Trout – Here is by far the pinnacle period of the Great Lakes trout-steelhead and salmon experience. First let’s start with the trout action. By far this is the most intense caddis period of year. September sees the peak emergence of the Hydropsyche and Cheumatopsyche cinnamon and little green caddis emergence. The hatches go all day long with heavy spinner flights in the evening. Then it’s flying brown ant tine on hot windy afternoons. It is followed by the massive BWO Pseudocleon hatches that blanket the water. Cahill’s- Isonychia and then it’s the large October caddis that trout rise to all September through November. Also swinging articulated streamers in baitfish game changer and intruder styles is deadly in late fall-early winter.
Wild King and Coho Salmon – Now is the time the big migratory steelhead and salmon start to show up in September-October-November and December. Wild King Salmon run the river as early as August and peak in September. I do not fish these fish when they are spawning. I only swing to them when they are staging in the deep pools by our Gray Drake Lodge. Some days you can see several hindered 15-30 pound kings moving through the pools.
Fall Chrome Steelhead – On the heels of the King Salmon come the finest sport of the entire year-chrome fall steelhead. By far these are the finest hardest striking and cartwheeling jumping steelhead to be found. They are big salmon egg poachers and get very close to the spawning salmon gravel spawning areas . At first light and in the frost and fog shrouded mornings, swinging intruders with egg droppers produce violent strikes and insane jumping battles. To say these fish are “hot” is an understatement. Targeting these areas you also pick up large browns and rainbows getting in on the egg feeding binge action.
The rest of fall and into winter is prime fall spey swinging tine for steelhead. As mentioned it is also great trout spey swinging with small articulated baitfish game changers and intruders.
Atlantic Salmon – This is the time of year that sees the mother load of Atlantic salmon on the inland glacial lakes making their spawning run. Here sight fishing for Atlantics that chase swung classic salmon wet flies and baitfish patterns is the most exciting fly fishing you will ever experience. Picture them in this insanely clear water that has the transparency of the blue-green shades of the Bahamas as they chase your swung and riffle-hitched fly near the surface. They will often chase the fly for 6-10 feet before they strike it. I have also had success waking bombers and foam wakers as you watch Atlantics incessantly chase these surface enticements. To have several hundred Atlantics as visual targets is akin to the Gaspe of Quebec, and to have them in the USA and in Michigan is incredible. It is something you will never get enough of- the fish of kings and bucket list dreams.
Winter Trout – Lake-run browns also run the river in December through February. Once things slow down after the spawning runs the browns and rainbows have put on a massive amount of weight. They now focus on scuds and midges and can be very particular to each of these. This is some of the finest nymphing of the year with double digit days on fat browns and rainbows- the normal vs exception.