Little Manistee Fishing Report [June 20 2005]
The day was sunny and clear; B and I had all our gear packed for the week and the house in order for pet sitters by mid-morning. We drove north in good spirits and arrived at Ray Cejmer's rental cabin by 4pm. The 2 bedroom cabin was built in 1934 and after a period of disuse, was updated, re-sided and insulated a bit. Log construction is still evident on the inside. The wide stone fireplace and chimney is in the center of the cabin and the hallway connecting the 2 bedrooms and bathroom runs along the back side so the stone work can be appreciated on both sides. It was a warm week, so we never needed to use the fireplace however. Ray met us when we arrived and showed us all the many appointments in the cabin. He's an older gentleman (emphasis on gentleman), a really nice guy and a long-time resident of Luther. He lives next door with his wife, his large garden and his many 'projects.'
The cabin is located on the outskirts of town, underneath mature pine trees on a high bank adjacent to the Little Manistee River. The river is close enough that we could observe rising trout and the habits of a resident snapping turtle from the living room. We immediately noticed the wildlife activity. Several hairy woodpeckers and a few jays crossed the stream from the woods to the bank and back. Evidence of a raided snapping turtle nest remained on the bank. Twice, deer came to the stream and were frightened back into the brush by our presence. We unloaded the canoe and some of our gear into the cabin and headed outside.
Here near its headwaters just east of Luther, The Little Manistee is a narrow 10-15 feet across, inches to 2 feet deep and is lined with overhanging brush and forest. It is known for its strong runs of anadromous salmon and wild steelhead in the spring and fall, but it's also one of the 9 trout streams in Michigan listed as a 'Crown Jewel' in Michigan Trout Streams by Bob Linsenman and Steve Nevala. Downstream, it's bigger and much easier to paddle or to wade and fish, but we decided to try these upper stretches to begin our OCFF (Obsessive-Compulsive Flyfishing) vacation.
After a quick trip to Schmidt Outfitters in Wellston for some last minute supplies, we rigged up our smallest 3-weight rods and headed into town to check out the stream conditions. Here, the river flows over an impoundment from a reservoir and through a small municipal park. The reservoir appeared to be a popular fishing spot for warm water species and there was one young man trying his luck with a spinner in the little stream below. We observed plenty of little fish rising to surface insects, so we decided to try dry flies and nymphs. The little rainbows, steelhead and browns in this stretch were not at all particular and we caught several of each from 5 to 7" in size on an ant, a renegade and a squirrel nymph. The spinner fisherman, who had apparently not been catching anything, got disgusted and left. We caught one very nice 11" brown in the shallow pool below the impoundment - a monster for this small water I'd say, though we suspected there might be larger fish there also. As darkness approached, we headed back to the cabin and tried the same flies on the stream there. We caught a few more little brookies and steelhead smolts from above and below a little plunge pool and decided to call it a night.
TroutGrrrl's rating for Schmidt's Outfitters: 11 out of 10
(no wonder everyone speaks to highly of Ray Schmidt. What a great guy.)
Porchlight 'hatch': Hex, Gray Drakes, large stoneflies
Number of leeches encountered: 0
Did I get to use a spey rod? No.
Enjoyment score for the day: A+, a perfect start to a vacation
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