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Gray Drake Newsletter Volume IV



Spring 2009

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We still have reservations available at the Gray Drake Lodge. Reserve a spring date for a getaway and enjoy some fly-fishing.

We've sure had one snowy and cold winter with a ton of precipitation-that's the good news! After a very dry fall, many of the steelhead stayed out in the big lakes, which will mean for a very big spring run. March will see less crowds on the river and usually produces the biggest fish of the year, since the fish are inpre-spawn condition. April and May will see the peak of the run. May is one of the strongest months on the "mighty Mo", since the cold water from Hardy reservoir creates ideal water temperatures. We had steelhead on gravel till June 18th in 2007-and the drop-back streamer fishing was superb!

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  • Muskegon fish run well into June
  • Spring is the most productive steelheading season





Exciting Streamer Stripping, Nymphing & Dry Fly Action to Great Hatches

Watching a big brown turn on your streamer-seeing your strike indicator go down -or watching a selective tail water trout sip mayfly emergers is as exciting as it will get. From May thru late June, chinook salmon fry make streamer fishing incredible. Also, consistent sulphur, gray drake, caddis and Isonychia hatches have the trout looking up! 

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The evening float on the Muskegon is fun and relaxing event-dinner on the water, and then the explosion of the gray drake spinner fall at dark-try it! And if you have never caught the exciting action of the Hex Hatch on the Pere Marquette for giant brown trout and Drop Back Steelhead you are really missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

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Planning a Family Getaway - or a Small Business Retreat?


The Gray Drake Lodge may be the Way To Go!

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  Gray Drake Lodge view from river - image  



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With air travel and long distance driving costs going through the roof, the Gray Drake is an excellent choice and closer to home. Families, relatives and friends can enjoy a day in the river catching Trout, Salmon, Steelhead, Small mouth Bass -- you name it!

  • Located on some of the most picturesque waters of the River with Trout filled riffles and pools
  • Luxury Lodging and Gourmet Dining
  • Small corporate gatherings and retreats with a plethora of outdoor activities other than fishing


Deep through the fall, and the heart of a snowy winter, are great times to get a group of people together for a friends, family or a small business group getaway. Our river will be teaming with Salmon, Steelhead, Trout and large Lake-Run Browns. Couple this with abundant upland bird hunting for grouse and deer bow hunting and you'll have a sportsmen's heaven!

Excellent golf courses, restaurants, kayaking and canoeing, antique shopping, and nature trails will take up your non-fishing time. The nearby museums of Grand Rapids and Muskegon along with the pristine beaches of the Lake Michigan Shoreline, your whole family and group will get the most out of the outdoor experience.


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Visit the new Gray Drake Lodge website today!

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Don't forget the excellent grouse and turkey hunting opportunities in addition spring kayaking and canoeing. Visit the Newaygo County Convention and Visitors Bureau online:

Visit Pure Michigan at for more information. Visit Michigan Outdoors at for info on the five counties near us in central West Michigan.




Sputnik's Simple Sac Frys Fly Recipes



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Fly Box

Spring is a great time to swing, strip or Dead Drift Sac Fry/Parr Patterns for Trout and Steelhead. Since the Muskegon, Pere Marquette and all Lake Michigan tributaries have a tremendous capacity for wild natural reproduction of Salmon and Steelhead. Each February through April sees the Chinook Salmon Sac Fry emerging from the spawning gravel. This is a delicacy for resident Trout and spawning Steelhead. The Steelhead will strike the Fry and park out territorial aggression and the trout will be feasting on them along with he Steelhead Egg smorgasbord.

Top Pattern

Hook: Daiichi 2151 #10
Thread: Uni White
Tail & Body: Pearl Braid
Wing: Pearl Ice Dub, then Barred Grizzly Marabou
Topping: 3 strands of Pearl Green Flashabou
Egg Sac: Steelhead Orange Glo-Bug Yarn
Eyes: Hareline Holographic Chartreuse

Bottom Pattern:

Hook: Daiichi x120 #10
Thread: Uni White
Body: Otter Soft Milking Egg OS-3 Material
Wing: Pink Ice Dub, Pearl Ice Dub
Topping: Gadwall Duck Feather
Eyes: Hareline Holographic Natural









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According to Mr. Cole, Manager of Hardy and Croton Dams for Consumers Energy, the bottom drain bubbler for Croton Dam is installed and ready to begin testing beginning in June of this year. This will bring more colder, oxygenated water to the Muskegon during the thermal stress periods of hot summers, greatly increasing benefits to the Trout and Steelhead Fishery and natural reproduction and holdover. It only took 19 years for this FERC mandated agreement to take place. Well, better late than never.

Keep in mind that between Thornapple Landing and New Bridge in Newaygo, a recent survey disclosed 117 strong Spring Creek seeps and releases. That is more than any other tail water in the state. Next time you catch that big Brown or Rainbow, think about those cold water refuge areas...we wish the DNR did! The DNR has zero data on this section of the river since it never has done an electro-shocking fish population survey here. It would be nice if they could spend a day on the water and do so. I think they would be surprised as to what they would find!




The Ladies Bring Some of the Best Fish and The Youth At Not Far Behind!


Many of our fishing guide trips are for women, families and youth.
We enjoy catering to this growing segment of our business.

  • Families make up 54% of the Gray Drake clientele


  • Women make for the best fly anglers and learners

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  • Children (starting from 8 and up) along with young adults out fish even seasoned anglers


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There is no reason why the whole family cannot enjoy the natural beauty of the fly fishing experience. We have taught hundreds of young children and women how to fly fish..........our website's pictures tell the story!

We provide all the Orvis tackle, and patient instruction you'll need, to make the art of the fly cast your favorite sport-and we won't forget the snacks and sodas for the younger less patient students!




If you've never hooked a summer steelhead on the fly, you are missing out on an unforgettable experience! From June thru early September, these massive 3-salt steelhead ascend the St. Joe and Big Manistee. The Muskegon got quite a few strays last year. They can be very aggressive to the fly and put you into your backing instantaneously.

Without doubt, the Skamania Steelhead are the   tarpon of the Great Lakes!

We still have some prime dates left. Come and join us! You will find that there is something unique about steelheading in a T-shirt!

  • The St. Joseph river is stocked with close to 300,000 summer Steelhead a year

  • These fish grow to very large sizes

  • They are "bulls in a chine shop" when hooked



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Thai It Up!


Thailand Cuisine combines sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavors. Even finicky eaters end up loving the flavors of Thai Cuisine.

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Chicken: Use breasts, thigh or quartered pieces.
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
3/4 cup chopped mixed scallions, parsley and cilantro
2 Teaspoons of finely minced garlic.
2 Medium sized chili peppers finely chopped.
1 1/2 teaspoon of finery chopped basil
1 1/2 teaspoon of Asian Fish Sauce (optional)
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Place chicken in zip locked bags of marinade an toss intermittently for an hour or so. When grilling or baking bath chicken with marinade until nice and crusty outside.


Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles

2 Cups Orange Juice
1 1/2cups soy sauce

Heat in microwave until almost boiling
Then ad 1 1/4 - 1/2 cups peanut butter - stir into orange juice/soy sauce until thoroughly mixed.

Cook: 1 box spaghetti noodles. Bertolli is a good brand to use. Cook to al dente in boiling salted water. Place cooked noodles in a large aluminum swirl cooking bowl. Add the following ingredients and ix thoroughly.

Add to spaghetti:
1 red pepper - diced
1 1/4 shredded or diced carrots
3 gloves of garlic (minced)
4-6 green onion - sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
jalapeno pepper - sliced (to taste)

Pour orange juice/soy liquid over spaghetti mixture and mix thoroughly.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.




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Switch'in is Bitch'in

Two handed "switch" rods are becoming the hottest trend in the Great Lakes Steelhead Fishery. The Trend started with the Winston 11 foot/7 weight rod designed by Jerry Kustich and labeled the "Great lakes Special".

Coming out this spring, Orvis and the Helios brand are introducing two rods: the 11 foot 7 weight and the 11/8 weighing in at a mere 4 1/2 ounces. They are extremely light and powerful and can be used for two and one handed applications. Since we switch tactics so often for Great Lakes Steelhead, this rod does it all. We go from swinging flies traditional, skagit or Scandinavian style, to deep water Great Lakes Nymphing. Or, we strike indicator nymph with a floating line or strip sink tips for summer runs. By having one rod that does it all, you can maximize your time on the water and apply what technique that is most effective given the conditions you are faced with.

When using grains, the 11/7 does well with a 400 grain and the 11/8 applies to 500 grain lines. A long belly, double taper spey line works very well with their rods.




Rich Merlino with a switched on Steelhead Merlino with switched Steelhead - image


10 Footers You Could Cast All Day

Big tail waters and heavy vegetation along the banks of spring creeks demand long, light tip rods to allow the presentation needed for its fussy Trout. The rods need to be light yet powerful enough to endure windy conditions often met on wide broad tail water rivers and spring creeks that run trough wide open farmland, pastures and valleys.

Listening to the Anglers, Orvis came out with two excellent rods to match these conditions. The 10 foot 4 and 5 weights weigh in at only 2 1/2 ounces - unbelievable! Consider that 7 foot two weight rods years ago had weights higher than this. They are 4 piece models easy for travel.

The 10 foot 5 is ideal for big tail waters like the Midwest's Muskegon, Manistee, Holston and White River of Arkansas. It is the perfect Delaware River Rod in the East and a must have stick for the West's Big Horn, Beaverhead and New Mexico's San Juan. Here, long drag free floats with 14 to 16 foot leaders are often necessary to fish tiny Blue Winged Olives on 6x tippets - or Midges and Tricos on 7x. The extra foot makes delicate mending more easier. It is also an excellent high stick indicator nymphing rod and fishes the "down and in your face" Czech nymphing technique perfectly.

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The 10 foot 4 weight is ideal for even more delicate spring creek conditions you'll encounter on Silver Creek and the Henry's Fork out West, to Pennsylvania's Spruce Creek and the Le Tort.

The rods have the power in the butt and mid-sections to move a big husky stubborn Trout out of stream obstructions and vegetation's, along with a tip that will protect tippets up to 8x. A must have wand of perfection!


February 25th, 2009

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When Rich Aruela was stripping in his tandem egg and Merlino's Sculpin Hex flies at the end of his drift, his rod began to throb and caught him totally off guard. Being their guide, at first I thought it was a good dark buck Steelhead that liked to chase stripping and swinging flies. But with the water at a balmy 33 degrees F and a cold day with the air temperature in the teens, Steelhead don't usually chase the fly upstream that well.

The fish fought very well with solid head thumping, but something didn't feel quite like a steelhead. At first I thought it was a large spring pre-spawn fat and huge Walleye, which can approach 10 pounds in late February, early March. As I was getting ready to get my net out, I screamed "! I saw the double red spots and I knew right away it was an enormous Brown. The Sculpin/Hex was firmly buried in the side of its mouth. As we "High 5'ved" and admired its beauty, I observed the spotting on this fish while photographing it. It has the quintessential double-linked red spots of the Gilchrist Brown Trout that the DNR stocked years ago in the Muskegon. These Trout were found to have a very high holdover rate, be extremely wary and could tolerate warmer water periods than other Brown and Rainbow Trout. Unfortunately since these fish were planted and disappeared for a year the meat fisherman were not catching them. Since the DNR's policy is to manage the resources for a stock-catch-keep philosophy, they yanked the stocking program on these fish on Muskegon. Mysteriously, a year or two later these Gilchrist fish showed up being very large and very healthy. That is the nature of this strain. So it would behoove us, given the complexity of the Muskegon River food chain to stock a Trout that has trophy sized potential as opposed to one that is put in the five gallon bucket as a 10 incher.

Just think, if we managed the river for trophy Brown Trout and stocked the right strains, who knows how many large holdovers we could achieve. Some will say this is a "Lake-Run: fish -- I disagree! I've caught hundreds of Lake Run Browns and all share a common identification factor. They lack vibrant color and don't have the double-lined red spotting. They are also more drab and silvery in color like a Sea Run Brown Trout.

In our tough financial times here in Michigan, it's time to be thinking of tourism and what a better way to attract more out-of-state traveling seasoned Anglers than with large trophy sized Brown Trout! It costs no money to create this fishery, just a pen to create regulations that would foster this type of fishery. Besides, 10 inch Rainbows in a five gallon bucket taste better than Big Browns for the meat-minded Fisherman! BON APPETIT!

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A 16 Inch Gilchrist Brown Trout From the Muskegon Years Ago with Double-red spots
Could this fish be that monster in its adolescence? Something to think about.


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Matt and Laurie Supinski
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Gray Drake Lodge
7522 S. Gray Drake Bluff
Newaygo, MI 49337

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