Where’s winter? That’s the question many of us here in western Michigan are asking. As of this writing on January 7, we have no snow—zip! Perhaps a few folks want to chase away the sunshine and above normal temperatures, but actually, we’ll take it since, despite the above normal temperatures, the Muskegon River is running very cold with temperatures between 34.6 and 35.2 degrees and with higher than normal flows. Since the headwaters of the Muskegon run south from the north where the recent warm weather has melted snow, the snowmelt and recent rains have flushed icy cold water through the system. Although the higher flows will move around a few steelhead, overall, they will slow even our resident trout down a bit.
The good news, though, is that daylight is increasing with each passing day, which will prompt a few more steelhead to venture up the river as we move towards spring. Currently, steelhead fishing, whether swinging flies or deep-water nymphing, has been tough. The combination of fewer steelhead having come into the river last fall for reasons we can only speculate and the cold higher flows have made for some challenging days.
Fortunately, over the years RiverQuest guides have fished steelhead on the Muskegon River, we’ve had very few weak fall runs only to be followed by heavier than normal spring runs. In the meantime, though, as we wait for new arrivals, it can be admittedly difficult to handle the short-term reality of tougher fishing. The truth is that the Muskegon River has spoiled us year after year with solid numbers of steelhead in the system even in some of the toughest years. This winter, though, it’s as if we’ve been transported to the West Coast where fewer numbers of steelhead are the reality year after year.
Indeed, we can learn much from our West Coast fly fishers. Fewer fish reorient us to enjoy the process of fly fishing—the entire process—casting, line management, and soaking in all that nature gives us. In some respects, it’s nearly as enjoyable as fishing in the numbers years. Instead of our focusing primarily on what the next steelhead brought to hand will look like, we find ourselves appreciating anew the eagles, deer, otters, mink, and other wildlife that make for a memorable Michigan Muskegon River fly fishing experience.
Rest assured, though, both steelhead and resident trout fishing will pick up as the weather settles into a more seasonal mode. A lighter fall run of steelhead nearly always portends a disproportionately large spring run—much the same, when the opposite occurs. So, now is the time to secure your late winter and spring steelhead dates. When the large numbers of steelhead arrive, don’t be left off the schedule because you waited too long to book your preferred days. Single and multi-day fly fishing trips are available now with our five Orvis Endorsed fly fishing guides. We would love to host you in 2019.