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Fly Fishing The Grand River

When fly fishing the Grand River it’s important to know that it’s classified as a big river system. It’s Michigan’s largest river and it’s the second largest drainage system, next to the Saginaw Valley.  In this system when it rains, even a little, it pours.  The conditions on the Grand can go from being gin clear to chocolate milk.  It can provide the angler with a mix of emotions.  From challenge and frustration to elation and reward, with the opportunity for a fish of a lifetime.  

This blog will be about fly fishing for smallmouth bass and the gear we use, at Werkman Outfitters, on the Grand.  This is our program and works for us on this system.   

Fly Rod

Depending on where you’re fly fishing on the Grand, you’ll want a rod that can cover the changing water environments, such as slack water, riffles or the faster current.

For us, we like to use the 9 ft, 8 wt. Recon by Orvis. It’s made in the United States, it’s incredibly light, with fast action and launches line well when you need a little extra distance. It gives you the backbone necessary to fight a larger smallmouth as it digs in the faster current or pulling that smallmouth out of log-jams.  It also allows you to sling larger bugs.  

Fly Line

For us, fly line is broken down into both floating and sink tip.  We like the Scientific Anglers Bass Bug and the Sonar Titan I 2/3 for fly fishing.

What we like about the Bass Bug line is it’s coated to withstand the hot summer river temperatures. It loads quickly, which means less casting and more fishing.  Not only does it load quickly but it lets you build distance quickly.  It almost feels like you’re casting 2 line sizes higher.

For the I 2/3 we like that it loads quickly and has excellent casting ability for that little extra punch when you need it.  In addition, the triple density has a more true straight-line to fly connection.  In our opinion, this allows you a more “true” pause or “hang-time” in-between strips sets.  A lot of times, bass like that “natural” baitfish pause before they take the fly.  

Leader & Tippet

For leader we start at 20 lbs using Scientific Anglers Absolute Leader. From there, we build down to 0x and further down to 1x.  Depending on water conditions and clarity, we add down to 2x and further down to 3x. 

The Grand River is a fantastic smallmouth fishery.  They are healthy with mutiple class years. There is has a ton of biomass, multi-year classes of baitfish and plenty of habitat for these gamefish to thrive in an urban and sub-urban environment.  

If you have any questions about fly fishing the Grand River, please leave your questions in the comment section of this blog post and we’ll get back to you.  

Capt. Tom Werkman
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