Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Report 12/27/11

Got an opportunity to fish with good friends today. Eric and Ben. Fished the Muskegon river without a single drop of precip, even though it rained the whole drive up. Fishing was slow with one fish hooked by Eric and another fish landed by yours truly. The fellowship was great and more than made up for the fishing. Conditions: water was at 1630cfs this morning. This is great for swinging flies. Fish are hanging around structure filled areas. Slow runs with boulders or downed timber will likely hold fish. Seeing fresh and seasoned fish in the river. Get out while you can and the snow flies.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Report: advice on striking the fish from Dec Hogan

From: Midcurrent.com

Steelhead: Striking the Fish

by Dec Hogan
photos by Dec Hogan
illustrations by Greg Pearson
Veteran steelhead guide Dec Hogan offers his advice on making every steelhead take count.
Steelhead Fishing

Desert doe caught by the two-handed rod of Beau Purvis.

THE BUDDING, ENTHUSIASTIC steelheader, if he or she is truly passionate about the sport, will be all ears and eyes when in the presence of more-experienced anglers. If it’s in his nature he’ll read anything and everything he can get his hands on pertaining to steelhead. Inevitably, the beginner will soon be subjected to and haunted by steelheading cliche: “The fish hit me like a freight train!” “I mean, he just took the fly like a bolt of lightning!” “She took like a ton of bricks!” “Oh man, that fish absolutely crushed my fly!” And on it goes — the many superlative descriptions of how a steelhead takes a fly. It gets my blood boiling just thinking about it. These kinds of takes do occur, and there’s nothing more exciting than swinging your fly after hours of fruitless casting when you are violently blindsided by a crushing blow from a freight train that was shot out of a cannon and hit you like a ton of bricks. Yeah, baby!

Reality, however, is that far fewer than half the steelhead takes encountered are flamboyant. The greater half of the steelhead-grabbing phraseology often sounds like this: “I felt this dull pull.” “My fly just sort of stopped.” “I don’t know, I just felt some weight, and then my line started moving.” “I felt a little tick, and he was on.” Wait — it gets better: “Damn, I missed him!” “He took it so hard, I don’t know how I could’ve lost him so quickly” “I shoulda’ had him!” And the one that is near and dear to my steelhead guide’s heart, “Dec, what the hell am I doing wrong?”

Steelhead FishingThe fact is, yes, sometimes the steelhead climbs all over the fly and hooks itself, but more often the fish needs time to turn with your fly and swim away with it, thus allowing the hook to make purchase. The steelhead is not aware that the fly is tethered to an anchored string — all its life, when it inhaled or mouthed food, the stuff goes right in. No problem. We as anglers need to be aware of the physics behind this and let the steelhead take the fly. I’ll say it again: LET THE STEELHEAD TAKE THE FLY. A hair-trigger strike response is the nemesis of many a good steelheader. As Bill McMilllan told me long ago, imagine dangling a fly tied to a piece of monofilament in a toilet bowl. Make sure there’s tension on the fly — no slack. Now flush the toilet. As the toilet is flushing simultaneously pull up and back on the fly. What happens? Your fly pops out of the toilet as the water goes down. Do it again. This time, as the toilet flushes, drop your arm a bit. Don’t pull back. The fly disappears. The same thing needs to be practiced with steelhead. Not only should you wait for the steelhead to make its turn with your fly, you need to incorporate some slack or loose line in order for the fish to turn freely, taking the fly with it. This delayed reaction to a take is especially necessary when fishing a floating line.

The floating line rides in the upper current which is usually faster than subcurrents. Your fly, whether riding right on top or barely subsurface, usually stays in line with your line within inches. You can see there’s little or no slack in the system to allow the steelhead to pick up your offering and turn before you see it. There are several methods experienced steelheaders use to allow the steelhead a free turn with the fly. One is simply allowing the steelhead to take the fly without lifting the rod too soon, which in my opinion leaves too much room for error. Another is to fish with a raised rod tip, which creates slack line as the line from the rod drapes and sags to the water. This affords the steelhead plenty of slack to turn, but I prefer to fish with my rod tip as close to the water as possible — it helps me feel what the fly is doing. Some anglers fish with a high rod tip and actually drop it to the water when they see or feel a take, lifting once they feel the fish a second time, confident he’s made his turn. I’ve met others who fish with a very loose drag and simply let the steelhead peel some line off the reel before lifting.

I have experimented with all of these techniques plus a few more. For me and the hundreds of anglers I have guided — some of enviable experience who have taught me a thing two — carrying a loop of line between the reel and rod hand, and allowing the steelhead to pull it out until it comes tight to the reel is the most efficient, fail-safe method there is. Follow along with the illustrations, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Steelhead Loop

1. The Right Loop

The first thing is you need to carry a substantial loop, not just several useless inches as I see a lot of people fishing with. You want the loop to be at least the length of a fair-sized steelhead, say, 30 to 36 inches. Cut this in half and you get a loop hanging 15 to 18 inches below your reel. That length is usually sufficient, but I sometimes use more. If the water I’m fishing is a little deeper than average, I’ve found that the steelhead needs a little more line to take down with him. Also, if you’re fishing a river where the average steelhead is large — say, the Thompson or Babine in British Columbia — a larger loop is an advantage.

I recommend getting in the habit of forming the loop before your fly is doing its fishing business. Form it early, immediately after your initial mend. You want this loop to be secured and ready to be snatched up through the entire course of the swing. Pull the loop in from the cast line, not the reel, for two reasons. One is you want the loop to be free of kinks from memory. The other is if you pull 30 inches of line from your reel, by the time you’re halfway down the run you’ll have way too much line out. Common sense, I know, but I’ve seen it happen many times.

The index finger of my rod hand controls the loop. It’s what I pull the line through to form the loop, and it’s how the loop is pressed lightly against the rod to keep it secured while fishing. Notice I said lightly pressed against the rod — you want it loose enough so a steelhead can pull it out. Practice this with a friend. On dry ground, form a loop and have your buddy pull it out at varying degrees of slow and fast. This will help you get a feel for it. It should go without saying that while the loop is being pulled out, whether it by a steelhead or your buddy, DO NOT TRY TO SET THE HOOK! You will be defeating the purpose of the loop, and you’ll pull it away from your fish nearly every time.
Steelhead Loop Going Out

2. Loop Going Out

DO NOT TRY AND SET THE HOOK! You really need to pound this into your head. One of my guide sayings in trying to convey this message to my clients is, “I’ve never missed a steelhead by waiting too long.” It’s true, but I’ve missed plenty trying to set the hook too quickly. The impulse to clamp down and rear back is strong. It’s entirely up to you how you handle it: Lift the rod, and your chances of missing the steelhead dramatically increase, or let him take the loop out nearly guaranteeing a solid hook-up.

Be prepared for the loop to go out so fast you don’t even have time to mess it up, to so slow it seems like it will never go out. No matter how slow it seems, the right thing to do is NOT SET THE HOOK. Every time.
Steelhead Fishing

3. Tight to the Reel

The loop goes out, and the line comes tight to the reel. Awesome. At this point you still shouldn’t be in a hurry. Try to remain calm. I know, the house is on fire and the tsunami’s on its way. Remain calm. Yeah, right. Just remember: The more you are in control of your actions, the greater the likelihood of a successful hook-up. Once she’s good and tight, maybe even the reel clicking a bit, pinch the line against the rod.

4. Raising the Rod

Line pinched against the cork, raise the rod up and toward your bank to drive the hook home. You don’t need to give it a gorilla set. Lift the rod with some smooth authority, but there’s no need to overdo it. Each encounter is different, with some steelhead taking hard and fast, others slow and subtle. You need to raise the rod accordingly.

Steelhead FishingWhen Mr. Steelie hits with an electrifying jolt, he pretty much sets the hook himself. Heaving the rod tip up as if setting up on a halibut will usually result in a break-off. Bad. A simple lift does the trick; the fish will probably be off to the races anyway. A slow take usually requires a sharper lift.

If you have the presence of mind to do it, it’s good to lift the rod toward the bank you are fishing from. Steelhead typically take the fly from the inside out, resulting in the fly finding purchase in the corner of the jaw closest to your bank as he swims with it back toward center river. It makes sense to pull the hook in the opposite direction the steelhead is going.
Steelhead Fishing

5. Off To the Races

Okay you’ve got him! Get your finger off that line, and let’m run, let’m run, let’m run. Wish I had a buck for every time I yelled that out.

Most steelhead take off on a strong, long, screaming run as soon as the rod is raised and they realize they’re in trouble. Hang on, and let it go. If the fish doesn’t run, you need to get reeling fast in order to keep the line tight and the hook from falling out. This often spurs the fish into a panic that makes it run. The main thing is to be ready. Once you raise the rod, something will happen.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Dec Hogan was a highly regarded steelhead guide on the Skagit and other rivers and is a two-handed rod expert. Dec's other publications include Steelhead River Journal Skagit/Sauk published by Frank Amato Publications in 1996 and an instructional DVD, also from Frank Amato Publications, "Modern Spey Casting and More with Dec Hogan." Excerpted from A Passion for Steelhead (Masters on the Fly series) (Wild River Press, August 2006, 320 pages).
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Report 11-19-11

Today was a pretty typical day for November. A few "pumpkins" spotted in the woods. At present there are good numbers of steelhead in the river. Swung flies and nymphing will do the trick.

Pictured is Doug with his first ever steelhead. Nice Job Doug! See you in the Spring.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Steelhead Pic

Just a cool image of a steelhead I shot this weekend. Very HOT fish that took several runs on us.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Additional Report 11/11

Just a short post: Indicator nymphing along the edges of the fast water produced this nice brown trout.

Pictured is Levi on his annual Birthday Trip with his dad. Great to have the two of you out!


Report 11/10

Nymphing with egg and minnow patterns produced this fine steelhead on a wicked weather day. Snow, Sleet, Sun, Rain, and Wind all played a role. Water was on the rise and got to 3500cfs.

Pictured is Tom with a great acrobatic steelhead.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pictured is yours truly and friend, Andy, out for a morning of swinging for steelhead. Fishing continues to be good. Water levels are low at this time. This weeks forecast (rain) should bring more fish up from the lower river. Stay tuned!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Report 10-21-11

Had Matt Lehman in the boat today. Lots of hook-ups for his first salmon outing. Still lots of Salmon in the river with steelhead
mixing. Trout fishing behind the salmon redds is productive at this time.

Tight Lines!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Report 10-16/17

Had the Spinnazzi group out for two days this week. Great group of guys that I really enjoy guiding year after year. Good numbers of salmon are present. Several salmon hookups both days with one brief steelhead encounter per day to keep things even more exciting. We have received some much needed rain that will bring up more fish to keep this show rollin'.

Tightlines! Nick

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Report 9-25-11

Spent the day with friend, John, on the Muskegon for some streamer pitching. It was a mixed bag of trout and smallmouth. Water is very low at this time. We could use a couple days worth of rain to move the salmon run along. Blue Winged Olives and some caddis were in the air, but not many on the water. Fishing should be picking up from here on out.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Report 9-5-11

Took my brother and nephew "pitchin' plugs" for salmon this morning. The salmon seem to be running a bit bigger on average this year. This one weighed 20lbs on the Boga Grip. Hot color was fluorescent pink. Fun day for all those involved.



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trip to Montana

Henry's Fork Rainbow...size 20 bwo

Had a great vacation in Montana with friend, Derek Deyoung. Fishing on the Yellowstone, Madison, Henry's Fork, The Lamar, and various lakes all had their moments. PMD's, BWO's, and terrestrials all played a major part in my fish catching ability.

Trout Fishing in Michigan is picking back up from the heat of the summer. With cooler nights and day time temps...the fishing will only get better. I am seeing salmon start to come through some of our river systems. I am taking bookings still for October salmon and November/ December trout and steelhead trips.



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Report 7/17/11

Just got back from a weekend on the Ausable with Father and Son (Rick and Matt Thomas). First time fly fishing for either of them. What better first catch than the almighty state fish, Mr. Brook Trout. It was great to have them up for the weekend! Weather was perfect and fishing was pretty typical for July. BWO's were a reliable subject as well as some night time "Mousin" that I introduce the boys to. Success with mousin was a bit tough due to the Full moon out last night. Still made for a great night to be on the water. During the day, the terresterials filled the bill. PMX's and Hoppers all got looks as well as various other patterns with Elk hair and rubber legs.

That is all for now!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Report 7/8/11

Yes...I did change the background image. Got tired of the old one. This one seems more appropriate. I have been fishing on the Pere Marquette lately. Terresterials by day...the "H" word by night. Good bug activity and the fish have been somewhat cooperative. No pics to be had at this time. Will be doing the night-time mousin' thing for a while now. Small mouth bass are on the feed now. Strippin' streamers are an effective method of catching these jumpers. Trout fishing continues to be good on the Muskegon Caddis, BWO's, and ants all fill the trouts stomach. Thats all for now.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Report 6/22-6/23

Here is one of our State jewels. The brook trout. This little guy was taken during a break in the rain on a dry fly. He fought with great spirit and was released to be fooled another day.
This fish was taken on the Ausable river.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Report 6/10-6/11/2011

Spent Friday and Saturday on the Ausable river with my brother Jamie and his son Trevor. This was a birthday present for Trevor. We stayed at Fuller's North Branch Outing Club. With the recent weather change, the fishing was a little tougher. Hatch activity had slowed a bit, but looking to pick back up with the warmer weather making a return. On the Ausable, had Brown drakes, Isos, Sulphers, and BWO's. I will be fishing the Muskegon this week. I have evening half day trips available this week and next.

*Muskegon river is still producing gray drakes at this time. Warmer, more consistantly weather will increase productivity on local streams for sure.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Report 6-6-2011

Tonight was about just getting out and fishing nearby stream. While walking this local stream, I came across this fish that someone thought better suitable in the hot sun than in the stream. Not the "hot fish" I was looking for, but made for an interesting photograph. I did sit out the evening on a log and waited...and waited...and waited for some bug activity and of course fish to become interested. Sulphurs were the main course this evening. Managed two fish on a sulphur emerger. Sometimes, you have to count your blessings one by one and just be thankful. Tonight, I am just thankful that I got to go fishing and catch two trout. Here's to June in Michigan. Get out and fish...late! Nick

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Report 6/2/11

Enjoyed a great evening of trout fishing with good buddy, Jeff Mcdonald. Jeff is pictured with a very fine Muskegon river rainbow that fell for the old swung wet fly trick. Last night we experienced a great Gray Drake hatch and fish were looking at them and eating them as evidenced by my fish below. Some very good fish coming up and feeding but not super consistant feeding yet. The next week of fishing should be great.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Report 5/6/11

Muskegon river is running about 4900cfs and dropping. Although the water has a heavy stain to it, it is clearing by the day. There are good numbers of steelhead to be found for the first week of May. Trout fishing is starting to improve with warmer temps increasing bug activity. Pictured is Levi with a very healthy Muskegon River Steelhead. Congratulations Levi on your first steelhead on a fly. Well done!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Report 4/17/11

Fishing has been good this week. Weather was very difficult towards the end of the week. Fish can be found on/ or near gravel stretches as well as dark water and holes. Patterns that have produced are: egg flies, black stones, steelie buggers, and fry imitations. Water temp is about 42f at this time.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Report 3/21/11

Fished the upper river (Muskegon) today with friends Dan and Chad. Hooked a few steelhead on my wiggle-smolt. Water is currently at 3250 cfs with about 2 feet of visibility. It appears that there are a decent amount of fish in the system with a larger percentage in the upper half.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Send in the Clowns!

West Michigan received a good dousing of rain today. Water has come up on all major systems. This will bring more steelhead in...no doubt. We are near peak on the Grand River. Big numbers of fish and big numbers of anglers were in force this weekend. Muskegon is fishing well as well as other smaller streams. I have a few dates in April available. Pictured is an awefully big clown egg.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The water is rising and falling at this time. With snowmelt comes runoff which equals steelhead migration. The Grand River is seeing a fair amount of steelhead and browns being caught. The Muskegon is seeing a few fish caught as well. We have a possible "big" storm coming this weekend which could add even more water to our watersheds. This will payoff in the long run.