Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memorial Day Fly Fishing Forecast

Memorial Day is hard upon us and I know a lot of you will be headed to Northern Michigan this weekend and will at some point  limber up your fly rod and cast it about. Personally I'll be fishing the Au Sable river on Sunday with Isle Royale Coaster Tour alumni Chris Reister and Brett Watson. I'll toss you all a bone here and give you the local local.

The Weather

We've had a cold and late spring here, with snow in the forecast and on the ground until the beginning of May. Because of this the rivers are still high and stained, and there's even a few steelhead lingering in the rivers. Numbers were pretty steady, but they've tapered off a lot in the last week.

Here's the 5 day forecast for the weekend.


With frost advisories in effect for Friday and Saturday mornings you can expect a slow start to the weekend with gradually improving conditions.

The other weather story is all the rain we got this week. The rivers were already high and we got 3-4 inches of rain this week. All of the rivers are outside their banks right now. For instance, here is the latest graph (as of this posting) of the Sturgeon River.


I can tell you that at that level the Sturgeon is flowing through the fields. It is flowing at two and a half times its normal rate. All of the rivers north of M-72 are blown out, so don't plan on wading much.

The Strategy

Here are my recommendations for the weekend.

If you have access to a drift boat and one of Michigan's classic trout streams- the Au Sable, Pere Marquette or Manistee- use it. The water is high everywhere. Word on the street is that the Hendrickson hatch is on. Bring some Adams, BWO's and those pale flies and you'll have your bases covered. Alternatively consider doing a streamer float, as the water levels, clarity and temperature are ideal right now, and you have a real shot at a two foot long brown.

now is the time


If you're coming further North and want to fish the Sturgeon, Pigeon, Maple, Black, or Jordan, just know that all these rivers are out of their banks, cold, and the fishing will be tough. They've been getting good Hendrickson hatches, a few BWO's and a few caddis. If you asked me I'd say fish streamers, especially white. Temps are perfect and the fish are aggressive. River conditions WILL BE TOUGH. If you're hell-bent for trout try finding smaller creeks and fishing for brook trout.

brook trout are your friend


The Alternate Strategy

If you want to avoid crowds and don't want to fight the tough river conditions, consider fishing the lakes. The trout lakes should be fishable, and the warm water species are on fire right now. Pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass and bluegills are all on the prowl, up shallow, and will readily take a fly. Strap a canoe, kayak or float tube on your car and hit some stillwater. The smallmouth are cruising the shallows and very aggressive right now. The "chain" of lakes including Elk, Clam, Bellaire, Torch, Intermediate, Six Mile, Charlevoix and Walloon all have large populations of smallmouth and little pressure (add to this Grand Traverse Bay). Four to five pound fish are common, and 20-30 fish days are normal. They also have healthy populations of pike and muskie if those are your game. Lake Bellaire gave up the world record muskie last fall. Fish the smaller no-name lakes (they're all named, but you know what I mean) to get into some big bluegills. Use a 3 weight rod and white foam and rubber legged spiders. When a 12 inch bluegill tows your kayak in a circle your smile will visible from space.

You bet my kayak spun

lots of these available
pike are aggressive and in shallow water now. Get some.


Whatever you do, come North and enjoy yourself this weekend. Don't let high water or cold mornings prevent you from getting out the and finding some fish. Be creative, try something different, have some fun.

Alright. I'm going fishing.



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