The 2016 trout season is about to start on the last Saturday of April. Once that happens the talking is over, fly fishing begins. Not much time is left for a discussion on theories and techniques. So on the advent of the opener let's discuss water; The Pigeon, Black, Sturgeon, Jordan, Boyne, Bear and Maple Rivers are high but in good shape. They are all within 50 miles of one another at a given point. You could say their weather patterns are similar. Those of us who live here in northern Michigan are best suited to judge good fishing days by standing outside in our front yard. I fish them all on a yearly basis. However, the river stretches I fish are often chosen by the time of year as it relates to water temperatures. The influx of tourists and resorters drives me deeper in to the country side on logging trails. Fewer people equals more active trout. When man is not present animal behavior is quite different. Nothing is more disruptive to nature than homo sapiens, a Latin word for "Wise Person". OK so let's be wise.
River cover, water clarity, water temperature and bug hatches are the basics. Apply them to each other and the equation reaches hundreds of decisions one must make. Water temperatures is the phenominum most over looked. For example; hot weather is considered a bad time to fish when in essence it can create a opportunity on the river. The trick is you must find a bend in the river that is spring fed. Not easy. You can't see it, yet find one and you will catch big trout after big trout. I have several such places. When water temperatures reach + 70F I fish them. One spot in particular on the Black river is about 10 feet by 10 feet and my friend Jim and I will take turns landing dozens of Brook trout, half of them in the 11 to 12 inch range. All time laughing at the craziness of the situation.
Use that water thermometer. Ground water is the key to river fly fishing in hot weather. Lakes in hot periods push the trout deep. In small streams it is ground water fed holes. At approximately 45 F year-round, ground springs will feed a hole and attract trout during hot periods. Lots of trout, big trout.
The catch is, hatches are generated by warmth. The giant Hexagenia Limbata larva are in the mud that lines the banks of small streams. When that silt warms in June/July they emerge. These mergers as they are called begin to rise up in the water struggling to the surface. They literally pop up through the surface film and are called Para Duns. It takes but a few seconds to dry their wings and take to flight. The life span is less than 48 hours and is spent fluttering up and down over the river. The time period is 8 pm to 11pm. When their life is over they fall to the water, wings spread out and become spent spinners or spinners.
Here's the challenge ; that is just one species. The Trico, the smallest of the mayflies, is a totally different time period. Late summer, and in the 9am to 11am time frame. OK now add Stone flies, Damsel flies, beetles, grass hoppers and the entomology is overwhelming. Did I mention streamers?
So do you still want to be a Flyfishing expert? My suggestion is to follow a week to week directory of hatches on Northern Michigan rivers and after 50 years you might remember half of the species. Water temperatures 45-65 Farenhiet , water clarity, low light, stealth coupled with the right fly and a gentle cast is the equation...we can do it!
Good luck on opening day April 30.
Richard and Jim
Letting you know current conditions and best approaches.