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

Small-Stream Special
By Bob Butz

Big rivers usually mean bigger fish. But the true essence of northern Michigan flyfishing is found on its small waters and the light-tackle fishing one can experience there. Rivers like the Platte, Jordan, and Betsy are eminently accessible thanks to the millions of acres of public land the state has set aside for recreation purposes.

A good example is the Jordan River in Antrim and Charlevoix Counties, Hemingway's home. The Jordan goes from being a small trickle of a stream crisscrossed by beaver-chewed aspen trees to a 30- to 40-foot swelling river in its 10- to 15-mile run to Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. Certainly it's a small river—but there's nothing that rivals it for a true wilderness experience. The Jordan is thought to have the purest water of any Lower Peninsula river. It stays colder than other area streams; so much colder, in fact, that come June, when hatches in other rivers are in full swing, the Jordan is just getting going. Brown and brook trout are the target here, and there are lots of them.

Generally, in this region the opportunities for bigger fish increase the closer you get to Lake Michigan. Such is the case on the Jordan, where big trout come out of the lakes and up into the rivers to feed on the various fly hatches. Ten- to fifteen-pound fish are not uncommon on the Jordan or, for that matter, any other small Michigan river.

Like the larger Manistee, the Jordan is so wooded along its banks that the river is best accessed by boat. But whereas a driftboat can easily negotiate the former, a canoe is more in order for paddling through the riffles and tight turns that you'll encounter on a day-long float down the Jordan.

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


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »