Fly Fishing the U.P.
Come fly fish Michigan's Upper Peninsula! We are blessed to have some of the most beautiful fish, scenery and water in the upper 48 -- and we fish it year round. Whether it's targeting fiesty backcountry brookies, chasing big browns during an evening hatch, or tangling with monster steelhead, lake run browns, king salmon or trophy smallmouth. Check out our seasons below and see for yourself -- then let us introduce you to this magical fly fishing paradise.
Spring & Summer Fly Fishing
The flavors of spring and summer fly fishing are many in the Upper Peninsula. Huge steelhead and smallmouth kick off the fishing season by making their spawning runs from Lake Michigan, then our brown and brook trout rivers start coming alive with big bugs and big fish as we start seeing the biggest hatches of the season. (Note: words can't do this time of year the justice it deserves so be sure to flip through the photos above to get a feel for all the fly fishing we have to offer during this amazing time of year.)
Steelhead start their migration into the Upper Peninsula tributaries to spawn. This is a great time to swing flies as these fish are supper aggressive and ready to pounce. We'll nymph with leach, alevin, stonefly, caddis, hex and egg patterns as well as swing big sculpin and intruder style patterns that attract a lot of attention. When these fish hit a swung fly it feels like a lightning bolt. These steelhead are so strong. They'll peel off 50 yards of line before you can blink and then they'll battle you for the next 10-15 minutes up and down the river. The right fly fishing gear is a must when taking on these bruisers.
Something we've come to absolutely love and anticipate all year is the start of the Upper Peninsula smallmouth season in May. We are blessed to have several rivers that get explosive smallmouth runs with monster fish exceeding 20+ inches. Our tactics vary with the flows and temperatures. We'll start off ripping large streamers such as D&D's, flip flop flies and baitfish patterns on 7-8wt rods with sinking tips. As things warm up, steelhead also show up, we'll usually grab the two-handed rods and swing something like a spey bugger or sculpin pattern for both. We're also finding it deadly to dead drift a big woolly bugger under an indicator. After one trip you'll be hooked on our incredible smallmouth fly fishing.
Our exceptional Upper Peninsula trout fishing really gets going on full boil from May to August. We have so many amazing rivers and streams in the Upper Peninsula that offer fantastic brook trout, rainbow trout and brown trout fishing. In the early part of spring fly fishing season with the cooler water the streamer and nymph fishing are most effective. We'll use 6wt rods and sinking lines to throw zoo cougars and triple doubles along the banks and through the deeper holes and currents. We also love to nymph early in the season with large stonefly patterns. The fish are hungry and eager for a big meal after ice off and throwing big stuff is just the ticket. June starts spring's transitions to summer, and along with the warmer weather and longer evenings comes the amazing bug hatches that offer incredible fishing, including: caddis, sulphers, yellow sallies, march browns, brown drakes, hendricksons, and stoneflies. Anglers come from all over to experience a one of a kind brown drake hatch in the middle of June. There's also fantastic hopper-dropper fishing as the summer warms up in July and August. During this time of year we also love to get into the backcountry and fly fish for brook trout on small spring fed creeks and tributaries.
Fall Fly Fishing
As the temperatures start to drop in September and October the bugs disappear and the leaves turn their bright fall colors. Upper Peninsula trout feeding habits change as well and the rivers are prime for streamer and nyphing. This is your chance to catch the river's larger predatory browns as they get ready for winter and for their spawning season. Fly fishing with sinking tips and big streamers are the name of the game. We also keep the big stonefly nymphs handy as they can be deadly effective too.
If you've had your fill of fly fishing trout and smallmouth bass never fear because the big fish are here. The Upper Peninsula tributaries offer amazing fly fishing for pink salmon, king salmon, coho salmon, steelhead and lake run browns. The pinks and king salmon move in late Aug to early Sep and peaks the later part of Sep. Steelhead and browns follow in October and Cohos will follow into Dec. These fish will destroy a well presented swung fly, bugger or larger nymph pattern. For the king salmon it's best to break out the big two-handed rods, sinking lines and intruder style flies for these brutes. To avoid the crowds we'll fly fish late evenings and early mornings when the king salmon are most active and on the move. Nothing compares to hooking a big king that tries its best to rip the rod out of your hands.
Dime bright steelhead start to appear in early Oct as they follow the salmon and the lake run brown trout up the rivers, not to spawn but to feed as they know there will be an egg buffet along with plenty of caddis, stonefly and hex nymphs being kicked up by the nesting salmon and browns. Some of the fish will stay around all winter others will head back to the lake after they've eaten their fill. If you're after a big steelhead there's no better time to be fly fishing. Upper Peninsula steelhead are fresh from the lake, hyper active and have the feedbags on before winter hits. We'll fly fish the swing, nymph and beads to target these fish. Pound for pound there's no stronger fish in the water -- it's not uncommon to set the hook only to have one of these lighting bolts rip off downstream 100 yards and break off all before you can say "fish on".
Lake Run Browns
These dinosaurs of Lake Michigan move into the Upper Peninsula rivers from Oct to Dec. Lake Run brown trout grow to fantastic proportions, are very aggressive, and loads of fun. Unlike the steelhead, these fish are migrating into the rivers to spawn and will eat all the way up to the point of spawning and feed hard after. Just like steelhead fly fishing, we'll swing, nymph and use beads to target these fish. It doesn't take much to get these fish's attention.
Winter Fly Fishing
Steelhead & Lake Run Browns
From Jan to Mar we see frigid temps and snow but with that being said there are still plenty of opportunities to get in some great fly fishing for steelhead and trout. Steelhead and Lake Run Browns hold up in the Upper Peninsula rivers that feed into Lake Michigan. In the cold waters we target the slower, deeper pools, swinging baitfish patterns on sinking lines as well as nymphing with egg patterns. With the right winter gear, layers, hot coffee and hand warmers we can fly fish in relative comfort despite the cold. However, due to the shorter daylight hours and the colder weather we typically only run half day trips around the warmest part of the day. If you're feeling a bit cabin fever a winter trip is just the cure.