March 20th, 2019 | Return of the Spring

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March 20th, 2019 | Return of the Spring

Today is the Vernal Equinox, indicating the first official day of Spring. On this day, we receive equal amounts of sun exposure and darkness. 12 hours of sunlight, and 12 hours of darkness; hence the name “equinox.” Compare this to the Summer Solstice (June 21), when we receive almost 16 hours of sunlight. Back in December, during the Winter Solstice (Dec 21), we received a scant 9 hours of sunlight. So basically, we are a 1/4 through our yearly trip around the sun.


We are getting more sunlight, at a more direct angle, which rapidly heats up the surface. This leads to warmer air, warmer water, more plants, more birds, more bugs and more FISH. It’s a very important day, and has been cause for celebration in cultures all over the world.

Conditions are so prime right now. Other than the crazy flooding we had last week, the weather has been moving right along. Temps are rising steadily, and the ten day forecast looks really good. Right now, the water levels around here are still on the high side, but leveling out quickly, and should be perfect by the weekend (except for sixth street dam which is flooded). One word of caution, please don’t trounce into a river which you’ve never waded before. When the water is high and dirty, you can get yourself into real trouble. Most wading mishaps occur in the spring, when the desperation of catching a steelhead makes people act recklessly. All it takes is one misstep off a ledge, and suddenly you're floating down a raging torrent of water, towards a gnarly log jam. Be careful. 

With the water being high and dirty, large bright flies should be good. Estaz eggs are great in the Spring, especially in peach and pink. Stoneflies are obviously a wise choice, as is salmon fry and hexes. In deep dirty water, flies with a bunch of flash (estaz egg) probably won't be as effective as a good old fashioned nuke egg simply because there is not as much light penetrating that deep in the water column. An estaz egg would probably fish better in those quicker pockets where its not as deep, and there is some light penetrating deep enough to allow the flash to "do it's job." Same principal holds true for nymphs. The flashy bright nymphs generally make more sense in shallower sunny areas, and the more natural, drab fly patterns are a better fit for those darker holes. Again, there's not much light down there anyway, so flash won't be able to "flash" as well as it should. That's not to say a flashy fly won't work in a deep hole, but something to consider. 

Lots of fun options are available right now. So many in fact, that choosing just one for the day can be a straight up dilemma. It’s not uncommon to see our drift boats this time of year, loaded with a ridiculous number of rod setups. Steelhead swing rods, bobber rods, streamer rods, chuck rods, trout nymph rods, trout streamer rods, and even dry fly rods are all rigged and tangled in the boat. It’s ridiculous, but it’s good to be prepared for anything, especially this time of year when so many things are changing daily. 

Favorite load-outs are as follows:

Steelhead Bobber Setup

  •      10’ 7wt or 8wt single hand rods
  •      Or 7wt or 8wt switch rods
  •      Matching reel 
  •      Scientific Anglers Amplitude Anadro 
  •      9’ 0x Fluorocarbon Leader
  •      Blackbird Swivel
  •      1x Fluorocarbon to first fly 
  •      2x Fluorocarbon for bottom fly 
  •      Sz BB split shot 
  •      *Airlock indicator 

*During the spring, Airlock or Thill indicators are preferred over the Blackbird floats because the fish are sometimes sitting in faster shallower buckets. Those blackbird floats are great for deeper holes, not so great for quick shallower runs and "trout" water. I keep those silicon rings on my leader so if I need to, I can take the blackbird float off, and attach an Airlock indicator so I can fish any water type without doing much rigging. 


Swing Setup 

  •      7 or 8 wt switch rod
  •      Matching reel 
  •      Running line 
  •      Freightliner Skagit Head 
  •      Assortment of tips 
  •      2-3’ of 16lb Fluorocarbon for leader 

Swing goby, sculpins, salmon parr, or large wiggler patterns for pre and post spawn fish. Dropbacks take a swung fly very well. 

Chuck Rod 

  • Fast action 9’ 8wt rod
  • Matching reel 
  • SA Shooting line or *Amnesia  
  • 15lb mono for leader 
  • 10lb fluoro for business end 
  • Barrel Swivel and snap swivel
  • Pencil weight or slinky weight

    *I still think amnesia is great. It helps to strip some off the reel, and have a buddy grab the other end and stretch it. Causes it to coil much less.


    One thing to note about Chuck and Duck, you do not need as much lead as you think. If your rig is constantly getting hung up, lessen your weight. May sound like common sense, but the size of pencil weights some people use is alarming. Literally sounds like a golf ball hitting the water. The whole idea is to suspend your weight near the bottom and occasionally “tick” the bottom, not to anchor your flies to the bottom and dislodge them every 3 seconds. Use less weight. Also please don't fish to visibly spawning steelhead. 

    Streamer Setup 

    • 6wt rod with 200 grain sink tip
    • 7wt rod with 250 grain sink tip
    • 8wt rod with 300 grain sink tip 
    • 1.5’ of 20lb maxima butt section 
    • Small swivel (haters gonna hate)
    • 2-3’ of 12-16lb Fluorocarbon 

    Lots of varying opinions on this setup, and for good reason. Most of the debate is on how to structure the leader. This is the basic template I’ve always used, for both trout and steelhead. You can lengthen, shorten, or lighten as you see fit. 

    Trout Nymph Indicator Setup

    •   10’ 4 or 5 wt rod 
    •   SA MPX line 
    •   9’ 3x mono leader 
    •   Small tippet ring
    •   5x fluoro to nymph 
    •   1/2" Airlock strike indicator 

    Obviously, there are tons of different ways to set these up, so I’m not even going down that road. This will work just fine.

    Trout Dry Fly Setup

    • 9’ 5wt or 4 wt 
    • SA MPX or Infinity Taper 
    • 9’ 3x mono leader 
    • 2’-3' 5x mono tippet 

    This is for general purpose hatches, like caddis, stones, Hendrickson’s, and sulphers. You need to scale down for the smaller stuff like BWOs or midges, and scale up for Drakes and Hex. 

    This weekend will be great on all fronts. The cool thing about Michigan, is we have so many options to pick from, especially during the Spring months. Within just an hour drive from our shops, the fishing options are seemingly endless. Remember to renew your fishing license soon, they all expire on March 31st. Good luck this weekend!