Fly Fishing Central Michigan; Lake Wakeley, the Au Sable and Muskegon Rivers

If your water situation is like ours here in southern Indiana then you, like us…have to go looking for a place to fish; such was the case as my friend Frank and I set our compass north and made our way to do some fly fishing in central Michigan. We dead-headed for Grayling where we started our adventure by fishing Wakeley Lake which is a lake governed by the Michigan DNR and open from June 15th to August 31st. I would also add that Wakeley is a catch and release lake with artificial lures or flies the only thing allowed.

After a half mile walk with our float tubes on our backs…Frank and I arrived at Wakeley and within minutes were off in different directions looking for bass and pike. Immediately I could see that the lake weeds and lily pads hadn’t yet completely climbed to the surface of the lake which made for a tough casting situation…not knowing where the weeds were lurking just below the surface!

We spent about 2-3 hours on the lake and I landed several pike and one nice bass before exiting the lake, throwing our tubes on our backs and walking back to the parking area. We quickly decided to head just down the road to the Au Sable River, the south branch…and give this famed river a go. I dropped Frank off for a 3 mile section and then went farther down river where I would do a 6-7 mile run.

I sort of had my doubts going in but within five minutes I had landed a couple of small, but gorgeous, brook trout and thought that maybe it might be a good day. It wasn’t the case as I fished this awesome river for another 4 hours or so and didn’t land another fish. This didn’t detract from the experience, being on top of a river so beautiful is next to impossible not to enjoy.

After a review of river levels on The Muskegon River we decided that while running faster than normal we could indeed fish the river safely. A two hour drive south found us in Newaygo, Michigan which is about a half hour upstream from the city of Muskegon…where the river meets Lake Michigan. I had fished these sections of the river a few times and after a stop at the Muskegon Fly Shop just a few feet south of the junction of M82 and M37 (stop by the shop as they have a large fly selection and can give you some sound advice on fishing the river) we made our way upstream to Pine Street where I dropped Frank off as he would do a five mile section. I made my way back across the river and back eastward to Thornapple Drive where I would access the river and make my way 7 miles downstream towards Newaygo.

I quickly learned that by pulling over near the edge of the river I could get out of the increased flow allowing me to stand and cast for smallies. Within a few minutes I had landed my first smallmouth and figured out a pattern that found me casting just downstream and stripping my white baitfish pattern down and across the river. From experience I knew that these smallies were different from those I had just caught in Wisconsin…as they will and often can be found almost anywhere within the river; anywhere there is holding cover.

All in all I had an awesome day and landed 25-30 smallmouth the largest was a nice, chunky 16 inch fish. I did spot two fish that had to be pushing 5 plus pounds and both appeared to be spawning in shallow, weedy areas. If in the Newaygo area be sure to plan a trip to fish The Muskegon; there are various runs of salmon and steelhead to go along with a ton of trout to be caught.

Remember, if you have any questions you can contact me via flyfishingwithjeff@gmail.com. I think you will find central Michigan to be destination for any fly-guy and the beauty of the area is simple…there is so many different lakes and rivers to fish, if one spot is slow it is easy to pack up and try another!

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