Everyone has a “home river” where they started fly fishing. And everyone has a “dream river” they yearn to experience. The more I travel, fish and write, the more I realize that my home river and my dream river are one and the same–the Pere Marquette system in western Michigan.
I just spent a few days fishing the P.M. with guide Jeff Hubbard, owner of Outfitters North, who is hands-down one of the most dialed fly guides I have ever fished with. He showed me new wrinkles and twists for water I’ve been fishing for 25 years.
We were joined by Robby King of LDR Media, with whom I traveled to Alaska last year for “The Kodiak Project.” Even in contrast to the Amazing steelhead on the Karluk, Robby and I found the P.M. steelhead experience, while admittedly a bit chilly, to be a red-hot thrill.
One of the misnomers of Michigan steelhead fishing is that it’s all about “chuck and duck” nymphing, running egg flies, and so forth. We spent the whole time casting Skagit heads and swinging Jeff’s home-spun leech flies in a classic style. We used 11-foot 9-inch, 8-weight switch rods (Michigan Rivers are ideal for the switch rod).
Okay, so you Pacific northwest anglers can criticize Michigan fish as being “not real steelhead” because they aren’t anadromous, meaning they don’t run to and from saltwater. That’s true. But I’ll say this: All the Pere Marquette fish have an adipose fin, meaning they are wild and not stocked. There’s also something to be said for catching a few (to several) steelhead a day, which is normal for Michigan.
In other words, the “my steelhead are better than your steelhead” stuff is a bunch of hooey. It’s all good. It’s just particularly good in Michigan. Apparently, the steelheading can even be good in Ohio, according to Joe Cermele. And that’s about the nicest thing a Michigan man will say about Ohio this week.