Michigan's Manistee River Trout Opener
A good winter and record water in April has hatches slow moving going into the Michigan trout opener. Look for streamers and nymph fishing to produce best fishing.
What should I expect on opener?
Trout opener is always a great time of the year. Rivers, streams, and creeks that have been closed since the last part of September are once again open. The fishing itself can be another story. Most openers in Michigan are wet, cold, or snowy days. A good start to having success on the opener is understanding that even though trout opener has come, it does not mean that trout fishing is hot. 2017 will be a cooler opener, with most fishing done in deeper pools and runs.
Most trout water is still cold from the long winter, and trout are not as eager as anglers to play the game of catch. With all this in mind, fly-fishing the opener can still be fun and productive. The long-term average forecast is for the weather to be a low of 35 the night before, and opening day will be around the 50 degree range. Rain is a chance, and water levels should be in the normal to high range for spring (a bit on the high side do to good spring rains.) Water temps will be in the mid 40's degree range, and the hatches will be soft
. This is Michigan and it does snow on some trout openers!
What flies should I use for opener?
Fly selection will be a short list on opener. Streamers, Nymphs, and a small selection of dry flies. Hatches will be limited at this time of year. The main insect activity for opener will be small until the weather stays on the warm side, and nighttime lows stay above the freezing point' and close to lows in the 45 degree range. Early Blacks (stonefly) and Hendrickson’s (mayfly) will be the best hatches, with a few Blue winged olives. Some surface activity will happen if the weather is warm. Nymph fishing with these flies can produce some nice fish. Streamers will produce some of the biggest fish during the opener, and provide the most action. Here is a list of flies to use on opener, as well as what could be hatching on Michigan rivers on the opener.
Ø Early Black Stone Size # 10 - # 12
Ø Early Brown Stones Size # 12, # 14
Ø Blue Winged Olive Size # 16
Ø Dark Hendrickson Size # 12 - # 14
Ø Black Caddis Size # 16 - # 18
Ø General Attractor Flies Size # 10 - # 16 (example: Royal Coachman)
Ø Hare’s Ear Size # 10 - # 14
Ø Pheasant Tail Size # 10 - #14
Ø Zug Bug / Prince Nymph Size # 10 - # 14
Ø Stone Fly Nymph (black & brown) Size # 10 - # 14
Ø Egg Patterns (rivers with spawning Steelhead or Suckers) Size # 8 - # 12
Ø Mickey Finn Size # 6 - # 10
Ø Black Nose dace Size # 6 - # 10
Ø Wooly Buggers Size # 6 - # 10 (black, white, olive)
Ø Bunny Leeches & Sculpin Size # 4 - # 8
Annual Hatch Chart (Northwestern Michigan)
How should I fish opener?
Fishing flies on the opener is a matter of covering water and being patient. Trout are coming off of the winter effects and are not willing to move far for food. Not many large trout will sit in fast or shallow areas; rather most will sit in pools and large slow cuts along the bank. Streamers will be the best call of the day. Fish the streamers by casting them next to banks, allow them to sit a bit, and strip the fly slowly giving it a little animation. Cover a good amount of water and fish the fly deep and slow. If you move a fish, but do not hook the fish, continue to work down stream and then come back and try the fish again.
Nymphing would be my second choice. Again, the fly needs to be fished deep and slow. Swinging the nymph will work if an emergence is taking place and the fly is seen in the fish's window. Dead drifting the nymph and using an indicator will also work in deeper pools. A good technique for fishing a nymph later in the day is to use a Lazerene lift. This technique is done by casting across or slightly up stream, mending the line, and allowing the nymph to sink. After the nymph has sunk, the belly of the line will start to pull the fly towards the surface. The angler can use a slow strip or a wiggle of the rod tip to impart action on the fly. Remember that most hits will happen at the end of the swing or the dangle portion of the presentation, so hang onto the fly line loosely as to not break the fish off on the take.
Dry fly fishing is always a hit or miss situation on opener. Afternoon is the best chance, and the emergence is the strongest portion of the hatch. Look for fish rising or fish breaking the water surface before switching to dries. Hatches are limited at this time of the year, so if fish get going on the surface, it is a good chance they are feeding on a Stone or Hendrickson. The use of an attractor fly such as a Royal Coachman can be used if bugs are floating on the surface or after the hatch has died down.
Where should I fish opener?
Michigan has many great rivers and streams to fish for Trout. Some of my favorite rivers are the Manistee River (near C.C.C Bridge), Pere Marquette River below M-37 Bridge (flies only section), Muskegon River below Croton Dam, and the Au Sable River (holy water). When choosing a river to fish, ask yourself what you are looking for. Some rivers are easy to wade; others fish better with a boat. Will the river or section of river to be fished be crowded? I try to fish where good numbers of fish can be found, but where others do not influence me all day long. Talk to the local fly shops and see if anything has been hatching.
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