Wednesday, September 21, 2016


( new as of today in my "pimp'in for kings and ho's salmon series'- The Funky Copper Killer-deadly!. The copper killer has taken two of the largest pooled up kings at the lodge pushing 30 lbs over the years-2005/2006 were memorable, and this year we already have seen a few ginormous kings entering our rivers-cooler water and temps are all we need and on the way finally-let's hope!)
Each year when I get ready to tie my funky patterns for swinging the pools for wild chinook salmon on the Muskegon, the amazing new mind boggling assortment of materials that Marcos at Hareline shares with me blows my mind and vice- and eventually gets aggressive/active pooled up wild kings to slam them!, as they lie suspended and love sick in pre-spawn mode where they will crush a fly!- no shortage of them in Michigan, especially on the 20 miles of solid spawning gravel and very deep 12-18 feet deep pools the Muskegon has. (recipe below)...cheers, have a great fall!, and we still have a few and getting very fewer dates available btw- but give us a contact and we will see what we can do- look forward to seeing you on the river!)
( two of the more memorable wild kings taken on previous copper killers that were pushing the 30lb mark swinging pools)

hook: Daiichi x point 452..or as here, Daiichi Curved shank Salmon hook 2151
Thread: Veevus 140 black
tail: copper Flashabou with Hareline Copper barred grizzley rubber legs
Lower body: copper flashabou
Thorax:Hareline Metallic copper tinsel large, heavy UTC copper wire palmered
wing/collar: Hareline UV Polar Chenille:Olive Copper UV
, and black schlappen
cheeks;jungle cock
Bead chain eyes large silver

Friday, September 9, 2016


            ( a stunning gorgeous beast of  a coho from the St Joseph River yesterday 9/8/16 taken on a mysis shrimp pattern- Coho were the first Pacific transplants back in the 60's Michigan Great Lakes revolution)

The 'Coho/Silver' Pacific salmon is one of the finest sporting Pacific salmon for a Great Lakes /Pacific angler and one of the best tasting fish you will ever grill/poach/bake/pan sear. Their importance today more than ever in the Great Lakes 'ever changing and evolving' ecosystem/forage base' is that like steelhead, they are multiple forage base opportunistic feeders, and don't need a diet comprised solely of alewives like king salmon do.
They are 65/35% foragers: 65 vertebrates/35 invertebrates.Like Lake trout, browns, steelhead, they will eat anything that seems to be the 'in abundance market choice' that day: smelt, alewives,cisco, chubs, gobies, sculpins, shrimp, sticklebacks, aquatic insecsts like Hexagenia ( BTW, they would do very well in Erie!), perch etc...etc..- practically anything that swims in the water.
There has been a huge surge in the crustacean mysis forage base ( both native and invasive)  in the lakes due to several factors such as downturn of alewives and other factors.

The coho and steelhead have been taking advantage of that upsurge and are growing large with excellent girths and growth rates as a result- not to mention their gorgeous pink flesh for cuisine purposes ( they look like Alaskan silvers/sockeyes/char)
(Procopius mysis)
The silvers act just like steelhead and love to take a fly with reckless abandon, I found that out as a young teen when fishing Chautauqua Creek off of Lake Erie in December and had schools of once then abundant coho chase my Mickey Finn streamers, as the few Kings were rotting and dying.
They have an amazing pastel color once in the river that are simply gorgeous
( they love pink/white variations)
The St Joseph River stocks the wild coho strain from the Platte River in Michigan- truly beautiful fish, in the Paw Paw tributary. Michigan stocks approx.250,000 annually/ Indiana another 90,000. They are primarily used for the offshore charter industry in the spring, but are a fly fishers ( not 'fisherman's- not PC!- just say'in!) dream come true swinging or nymphing.
In the very tumultuous future that lies in store for the Great Lakes  ( global climate change/changing ecosystem), it would behoove Great Lakes fisheries managers to focus more attention on Coho Salmon. Besides, the 'WILD'  king salmon -Chinooks that we have already established, are doing just fine by themselves and will continue to do so with no stocking required. 'Wild' is a great thing!!!
Hope you find this information useful...cheers!- have a great fall and thank God for the cooler weather and rainfall!

Monday, September 5, 2016


                          ( an aggressive little Skamania steelhead smolt that will crush anything that comes its way)

In my attempt to define my reasoning why I think this fall should have an excellent fall run based on previous years data, I failed to factor one important variable into my equation- smolting success of river emigration.
Year class development and successful % ratios of returning adults vs. smolts stocked or wildly reproduced depends on the relative ease and success they have on making it back to the big lake. Long river systems with hydro dams and multiple larger predators like the Muskegon/St. Joe etc. will see smolts become dinner for the varied predators they have. Larger trout, salmon, pike, bass, musky- plus avian predation and diving birds like mergansers will gobble up smolts like pistachio nuts.
The spring of 2014 saw 100 year devastating flooding of Michigan Great Lakes rivers, along with others in Ontario and New York/OH/PA. ( I know it well since I lost my Yamaha jet boat to the flood while I was doing Beau Beasley's Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival!)
(Muskegon at Croton Dam)
( Water ate New Bridge- bridge normally 12/14 feet above water- pontoon boat jammed against it along with docks and other debris)
In April 2014, 63,000 wild Michigan strain steelhead smolts were stocked on the Muskegon
This occurred right during  the peak of the flooding. Couple that with 50-70%wild reproduced smolts from the tributaries and main river, you have the perfect conditions for quick imprinting and migration in a high, stained water situation, where predators -both aquatic and avian have very little chance seeing these fast moving silvery sardines in water with next to zero visibility. The Pere Marquette/Grand/Joe/Manistee, and other NY/WI/OH/PA /Ont. rivers had similar conditions
One big factor many don't factor in, is the shoreline visibility in the big lakes. The entire  shoreline of Lake Michigan had one enormous brown stain plume of water visible by satellites from space , emanating from the swollen stained rivers, which makes predation on smolts just the much harder.
2016 fall will see these prime 2/3 year old year class returns from this ideal smolting escapement of the floods. Lower, clearer spring waters tends to see high smolt mortality due to the ease of predation, BUT!, most importantly from trout fisherman worm dunkers that catch smolts out the yin/yang and just rip the worms out of their bleeding mouths and toss them in belly-up ( careless spinner and fly guys do the same- note the word -careless!)

( Here is a gorgeous Michigan strain steelhead smolt at 15 inches that decided not to smolt and sat out /red shirted the smolting process for a year)
Over my past twenty years of being a steelhead /trout/salmon guide, I can't tell you how prevalent it is to catch smolts that are pushing the 12-16 inch range that just decided not to smolt for a year- genetic and ecosystem variables are in play. If they are not smolting at just that magic time when the smolting 'synergy' takes place with that year class, they will remain in the river for a year/sometimes two. They look very silvery. Often it happens on the Muskegon/Manistee/P.M. due to low water conditions and a very abundant food source- i.e.: sucker spawn, heavy drake /hex hatches etc. , where the attitude is , " hell , I have it good here-lots of food, why move!", comes into play for the fish.

( image taken October 2013 in my home Gray Drake pool of hundreds of large Chinook salmon staging off the dock- 2013 saw an amazing epic run!)
2013 saw an amazing spawning run of salmon on the Muskegon and other Great Lakes rivers. These eggs hatched as fry in the spring of 2014 and smolted during the 100 year flood of 2014. This fall should see these smolts return as 3 -salt adults- if you consider the summer they spent in 2014 in the salt/big lake as a foraging year.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


   The only thing steelheaders have to fear is their own fears themselves ... paranoia, greed, immediate gratification and an over expectation attitude behavior fueling it. Let's face it, these fish have been loved to death. And,  have seen an amazing two decade "wild" fluctuation in catch ratios. From the insane double digit days of "steelhead alley", to insane sizes of over-fed steelhead on alewives in the 199/2000 cusp, to days of slim pickings on Erie tribs, diminishing sizes everywhere due to lack of forage base, exotic predators and overfishing- oh!, dont forget the see-saw ride of global climate change and freezing over of all the Great Lakes into one giant iceberg (2015)- to the hottest lake temperatures ever recorded this summer will bestow. 

The steelhead's worst enemy is politics( state /province and federal agencies trying to please too many at the victim of the fish themselves) and modern google/apple technology, that has created insatiable, immediate gratification 'monsters' out of all steelheaders- not to mention the death knell of the 'numbers game'. 'Too much information too fast and NOW", has taken the charm, mystique, 'fish of a thousand casts' romance out of the true old glory days of McMillan/Combs/Waller etc., when each steelhead was earned and admired- not insisted upon! Guides/outfitters/lodges, trying to make a living  thru all this mess are also to blame ( me included!). Fast acting social media/blogs/real time/steelhead sites etc.,  take that romantic mystery hunt out of the search for the elusive chrome wanderer. 
Enough of the pulpit! - thank you for indulging me, but I think you know my gist of it. Everyone just relax, enjoy being on the river, forget about the numbers- like the old days when you caught "one" steelhead was a BIG DEAL!


The fluctuating and constantly changing forage base of the Great Lakes is only favoring the eventual dominance of steelhead as the apex predator. The downturn of the alewives that kings are 'so hardwired to' ( yes steelhead will gorge on them if they are there!), but their preference for multi-foraging appetites allows them the comfort of  a slow attacking scavenging trout that will eat almost anything. Gobies, perch, cisco, smelt, shiners, sculpins, mysis shrimp, sticklebacks are all on the 'up-and up" and filling the steelhead bellies nicely

BIG NEWS-NO CHUMMING ALLOWED IN MICHIGAN WATERS- designated trout/salmon/steelhead rivers
If Michigan's (liberal angling policies) drove you away in search of much better steelhead management waters like the Salmon River in NY, you need not fear any longer. For anglers that were disgusted to see anglers/guides pull up to pools and toss gallons of salmon eggs to turn on an artificial/self indulging fake bite, that will be no more. Effective 'NOW", there is no more chumming, and steelhead will now be able and must chase a fly, nymph, egg, egg sack, intruder, spinner, plug, to have its aggressive needs sparked. That was a big move and all are now on an equal playing field and must earn and enjoy each fish in a classic old school way- just say'in!

Given the size of some of the salmon being caught in the big lake this summer, their side-by side predators- winter steelhead, should show some amazing growth rates and sizes- also given the fact that they are multi- foraging beasts- it should be an amazing fall run which we shall soon see .
Also, given the massive increase in native and exotic shrimp, Hexagenia  hatches, emerald shiner/perch and sculpin populations , these will give the fish extra poundage.

The verdict isn't really concluded and out yet on the summer run of 2016-  but it has been brutally disappointing. Yes I have managed to find fish, but nothing like years past. The big problem is/was the hellish heat wave of 2016, coupled with epic droughts, than a flood. We only had 'ONE'- lake thermal cold conversion all summer-(second one is going on now and seeing the second wave of fresh migration. The month of September( trending now!) might be epic- stay tuned!
(The fall runs of 2010/2011 were the best we have seen in 20 years- both on the cusp of hot summers/low water levels, warm autumn weather and a "sleeper bumper crop of alweives' we are now just seeing in 2016 in some lake areas.( this image October 20th, 2010- water levels were bloody low and warm- chumming was illegal that year btw)
Going strictly by my 20 years of keeping accurate records/temps/catch rates /migration timing etc., I'm predicting an amazing fall for several reasons( ain't guide talk :).
1.Looking back at epic fall runs like the ones in 2010/2011, they had hot summers/ low water autumns with only a trickle of water. Lake temperatures were warm. The warmer temps leaves the " window of run' migration opportunity opened longer into December. A very cold quick winter arrival will take longer to build up due to warm water levels.
2. Warmer water will keep steelhead out deeper with more foraging opportunities- cold waters spread the bait out and thus the fish hunt harder and less fruitful
3. Better size and abundance of salmon mean less targeting of steelhead by charters- this year charters have done well on salmon concentrated on forage based schools of prey.
BUT!!! the end, we shall see!- least I can do is give you my prognosis - still much, much, much better than last year!- get out and enjoy a day on the river and  learn to become better and more caring steelheaders- it's more fun that way! ( for more reading- lots more info here- just say'in)