One of the attractions of the Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing School is the variety of rivers that surround the resort. While the Manistee River’s “flies only” water lures most of our float and wade trip anglers, the Boardman River and public access is only minutes away. (Note: The famous Adams fly was invented on the Boardman River in nearby Mayfield, Michigan.) The Manistee is nearly a mirror image of its sister river, the AuSable River. Miles of easily waded gravel and sand bottom and easy access makes the Manistee River the river of choice to set out on your own. The river is approximately thirty to sixty feet across in most stretches and boasts prolific hatches. While the Boardman River is a little narrower (twenty to forty feet across in the upper reaches) it too has open stretches that are especially inviting for the novice angler. Both rivers have easy public access, are two to four feet in depth, and are only twenty to thirty minutes from the shop. Spring runs of steelhead and fall runs of Chinook and Coho salmon crowd the pristine Crystal River which runs directly through The Homestead and can be waded by Resort guests.
Streamside Orvis in downtown Traverse City and Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing School at The Homestead Resort both have easy to follow maps to the river and can offer timely information regarding hatches and conditions.
Early season angling students in April and May will find good hatches of black caddis, Hendricksons and early black stoneflies. Wild trout feed on these early hatches once waters warm into the low 50’s. While weather can be cold and water is a little high, some Spring days can be surprisingly warm and our waters lower and clear quickly each Spring. April and early May temperatures average in the low 50’s but can reach mid 60’s on a good day. By mid and late May the temperatures are consistently warm and we start seeing good numbers of Hendricksons, caddis and the start of the sulfur mayflies. June begins with sulfur mayflies that hatch in the early evening and ends with brown drakes and the famous “Hex” hatch that comes off at sunset and into the darkness. These hatches can move fish as large as 30 inches! July begins with the “Hex” hatch (i.e. hexagenia limbata”) and finishes with the best weather of the year and the start of terrestrial season. Hoppers, beetles, ants, etc. dominate the trout’s diet for the next month and a half. As we approach September and cooler weather, we turn our attention to streamer fishing and tiny blue wing olive mayflies. Certainly, there is always a challenging and exciting variety of insects and conditions on the many watersheds that surround Traverse City and The Homestead.
Brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout are found in these waters. These are wild trout that reproduce naturally and thrive with the help of Trout Unlimited, the Boardman River Restoration Project, Conservation Resource Alliance and other active organizations that protect the unique cold water resource around the Traverse City region. While hatches of caddis and some mayfly hatches occur at various times of the day all summer long, the late night hatches are most desirable because they draw more of the large nocturnal feeding brown trout. Manistee and Boardman River trout average 10 to 15 inches, but the hatches raise the average size to 12 to 16 inches. Certainly, it is common to have fish in the 16 to 20 inch size feed aggressively while these hatches and spinner falls are occurring. Downstream on the lower Manistee River, late August turns the guides’ attention to Lake Michigan coho and Chinook salmon. This migration of large fish culminates in October with a fall run of steelhead. Steelhead fishing continues all winter and peaks with the huge Spring run of steelhead in March and April. These enormous 8 to 15 pound lake-run rainbow trout draw anglers from around the world. Guides utilize traditional sink tip, indicator, nymphing and “chuck and duck” methods to land these silvery sticks of dynamite. Guides also float and wade the Betsie and Platte Rivers for salmon and steelhead. Farther south and earlier in the runs, our guides float the Muskegon and Pere Marquette Rivers. Streamside Orvis can guide you and your guests or clients on more water and for more of the season than any other outfitter.
Fishing our local rivers does not require a boat. However, guides are available for full day and half day float and wade trips on the Manistee and Boardman Rivers. Or take a private lesson to review the finer points of fly casting and fly angling. Instructors and guides are available all summer long. Because some hatches attract more anglers than others, we recommend that you book a guide early if you want the float the better hatches after the school.