Michigan Fly Fishing Techniques
Michigan Indicator Techniques
Michigan Indicator fishing can be a very precise method of fishing an exact depth in the water column. It is used for Salmon, Steelhead and Trout fishing. The rig consists of a fly rod at least 10 feet in length and up to the longest Spey rods at 15 feet, action of your choice, with faster actions more suited to experienced casters and moderate actions more suited to the novice just trying to learn this method, a traditional weight forward fly line with a long belly ( a long head length, the thickest part of the fly line), a stiff butt section of 30 to 40 lb test saltwater line approximately 12 to 16 inches in length nail knotted to the fly line with a perfection loop or double surgeons loop on the end, the indicator line joined to the butt section with a handshake loop to loop join that has an indicator of your choice( personally I use Thill or Blackbird indicators for 99% of my fishing) slid on the indicator line and held in place with a small peg, rubber band (my favorite) or many different methods, so it can be adjusted easily up and down the line for proper depth, it consists of mono of approximately 12 to 16 lb test, joined to the tippet material with another handshake loop to loop join or a small black swivel with the heavier tag end left long,approximately 2 inches, for a single split shot, and your tippet material, usually fluorocarbon of approximately 4 to 5 feet with two flies spaced apart on the tippet. Some of the better lines for this technique are: Scientific Anglers Steelhead taper, Orvis Wonderline Gen 3 Salmon-Steelhead taper and Rio Atlantic Salmon taper, any weight forward, long belly line will do, but these are specialty lines designed for this technique. We also "hot rod" our rigs to make it easier to learn by cutting most of the tip off the fly line and upsizing the line at least 2 line sizes, like a 9wt line on a 7wt rod, it makes it much easier for the novice angler to get the proper roll cast. This is a technique that can't be learned by simply reading, hands on with an experienced guide showing and evaluating your casts can up your game immensely, and cut the learning curve in half or more. Between traditional roll casting, different spey casts, and the associated mends needed for a true drag free drift, one can read about it but cant truly visualize how the dynamics of the cast works without actually seeing it in action and practicing it themselves.
Chuck and Duck Technique
The chuck and duck method was invented for the smaller rivers of the Midwest, primarily on Michigan Rivers for Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout. It is a cross between spin fishing and fly fishing making it easier for the novice to get in the right zone for the fish pursued, compared to traditional fly fishing. It consists of a traditional fly rod usually between 9 and 10 ft long, a running or shooting line , amnesia, cortland zip line, or traditional straight taper running lines are a few that most guys use. A butt section, usually between 6 and 10 feet long of mono or fluorocarbon consisting of 15 to 20 lb test from the running line to the tippet, always lighter that the running line but heavier than the tippet, a swivel or some kind of join, split shot at that point, usually on a tag end of the heavier butt section, and your tippet material, which size and length is dependent on species, cover, size of water being fished, depth and more importantly, water clarity. It is a very simple method once learned, drawing in the line until approximately 2 to 4 feet is left outside the end of the rod, bringing the rod behind your head, casting as with a spinning rod, and releasing the line in the after the rod has gone past your head. With a little practice you soon learn how to adjust, casting stroke, weight and tippet length to achieve the best drift for the area being fished. In the high water during spring Steelhead fishing on rivers such as: The Pere Marquette, Muskegon, Big Manistee, White and many others you can quickly get the proper depth and drift with a few adjustments to this technique.
Plugging or "Hot Shotting"
Plugging for Salmon and Steelhead originated on the northwest coast of the U.S. When Salmon were introduced to the rivers of Michigan, anglers here quickly picked up on this deadly technique. Utilizing a boat to position above a run, logjam or hole known to concentrate Salmon Or Steelhead, 8 to 9 foot medium action rods with levelwind reels, spooled up with 12 to 20 lb test line, dependent on species, let out different plugs such as: Hot-n- tots, flatfish, quickfish and a variety of other plugs designed to dive when pulled against the force of the current, into the run downstream which then dive deep into the fish zone. They are either dropped back slowly by an oarsmen in the boat or let to work on anchor. Once a run is worked thoroughly they are pulled in and the boat is repositioned and the next run is worked. This a very deadly technique in the winter for Steelhead that are holdovers from the fall run.
Michigan River Guides, Throwing crankbaits for Michigan Salmon, Steelhead or Trout can be an exciting and productive technique on rivers such as Michigan's Muskegon, Big manistee and Pere Marquette to name but a few. Utilizing spincasting equipment with rods from 6 to 7ft for trout, and 8 to 9ft for the Salmon and Steelhead,shallow to deep diving crankbaits are quarter cast approximately 45 degrees downstream and reeled to make them dive and give them the action that can drive fish wild. Line employed on the reels run from light mono. to heavy braided lines for King Salmon in the lower Pere Marquette, Manistee and Muskegon rivers. Crankbaits utilized run the gamut from small shallow divers for trout, to big deep diving monsters for early run King Salmon in the lower rivers, and everything in between depending on the species pursued, clarity and depth of water fished and light conditions on the day fished. This can be a deadly technique for trout when there's high dirty water, and fishing with a dryfly is more like casting practice, the flash and vibration of the crankbait is like ringing a dinner bell to the fish. It also is one of the most exciting methods for early run King Salmon in the lower rivers. Throwing a hugh crankbait in the rivers and reeling to get it down, and then holding on through the swing can at times be monotonous, and then, all hell breaks loose as a hugh Salmon slams the crankbait with a vengeance, please at that time make sure your holding on tight to the rod and not asleep at the reel, these fish will rip the rod out of your hands they strike so hard at times. It's just one more technique to utilize for different conditions On Michigan Rivers.
Spinner fishing is a technique that's utilized along with crankbait fishing. The method is essentially the same except an in-line spinner such as: Mepps, Panther Martins, Blue Fox Vibrex and a host of others are attached to the line of a spinning rod, always with a good ball bearing snap swivel to eliminate twist and cast into runs, holes, under log jams and around obstructions in the river. Spinners are used for about every species of fish that swims. The fish that we are concentrating on when we are guiding are the Trout, Salmon and Steelhead in the rivers like Michigan's Big Manistee, Muskegon and Pere Marquette to name a few. Color selection is a matter of personal preference, but water clarity, depth, light penetration from a cloudy or sunny day, all dictate which colors will be most productive for the conditions encountered. On a cloudy day with stained water conditions, gold, brass or copper blades with neon colors used here and there get the nod, on a bright sunny day with clear water conditions, silver, gold or black blades are better utilized. There is always exceptions to the rule, and with all the different neon colors, types and sizes of spinners available, one watershed will have it's best color, while another not far away has a different color preference. Sizes are pretty much self explanatory, Larger and heavier ones for larger deeper faster rivers and larger species of fish, and smaller lighter ones used for smaller waters and smaller fish, namely trout. Spinners are one more thing in your arsenal for varying conditions on different size Michigan rivers.