As a fly fishing guide for almost 20 years in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, there is a sense of magical mystery about our woods, streams, and most of all...the brook trout that live here. As I write this, I find myself chuckling. There's no better way to discover your inner Ernest Hemingway than by chasing feisty brook trout in the cold, dark waters of the Upper Peninsula. However, it's not an adventure for the timid. If you are looking to plan your own Upper Peninsula brook trout fly fishing adventure, here's what to expect and a few tips to help you out.
Finding a magical, brook trout nirvana not for the timid. You'll often be dealing with thick, brushy wilderness and thigh-high muck. These trips are hard work! Many a would-be "Brookie Adventurer" have found themselves in over their heads, no pun intended!
You can encounter a forest that is so thick that even in the middle of the day it's dark. However, if you are willing to do the work and deal with the slogging, the rewards will be plentiful and the scenery unforgettable!
2. Bugs...Lots of Bugs
When in the deep woods, the bugs, mosquitoes, and black flies can be absolutely vicious, to the point if not properly equipped with bug dope and possibly a face net, the day can be ruined! Make sure you pack accordingly.
3. Wade Carefully
The spring-fed creeks are dark and tannin stained making it hard to tell if the water is 3 feet or 6 feet deep, and many pools go from 12 inches to over your head in a few short steps. My partner Jason found that out the hard way a couple seasons ago when he had to backstroke his way out of a deep hole. It's not a bad idea to carry a wading staff and to use it for probing the deeper, darker sections.
4. Gearing Up
Gearing up for this adventure will require a 2-4 weight fly rod no longer than 8 feet (and that is pushing it a bit). I prefer a 7 to a 7 1/2 ft 3 weight fly rod. A good set of stocking foot breathable waders with a quality boot as there is a lot of hiking and footwork as you push through the woods and through the downed timber in the stream.
As far as flies go, after 20 plus years of fly fishing for brook trout in the Upper Peninsula, if I were to pick 4 patterns, I would fill my boxes with Elk Hair Caddis, Chubby Chernobyls, Hornbergs, and Zonkers. Honestly, roll casting and stripping a small zonker downstream is the best way to fish. Most of the time, this is my go-to method for the narrow, brushy waters -- swing the fly up into the brushy banks, work it under the overhangs, and sweep it into deep holes -- these brook trout will just destroy this fly!
5. Plan Ahead
Here's a few additional things to keep in mind if you're thinking about planning a brook trout bushwhack:
- Get out the maps and target headwaters.
- Find water in the 40-50 degree range.
- Don't rig up until you get to the water, the heavy brush will eat a rigged rod for lunch.
- Prepare for no cell service
- Let someone know where you'll be and when to expect you back.
- Have a full tank of gas and spare tire.
- Carry plenty of food and water.
- Don't forget the bug dope, and a first aid kit with a compass.
This type of trip is not for everyone, but if you are up for the challenge, the rewards are great! You will see forests that few see, with the beauty rarely matched, and you'll encounter wildlife not often seen. And the brook trout, oh these beautiful, bejeweled fish, they will surely not disappoint! What the lack in size they more than make up for in beauty and spunk.
If you're interested in planning an unforgettable brook trout fishing adventure in the Upper Peninsula, give us a shout. We'd love to help you explore the Upper Peninsula and discover it's amazing fly fishing. And thanks for giving us a read. As always, feel free to drop us a comment or question below.