The Muskegon river near Newaygo, MI is running a bit above average flows at 2300+ cfs, but in great shape from a level, temperature and fish activity perspective as we roll into the winter season.
Fishing remains viable for early winter steelhead, lake run Brown trout, as well as resident Rainbow and Brown trout. Various methods are being used to pursue all of them with the use of both fly fishing and light spin tackle gear.
Steelhead & lake run Brown trout
Fly fishing options include chuck-n-duck on 7 and 8 weight rods, with tippet in the 6-8# range, swinging streamers with 1 and 2 handed rods, ranging from 9-13+’ in length, but with heavier tippet, in the 15# range. Indicator nymphing is a great option once water temperatures drop and fish drop back into slower moving pools, runs and troughs. Rod choices range from 9-10+’ in length, 6-8 weight rods, with tippet in the 4-6# range with clear water, up to 8# when not running gin clear.
Resident Rainbow & Brown trout
Indicator nymph fishing is the way to go for trout come this time of the year. Fish are in the process of identifying their “winter lies”, which is where they will move to a new location in a run or the river for that matter, where they will use less energy, have suitable cover and good food source. We use much lighter gear for resident trout, with 5 & 6 weight rods common, in 9-10′ lengths, with leaders tapered down to 5-7x (2.5 – 5#). Flies to have on hand include micro eggs (some lake run brown trout still spawning), green caddis larva, pheasant tails, tan, brown and amber scuds, hares ear and midge larva, with #18 being a common size for most, go down to #20 or even #22 with midge patterns.
Light spin tackle setups for fishing migratory steelhead and lake run Brown trout are with longer rods and bigger indicators…at this point, they can be called a “bobber” ! Rods in the 11-13′ length allow one to fish deeper runs and pools, have more sensitive tips and provide more shock absorption with lighter lines, such as 6# test tippet. Fishing egg imitations, real eggs in the form of spawn sacks, live bait such as wax worm or wiggler tipped jig heads, through slower moving, deeper runs, will get your offering in front of fish.
Present water temperature in the mid to upper 30’s