The Streamer Game
Fly Fishing Michigan for Brown Trout
Streamer fishing is one of the most exciting forms of fly fishing. The streamer junkies I know rarely carry a floating line. They are addicted.
It takes a determined soul to pursue the trophy trout in Michigan (and perhaps a bit of insanity). Bites can be few and far between on many days but when a big brown comes to a streamer, it can change how you look at fly fishing.
The Brown Trout in the rivers of Northern Michigan are the apex predator, therefore they are pursued in a different manner. Think of it as musky fishing for trout . . . big baits, big rods and weak knees when that big fish shadows your fly.
The stretch of river, water conditions (clarity, levels and temp), weather conditions and the fish’s mood all play key roles in streamer fishing for trophy brown trout. It doesn’t take much to get bites on streamers some days--we call that the suicide bite. Other days the fisherman needs to use a little finesse to catch fish. I have seen days where the biggest fish in the river will chase 4” flies but touch nothing bigger. I have seen days when 4” flies won’t turn a large fish and the trout only seem interested in 6” to 8” flies.
Experience plays a major role in catching fish on streamers. Knowing the pockets and deep water cuts can pay dividends when the water is high and dirty and those spots are unnoticeable. Some days fish will only chase a fast moving streamer, other days crawling the fly near the bottom gets the only results. Certain times of year crawfish molt and the browns will key on that. I have seen large browns key on 2”-3” minnows and 8” planters at other times. Being versatile can make the difference in having a successful day on the river and catching nothing.
If you're interested in learning about the trophy brown trout experience, book a guide and start the learning process.
AuSable River Sections and Expectations:
Burtons Landing to Conners Flats:
Smaller water with most fish ranging from 12” to 17” with fish over 24” around but rarely seen. A large fish for this area is around 20”.
Great water but small at times. Drastic fluctuations in flows from spring to fall. Several fish in the 14” to 17” range. A big fish for the area is 20” but larger fish are always present. If you don’t believe me on the sizes, carry a tape measure…and use it.
Smaller water with many of the browns from 12” to 16” from Lovells to Kellogg’s Bridge. From Kellogg’s to the confluence with the Mainstream there are more large fish than above.
Conners Flats to Camp 10 Bridge:
This is where the AuSable River starts to gain some water. The South Branch enters the Mainstream a few miles above the access at Conners Flats. and North Branch meets the Mainstream a few miles below McMasters. This is fun water to fish and holds some very large trout. Good populations of 15” to 19” fish with a handful of AuSable tuna’s.
Mio Dam to Alcona Pond:
Very different fishery than above the dam. Some of the biggest fish in the state live here. I love streamer fishing this section of river but have had several fishless days. I started fishing this section of river more than 10 years ago and still have images burned into my brain of the ones that have eluded me. This section has a low density of trout as compared to the above the dam but several AuSable River tuna’s come from this water every year. The average big fish in this water runs about 22” and around 4 pounds but fish as long as your leg are present and caught every year. Beautiful, thick and very aggressive…on the right days.
Alcona Dam to Loud Pond:
Similar is size to the section from Mio down to Alcona Pond with lower fish populations than the Mio section. Bring two cars and a motor because it is a long way out. This is the reason these fish receive very little fishing pressure so they can be more receptive to streamers than the fish upstream. A good population of smallmouth bass are present also which makes for a good option in the summer months.
Cameron Bridge to M-72
This is small water, very sandy with some deep pools. Average fish are 10” to 14” but some very large fish are present with rumors of fish over 30” from years ago.
M-72 to 3 Mile
This is the section that most people fish, very good water with depth and structure. Fish range from 12” to 20” for the most part but fish in the upper 20” class are taken every year. There are fewer fish found on the Manistee than the AuSable but the majority of fish will concentrate in the riffles. This holds true all the way through the Hodenpyle stretch.
3 Mile to Hodenpyle Pond
This very long section of river has lower populations of fish but holds some very large trout. From Sharon Bridge downstream the Manistee becomes a much larger river with the addition several creeks and major tributaries. This section holds large fish, many from 17” to 22” with several fish each year taken in the mid to upper 20” range. Once again, concentrating on the riffles and broken water will help your chances with trout. The slow deep pools also hold trout and walleye. A Smithwick Rogue is a good choice for your spinning rod to fish the slow pools between the riffle water sections. Remember the size limit is 15” on walleye and they are very delicious. As you progress down stream to US 31 and further the trout populations do decrease. Plantings of brown trout below US 31 provide some action for 10” to 14” browns.
Hodenpyle to Red Bridge
This is the quest for one, very few fish in this section of river but some mutants. Decent numbers of 18” to 22” browns with fish in the upper 20” class taken every year. Plantings of rainbow and brown trout below the dam provide action for the angler and food for the browns (and pike, walleye and bass). It’s a mixed bag of fish but targeting the times of year when the water is cooler will help limit the amount of bycatch. Don’t be afraid to feed fish big flies and don’t over look the riffles. Most fish will be found around the riffles if not in them.
Big and Yellow did the trick on this spring brown
We at Old AuSable Fly Shop have spent years targeting the large trout on the AuSable and Manistee Rivers. There are few anglers who have spent more time doing this than the guides at Old AuSable Fly Shop. Just because you book a guide doesn’t mean you will land trophy trout all day but you will have a better understanding of the techniques and strategies to catch more large trout.
Anybody can row a boat, but a professional guide will teach you something while putting you in the best position to succeed.
We have pride in what we do at Old AuSable Fly Shop and work all year to make sure our clients have an enjoyable and pleasant experience.