do you guys have a minute to talk?"
    AF and Jon O.: "Absolutely!", as I always have time to talk to other anglers about fishing!
    After a few oar strokes the anchor immediately splashed into the cold, clean waters of the PM.

    What followed was a 45minute to an hour conversion about where the fish are located in the river system and within the runs and pools. We connected these locations to water temperature, talked about leader diameter and strength, length of total rigs and leaders, choice of fly line, indicators, and most importantly flies. After this lengthy conversation with a great individual who was not afraid to ask for local knowledge I immediate followed his company, Minturn Anglers, on facebook and tried to stay in contact with him.

    This was a memorable day. I don't even recall if we hooked or landed a fish that evening. It would however prove to be an integral conversation and a turning point in my fishing career.

    My friend Ody ended up fishing with Matt that Fall on the Big Manistee. I did not have the pleasure of sharing a boat with Mr. Sprecher until the next Fall, which would have been November of 2012. I floated the Big Manistee River with Matt and his friend, per Matt's request to fish the "Big River". About an hour into the day I hooked and landed a nice steelhead.
After landed a gorgeous Big Manistee fish, I was done fishing for the day. I wanted the other two gentlemen in the boat to experience that pull of a crazy pissed off steelhead. As the afternoon approached Matt turned to me and said "You're hired! You'd be a great guide!" To which I said, "What?!?".
MS:"If you ever want to guide in CO, you have a job!"
AF: "When should I show up?"
MS: "June 1st."
AF: "I will be knocking on your door on May 28th!" And I was! And the rest is history... as they say.
I have been guiding for Minturn Anglers since June of 2013. Since then I have guided a few trips in WY and started my own business, River Ninja Outfitters, in MI. The summer of 2016 will be my fourth year at Minturn Anglers, and I have loved every minute of it.

A huge thank you to Matt Sprecher for giving this country boy from the Midwest a chance and throwing me to the wolves within two weeks in a raft on THE Eagle River! What a wild ride it has been. I am indebted to so many of my mentors over the years.

What a group of guides to say I have fished with and learned from:

Bob Streb, Anthony Mazza, Alex Garnier, Jeremy Clements, Scott Thompson, Duane Redford, Tommy Lynch, Alex Lafkas, David "Rambo" Randby, Jeff "Cookie" Cooke, Blake Knisely, Nick Denbow, and the list goes on and on. I appreciate all of the relationships I have made and all the fish that I have netted along the way. I have grown a great appreciation and happiness out of seeing a fish go in the net. I find true pleasure from flushing the bag on a fish for the first time with a new client.

Here is a link to Minturn Anglers website. I hope to see you out there in the Summer months.
Thank you to all the guides, anglers, and clients that I have spent days on the water with in the past few years. It is all of you that make me smile everyday. I am so fortunate to be able to chase a dream job and work outdoors.

Alex Forsberg
River Ninja Outfitters

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring is starting to transition to Summer

April 21st, 2016

Well Folks,

    I am pleased to tell you the new website is up and running. It has been a long arduous process to get it the way I want it. We will also be adjusting a few things in the coming months to make navigation as easy and enjoyable as possible. A majority of you may have found this blog/river report via my website, if not give it a gander, Now on to the all important River Report.
Andy's first Steelhead and first fish ever on a fly rod.
    The Pere Marquette River is low and clear. The Steelhead that are still remaining are almost all spawning. We have been finding a few fish in deep water. In my opinion it is more fun to fish deep water, it is the unknown, and you may be surprised. Being that the water is so low and clear, approach your fishing spots like a Ninja. Stealth is of the utmost importance. Splashing water, jumping in the water, or moving with anything but a snails pace is going to alert the fish to your presence. Make sure when fishing deep water to start with short casts and work your way over to the meat of the run or pocket. Don't just cast your fly line over the entire run to hit the best looking bubble line right against the bank. Work the water like a grid pattern, put your flies in every single section of that grid. I will elaborate on this grid more in future blogs.

    Egging for trout has been decent, yielding some fun fishing to large brown trout. This opportunity will only hold on as long as we have steelhead spawning in the river. We will only have another week or so of steelhead in the river. Typical setup for sight fishing to brown trout eating eggs is a fast action 9' 5weight rod. I couple this with a Scientific Anglers 5 weight GPX or new MPX fly line, both of which are slightly overweighted for easier casting at short distance. Although I tie my own leaders, the store bought variety work great and are so much more convenient to use and change. I would recommend a 7.5' 2x leader. I then add a 20-22" section of fluorocarbon tippet in the 3x or 4x range depending on water clarity. This gives you a total of around a 9 foot leader from fly line to first fly. I fish tandem egg flies or an egg and a nymph. The most productive flies are size 10 to 12 nuke eggs and glo bugs. Bright orange, light orange, and cheese are my biggest producers for egg color. I also like to fish small black stones and frenchies or pheasant tails.

If you are fishing behind gravels blindly to prospect for trout you may hook a steelhead, so be prepared. I sometimes have clients fish a heavier rod in the 6 or 7 weight range, just in case we hook a steelhead. Egging is much easier out of the high perch of the boat. We can see in the water much easier to spot fish behind gravels. Although this opportunity is slipping away quite fast, we will have our next opportunity behind salmon during the first week of October.

    We are starting to see some aquatic insects hatching on the northern Michigan streams. Black stones, BWO's, and a few Hendrickson's are currently hatching among others. The Hendrickson hatch is on the verge of blowing up in the next week to week and a half. Although bugs are being seen, they are not in the numbers we like to see yet. The fish take a few days to realize the bugs are there before they start fishing. We always try to predict hatches and runs of fish, although very difficult we still attempt. My guess is we will have good numbers of Hendrickson's by Trout Opener and we will have good numbers of fish rising to bugs the first week of May. The Hendrickson hatch is the first large mayfly the fish see, and they go crazy for it. Some quality fish rise to these bugs and give you an opportunity to make a cast and tangle with these beasts.

If you have any questions about my style of working the water systematically, rigging, fishing or any of the tactics or tips referred to in this blog feel free to email me at

I hope to see you out on the water in the near future.

Alex Forsberg
River Ninja Outfitters