Wolfe Outfitters Welcomes Jeff “Bear” Andrews

Wolfe Outfitters is proud to announce Jeff “Bear” Andrews as its new head fly fishing guide. With Bear’s years of experience and stellar resume, he will be a great addition to the Wolfe Outfitters team.

Known for not only his patient and fun demeanor with clients on the water, Bear is also extremely well known as a fly tyer, and one of the premier designers for Umpqua Feather Merchants. Bear has traveled across the country to teach fly tying classes and showcase fly tying at various demonstrations. The Federation of Fly Fishers even awarded Bear the coveted “Buz” Buszek Memorial Fly Tying Award. This is the highest award bestowed upon a fly tyer by the FFF.

“Bear’s resume is as impressive as it is long, and we are fortunate to have him onboard. We are looking forward to offering his expert abilities to our customers, whether they are chasing salmon, steelhead, trout or bass or carp!” says Captain Ben Wolfe, owner of Wolfe Outfitters. “I’m excited to share a boat with Bear myself,” says Wolfe, “but he might be so busy, I may not get that opportunity!” Don’t miss your chance to fish with an industry legend. Reservations are now available at 1-877-442-4294. Book your fishing adventure today!

Manistee River fishing report – Nov 18th

The king salmon finally finished up spawning over the past week or so on the Big Manistee River. There might be a few stragglers here and there still, but for the most part they’re done. We were lucky to get some high water in October which brought in quite a few steelhead. The steelhead fishing was very good at the end of October with the fish almost exclusively lined up behind the spawning salmon eating eggs. There were quite a few skippers in that first push of fish. Skippers are steelhead that weigh one to three pounds or so. They have probably spent less than a year in the big lake. The line gets blurry when they hit that four pound mark, but either way, they’re still steelhead. Towards the end of October we were hooking two to three skippers for every large steelhead we hooked, and the large ones were very difficult to land.

While the salmon were in the river we had success both fishing egg patterns under indicators and using chuck-n-duck rigs. By far the most successful egg pattern for us while the salmon were in the river was an 8mm trout bead in the color “peachy king roe.” We caught a couple fish on sun orange and a few other colors, but 95% of the fish wanted peachy king roe.

The last couple weeks have seen the water levels drop back down to normal and the egg bite slow way down. Fish are still being taken on egg patterns, but hex nymphs, stoneflies, and basic attractor nymphs have started to play a bigger role under the indicator and on the chuck’n'duck rig.

There are more bigger fish moving through the system now as well. They can be found all the way from the lake to Tippy Dam. Swinging streamers has been productive on days when you can find active fish in water that hasn’t been fished yet, but casting plugs such as Wiggle Worts and Hot’N'Tots has been the most productive method since early November. The hot baits have been black with white spec Wiggle Worts and copper and orange Hot’N'Tots. Casting these diving crank baits allows you to not only elicit a strike from a lethargic fish, but it also allows you to fish places where other people cannot. We’ve been finding fish mostly behind and actually in logjams, places where it is difficult to back plugs into from a boat, to drift flies under a float, or really to fish effectively any other way than casting diving crankbaits. We’ve done some streamer stripping on heavy sink tips targeting these same areas, but have yet to connect on a stripped streamer this fall.

Currently the steelhead fishing is as tough as it’s been since early October. There are fish in the river, but you need to work to find them and they are rarely in the mood. Another good shot of rain will help things dramatically and some weather moving through, even if it doesn’t produce a lot of precipitation, will also help.

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Manistee River, Pere Marquette River fishing report – Oct 3rd

We’ve had a couple cold mornings over the past two weeks, several below freezing, and in addition to the pumpkin, my bird bath has been frozen over. But the sun has been making some spectacular appearances and shining strong but low through clear blue skies. And we’re at about peak fall color right now with some really vibrant oranges and reds this year. We don’t expect these vibrant colors to last long, so get up here now if you want to see them and if you want to get in on a nice mixed bag of salmon and steelhead fishing.

More and more king salmon are moving up on the gravels to spawn in both the Manistee and Pere Marquette Rivers. There are still great numbers of fish staging in the holes on the Manistee as well, but numbers on the Pere Marquette are on the low side.

We’ve been fishing the Manistee up and down from Bear Creek and up from the mouth mostly. There were gobs of fresh fish still moving in from the lake on Sunday. Most of the good holes in the middle river are absolutely stuffed, particularly those below tributaries. While we have picked up a few bright fish, most are pretty dark. There are spawning salmon from Tippy dam on down through all the gravel bars into the lower river and folks fishing egg patterns behind the salmon are doing quite well on steelhead. We have yet to target them specifically, but that will be changing soon as the Thunderstick/crank bait bite starts to slow down.

We expect the Thunderstick bite to hold on for another week or so, but it’s been tougher and tougher to pick up fish in the late morning and afternoon. It has been important to be on the water well before first light casting cranks in good water. Not only does this help you secure a good hole, but the fish are much more aggressive in the dark and as the first light just starts to get on the water. We’ve been meeting clients at 5am and 5:30am. We know It’s tough to get going that early, but it really pays off.

I’ve been running some trips down on the Pere Marquette and things are somewhat disappointing there, particularly on crowded days. There are good numbers of fish around, but mostly in only the grade-A spots of the fly water and middle river. The river is running very low again and fishing pressure was high last week, but pressure should start to drop off now that hunting seasons are getting under way. Fluorocarbon leaders and tippet has been a must in the low, clear water whether fishing holes or spawning salmon on the gravels. Also, a stealthy approach has been important as the fish are quite spooky. There are also decent numbers of steelhead showing up on the Pere Marquette in addition to a couple really nice lake run browns taken here and there.

Let’s hope the salmon run on the Pere Marquette is just late and not small this year.

We’re coming into our favorite time of year: less fishing pressure, fresh chrome steelhead, and the crisp days of autumn. We still have some great days open for October and November steelhead. Drop us a line if you have any questions or want to book a trip: matt AT wolfeoutfitters DOT com

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Manistee River fishing report – Sept 18th

Despite the record low lake and river levels here in NW Michigan, the king salmon finally started to push up the Big Manistee River and Betsie River last week in good numbers. And we finally received a good rain, healthy shot of rain yesterday which is currently bumping river levels enough to get fish moving up in good numbers.

Temps are cooling down, days are getting shorter, and the rivers are on the rise: it is time for salmon season to finally get under way.

Ben and I scouted the lower Big Manistee last Friday September14th and Manistee Lake was stacked with fish, and with boats. How people fish down there with all the competition is beyond me. But they do. We moved up-river and went 2 for 6 pitching both fire tiger and more natural silver/white bait fish crank baits. The fish were all super chrome and fresh. We also stuck a few nice smallmouth and one very early steelhead. We were off the water by 11am. It was a great morning of fishing.

There was a tremendous amount of angling pressure on the Big Manistee over the weekend but there were fish to be caught. Most days the bite was best right at dawn, though we did stick fish in the late morning and even a couple in the early afternoon on Monday. Mad Flash Fire Tiger Deep Diving Thunderstick Jrs. have been by far the best crank in my boat.

As I said, we received a huge shot of rain yesterday and over night and the Manistee is currently on the rise. Even before this rain, fish were streaming up from Manistee Lake by the hundreds yesterday in the early afternoon. We’re expecting great things on the river this week.

The Platte River was stacked with coho below the lower weir over the weekend and more are certainly on the way. Please do be respectful of other anglers. It is a small river and angling pressure is very high. Give each other some room, please.

Also, please do refrain from fishing at the mouth of the Betsie River in Betsie Lake. The sand bar there is quite difficult for the salmon to get over and many fish are beaching themselves and dying as a result. The Michigan DNR will be closing that area to fishing as soon as possible.

We have a few great guide dates still available for salmon season so don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you’re thinking about getting out: matt AT wolfeoutfitters DOT com

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Betsie River and Platte River fishing report – Sept 6th

We finally got a shot of much needed rain here in northwest Michigan a couple days ago and the levels on the Betsie and Platte Rivers jumped up nicely bringing in a fresh push of fish. King salmon are scattered throughout the Betsie River from the mouth to Thompsonville. The numbers aren’t great yet with most good holes only holding a few fish. Homestead dam concentrates them as you can see in the picture below, but it also concentrates the anglers and it’s been quite crowded around the dam lately. Fish are just starting to spawn above the dam but are pretty shy and scoot off the gravels quickly if you get too close.

Ben and I floated a section of the lower river the other day with Jeff, the head of security at Crystal Mountain Resort. We saw quite a few fish moving through, but very few holed up and staying put. We hooked several fish but they were tough to put in the net, as is the case this time of year. Most fish came on a small black woolly bugger drifted under an indicator. We floated a section above the dam yesterday and saw quite a few fish but only hooked a couple. We got on the river in the afternoon and I think those fish had been worked over earlier in the day and were quite skittish.

We did manage to catch a nice resident rainbow trout on a Comet while fishing to some salmon. It’s really nice to see healthy resident trout in the Betsie.

The Platte River has had several dozen salmon move up already, not sure if they’re kings or coho, and they are sitting at the hatchery weir. Fishing in Platte Bay hasn’t taken off yet. The channel was dredged this past Tuesday and the channel markers are in. There has been some significant boat traffic and a few people surf fishing every day without much to show for it.

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Manistee River fishing report – August 28th

King salmon have been in the Manistee River for several weeks now, though exactly where the fish are on any given day is sometimes tough to predict. We’ve been finding fish between High Bridge and Rainbow Bend, though fish are surely making their way towards Tippy Dam as well. With the good north wind we’ve had over the past few days, new fish are also stacking up in Manistee Lake and will be trickling up the lower river every day.

The Manistee has been running near all time lows for the last week or so. As of the posting of this report it is running at 1170cfs, which is 200 cfs below average for this date. We’ve come within 10cfs of new record lows a couple times over the past week.

To get  new fish up the river we need some high water. Similarly, the Betsie River is very low and while there are fish in the river, we really need a shot of rain to get the fish moving. The Platte River is currently at a new all time low, 91cfs, beating the old low of 94cfs set in 2000.

The Big Manistee is certainly your best bet for finding fishable numbers of chinook salmon right now. We’ve been catching them primarily on fire tiger Thundersticks, both the standard and the Mad Flash versions. We’ve also picked up a few on large inline spinners such as the Classic Vibrax in a #4 fire tiger.

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Welcome

Wolfe Outfitters was founded in May of 2012 by Ben Wolfe in cooperation with Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa. Matt Dunn was brought on as head guide for Wolfe Outfitters and fishing specialist at Crystal Mountain in May 2012.

We’re proud to offer the best in both fishing and lodging in northern Michigan and would love to get you out on the water.

Please check back here for fishing reports, how-to articles, and other things related to fishing, northern Michigan, and beyond.

King Salmon

King salmon, also known as chinook salmon, begin to swim up area rivers from Lake Michigan in August. Mid to late August and early September is the most exciting time to fish for king salmon. The salmon are very fresh from the lake, chrome silver in color, and large – many approaching and even topping the 20lb. mark. The best way to catch salmon at this time of year is with spinning or casting rods and deep diving crank baits such as Thundersticks or Shad Raps.

Fly fishing for these fresh chrome behemoths is challenging, but can be extremely rewarding. Swinging flies on two-handed spey rods for fresh king salmon is certainly the purist’s route, but there is not much in the fly fishing world that tops catching a fresh silver king salmon on a swung fly.

Salmon begin to spawn in gravely areas around mid September and continue to do so through October, with peak numbers usually occurring from the last week in September through the second week of October. These salmon have metamorphosed into their spawning forms. They are darker in color and the males grow large teeth and their jaws become hooked and brutish so they can fight with each other for females. Most fishing for salmon at this time of year occurs in shallow water where you can see the fish.

We typically use 9’ 8wt-10wt single hand fly rods and 11’-14’ 7wt-9wt two handed spey and switch rods to target salmon.

Manistee River

The Manistee River, or Big Manistee, is one of the biggest rivers in Michigan, flowing for over 230 miles from the north central part of the state near Grayling, to the town of Manistee on the shore of Lake Michigan.

The Manistee River below Tippy Dam is one of the premiere salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Midwest. Natural reproduction here is very good, and most fish caught here are wild, stream-born fish. There is also good trout fishing below Tippy Dam, and good smallmouth and pike fishing during the summer.

Steelhead and salmon can’t make it above Tippy Dam, so above the dam the fishing is for trout, smallmouth, walleye, and pike. The stretch between Tippy and Hodenpyl dams holds some of the biggest resident trout in the state, though the total number of trout in this section is low. The farther above Hodenpyl you go, the better the trout fishing becomes. The best trout fishing is from 66 to the headwaters. The stretch of river from M-72 downstream to CCC is restricted to fly fishing only and offers excellent hatches, great streamer fishing, and some fantastic water for throwing large mouse patterns for explosive takes.

Betsie River

The Betsie River is a medium-sized river that flows right by Crystal Mountain. It starts near Interlochen and flows west to the shore of Lake Michigan at Frankfort. The Betsie is known for excellent salmon and steelhead fishing. While there are some trout in the Betsie, it gets a bit warm in the summer to support a healthy resident trout population.