River Report - Slipping into Summer

The middle and upper Kalamazoo River has been overtop its banks for approximately three weeks and finally we are starting to get a little reprieve from all the high water. Some folks downstream have experienced flooding way down toward Allegan and New Richmond which is almost to Lake Michigan.

Up here in the middle and upper Kalamazoo watershed we rarely get enough of a swell to overtop its banks. So this has been quite unusual, but serious flooding jeopardizing homes is very rare this far up in the watershed. However I did hear that a few people needed rescuing while floating down the river during this high water. Not a good time to float the river especially if your not experienced. The faster water can  get you into trouble quickly. Floating the river is safe now but the water is still at least a 1-2 ft. high for this time of year which should provide the fish some added security to make it through July and August when summertime mean temperatures get near 80 degrees.


A few new trees are in the river in the places that don't need it and not enough trees in the restoration stretch between Saylor's and Ceresco which is disappointing. Hopefully they still have plans on anchoring some large trees in that stretch. And I've heard from a very reliable source that this should happen. The river itself looks amazing and the potential for water quality and the fishery in the future is immense. It's kind of ironic that an oils spill spurred so much attention to a wonderful river that needed attention and probably never would have received it on such a large scale. Not saying an oil spill is good thing but maybe now what conservation folks and outdoorsman have wanted for years will start to happen at an accelerated rate.

The trees upstream in the long run will be good, but can make it a challenge to navigate successfully downstream. Be prepared to portage or bring something with you to cut your way through upstream of Albion. The farther downstream you get the more likely you will be able to float through as the river gains cfs (volume) the wider the stream tends to be. Passage in small tributaries that dump into the Kalamazoo will have new blowdowns and movement of jams is common. So don't be surprised if your favorite spot has changed some.

I will say this the fish are fat and they look happy. I don't think I've seen a skinny fish since the post spawn and the 72 degree water is inviting. Typical of the Kalamazoo the fish are buried in the wood with an occasional teenager keyed up in the bubble line maybe sitting behind a gravel shelf.

The pondweed and the grass mats that cover the edges of the river and sometimes the entire cross section are really starting to form. Just remember that a small depression will form behind the base of the plant and the longer and thicker the plant the more cover it will provide from above. Fish will sit in the blazing sun below this mat. Don't just fish the edges or shady parts of the river this time of year. Grass holds fish wether in two feet of water on the river or in 8 ft in a lake.

When fishing a "jam" hit the head or leading edge of the jam and twitch or strip the fly tantalizing it as close as possible. Rusty Gates preached it for dry fly fishing bugs for trout this time of year and the technique works for smallmouth. Subsurface streamers for trout during the daytime and surface flies in low light is the general rule. When your in a boat floating with the current you can stall your fly out out and strip it right in front of the fishes nose teasing him into striking.

Consistent weather now has provided some consistent fishing. Mark, Bill and I fished Sunday downstream of Marshall and caught 7 fish the biggest was Marks 18 1/2 inches. Not bad and came right off the wood. I took fellow MSU alum, hunting buddy, and friend out last Thursday, Coree a Masters student who just received his degree from OSU in wildlife. He literally picked up fly fishing in 10 minutes, a super talented athletic guy, he was fishing effectively enough to catch fish. He moved two fish and lost one. But hey that's just how it is. Sometimes they just seem to be fed up and the river can be quite stubborn.

We are slipping into the summer routine here as are most rivers and weather patterns. Muggy days and moisture hanging in the air is our morning greeting. Early morning and evening fishing topwater and streamers are the ticket. It's summer...


Brett Riser