Traditionally Trout season begins the last Saturday of April and runs through September, but some sections of rivers like the Manistee remain open year-round. Within an hour’s drive of Traverse City we have a number of trout rivers/streams, good hatches, beautiful scenery and great fishing. Here is what you can expect throughout the year.
April – May
Hatches are going in earnest by the month of May and often start earlier in April which include: Hendricksons, Little Black Stone Flies and Caddis, offering some really good dry fly fishing. Later in the month of May, expect Sulphers, March Browns, Black Quills/Borcher’s Drakes, and others extending into June. With water temperatures rising and angling pressure low, this is a great time to be on the water for the angler willing to mix up their fishing between streamers and dry flies. These are the months to throw big streamers for some trophy fish. Streamer fishing has become common the past few years as an effective way to “hang the hog.” Not necessarily for beginners, we cast big flies on heavy sink-tips for big fish. There is nothing like watching a 20-plus inch fish come out of nowhere and pounce on your fly.
The “bug month,” June has so many different aquatic insects hatching that it can sometimes be maddening trying to determine which bugs the fish are eating at a particular time. That’s why a lot of anlgers like to fish Michigan in June. Sulphurs, March Browns, Mahoganies, Tan Caddis, Borchers Drakes, Isonychias, Yellow Sallies, Golden Stones, Big Stones, Brown Drakes, Grey Drakes and of course, the Hex (Hexagenia Limbata). Looking for dry fly fishing? Then this is a great month for you.
Note: The month of June books early for guided trips. Secure your dates »
Hex fishing is the time of the year that 2-1/2″ – plus mayflies hatch in the last minutes of light and into the dark hours of our longest days. With the dark comes those wary night-time roaming brown trout feeding on the surface, often making a noise hard to accept from a fish that is typically such a nocturnal recluse. While the West is known for its Salmonfly Hatch, we have the Hex as our claim to fly-fishing fame.
Coming off of a very busy month of hatches, we look for the small Trico hatches in the morning to bring fish up to the surface. Grasshoppers and other terrestrial patterns come out of the box and on the water making for some fun and exciting fishing. Evenings typically produce some bug activity including Isonychias and others like Light Cahills and Blue Wing Olives.
“Mousing” — the casting of big surface flies resembling mice and other surface disruptions — can bring up those nocturnal brown trout which are out in the shallow flats looking to eat big without much work. Not necessarily for beginners, mouse fishing is for anglers who are looking for a unique opportunity to fish at night with glow-in-the-dark fly lines and big flies for big fish. Find out what the allure is to this fishing and remember to set the hook on the feel, not the sound!
September – November
With kids back in school, college football on TV and the salmon and steelhead in some rivers, trout rivers in the Traverse City and northern Michigan regions are yours to claim. Water temps have dropped and streamer fishing gets going again with some good terrestrial fishing on top. Enjoy the river and the fall colors with an opportunity to catch some trout that themselves are changing color and are as vivid as the foliage. The trout fishing below Tippy Dam at the end of October and in November can be some of the best fishing of the year on both nymphs and streamers as they are coming off a diet of eggs and looking to keep the feed bag on.
“Off-season” is considered fall, winter and early spring. When most anglers are in pursuit of steelhead or salmon, hit the extended season rivers and have the trout water to yourself. Both the Manistee and Boardman Rivers have sections that are open all year. Sometimes we experience warm-ups throughout the winter, and often a change of a couple degrees is enough to get some fish feeding. It’s always good to get out and get some fresh air, sunshine and hopefully fish. Streamer fishing during ideal conditions can bring out the hibernating browns that are looking to eat big — some of the largest fish of the year are taken at this time — well before the traditional trout opener arrives.
Obviously, being a fly fishing guide for trout in northern Michigan can be a year-round endeavor with each of our distinct four-weather seasons which offer unique conditions to all anglers. Simply put, we don’t get bored guiding just one species, one way. And we have lots of equipment to prove it.
Local trout waters that Current Works offers guided fly fishing trips on include both the Upper and Lower Manistee and the Boardman River, located close to Traverse City. For more information on these rivers, check out the Rivers / Hatches section of the website.