Location: Traverse City, MI
Season: Year round
Species: Brown Trout, Lake-run Rainbows, Smallmouth Bass & Pike
Follow Juan on Instagram @mangledfly
Jon Ray resides in the Traverse City area and guides the 190 mile long Manistee River in Northern Michigan. His season kicks off in March when the first few warmer days arrive and cabin fever is at its peak. Big streamers are on the menu to for the resident Brown Trout of the Upper Manistee. The Manistee is an old logging river that now provides plenty of timber for these Brown Trout to lurk within. Streamers are one of the best ways to coax these wary predators out, luring them into the chase of an easy meal. As the season progresses into late spring, Jon’s true passion is the dry fly game. Sulfurs and Mahgonies are up first, and then early summer brings in the big bugs like Brown Drakes and Hexagenia. The upper sections of the Manistee are slow winding and clear with a heavy canopy of trees which requires a much more technical cast. This makes stalking these browns an art form all its own.
By mid summer Jon is happy either chasing trout on the Upper Manistee with hopper and beetle patterns, or smallmouth bass in the lower Manistee on topwater with frogs and dying baitfish patterns. As Fall approaches and the days grow shorter and colder, it's now time for the Great Lakes strain of steelhead. These lake-run rainbows begin their journey into the Manistee River from Lake Michigan, and Jon stays busy hunting these fish with a variety of flashy streamer patterns. Jon floats these waters fishing steelhead well into December or until the lines start to freeze and it’s just too cold to fish.
"With the amount of streamers we tie for chasing trout to muskie to steelhead, having a variety of UV finishes to choose from gives us the ability to individualize each streamer."
"Not using my teeth to cut tippet has been a problem since I first started guiding. Having a nipper around my neck has helped make my dentist much happier. Plus the bonus “cold one” opener is great for late night Hex stories at the boat ramp."
"Back to things you need when throwing allot of streamers: sharp hooks. Michigan trout fishing isn’t a numbers game, so you need the sharpest hooks when the opportunity strikes."
"Tying with brushes has become very popular. I’ve been experimenting spinning up my own dubbing loops and having the two different attachments has really helped make this easier."
"Though not designed to be an on the river tool, after struggling to change out hooks on our streamer pattern for steelhead, I find the threader is a perfect tool for the job. We design our flies with either Power Pro Braid or thin jewelry wire in a loop on the tail end of a cotter pin or shank. Once a hook needs replacing , it’s always hard to the loop back through the new hook you're replacing. Grabbing the loop with the Threader speeds up the process 10 folds."