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

Optimal Conditions

The last few weeks we have had pretty optimal fishing conditions. Good amounts of fresh chrome steelhead are in the system from rain we had a few weeks prior.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines.

Continue reading

Steelhead Fishing Is Improving!

Fishing has slowly been improving since the beginning of November. Rain has worked its way up and down West Michigan and this is what is bringing fresh groups of steelhead into our river systems.

Continue reading

Tough Conditions Right Now

Right now, on the rivers we fish, they are either too high and dirty or too low and clear.  All of this makes steelhead fishing challenging.  With that said, here’s the latest from the frontlines.

Continue reading

Season Changes

Welcome to September and the beginning of the Fall. The Grand River and its tributaries are in great shape and morning water temps have dropped to the upper 60’s with day time temps in the low 70’s. Here’s the latest from the frontlines

Continue reading

Grand River Fishing Report

The Grand River is in fantastic condition, low and clear to slight stain with temps in the mid to upper 70’s.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines and all things Werkman Outfitters.

Continue reading

And The Beat Goes On….

After a deluge of rain a couple of weeks ago, the Grand River has come down nicely with almost perfect stain. As long as we don’t get any major rain events, things are setting up nicely for a banner next two to three weeks.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines of the Grand and its tributaries.

A few weeks ago the Grand River hit flood stage as a result of the watershed getting 6+ inches of rain over two days.  Just because the Grand was blown out, didn’t mean we stopped fishing. Once the rains subsided, we rerouted to the southern tributaries to chase smallmouth.  As the rivers have continued to drop, the fish have continued to come to the dinner table.

With the high water we’ve been using streamers and spinners to cover water.  Those clients that cast right too and almost on the structure have been rewarded with solid fish….but that’s the key, you need to get right up tight to the structure.  If not, you’ll miss the opportunity.  If you’re new to fishing, just listen to the guide and don’t be afraid the get hung up.  If you do, we’ll get you unhooked.  Eventually, you’ll make the cast that hits the zone and you will be on one.  

As we’ve always said, you don’t need to travel hours north to have have a fantastic fishing experience.   With that said, we spent some time with Rachael Ruiz from Eight West showcasing the Grand River.  Take a look.

I cannot say it enough, the next two to three weeks are shaping up nicely for some really good fishing.  If you’ve been putting off giving us a call, now’s the time.  

Capt. Tom Werkman aka "The Old Man"

Summer Patterns

Man holding a walleye caught on the Grand River

After an unusual start to the spring, as a result of wild temperature swings and little in precipitation, the smallmouth are becoming more predicable and we are finding them in their usual summer places.  Here’s the latest from the frontlines on the Grand River and its tributaries.

Continue reading

Pike Fishing The Grand River

Grand River Northern Pike

Of all the fish I like to fish for, my favorite is the northern pike on the Grand River.  Pike are known by many names such as “The Wolf Of The Water”, “Hammer Handles”, “Snot Rockets”, “The Tax Man” and the list goes on. 

I understand that for some anglers, they despise having one hit their lure and for good reason. If they don’t destroy your lures, they will sure mess it up, probably to the point where you can’t use it again. Plus, they can be a bloody mess. With that said, when I run guide trips, of all the warm water species we fish for, the one clients want to catch most, is the northern pike.

Identification:

Northern pike have a single dorsal fin with light colored spots on a darker body.  The upper half of the gill cover and entire cheek have scales, and five to six submandibular pores (underside of lower jaw). The northern pike is a member of the Pike family (Esocidae), with its cousins the muskellunge and grass pickerel. 

Northern Pike Habitat

Northern Pike are commonly associated and prefer the weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. In rivers, they are often found around log jams, fallen timber, slackwater and weed lines next to drop-offs. 

Depending on the time year they are be found in the deeper slack sections of the river or the shallows. Two of the largest pike, that clients have landed on the Grand, where in less than 3 feet of water, with one of those pike exploding out of the river like a tarpon. 

They prefer water temps from 40 degrees up to 72 degrees. Anything above 72 degrees, the fish start to get stressed and we tend to avoid specifically targeting them. 

The ideal temp for big northern pike is when the water temp is under 65 degrees. This typically coincides with the spring and fall months on the Grand and its tributaries.

Life Cycle of the Northern Pike:

Pike in the Great Lakes region spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four with males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Northern pike have an average life span of six to eight years, with some living as long as 15 years of age.

In order to protect Northern Pike, while they are their most vulnerable, the Michigan DNR does not allowed them to be taken from March 15 – the last Saturday in April in Michigan’s lower peninsula’s inland rivers and waters. There is an exaction to that rule and that is the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River and Detroit River.

Diet of the Northern Pike:

About 90 percent of the pike diet is small fish.  However, they are more than willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround.  Those include, frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents and other small mammals. Their preferred forage fish are yellow perch, sunfishes, minnows and suckers.

Fishing for Northern Pike:

Pike can be taken on live bait (primarily large minnows) and all manner of artificial lures.  They can be caught either by trolling or casting.  Large diving or topwater plugs, spoons, spinner baits, flies and the red and white Dardevle all produce. 

Some of our favorites are the lures we make, Mepps #5, double willow bladed spinner baits in white, X-Raps and large flies in baitfish patterns and colors.

Pike are not leader shy and because of their sharp teeth, therefore, we recommend the use of wire leaders or 40 lbs mono or greater leaders. 

If you handle a pike remember that they have teeth in their gill plates and they can easily leave a mark on you.

Northern pike can be some of the most exciting fish to catch. While the fight is not like that of a steelhead or a salmon, they provide a lot of excitement. The boat can go from silence to violence in a nanosecond. So if you want to get on “the wolf of the water”, then give us call to book your tip.

Capt. Tom Werkman

aka The Old Man