Monday, May 20, 2013


For those of you that want to understand the new hatch regime for trout, I came up with this handy chart UPDATED THRU 2013 for the new local fly shop...enjoy!



jgmiller@ Siphlonurus-Gray Drake
The Muskegon is a very intricate and complex/ fertile eutrophic aquatic insect system. It’s predominant gravel/rock/vegetation is ideal for 90% of the bug life except for the burrowing mayflies which are on the rise. It’s trout can be very selective/reflective since the number of hatches and at times densities can be very prolific and year round. Having guided for 20 years on these waters , the hatches are changing and getting more diverse yearly with the changes from the zebra mussels, cool water bubbler and a gradual increase in vegetation which favors clinging mayflies. The zebra mussels are on the decline in a significant way and the water has the traditional peat/tea stain of Michigan rivers emanating from pine and cedar bogs. The water is quite unusual from other freestone rivers in that it is somewhat more on the alkaline side which favors massive mayfly, stonefly and caddis growth- also midges, scuds and sow bugs. Caddis thrive in great numbers from the plankton loads of the reservoirs and are the staple food source which give the river’s browns and rainbows amazing growth rates in addition to massive bait fish, steelhead, sucker and salmon fry and eggs. I personally am a hatch matching dry fly trout fanatic!, and love the river’s very technical presentations and long ,fine leaders.




No matter how cold the winter gets, Simulium and chironomid midges hatch as black body midges with grizzly hackle  dries stir up winter trout to surface feed near the springs by Pine St. and high overlook- trout are heavily focused on them. The larvas are brass, black and red in color and average between a size 20 and 24. A Black buzzer midge-black body/ silver tinsel, or a brassie with a hares ear thorax and Pearl flash wing case are deadly when nymphed with a scud or tiny green caddis larva. Scuds are pale gray and green and average around a size 18-make sure you have a bronze shell back blood vein on your imitations. The scuds scurry around on warm afternoons along with the midges and dry fly imitations must be fished with 7x tippet .


Allocapnia and Taeniopteryx little black stones will start migrating in the biological drift towards the shorelines by middle February. These little wiggling black stones are very obvious  to steelhead fishermen on warm sunny days-besides being targeted by the steelhead. They crawl upon the banks, mate and come back as ova positing females on warm sunny afternoons in March and April- in colder springs they'll extend to the early part of May. A CDC dun winged adult with black body and palmered

grizzly hackle for the head, and Oliver Edwards style Black stones are the ticket for success.
Black stones…Supinski@

May/June trio…supinski@


This is the prime mayfly emergence timeframe with good caddis where the trout, after having been gorged on salmonid fry and eggs -- in addition to sucker spawn, are now ready to feed heavily on the surface. Water temperatures in the 50s and 60s are ideal for most of the mayflies. There are no Hendrickson mayflies on the Muskegon tailwater but exist on the Bigalow, Tamarack and Little Muskegon.


The Leptophlebia cupida- black quills, and Epeorus pleuralis- Quill Gordon, are grayish black body segmented size 10-12 mayflies and appear around May 10th and last for two weeks maximum. They are not a big Hatch by no means and tend to be found from Carmichael flats down to below Henning park -look for them on the warmer afternoons into early evening as they spin and get above the water- trout will target them !


The Muskegon’s sulpher Hatch can be pretty significant and starts around the third week in May and continues through June. Ephemerella Invaria -a size 16 yellow-green body and light dun wings are usually favored by the trout as emergers, with the rusty spinner happening at dark or early mornings on very hot days. The smaller Ephemerella dorotheas-size 18/20, are not a very big Hatch on this River and usually emerge the first and second week in June.


This mayfly family has a huge presence on the Muskegon. Stenonema Ithaca/ canadense- the Light Cahill, hatches in June and it will continue well into September. They are a size 14 all-white mayfly and they are easily picked off by the trout and swallows as well. The Stenonema vicarium and fuscum, the American March Brown and Grey Fox, looks like a giant sulfur with mottled wings and hatches  about the same time with this sulphers being a true size 12. Cottonwood flats and downstream sees the most significant numbers.


Without doubt the Siphlonurus gray drakes can have massive spinner flights at dark and sometimes during cloudy cold days and are a true size 10 or 12. They crawl upon the banks and shoreline vegetation to emerge in the brackish water and the spinner flights occur over the riffles prior to dusk. Colder rain filled spring weather tend to have the best hatches. They start normally around the third week in May and have been known to go all the way into the third week of July on the cooler summers. The larger trout will target the double and triple mating patterns-tied on a small streamer hook. The Ephemera simulans- the Brown Drake, is gaining in numbers by the years, but is not a consistent Hatch and not enough density.

The Hexaginia Hatch was almost nonexistent when I first started guiding on the River. It is now starting to make a stronghold along the tall silted banks in the upper and lower River and also by the dam where the spinners come out of Croton pond. Croton and Hardy reservoirs and Bigalow creek have massive hex hatches as does the lower river.

Sulpher and shuck..supinski@
Hydropsyche pupae..jgmiller@


Tiny green caddis larvae jgmiller@

The  lead-winged coachman- bicolor and sadleri are the new super Hatch and start around the first week in June and emerge sporadically until September- the late fall Hatch is becoming stronger each year. These meaty bodies wiggle and swim through the water like fast-moving minnows- a down across swinging approach is highly targeted by the trout with these large mayflies which emerge with the gray drakes. The large spinner flights will usually be very high up in the air above the gray drakes. On the Muskegon they hatch from the water and do not crawl up on the land


The spring sees the Drunella and Baetis olives- #14-18, and the numbers of flies varies from year to year. The larger Drunella starts about the middle of May, and the Baetis will be more prominent in June. When they are on the water they are targeted due to the slow emergence speed.


Hydropsyche bifida- the cinnamon caddis-size 16, start around the second week in May and will have significant afternoons spinner egg laying flights. The tiny brachycentridae black caddis can be very heavy and make it impossible for you to breathe from the mid-May through June at dusk. These tiny size 20 black caddis will lay tiny little green eggs on your waders and oars of your drift boat and the trout stomachs will be packed with them.


Though midges Hatch year round, the yellow Crane flies-size 16, Hatch along with the sulfurs and are often confused as such. The midges still Hatch every day but the trout target the larger mayflies.


The giant black stoneflies can be seen sporadically hatching on June evenings but are not a major Hatch. Fishing large stoneflies after dark is effective on all Michigan rivers since it is a meaty piece of food like the Hellgrammites.


This Isoperla hatch has really been gaining momentum over the years and significant numbers are occurring from mid-June through the summer months- they are late night and early morning mating and emerging stones. They are true size 14 and they are best imitated with amber yellow stonefly nymph patterns


                      JULY/AUGUST /SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER


The trico hatch really exploded last summer on early mornings from the dam down to Henning park and the trout targeted them in a big way since the night time release of the bottom draw bubbler had the most significant impact at first light. They are true size #24 – fish double patterns for the lazy and well fed Muskegon trout.


Summer and well into November sees the massive hatches of Pseudocleon tiny bwo’s- size 24-26.They are evening emergers and spinners and stack up by the thousands in the backwater reverse current Eddys of the deep silted pools along the River. Trout will sit there and sip them all evening. 7X Tippet is important- the spinners are a dark rusty color and the trout get very educated to them- especially in August and September.

As mentioned the light Cahill's will emerge throughout the summer and as the trout feed to the tiny blue-winged-olives in the lower river and the caddis upper, when the Cahill's emerge, they switch over to them immediately.


The Muskegon is known for its world renowned caddis hatches that peak from mid July through early October.- particularly in the upper two miles below the dam where the highest plankton load is. July sees the tiny green caddis-Cheumatopsyche speciosa-size 18-20, and August through October sees the 50/50 mix of the cinnamon Hydropsyche and tiny greens- each night they show a significant preference for one or the other. You start off by using 6X Tippet but by later in the summer you'll be down to 7X to be successful. Egg laying adults also climb to the bottom to lay eggs and the pupae will be on the water at the same time -- a quad wing spinners occur at dusk and are heavily fed on.

Early mornings from Thornapple down sees the giant zebra caddis, Macrostemum  zebratum, emerging throughout July. October also sees the Giant Autumn sedge-Limnephilidae, the explosive rises you occasionally see are not salmon porpoising in the pools but big trout hammering the sedges.The October hatches of Hydropsyche can be significant and trout will move from feeding behind salmon for their eggs to taking caddis in the afternoons and evenings-always bring a five weight when salmon fishing. Late evenings in September and October sees the ultra  fast flying and mating white miller caddis –nectopsyche albida-longhorn sedge, show up just at dark and the larger trout will switch from the cinnamon and green caddis to focus on these little meaty size 14 diving caddis which can bring up some the biggest trout in the River.


By the middle of August through mid-September, the massive mating flights of the Brown flying ants occur in the hot afternoons- size 16 through 22. The Trout will go berserk for them and will favor the ants over the caddis. But the caddis always prevails in the end at dark.


Callibaetis occurs where there is slow flat pools and backwater sloughs along the river but aren’t significant The white Ephoron hatch occurs on Hardy and Croton ponds by the millions but not on the main Muskegon trout water-the lower river has some significant Ephorons but it is well out of the trout water.




Some of the most significant tiny #24 bwo’s emerge in the late afternoons till the first snow flies and the black Simulium #22 midges start around mid December- the trout will target both rigorously.





(brown on Octobert caddis)
See you on the water!...I will be posting on my blog/Facebook/Twitter