Trout-Stream Flyfishing in the Upper Midwest's Golden Triangle

Big River, Big Browns
By Bob Butz
  |  Gorp.com

The grayling fishing was legendary in northern Michigan over 100 years ago, around the time of the timber boom. Now extinct in all Michigan rivers, grayling were once the most popular fish to catch, and the Manistee was the most popular river to find them.

The book Fish Michigan: 50 Rivers quotes an 1878 report stating that in a two-day period, three men caught nearly 1,000 grayling averaging 10 inches and nearly a half pound each. Though the grayling are gone, the Manistee remains a top-notch trout fishery.

Wide and lazy, the Manistee starkly contrasts with the tiny woodland trout streams less than an hour north. A winding route of some 230 miles to Lake Michigan, the Manistee is a heavily wooded waterway, home to some of the best brown-trout fishing in the state. Not uncommon are lake-run browns over 10 pounds and fish over the 20-inch mark.

During the summer months, casting big streamers with heavy 7-weight rods and sinking line are the tactics most often used by area guides. Though numerous river access sights exist, given the vast swampland and forests surrounding this watershed, the river is best accessed by driftboat.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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