Upcoming Events


    To see the current stream report for the Upper Manistee and Boardman Rivers, click the links below:



    (These links are updated at least once a week on the Orvis website.)



    Read more »

    The Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing School returns to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa just east of downtown Traverse City. Orvis Michigan will once again offer both one and two day schools. Conveniently located only a few minutes from downtown Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa will offer dedicated classroom facilities, private trout pond, and luxurious accommodations at special rates for Orvis one day and two day students.

    Overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan, the Orvis Michigan Fly Fishing Schools combine northwoods beauty and classic elegance at The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. After matching the hatch on Michigan’s famed Manistee, or Boardman Rivers, you can choose to relax at the beach, play some golf or tennis, or explore the beautiful sand beaches of Grand Traverse Bay. The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is home to our two day fly fishing schools which include wading the famous Boardman River where the Adams fly was invented. Miles of streams are available after class, or take in the sun on the Resort’s private Lake Michigan beachfront.

    Schools utilize private trout ponds and classrooms, as well as serene stretches of the Boardman River only a few minutes away. Orvis Michigan is designed to introduce the intricacies of fly fishing to an absolute novice, but even experienced fly anglers will find personal and advanced instruction tailored to their level of experience. From knots to entomology, casting to tackle, the instructors at Orvis Michigan will fully prepare you to step into the stream.


    At Orvis Michigan you’ll learn:

    - Casting techniques

    - Proper fly selection

    - Essential knots

    - How to play, land and safely release fish

    - How to choose your gear and tackle

    - How to read the water

    - Stream entomology, and more!


    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 BOARDMAN BEAUTY2thirty minutes from the shop. Spring runs of steelhead and fall runs of Chinook

    Read more »

    Gearing Up For The Hex Hatch

    by Dave Leonhard

    The big bugs are nearly here. Sulfurs (both of the tiny pale yellow mayflies ephemerella invarias #16 and ephemerella dorotheas #18), yellow stoneflies #12-14, brown drakes #10, isonychia bicolor #10, and of course, the hexagenia limbata (hex #4-6). It doesn’t matter that you know the Latin names of the insects that will be hatching over the next several weeks, but it will certainly matter that you match the size, shape, and color of them with your flies to fool the feeding fish. Size does matter.

    Read more »
  4. The Silent Hatch

    This article appeared for the first time in Spring of 2003 as an article I wrote for Michigan Trout’s Shooting Lines. I suggested we reprint it in an effort to avoid a “silent hatch” this year on our favorite streams.

    The Silent Hatch

    By Dave Leonhard

    Many years ago, I wrote a fictitious article about two fly anglers fishing on a Michigan river during the brown drake hatch just as the hex were starting in late June.

    The story revolves around two anglers who set out for a weekend of fishing. The two fellas had set up camp at a nearby State campground one Friday night in mid-June and hurried off to the river to find clouds of brown drakes over the water. Filled with excitement they found fish feeding all over the river. With nearly a dozen large trout feeding in front of them they each caught and kept two browns over 16 inches which they

    Read more »

    Learn to fly fish for FREE at a Streamside Orvis FF101 class.


    Read more »

    The Lovells Township Historical Society Museum has a great series of podcasts featuring many interesting fly fishing and fly tying experts that share a great history of the sport in the Grayling area. This month's podcast features our own Dave Leonhard who shares nearly 60 years of fly fishing in the area. I think you'll enjoy the conversation around the ol' stove. JUST CLICK THE LINK BELOW:


    Read more »

    Early season trout fly fishing in Northern Michigan is typically centered on the Hendrickson (ephemerella subvaria #14) hatch. This three-tailed mayfly was given it's common name by Theodore Gordon who tied flies to imitate the hatch for Albert Everett Hendrickson. The Hendricksons are sometimes referred to as the “Gentleman’s” hatch because of its late morning emergences and late afternoon and early evening spinnerfalls. Theoretically, one could play cards all night, sleep in after a night of great intemperance, get to the stream in time to catch the emergence, return to lunch, a nap, and then catch the spinner fall in time to return for the cocktail hour. Now that’s a full day of hatch fishing. At least that's the story my late-rising, intemperant, ol' timers told me.Hendrickson nymph

    There are two important factors for good Hendrickson fishing. First, correct habitat is necessary for good numbers of Hendricksons who love faster moving water and gravel. So, don’t expect to find them where your favorite silt bed, Hex waters are located. Next, correct water temperature is crucial
    for the emergence to occur and temperate air temperatures are needed for the spinner fall.

    My mentors were careful not to go to the river during Hendrickson time without their thermometers. As the morning sun warmed the water, they carefully dangled their gauges in the water and checked regularly to see the temperature rise from the upper 40’s into the low 50’s. Most expected the hatch to commence at 53 degrees. The ol’ pros nymphed Hare’s Ear nymphs below Hendrickson emerger patterns as they waited patiently for the water to warm. Sure enough, as the temp reached 52 or 53 degrees, they popped. (Usually late morning or early afternoon.) The tiny dun-winged flies could be seen floating and leaving the water during a hatch that lasted about an hour and then sporadically throughout the afternoon.Hendrickson Dun

    Once leaving the water, the newly hatched insects would wing their way to a nearby tree or bush sporting freshly budded leaves. Over a period of two or three days, they would molt one last time and become sexually mature adults ready to mate. No longer a pinkish shade of gray and tan, they now are a rich brown color with clear wings instead of the cloudy gray. Warm late afternoon air temperatures and calm winds would entice the spinners to gather in the air over the stream. Clouds of the tiny bugs would gather as the late afternoon and early evening sun fell low in the sky. In the clouds of male adults, females would fly through, mate, and fall to the water to lay their eggs. Tiny yellow egg sacs would be visible to both angler and fish as the female spinners fell to the water, deposited their precious package, and then died. Males Hendricksons, Hendrickson spinnernow spent and weak, would also fall to the water and die. It wouldn’t take long for the eager trout to take advantage of this and start to feed on their remains.

    There would be one more important element to consider for good fishing though. In Early May, trout are just coming out of a Winter-long nap. For them to aggressively feed, their metabolism kick into gear. Trout need several days of upper 40’s and 50’s to get their motors going. Warm daytime temperatures are common to encourage emergences. However, so are cold 35 degree nights that will once again cool the water slowing the trout's appetite. Many an early season angler has been frustrated with clouds of Hendricksons without a feeder in sight. No worries, the fish will feed tomorrow.

    The tricky part of the Hendrickson hatch is that after a week of emergences, we will typically start to see tiny black caddis flies emerging all day long. Initially, trout will turn their noses up at the caddis, preferring to eat the Hendrickson. But, once the black caddis are around for a few days, the trout begin to eat them and look for them. In fact, trout will often avoid the Hendricksons choosing instead to look for telltale bright green egg sacs on the back of the egg-layin

    Read more »

    There are three important choices to consider when choosing the right leader for fly fishing. They are the length of the leader, and the size of the diameter of the butt section and diameter of the tippet (or level portion at the end of the leader).

    superstrong 2017

    Mirage leader 2017



    Three factors determine what length leader to use: the water condition, the type of fly line used, and the fish to be fished for. 

    Read more »

    Wading Basics


    One of the first purchases a fly angler makes is waders. Waders have come a long way from the heavy, rubberized canvas, lug-sole monsters that we wore in the 60’s and 70’s. Today, modern breathable membranes, lightweight fabrics, and interchangeable soles have made wading much more comfortable. In this article I would like to cover some of the basic choices one can make when purchasing waders, and then discuss some important wading issues that will help you wade more comfortably and safely.

    By far, the most popular waders sold today are called “stocking foot”. That refers to the wader having a neoprene, soft, bootless foot that must be worn with a wading shoe that is purchased separately. They are most popular for two reasons. First, they can be made in a wide variety of sizes and shapes for both men and women. From small/short to XXL/extra long, modern stocking foot waders are made in sizes that will fit nearly everyone. Waders that fit properly are more comfortable and will last longer. Also, the wading shoe can be purchased in the correct size. For example, if you wear an extra large short size wader but have a size 8 foot, you can be fit properly. Secondly, because wading shoes will often last much longer than the stocking foot wader, replacing them costs less. This makes stocking foot waders more economical in the long run.

    Several manufacturers still offer bootfoot waders, but because they offer only a few body sizes for each foot size they rarely fit as well as stocking foot waders. Consequently, some anglers are unable to find waders that fit properly and are thus less comfortable and get less wear out of them. Bootfoot waders are also much heavier and bulkier than stocking foot waders. That makes them less desirable for travel or long hikes to the river.

    Buying waders involves two important issues: budget and fit.  The cost of waders is directly related to the number of features that they boast. Waterproof pockets, padded knees, zip-fronts, drop-down systems, synthetic wool linings… the list goes on and on. However, let your budget determine the list of features you purchase. The most important budget feature that you should consider is the number of layers the wader has. This will directly affect the life of the wader. More expensive waders are usually four layer systems while the more economical stocking foot waders are generally three layers. Bear in mind that fit is a major factor in the durability and longevity of any wader. Waders that are too short in the rise will invariably leak in the crotch sooner rather than later. Also, since breathable stocking foot waders do not stretch, they should have at least a couple of extra inches in the inseam so that one can comfortably do a deep knee bend. This will ensure that one can get out of the stream by stepping up onto the bank. This is the most common cause of seam failure and the most common mistake anglers make when purchasing stocking foot waders. Having extra length in the seam from the crotch to the foot will ensure that the seam on the crotch will not be stretched too much and leak prematurely. Make sure that the waders are roomy enough to allow the breathable layers to breathe and circulate air. Since fit is such a crucial factor for waders to last, work well, and feel comfortable, take the time to try them on and walk in them before purchasing them.

    What’s the most common question customers ask regarding waders? “How long will they last?” I have to honestly answer, “If you never wear them, they’ll last forever. And if you wear them every day you’ll be lucky to get three seasons out of them.” Most anglers wear their waders ten or twelve times a year and should get many years out of them. Bear in mind that pinhole leaks are easily repaired in seconds with products like AquaSeal UV and permanent seam failures and leaks are rare unless they are worn over many years, are abused, or fit improperly.

    Next consider the soles of your waders. Today, invasive species such as zebra mussels, didymo, mud snails, and other highly damaging species are potentially carried from one watershed to another via wet felt soles, neoprene booties, laces, and other items. To avoid this, one should always fully dry items such as wading shoes, and waders before using them in a different river or lake. But if drying such items is not possible, throw them into a garbage bag and freeze them overnight. Freezing will kill the invasives.

    Now that you have your waders, get in and wade. So let’s talk about some basic guidelines that will make your wading safer and drier. First, do not wade in water unless you can swim. “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Make sure you have your polarized glasses to see how deep it is and if there is a rock waiting to trip you. Consider where you are getting in. Is there a silt bed where you are getting in? How deep is it? When you first get into the river, get organized and acclimated. By that I mean, “manhandle” the river a little. Don’t let the current push you around. Bend your knees and be athletic. You’ll soon feel stable if you resist the current with some effort. Then, as you move downstream or upstream, move your feet slowly by sliding them and “feeling” your way to the next step. Always set your foot solidly before moving the other.

    One misunderstandings about wading is that if you fall into a deep hole and your waders fill up, you’ll sink to the bottom like a stone. Actually, when the waders are full of water in a pool or in a deep hole, the pressure inside and outside equalizes and they weigh no more full of water than they do completely empty on dry land. We all think our waders will drag us down because when we get a couple of gallons of water in them (at 8 pounds a gallon) and try to get out onto the bank, they are heavy. To minimize taking on a lot of water if you fall, we recommend wearing a wading belt. Wading belts will prevent a simple fall from becoming a wet, cold, day on the river. (Tip: When you put your wading belt on, kneel down and clip it. This will force air out and make you less buoyant and give you a more solid connection with the river bottom.) Normally when one falls in and gets water in their waders, air is trapped inside and they become buoyant. If you’re in deep water and you’re waders become buoyant and you lose touch with the bottom, arch our back and do the breast stroke to the bank, get out, and feel embarrassed. If you should fall and go down into the water, try not to panic. (Oh yeah, right.) Let’s face it, without exception, we all panic when we go down. However, even in the worst river, it’s unlikely that you will go shooting downstream like Brad Pitt for a half a mile. Rather, you will likely travel downstream about twenty feet and tail out into quiet water where you can stand up and get out to dry things. But that is a generalization. I won’

    Read more »

    If you’ve set your sights on a new fly rod, or perhaps your first fly rod, dive in and take a few notes.  High tech materials, fast actions, slow actions, new actions, line weights, rod lengths, tapers, flex indexes, grips, ferrule designs, finishes,... it all can be overwhelming. Relax. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right fly-casting tool.













    Choose The Correct Line Weight

    Before you ever set out to the nearest fly shop, ask yourself a question, “What specie of fish do I want to fish for?”  Since fly fishing for different species of fish involves casting flies of various sizes and varying degrees of wind resistance, you should first decide how large (or wind resistant) the flies are that you will need to deliver to catch the fish you are after. That will enable you to determine what line weight would best deliver that type of fly.  The “line weight” is a standardized designation given to each fly line by the American Fly Tackle Manufacturer’s Association based on the weight of its front 30 feet. The weight is created by adding PVC coating to a multi-filament or mono-filament core line. The more PVC coating, the heavier the line weight.


    Large, heavy flies require more energy to carry them to the target, thus heavier line weights are required. Small, nearly weightless flies require far less energy to carry them through the air to the target, and so require less weight in the front 30 feet. For example, most trout fishing involves using fly sizes that roughly range in size from #20 to #6 (1/4 inch to 1 inch). (Yes, we do use larger and smaller flies from time to time, but the bulk of the hatches that we fish for trout and the corresponding flies really fall within that range.) The line weight that most comfortably delivers flies within that range is a five weight. While the larger end of the spectrum is more easily delivered with a six weight, and the smaller end more delicately with a four weight, a five weight covers the largest group of fly sizes best. This is how one must first begin. So, if you already have a five weight and want another trout rod to better match the fly sizes at either end of that spectrum, you may want to go to a line or two lighter or heavier. Or perhaps you want to do more bass and bluegill fishing. Your five weight will deliver many of the flies you will want to have in your box. But, the fly range for largemouth bass may range from #4 to #2/0. Surely an eight weight will deliver the largest most wind resistant flies more easily than your five weight or a new six weight.

    John Royal Oak with fly rod

    There is one obvious exception to this method of determining rod line weight. Large species of fish such as tarpon may take flies that might require only a five weight line to properly deliver them. However, a five weight rod will lack the backbone to fight an 80 or 100 pound fish. One must also consider how substantial the rod must be to fight the specie you are fishing for.


    Match The LIne Weight To The Rod — Then Cast The Rod

    Once you have determined the line weight that best suits your needs, you can set your task upon choosing the right rod that casts that line weight. To choose the right rod one must cast the rod. This is the single most important rule of selecting a rod. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of casting several rods of the same line weight to select the right one for you. The latest technology means nothing if you don’t feel comfortable casting the rod, can form good loops and deliver the line where you want it. Also, price is not a good indicator of the action that you will prefer. Just because a rod is expensive or inexpensive does not mean that it suits you. There are several good rod makers that have a wide variety of rods and rod actions in all price ranges. Good casters can cast a good loop on any rod. However, that does not mean that every action suits their casting preference. They will have a preference and so will you.


    Technology Matters

    Most high quality fly rods today are graphite in composition.  Yet, you can get lost in the volumes of test technology and jargon that manufacturers employ to market their products. Very simply, there are rods that have very fast actions (i.e. stiff) and very slow actions (i.e. flexible) and every degree of flexibility in between. Only you can determine which suits you best.  Somewhere out there, there is an action that you will find easier to form good loops. This is true for all levels of fly casters.  And, your preference for stiff of flexible rods will change over time as your casting style evolves over the years. Start with the choices in your selected line weight and price range and cast several. You will cast one better than the others. No question, high modulus graphite bonded to high modulus scrims using thermoplastic resins results in extremely light, durable rod blanks that can be designed at the highest levels of accuracy and power.

    Dave building rods at Orvis

    Choose The Right Length

    Rod lengths can vary greatly as well but there are only a few things to consider when determining length. Rod length is not based on one’s height or strength. Rod length determines how much line an angler is able to lift from the water and mend across the water. Although a nine-foot rod allows a five-foot angler to mend as much line as a six-foot angler with an eight-foot rod, rods between 8 and nine feet are well suited to most trout angling situations. So while length may seem like a crucial decision, any rod with the right line weight between eight and nine feet long which suits your casting preferences is probably the rod for you.


    Specialty Rods

    The one exception to rod length choice is when one chooses a rod for very specialized, small creeks (rivers that are no wider than a few feet and have heavy brush along their banks) where a rod longer than seven feet is cumbersome. Very specialized rods designed to load up with five to ten feet of fly line that are six to seven feet are considered “small creek” rods. However, they are not recommended for water other than the very smallest, overgrown creeks.


    Where Should You Start?

    What you need to do is visit your local fly shop and try several rods of the same line weight that have different actions. If the fly shop won’t let you cast the rods before buying one, find another fly shop. Giving them a “shake” at the rack is sometimes a place to begin, but it is never a true test of the action.  Some very fast three weights will feel very flexible compared to a slow action six weight.  To really tell, you must line it up and cast it. Cast short casts, long casts, shoot line, and aim at a variety of targets. The rest is easy. It will be obvious to you once you cast the rods that one action or another is easier to cast good loops with. One of the common mistakes that we all make is to buy a rod based on the recommendation of a friend who may have entirely different tastes in rod action. Try them yourself and you will be happier with your decision.


    Modern Multi-Piece Rods Are Convenient

    Two, four, five or even six pieces is another question to consider.  Today’s technology does enable manufacturers to create mult

    Read more »