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03 July 2005
Little Manistee Fishing Report [June 21 2005]

Day 2 of the OCFF vacation...

...began with a late wake-up time. We were tired from the preceding week and weekend and we'd stayed up fairly late the night before. Plus, we were on vacation dang it! The forecast of overnight thunderstorms never materialized. Though we didn't necessarily desire thunderstorms during our outdoor vacation, the area was desperately dry and we would've gladly made the sacrifice for a little precipitation.

We were so anxious to arrive and get some fishing in the day before, we had not included a thorough food shopping stop enroute to the cabin. So we made a quick morning trip to Baldwin for groceries. After returning with our food stores, we grabbed our gear and headed for the Bear Track access for some early afternoon fishing.

We had the campground and the river to ourselves. The river here is a bright sandy-bottomed, log-jam rich stretch that averages about 30 feet across and undulates from 1 to 4 feet deep. The banks are lined with hardwood trees, underwater lumber and well-shaded trout hiding places. The low clear water, bright sunny sky and early afternoon hour reduced our expectations of fish. If we caught anything while enjoying the sunny afternoon, it would simply be a bonus. I headed upstream and B waded down. I immediately encountered a couple of little risers, but struggled to find a fly to match their preferences. I did manage a couple of short strikes but no hookups. Eventually I gave up on them and waded up through their lane. In a couple hours of fishing, we worked hard to catch a reasonable number of small 5-7" rainbows on dries and soft-hackle wets. Definitely bonus fish.

Little Manistee RiverWe took a break for a little snack and decided to change venues to 6-Mile bridge. Here, we fished just a short stretch and had no hookups. We moved downstream to a favorite access at Chicago Boy Rollway and fished there until dark. This is a gorgeous stretch of winding stream that flows around a large island over a gravel and sand bottom through steep tree- and grass-lined banks. We fished here one afternoon several years ago and had one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever in a river. That bright day, we had the stream to ourselves and caught many brookies, browns and rainbows from 6 to 12". Some non-fishing friends had accompanied us and spent their afternoon napping and swimming somewhere downstream. Fun was had by all. This time, I again waded upstream and B headed down. I fished up, and then down, 2 or 3 deep bends with old, effective, man-made improvements and overhanging trees. Very fishy water. I again encountered a couple of risers that teased me with short strikes but no hookups. Probably little guys. I stepped over a recently-deceased steelhead stuck under a branch. Are there skamania in this river? He was not silver -bright, but had not been dead long. An unsuccessful C&R? Maybe just normal mortality.

We fished here until dark (about 10:00 pm), caught a handful of little rainbows and steelhead smolts, but observed no big bug hatches. After another break at the car for a sandwich and a drink, we decided to head back to 6-Mile bridge in hopes of some nighttime big bug action. Here, we joined a couple of cars already parked in the parking area and assumed positions just up and just down from the bridge. We heard a few risers, saw a couple of hex but definitely not the hatch or spinner fall we had hoped for. Becky caught a couple of smallish trout but I had no strikes. Neither of us got any strikes on hex or gray drake dries. We packed up at about 11:30 and headed back toward Luther.

Little Manistee River, near LutherI had to hit the brakes about 10 times for deer in the road on the way back. I had started joking about the local wildlife and their taste for 'life on the edge', when we passed a momma cat nursing 2 kittens at the gravel edge of the road. What the heck? Someone had probably dropped them off. We stopped to figure out an appropriate plan. At least we'd hoped to get them off the edge of the road and out of danger. Momma cat was pretty protective and did not appreciate the intrusion. After some soft invitations and a slow approach, she let me touch her, scratch her behind the ears and then pick up her kittens. After depositing the 2 fuzzy little kittens in the grass, they pounced right back onto the pavement chasing after bugs in our headlight beams. Very cute, but also very nerve-wracking. We eventually enticed them into the grassy ditch with the remainder of our cheese - we scattered lots of little chunks around to keep them hunting for awhile. We left them there in the grass and hoped they would stay out of the road and that someone living in the area might take them in. We felt like we had no better options at that point in time.

Back at the cabin, we slipped down to the stream and took a few casts into the dark. We hooked a couple more little, non-discriminating brookies. No big fish, but we caught quite a few small fish on the day. As Shupac says, "sometimes small really is beautiful."

Hex Hunting Cooking/Meal Planning tip: Dinner is over-rated. Pack 2 lunches. Stay out late.
Today's Hex Hatch Score: flat line
Wildlife sightings: ~30 deer, 1 porcupine, 3 domestic short-hairs
Did I get to use a spey rod? No.
Enjoyment score for the day: A-, disappointing lack of big bugs, but sun + stream + trout = success

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