Michigan Fly Fishing
Michigan fly fishing arguably is the best trout fishing in the Midwest. Whether your hunting for naturally reproduced brown trout rising for the Hex hatch or fighting green steelies migrating upstream. Michigan fishing provides as idyllic Michigan Fishing setting as there is.
Michigan’s diverse trout waters allows for trout fishermen of all levels to reach quality trout holes. The Jordan River Trail provides excellent hike-in Michigan fly fishing. While the AuSable River allows for peaceful wading and easy wet-fly, stream quartering.
Michigan Fly Fishing Calendar
Michigan Fly fishing opportunities abound in northern Michigan. Through the seasons, you can be fishing for trophy trout during one of our major hatches, “banging the wood” with streamers, throwing hoppers to a sudden death, or fishing mice at night for marauding brown trout. Summer smallmouth provide great streamer and popper action. Spring and Fall bring double-digit steelhead, and the salmon fishing in the Fall will leave you mumbling to yourself all winter!
This calendar is intended to help you understand the types of fly fishing in Michigan that are available seasonally in the northern-central Michigan region.
Early Season (starts at ice out)
The early season can change from day to day…chilly and overcast to sunny and warm. The fish begin to feed heavily when the water temp reaches 55F. Hendricksons fire up the big fish and super trout hunt crayfish and forage fish with serious intent. We suggest a 4 or 5 wt rod for dry fly work and a 6 or 7 with sinking line for streamers.Early season hatches include Hendricksons, Mahoganies, March Browns, Sulphurs, Caddis, and Stone Flies.
The middle season begins on June 1. Sulphurs are still hatching, but brown drakes, Isonychia, and Hexagenia Limbata (“hex”) take center stage. Streamer fishing is best at dawn or dusk. The large dorsata stonefly (size 4) hatches at this time and deer hair mice start producing heavy fish at night or on cloudy days. Caddis, assorted stone flies, and Light Cahills are on the water. Local ponds and lakes offer some great bass and bluegill fishing during the summer.
The late season begins with the White Fly (Ephoron leukon and album) around August 14. Streamer fishing picks up again in mid September with aggressive browns in full spawning colors whacking large sculpin and crayfish patterns.
Steelhead & Salmon:
Spring steelhead fishing accelerates in late March and peaks in late April on the Rifle River and Au Sable River. Fish run from about four to over ten pounds. About 50% are fin-clipped, designating hatchery fish. A mix of egg patterns and nymphs work well. If conditions are right, swinging streamers and Spey patterns is high excitement.
Fall steelhead fly fishing is best from mid October through November. Salmon are available during late August, September, and early October.
Smallmouth bass fishing is superb on the lower Au Sable during July and August.
On the flats of Lake Huron, during November for huge brown trout in shallow water. This is extreme streamer fishing with 8 and 9 weight rods, fast sinking lines, big flies, and cold temperatures. But, the browns average about ten pounds.
North Eastern Michigan Trout Streams
- Big Creek
- Black River – The Black River is the best brook torut fishery in the Lower Peninsula and one of the top five rivers in the state for native brookies. The Black River is the best BROOK TROUT fishery in the Lower Peninsula and one of the top five rivers in the state for native brookies. The dark tannins that stain the water give the river its name and make it a beautiful, scenic river to fish.
If you are looking to catch large native Brook Trout, the Black is your best bet in lower Michigan. Its tributaries like Canada Creek and Milligan Creek hold the larger fish in the summer when the main river becomes too hot for brookies in some areas.
On the Black, try general dry fly patterns like Elk Hair Caddis and Adams. For subsurface action, soft-hackle beadhead nymphs are very productive. The larger fish are frequently taken on sculpin immitations or bright streamers like Zonkers and Blondes.
- Canada Creek
- Cedar River
- Gilchrist Creek
- Hunt Creek
- Pigeon River
- Sturgeon River
North western Michigan Trout Streams
- Baldwin Creek
- Boardman River
- Boyne River – East & West Branch
- Cedar River
- Jordan River
- Little Manistee River
- Manistee River
- Maple River
- Pere Marquette River
- Pine River
- Platte River
Upper Peninsula Trout Streams
- Tahquamenon River – East Branch
- Brule River
- Cooks Run
- Fence River
- Ford River
- Fox River
- Iron River
- Ontonagon River
- Paint River
- Sturgeon River – West Branch
- Two Hearted River
- Au Sable River Fly Fishing
- Betsie River Fly Fishing In Michigan
- Boardman River Fly Fishing
- Boyne River Fly Fishing In Michigan
- Fly Fishing The St. Joseph River In Michigan
- Jordan River Fly Fishing In Michigan
- Little Manistee River Fly Fishing
- Manistee River Fly Fishing
- Muskegon River Fly Fishing In Michigan
- Pere Marquette River Fly Fishing
- Pine River Fly Fishing
- Platte River Fly Fishing In Michigan
- Two-Hearted River Trout
Spring Steelhead in Michigan
In the Great Lakes region one of the rights of spring includes the pursuit of the world’s top three most renowned sport fish, the steelhead. Anglers burst with “spring fever” as soon as the first spring warm spell arrives, and this event closely coincides with the annual Spring Steelhead Run.
We are approaching the 125-year mark since steelhead was first introduced to the Great Lakes. A private citizen brought them across the country from the Pacific Northwest in a train car. Since that day the steelhead have flourished and have populated every Great Lake.
Steelhead are native to the Pacific Ocean from mid-California to Alaska in the United States and Canada. They also roam the waters of Russia. Steelhead are programmed to be multiple spawners, meaning that they have the ability to spawn several times at different ages.
Here’s their basic life cycle: From an egg deposited into river gravel by an adult steelhead, a young steelhead emerges around May as a swim-up fry and migrates to the edge of the river in a shallow, slow moving current to begin feeding on very small organisms that live in the shallows. As the young fish grows it begins to feed on insects in that river system including mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, etc. The steelhead takes about two years and several life stages (fingerling and par) before it takes on the migratory trait and turns into a “smolt”. Smolting is the act of returning to a large body of water, which in our case is Lake Michigan.
Smolts migrate from the river to the lake in large masses. Several thousand young steelhead will do this almost at the same time usually around May 15th. As the young steelhead feeds and grows in the lake, it takes on the gray/olive back and a gray/silver head or “steelhead.” It takes another two years typically for the fish to mature and start the cycle over again and migrate back to it’s home river and the start of the “Spring Steelhead Run” to begin the spawning process. During this annual migration up the river that anglers get all excited and come to their favorite stream for the chance to hook into one of these beauties. “Spring Steelhead Fever”!
Many, many techniques are used by fly anglers to catch steelhead. Techniques include floating fly lines, sinking fly lines, and those that do both. What ever your “angle” is, you can spend a lifetime learning and developing your skills for this great fish. Some of Michigan’s great rivers that are hosts to the Spring Steelhead include the Manistee River, Pere Marquette, Betsie, Platte, Bear Creek, Little Manistee and the Muskegon.
Fly Shops, Lodges & Outfitters
Michigan Stream Side
2085 N. Abbe Fairview, MI 48621 989-848-5983
Jons Guide Service
Old AuSable Fly Shop
200 Ingham Street, PO Box 429, Grayling, MI 49738, Phone 989-348-3330
Pere Marquette River Lodge
1414 Waverly Road Dimondale, MI 48821 231) 745-3972
918 Seaman Rd, Wellston, Michigan 49689 888-221-9056
The Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company
8460 Algoma Ave NE Rockford, MI 49341 (616) 866-6060
Gates Au Sable Lodge
471 Stephan Bridge Road Grayling, MI 49738 989 348-8462
The Northern Angler
312 S. Union, Suite B Traverse City, Michigan 49684 (231) 933-4730
Little Forks Outfitters
143 E. Main St. Midland, MI 48640 989-832-4100