Northern Michigan’s 2017 winter and spring have provided one of the best runs of steelhead seen in quite a few years. We have been consistently finding fresh fish in area tributaries for the past 3 months. Just when we think the run has hit its peak, a heavy rain moves more fish into the rivers. The weather has also played a vital role – warm weather moves fish around that have entered the system and brings new fish to the rivers. Colder evening temperatures have been keeping the rivers at a mid- to high-30-degree temperature.
Last week’s warmer temperatures have increased the water temperatures to the low 40s, and this change has initiated the steelhead spawning process. Great numbers of active, hungry fish have been coming into the faster tail-out water of spawning gravel.
Water depths of 3-5 feet, depending on the river, have been an excellent depth at which to find steelhead. The inside and outside seams of faster moving water covering spawning gravel beds has produced the best results. Steelhead seem to have left the slower, deeper winter water holes – working their way to higher, faster sections of water. Both the inside and outside seams of these sections of river have been productive as stated previously.
Trout beads, stoneflies, and hare’s ears nymphs have been working well on both fly rods and conventional gear when tied as a tandem rig. Indicator and float fishing with beads and spawn have also been very productive. Even in dirtier water, 8mm beads have produced the most fish. Colors like sun orange have been the most successful, with the clown egg a close second. Any given day may have a different color preference for beads, and these steelhead getters are a tremendous way to get fish to bite that are feeding on eggs.
So far, April has been a tremendous time to be on the water, and we are hopeful that the remainder of the month should remain stellar as well here in northern Michigan. As the waters and the weather warms, we look forward to seeing you on the rivers!