Flats Fishing for Lake Michigan Smallmouth Bass

by | Jun 9, 2022 | fly fishing Lake Michigan

Boyne-OutfittersOne of the many great things about being in the fly fishing industry for nearly 40 years are my affiliations with the top anglers, guides and companies.  As Granny and I made our way towards Lake Michigan yesterday, I rang my friend Joe Wolthuis at Scientific Anglers.  SA is based in MI so I figured he may have some advice for wading the giant lake.  Well, Joe went beyond advice and called one of my fellow SA Pros, Capt. Ethan Winchester.  Ethan followed up with a call to me and this morning we met him where he manages the fly shop, Boyne Outfitters.


Lake-MichiganEthan is born and raised here in northern Michigan and I learned quick he’s an encyclopedia for this area.  Its always great to go fishing with a good guide, but it’s also important to me to learn about the region, animals and etc.  After a short chat I bought a few flies from his store and we followed him and his Hog Island Skiff up to Wilderness State Park boat launch.


smallmouth-bassThough I’ve had carp on the mind the entire drive from NH to here, Ethan assured us we wouldn’t be disappointed starting out chasing smallmouth bass.  He launched his boat and I tied on a chartreuse and white Clouser.  In most smallie circumstances I’d go popper, but Ethan said they don’t rise well to them on the frigid Lake Michigan waters like on the inland lakes.  I listen to the guide!


Ethan-WinchesterThere were weather concerns as we zoomed westward to cross the straits.  We had high winds in the forecast.  Ethan knew we could hide behind the islands from that.  But this enormous thunderhead that was brewing behind us wasn’t in the plan.  Granny informed Ethan of my “Monsoon” nickname and he wittingly named the cloud, “Curriernimbus” and assured us we were safe.


flats-fishingEthan was right about the intimidating cloud formation missing us.  However, I saw him glance over his shoulder several times simply to be sure.  Getting caught in a bad storm on Lake Michigan wouldn’t be too far off from getting caught in a storm in the north Atlantic.  Capsize or fall overboard and you have only minutes to survive before hypothermia sets in.


Capt-Ethan-WinchesterThe unique thing about today’s fishing was the fact that we waded thigh deep flats hunting for smallies.  They are extremely well camouflaged so rather than taking chances at spooking the ones unseen, every time you see a good rock formation, you drop the Clouser in.  Ethan banged up a few nice ones early on.





I watched Ethan work his home water.  At first I wasn’t having much luck.  I was spending too much time trying to spot the near invisible fish.  And when I dropped my Clousers along the rocks, I was stripping too fast.  Once I copied Ethan, the catching began!


smallmouth-bassEthan and I proceeded to land a heap of hearty smallies.  Years ago, I walked the flats north or Traverse City and caught a few, but today was fantastic.  Every single fish put on a show that included several head-shaking jumps.  It’s hard to keep these guys buttoned on all the way in on a barbless fly but we managed more than a few.


Boyne-OutfittersWhat I enjoyed most about Ethan today is that he fishes hard.  At 7 PM I saw him reeling it in as we walked the final smallie flat.  I thought for sure it was time to go.  As I walked over he asked, “Are you ready to look for carp?”.




I don’t need to tell you my response to Ethan’s question.  Ethan spent the next two hours up on his poling platform.  Its funny, we saw several carp as we drove to the carp flats, but once there we never found a single one.  That’s carp fishing.  Nonetheless, it was a beautiful evening and Granny and I learned a lot more about the area from Ethan.


We wrapped the day up at sunset.  And a great day at that.  A special thanks goes to Ethan for generously letting us join him fishing on his day off from guiding and running the Boyne Outfitters Fly Shop.  If you want to experience one of the most unique styles of smallmouth bass fishing there is, be sure to contact Ethan through the shop.  And if its carp you’re after, the season starts about now but late June is prime time.


flyfishingSpeaking of carp, tomorrow its all day wading the flats for carp!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!