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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Putting On The Pounds….

The Grand River continues to be in fantastic shape for this time of year. Many of its sections are low and gin clear. The gage in Ada has been hovering at 7 feet and the water temps are in the mid to uppers 50’s. As the temps have dropped, so have our tactics as the fish are adding the pounds this time of year.

This time of year the smallmouth are transitioning from their summer water are on the move to their winter water. Along the way, they’re searching for the baitfish to gain weight. You’ll need to cover a lot of water to find them and once you do, you’ll usually find others. When you do, switch to jigs and tubes.

If you’re going to fly fish, use floating line as the river is really shallow and the fish are on the flats looking for bait. We’ve been finding success on articulated flies in natural colors and white. Again, fish the shallow flats, cover a lot of water and don’t over look bucket water, colored bottom and structure.

The pike bite continues to be strong strong on both conventional tackle and flies. As the water temps have dropped, their attitude has become even more nasty and it can go from silence to violence in a nano-second. Expect the unexpected. You can use the same search baits with the pike as you do the smallmouth. In my opinion, if you know how to fly fish, do that as I feel you get a better reaction strike from the pike with a streamer.

Some steelhead are starting to show up in the lower sections of the Grand but it is still early. We need more rain to get the stain and flow rates up to get these fish into the river from the big lake.

We still have some dates open for the end of October and the first part of November for steelhead, pike and smallmouth bass. Give us a shout and enjoy a great day of fishing on the Grand in all the color of fall.