Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March Steelhead Report

Spring 2018 Steelhead
The run has been great on some larger rivers in west Michigan. Some of the smaller rivers have not received the bulk of their Spring run fish quite yet. Despite this slow start, we have still been experiencing a good fishing. Let's be honest; to experience one or a few of these magnificent fish each day is spectacular. This time of year, there are usually more fish in rivers like the Pere Marquette. When the fishing is slow I revert to working on technique and learning new fun tactics. Fishing nymphs has been productive for me. Sometimes we get stuff in this rut of thinking that migratory fish will only eat eggs. Getting out of this rut and thinking outside of the box wins most days. I like to fish small black stoneflies, alevin(salmon fry), hex nymphs, and caddis this time of year. Throwing a fly that the fish have not seem 100 times, like an egg, will help get bites from those picky fish. Don't get me wrong eggs are one of my top choices when there are lots of fish in the river.
As more fish enter the river system and the water temperature raises to or above 42F, there will be an increasing number of spawning fish. If these fish are left to spawn it ensures our future fishery. Leaving spawning steelhead alone is also an investment in your days fishing. Think of it this way: If you leave the origin of the buffet line of eggs active, you will guarantee a continued meal for the fish in the deep pocket or pool below the spawners. If the female is hooked or fought or landed, she may not go right back to her spawning duties or position. Spawning fish will sometimes return, but sometimes hide in the deep water or a log jam and sulk about what just happened. In the Spring, there are usually several less dominant males behind the spawning pair, whether just on the lip of the gravel or in the deep water. When they are in the deep water, you may not be able to see them. I have experience several days guiding and fishing, when I left a spawning group of Steelhead alone and hooked several trout and/or Steelhead in the deep pocket. Thinking back to some of these days; I have hooked up to 8 trout and 2 Steelhead behind a spawning pair on one occasion in just one spot. I have also had clients hook 5 steelhead in a small deep pocket about the size of my pickup truck. This truck sized pocket was directly below a spawning gravel with active fish. Sometimes my boat doesn't see 5 fish hooked all day, so having this happen in one spot is really something that sticks out in my memory. 
 Our preferred tactic in the spring is indicator fishing deep pools, runs, and buckets and pockets behind spawning gravels. Swinging streamers can be productive especially lower in the river system for dropback fish that have already spawned. These fish are aggressive and need to feed to regain energy to go on to the next cycle of their life. Smaller streamers in white, natural, work well in the Spring, followed by black and olive.

My top egg colors have been orange, and chartreuse. Other productive flies have been #14 black Pheasant tails, alevins, rubber leg hex nymphs, and caddis larva. 

Remember it's fishing not hooking, let those spawning fish lie.