By: Capt. Jeff Bacon
With such an odd “spring/early summer” season in most all of the Midwest, we saw some accelerated insect hatch cycles on the Muskegon River and a bulk of the prime dry fly fishing for trout come to an end much quicker than normal this year. The culprit in this case was the stretch of record setting 90+ degree weather we had for nearly a week around Memorial Day. This brought water temperatures up quickly, which prompted many insects to emerge in a shorter period of time than usual and the resident rainbow and brown trout gorge themselves on bugs for many consecutive days.
Our prime window of time for dry fly fishing on the Muskegon came and went quickly….now into summer! July marks the transition time when trout fishing takes a back seat to the onset of prime time for warmer water species such as smallmouth bass, northern pike, and the occasional walleye.
Although water temperatures allow for some indicator nymph fishing for trout up close to Croton Dam, the warmest water of the summer is approaching and pursuing trout can put a lot of stress on them. Instead we fish different stretches of the Muskegon, from near Big Rapids all the way down to Bridgeton and even closer to Muskegon itself when conditions are right.
With both fly fishing and light spin tackle equipment, it’s a combination of top water poppers and “waking” flies or lures, as well as subsurface imitations of crayfish, baitfish and general attractor patterns that get bass, pike and the random walleye to take a bite! Fly rod setups range from 6-8 weights, with bass taper fly lines for topwater and either sink tips to attach to those same floating lines or sinking lines such as most any 200-250 grain line with a 20-30′ head to get streamers down. Conventional equipment setups such as a 8-9′, medium action rod, with 6-8# test line or 15# braided line with a 3-4′ section of 6 or 8# test tied to the end, will be more than adequate for both topwater and subsurface offerings.
Water levels and temperatures often dictate where to fish, but as long as levels stay at or above the 1200 cfs mark out of Croton Dam, one will have ample spots to fish at or around most launch sites.
Most warm water species such as bass, pike and walleye will all be keying in on crayfish and baitfish, so having an assortment of both is recommended. Come mid summer, we’ll also find last years baby salmon swimming about and a good food source for other fish, as well as this past springs baby steelhead, which will be in the neighborhood of 1.5-2″ come July…good to have some smaller baitfish in your arsenal as well.
Mid summer is a great time for some mid day fishing for some very willing biters and great fighters….the mighty SMALLY !!
Capt. Jeff Bacon
Michigan Fly Fishing Ventures