Early May – Early July
Fisheries biologists believe that were Croton Dam, the first dam upstream from Lake Michigan, to have a cold water draw from its reservoir, Muskegon River trout fly fishing would be national, if not world class in quality. As it stands as a so-called warm water draw impoundment, the Muskegon offers very good classic fly fishing for trout, enabled in part by the relatively recent development of drawing cold water from the bottom of the Croton impoundment and releasing it into the river. Hatches of caddis can be heavy with trout responding well to dry, nymph, and pupa patterns. May flies – most notably blue wing olives, sulphers, brown and gray drakes, caddis, and Isonychia – occur up and down the river. May fly emergences are increasing in numbers, duration, and variety as the ecology of the river continues to evolve. The result is reliable, good to excellent, dry fly fishing.
Moreover, the river is loaded with steelhead and Chinook salmon fry and smolts, as well as crayfish, making the Muskegon a premier streamer river for larger trout. Sculpin, bunny strip, and zonker streamer patterns “match the hatch” of the smolts, and crayfish patterns are reliable and effective. The result: large brown and rainbow trout taken on sinktip lines – trout that sometimes put our clients well into their fly line backing. In short, stripping streamers on the Muskegon River is a blast. The clear water allows one to see the takes and follows of the trout, only adding to the excitement of the day.
Nymphing, each year, yields large trout and larger numbers of trout when other methods aren’t producing. Clients are sometimes amazed that large trout respond so effectively during the day to small nymphs. Key is knowledge of Muskegon River hatches, knowledge your Muskegon River guide seeks to know each day he is on the water.
A unique resident trout fly fishery also occurs on the Muskegon River when we fish the so-called “sucker hatch.” Using four weight rods with floating lines and strike indicators rigged with #16-20 egg patterns, we sight fish some special trout. Large browns and rainbows shoulder up behind the spawning suckers to snap up their eggs and our clients’ flies. These fish may run to over 20″ so care is required to bring them to hand. Once landed, these fish make memories sure to be long remembered and valued.
When the Muskegon River warms in mid-July, we begin targeting the Muskegon River “run” of smallmouth bass – an often overlooked and underutilized fly fishing experience of high quality. Whether taken on poppers or streamers, the smallies fight hard and run up to four pounds. They are an excellent entry point, too, for new fly fishers-comfortable fishing conditions, eager fish, and clear water where the strikes and follows can often be seen. In short, a wonderful experience all round.