The gray, dreary skies of Winter have slowly morphed into the gray, dreary skies of early Spring. Thankfully, the thaw took a gradual pace and the river’s flow was able to keep up with the snow melt and spring rain run-off. The Little Manistee’s levels hit a crescendo that did not exceed the top of her banks, so the cabins of North Rivers Lodge were once again spared of flooding. It did take a few weeks for all the stored ground water to find its way to the river, so a high flow with heavy stain was the landscape outside my window for a good four weeks. The ground is still a little spongy.
Since the thaw, April showers would bring levels back up. Levels would crest and again, recede – then it would rain again.. and again. This year’s heavy flow of spring runoff did expose some new gravel along North River’s quarter mile and it was criss-crossed with ancient submerged lumber, which I suspect was covered with sand for years. When Mother Nature clears her throat, it can be a good thing!
By late April, the Little Manistee’s flow returned to an average volume. The discoloration of high-water stain has since cleared. The river’s mood is now of a more consistent temperament.
Steelhead were observed all Winter long. Now mostly spawned out, their seasonal work is done here and they’re on their way back to Lake Michigan from whence they came. The DNR Egg Collection Facility at the weir recorded high numbers of steelhead this year, as well as many migrating, lake-run brown trout. The collected and fertilized eggs will now be distributed to rivers all around the Great Lakes Region. The Little Manistee has once again proven to be a river of importance with it’s prolific runs of anadromous visitors from the fresh water sea.
In timely fashion, the regularly scheduled aquatic insects made their respective appearances. Black midges were observed on the sunnier days of late winter. Light hatches of early blue wing olives are the first of the mayflies, emerging around first and last light. They will remain a Little Manistee staple for the next few months, with varying coloration and size. BWOs wake up before I do, but I’ll get another crack at them before sundown. The first of the Hendrickson hatch made its debut during the first week of May. At the time of this writing, recent rains brought the river up some and on the overcast days, the Hendricksons are becoming heavier in numbers – and the trout are reacting accordingly.
The resident trout along the Upper Little Manistee’s corridor have begun relying on the bounty of biomass that the aquatic insects provide for their sustenance. Mid-day emergences of Hendricksons have the trout rising to the surface to intercept the bugs caught in the current. When the adult flies return to the water’s surface film to lay their eggs, feeding time for the trout resumes at first dark. The later the season progresses, the later the best fly fishing is had. When the weather gets warmer (assuming it will some day) we might see an early emergence of Grey Drakes before June. Easily my favorite of the Mayfly genus, we should be spotting Drakes toward late May and they will continue through most of June – one of the best months of fly fishing the spring-fed, upper stretches of the Little Manistee River.
North Rivers Lodge currently has some weekday availability during May and some weekend availability left in June. Midweek is an excellent time to fish in solitude during a very productive time on the river.
For lodging and fishing information, call us at 231-266-6014