"There will be days when the fishing is better than one's
most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. 
Either is a gain over just staying home.'"
~Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman's Spring, 1951
What's Happening

Using the phase "fishing season" is a misnomer as there is always something worthy to fish for twelve months a years.

With the diversity of waters and nomadic fish, migrating to their home waters, larger, gallinaceous, cart wheeling fish that can make your fly line throw a rooster trail, are available 365 days a year.  With a staff that is ready to shift gears and waters at any given time, we have many miles of stream at our disposal: the Pere Marquette, Muskegon, and Manistee.

If a more delicate presentation is warranted for the palate fishing for Browns on the first river in the USA that ever saw these golden, spectacles; our home water, the historical Pere Marquette is for you.   The upper Manistee offers trophy size fish of over 30” and a couple of 20” plus fish are expected.  The Muskegon River offers a diversity of nice rainbows, browns, and Small mouth, as well as the migrators.  Let’s walk through the year.

While the winter winds howl, the serenity of a quiet river, and the sight of every twig of every tree, encapsulated in a fluff of pure white snow, is a sight to behold.  Your solace is broken by violent head shakes and thrashing of a beautiful, crimson steelhead, bucking at the end of your rod.  With a January or February thaw, our steelhead that have been in the river since early fall, will jump on gravel in a moments notice.   Shhh, if you don’t tell anyone, they will probably be there the next day.
January & February
The days are getting longer, the river is swelling with run off, and the sun is getting warmer.  Some of the most intense fishing takes place, as our winter steelhead take to their spawning gravel, and a peak is on the rise, with many days of 20 plus fish on the line.  March is also fickle, as she can come in with a roar or leave with a roar.  Many times I have confined a fish to the net, only to look up stream, and barely see the angler because of a lake effect snow squall.  God I love this game!
Most of the snow is gone, temperatures start pushing 70 degrees, and the “spring run” has begun. Our winter “drop backs” are feeding in the holes, and fresh, silver-sided steelheads have begun to procreate.  Around the 20th of the month, we shift about 30 miles south to the Muskegon River as it’s later run will keep us going thru mid May.

The steelhead “hype” is over as more people shift to trout.  The fauna of the earth is performing a dusting of green, and the first half of May offers some of the most comfortable steelhead fishing in the country.  “Comfortable steelhead fishing” for the most part is an oxy moron.  But the gortex waders come out and the shirtsleeves are rolled up.  Those once dark shades in tea colored water are now very visible fish. Longer casts and lighter lines are the name of the game and the fishing.... is well, Just Awesome!
May is also a time that large brown trout are hungry. They will aggressively chase and slash a steamer as large as you dare to cast. Have a floating line handy, as some of my finest dry fly fishing has happened when Mother Nature unleashes her winged, aquatic insects.
It’s trout time! And it's a toss up between Michigan and Alaska.  Michigan hatches are at its peak and the scent of sun block and insect repellant abounds as we fish into the “bewitching hour”.  As mid June arrives and fish experience their evening ceremony.... Is it Drakes or is it Hex’s.  We are home to the largest mayfly in North America; the hexagenia limbata.  When it emerges, you not only look for feeding fish, but also hear them sometimes 100 yards away.  Seeing the river in the moonlight is the norm, not seeing the launch until sometimes 2 a.m.   Our largest fish are taken on a dry fly at this time of the year.  The 30 incher’s are there.
ALASKA CALLS!!!   The “dog days” of summer is imminent in the lower 48.  Early July stills produces healthy spinner falls of hexes, but when it’s over...it’s over.  The apple has fallen from the cart, the boat has left the port.  It’s time for wary brown trout to feed on terrestrials, and occasional hatches.  Streamers can be good at daybreak.  My Upper Manistee and Muskegon river guides are ready for the challenge.

Kurt and I are floating down the Alagnak River, near Katmai National Park for one of our many 7 day float trips.  No 6” brook trout here.  Streamer ripping rainbows, grayling eating dry flies, Sockeye salmon cart wheeling half way across a river channel, Chums bullying a 9 weight rod, and 50# plus Kings, snapping 20# tippets, like a steelhead breaking 8# maxima.  Did I mention the camera ready Alaskan Brown bears?  It is sincerely a beautiful time of the year as Alaska comes alive.

We are chasing fish in Alaska through mid August, as days get shorter.  While the King season has ended there, they still bolt from the blue as your fishing for rainbows, chums, pinks, and silvers.  The smell of decaying spawned out fish means it’s major Rainbow time.  Flesh flies and egg patterns fill the arsenal.  While the pink salmon prevail every year.... The even numbered years, they abound by the millions.  The Males now have their predominant humped back and they look like a blue gill coming through the water.  It is nothing to fish the outer school of some 300 fish stacked up.  They are a blast on a 6 or 7 wt.  Aggressively chasing small streamers.

Kings, Kings, and more Kings, I feel like I am in a Queen’s court.  The fish have staged and the continued migration of these voracious fighters keep coming in from Lake Michigan.  The leaves are gyrating brilliant colors, and fish are on  gravel everywhere.  We continue to keep up with pooled fish, but the # of fish on spawning redds is hard to ignore.  Mid October is a beautiful occasion.  Still plenty of color on the trees, more than enough fish, and fishing pressure bows her weary head.

It’s not unusual to find a special steelhead behind gravel, smashing an egg pattern, streamer, or nymph.   

September & October
This month is full of twists and turns.  Numerous reasons to be outdoors and such incomplete time...winter is in close proximity.  Prior to dropping water temps...Steelhead are cart wheeling with lengthy, extremely fast surging runs, only measured to bonefish.  New fish continually show up.    

Mallards are cupped and coming into decoys.  New ducks are migrating south, approaching from their frozen out homing areas, the north winds are blowing.  Cinder graciously shakes water off her oil slicked coat, after a chain of retrieves, and can’t wait to do it again.  She is all business...and loves it!
The river is as place of solace and peace.  While she doesn’t sleep, a  premature snowmelt, and rise in water, formulates some fantastic steelhead fishing.  Depending on November water levels, early December can fish better than early November.  The cooled water has tamed some fish, to a more manageable state of mind, even as others  award you the element of surprise as you stand in awe, with defeated tackle.  High rated thinsulate waders and plenty of fleece keeps body heat in, while propane heaters warm up hands to tie another rig.

If you can find open water, the ducks will come, as the final days of the Michigan waterfowl season, sadly come to an end.  Cinder savors every moment, as her lean body slithers over ice chunks, or breaks through it to retrieve that final duck of the season.


So there you have it!  Twelve months of the year, there is something grand to do.  No justification.  Grab a rod or a shotgun and let’s go.

June in Alaska is a time when large Rainbows are gorging on salmon smolts  The Rainbow fishing can be wild and voracious as salmon smolts by the millions start their migration towards the ocean  After a long winter hiatus, these large rainbows don't get fat and sassy eating bugs.  Smolts in the spring and eggs and flesh in the fall, keep Alaska's rainbows 7 wt. material
With their canabalistic tendencies, swinging a mouse pattern on these hungry trout is an explosive experience in fact, some of their tense, quick-tempered strikes will make you take a step back while your spine tingles with scary excitement.
Caddis and small stonefly hatches are also eminent.  To the patient angler, stalking a large rainbow with a # 16 caddis is the ultimate experience, but the Grayling really shine during this time period, as you stand mid stream, watching dozens and dozens of 18" plus Grayling rising..."which one do I cast to?"

The last week of August is a gimme.  The sweat pours out at the expense of Kings, the hardest fight you can experience in fishing freshwater, in the lower 48.

A seasonal transition is taking place and my Black Labrador, Cinder, knows it’s duck season.  Fishing is not the only thing on the itinerary, as we are die-hard water fowlers that love the sight of cupped mallards in a spread of decoys, when the north wind blows.

No rest for the wicked.  Once home-based around the 20th of August, my resident guides are giving me gut wrenching reports of chrome, acrobatic Kings.  It’s not how many they’ve landed, it’s how many jumps they acquired before they crashed and burned in a logjam.

"There will be days when the fishing is better than one's
most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. 
Either is a gain over just staying home.'"
~Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman's Spring, 1951
Copyright 2009 Pere Marquette Outfitters: Michigan Fly Fishing. All Rights Reserved.