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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Grand River Fishing Report

Grand River Update:

Here’s the latest from the frontlines as of November 11, 2019 for steelhead on the Grand River and the 2019 / 2020 ice fishing season. The Grand River is slowly becoming fishable again after the heavy rains form a couple of weeks ago. Right now, the Grand us running at 8,620 cfs., down from a high of 16,000 a week ago. Clarity is improving and the water temp is in the upper 30’s to low 40’s.

Even though the Grand was “blow out” we continued to run guide trips on other river systems and continued to find find steelhead. With the early winter and the cold temps we’ve been finding steelhead in their normal winter spots. Try fishing the slower dark water. When you find seams, fish both the inside and outside for the best results.

For us, beads continue to produce and we’ve picked up a few on the swing as well. If you’re going to use beads, try using non-straight colors such as MottledBeads and Blooddot Eggs. Most of the steelhead have come on 8 mm with some browns taking 10 mm. Try everything from chartreuse as the top bead to Glow Roe, Mango Egg, Peachy King Roe or Oregon Cheese on the dropper bead. If a pair isn’t working, remember to mix the combinations up.

On the spin gear we’re using 12 lbs. mono mainline to either 10 lbs. leader or 8 lbs leader with a Raven 8 gram or 11 gram bobber and #6 hooks with the 8 mm beads and #4 hooks with the 10mm beads.

Ice Fishing:

Right now the winter forecast is calling for a cold and snowy winter for Michigan. Ideal for ice fishing. As a reminder and as safe ice dictates, we offer guided ice trips. We provide all the ice gear, heated shanties, electronics and tips ups you’ll need for a successful day on the hardwater. If you book a full day, we even cook you a hot lunch in the shanty.

Just because it’s cold out, doesn’t mean you need to stop fishing. Ice fishing can be a ton of fun with your family and / or your friends. Whether it’s on a river or on the hardwater book your trip with us an get in on all the angling action that Michigan and Grand Rapids have to offer.

Captain Tom Werkman