Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan


If want to learn about small stream trout fishing you’ve come to the right place: get some free advice from some old grizzled looking guys that have spent a lot of time catching big fish. The posts may stray to other topics but we’ll try to stay focused.

— Luther

28 thoughts on “About

  1. Brett Sanders on said:

    Hi guys! My friend Matt and I ran into you guys at a gas station in Vanderbilt the Saturday before the closer (ender) 2012. You directed us to this site – great stuff. It sounds like we’re in a similar, yet small niche of fisherman who use spinners on small streams and end up with big fish. We’ve all got stories, pictures and places that we’ll never call by name. I have our experience of our first time out on the upper Sturgeon and it’s West Branch documented…needless to say, we’ll be going back. Great waters, scenery, habitat and incredibly healthy, powerful and aggressive browns. Shoot me an email and I’ll send pics and a rundown of our time on the Sturgeon (and some other 20″ers). Looks like we fish some common areas, so hopefully we’ll run into you guys again and can share a Labatt and some stories.

    – Brett

  2. Brett, good to hear from you. I have been too busy to do a post about our closer – but will be adding some nice pics of big browns soon – sounds like you guys did well too! I shoot you an email after I get a post up.

  3. devin g on said:

    hey guys. i have read almost every post. havent got to the the “trout gear” page yet though. i love haha.
    but i have question. what is a good all around rapala countdown, size color for our 10-18 in brown trout?

    how about our small brook trout?

    once again, love the site.

    Devin G.

  4. Devin – best bet is a floating minnow #7 in silver or gold, use gold if the stream is stained or muddy. Countdowns are OK too, but floaters will go over the logs and trash in the stream if you stop winding ( i.e. they float to the surface and over the logs). At 7 to 8 dollars each you don’t want to get hung up in a deep water. These lures are great for browns and brook trout – Feral took two ten inch brook trout on the Pigeon this fall with a #7 gold. Thanks for writing – good luck!
    – Luther

  5. Just came across the site today and wanted to say that I really enjoy it!! Great reading. It brings me out to the river even though I’m stuck on campus.
    Thanks for all the tips an stories!

  6. ken saukas on said:

    I’m so glad I found this site, one of the all time greats. Now that I live in SC most of the year, it’s even better. Love the post about the tent camper. Pure Michigan!

  7. Aaron Koch on said:

    Hello Luther,
    First off, thanks for writing such a great blog! I’m writing to see if you could lend me some advice for planning a trout fishing expedition. My wife and I are backpackers turned anglers and although we live in a trout free corner of SE Michigan, we’ve been spending most of our free weekends driving north to camp and pursue the fish. We’ve hit the Betsie, Manistee, Jordan, and Platte rivers so far with varying levels of success. I’ve read Bob Linsenman “trout streams of michigan” cover to cover but I’m starting to notice a large deviation between the descriptions I’ve read and the experiences I’ve had fishing, so either I’m a terrible angler or the information is a little outdated. Do you have any advice on river choice for our next adventure? Inspired by your blog we are considering a trip up to the Pigeon River State Forest Area to try our hands at the Sturgeon, Pigeon, and Black rivers. Has the Pigeon recovered from the spills and dam removal? We’ve also considered the Little Manistee and Baldwin. We’re relatively inexperienced and only wade, no boats, to cast hardwear and bait. I’d really appreciate any advice you can offer!

  8. Aaron, thanks for writing. The best trout fishing depends a lot on weather and time of year. Ideally, muddied or stained streams, fish while it is raining, wade upstream and place your cast close to the opposite bank and upstream, reel back quickly so the lure imparts action. Best fishing for biggest fish is end of season when hungry browns move upstream to feed and spawn. Both the Sturgeon and Pigeon get runs of huge browns so timing it toward the end of Sept makes sense. If the weather gets cold so much the better. If you do get up there – make sure you are prepared for ticks, they seem to be moving south in number. Read up on best tick protection. As far as lures, with stained or muddy water, don’t be afraid to throw number 11 or 13 three-hook rapalas up there, gold or silver. Large two hook rapalas very good good also. And flashy spinners – see my post on the Mepps black fury – caught my biggest brown on the Sturgeon on one. If the streams are low and clear – try small spinners, you may not get lunkers but you could get some keepers for a good dinner. Good luck.

  9. Luther,
    I am a HS English teacher and coach whose great loves are great literature, high school football, and small stream trout fishing. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the time you have spent passing on your knowledge and humor in writing about fishing here. I appreciate the difficulty of both the art of trout fishing and writing, so this blog for me is like finding a feeder stream full of 20″ browns in my backyard.
    Of course, your writing is full of authentic experience on the stream and that is probably why I appreciate it so much…it is honest. I found your writing last week by accident while trying to research a new stream I was going to be near in Central Michigan. Once I started reading here I couldn’t stop and I learned so much in one week I can’t thank you enough. As a teacher, nothing is more rewarding for me than empowering a student to read or write in a way that allows them to find the great joy in those endeavors that I have been so fortunate to enjoy. Your site has done that for me and my passion for trout fishing. I live in that area of Southwest MI that is better known for bass and catfish than it is for trout, but I have always appreciated the challenge of finding the few streams that actually hold a few trout and then trying to coax them out from their hiding spots occasionally. This summer I spent many days on one stream that I know holds some fish, but only had one 12″ brown to show for it. I think if I had known then what I have learned in the last week from you that probably would have been different.
    Based on what I learned here, the last few days I made a “custom” short rod by cutting down the butt of a old 7′ baitcast rod that I got from a moving neighbors trash and then connecting the top of a Shakespeare Lightening rod that was laying around from one of my kids old busted spin cast outfits. Although I have almost the same Ultra Light rig from Dick’s that I see in a few of the pictures, I found that it was just a bit too soft for tossing bigger lures and having enough punch to set the hook. However, I learned that because I missed a few really nice browns this past weekend on that stream I was on for the first time–any one of which would have been the biggest I had ever caught had I actually landed them. So, I read some more–and more carefully reread some sections–and came up with the rod idea and paired it with a closed face Shakespeare mini-light with snap cast.
    I also took inspiration from Ferral’s story of the Big Trout and sanded down several old minnow baits that have sat in my dad’s old tackle box with rusty trebles and faded paint. A few different coats of paint, some nail polish stippling, and new trebles and I couldn’t wait to get back on the water. About ten minutes from my house is a little stream that holds some browns and even an occasionally Steely (I have heard–never actually seen one). It is a Type 2 stream so it affords me a close place to go drop a line and enjoy fishing any time of the year. Though, truth be told, in a dozen or so trips in the last year I have only enjoyed the “catching” part once, and that was the first time I took my son and he caught his first ever trout on our second hole of the day. It was a special moment as I am sure you understand, and like most trout catching experiences it seemed it was just meant to be. That said, I haven’t caught a fish there since and that was over a year ago now. The locals who have fished it refer to it–not lovingly–as “chub creek” or “the creek of a thousand casts” because it seems like that is the requisite ratio of casts to trout. But, home water is home water, and even though the weather has been blue skies and the stream was low and clear (which I now understand isn’t to my favor), I couldn’t wait any longer to get out on the stream with my new knowledge and gear! So I begged off the last hour of the daylight from my wife and ran over there tonight.
    On the third hole, I picked up a beautiful fat 11″ brown–no trophy, I know, but aren’t they all amazing? Then, just two casts later I got a dark yellow and bronze 8″ and I felt like I had just found my El Dorado. Finally, on my last hole of the night, and as the light had faded so much that the moon was the only thing left casting silver shimmers on the stream, I hooked into one of those fish you and Feral made catching seem so attainable. This time, my rod did the work and after a one handed dance around a log to get the on the upstream side, and several tense runs as the not stellar drag did just enough to keep the 4 lb test from snapping, I landed the biggest brown I’ve ever caught in a stream. It was a beautiful 18″ female. In one hour, I had caught more trout on that stream than I had in the last year combined! But beyond that, it felt more magical because I realized that I would never have been able to experience that feeling if it weren’t for Grandpa Jack passing his knowledge on to you, and then you passing it along to me and thousands of other complete strangers, many of whom you will never know you have made better for your efforts. So this is just to say thanks; thanks for sharing your love with others and helping us enjoy the thing we love a little more fully. Tonight on the stream is one I will never forget.


    Caleb Brown

  10. Caleb, I appreciate your kind words and personal story! I don’t receive a lot of feedback so it was very encouraging to hear from you. Thanks!
    – Luther

  11. Caleb Brown on said:

    Hey Luther,

    Caleb again. Found a couple older model Zebco under spins (Zebco 44 Classic and Zebco Omega 154) and wanted to know if you have any sense whether they are worth $20 for the pair plus about $15 in shipping. I tried a few cheap combo ones by Shakespeare and they just broke very quickly. I have fished right through the winter and I’ve been using a Shimano Spirex 1000 with the quickcast feature so it’s the open face with the one hand cast. However, the under spins still intrigue me–I just need something I am not constantly breaking. Here is an image from Craigslist post if it works for you.

    • Hi Caleb, my experience with zebco underspins goes way back. I had pretty good luck with them though one problem was the nut that holds the handle on comes loose and the if that happens the handle can fall off, or the nut, or both which ruined one trip for me. So you really need to wrench the nut on. Another drawback – the size of the pin that captures the line – it is so small you get a kink in the line after you set a hook on a fish. These are not reels that last more than a season and retail I think I paid about 25 dollars new. A reel I really liked, no longer available, is the abu garcia underspin, a bit pricier, but much better construction. Mine wore out after 3 years. Now I am using a pflueger Trion underspin, the 2 ball bearing model, 75yds / 10 lb test. I think I paid around thirty and this you might find locally if you google it. It seems to be holding up well. I would probably steer you to trying one of these rather than the older zebcos.

  12. roaringforklocal on said:

    I love this blog Luther. Best name for a site ever. Keep it up!

  13. Brian Chartrand on said:

    learned to flyfish on the AuSable, moving the adventure north this year to your part of the world. love your blog, hope to meet you guys

  14. Hey guys!,

    I love this website! I’m literally on here checking for trout tips every week. I fish the same waters you do but I do not seem to have the success you guys do lol. My ex’s family had a cottage on the Sturgeon River, (on Rainbow Ln) that started my obsession with trout fishing. I’ve always used Panther Martin gold and black spinners with some luck. Do you guys primarily use Rapala’s when fishing the Sturgeon and Pigeon?

    Thank you!!

  15. Hi Troy, Rapalas are good all around lures but we often throw spinners too. Feral likes Panther Martins, I have some flashy Mepps I use sometimes. Natch throws some odd ball bass lures which I have had some luck with also… big “O” type lures. We tend to wing it based on how high and muddy the streams are. If low and clear.. spinners, if deep and muddy giant flashy spinners or Rapalas. Good Luck!

  16. Hey Guys I really enjoy this type of content and I am also into trout fishing. I am originally from the grand Rapids area but just bought a house up near Baldwin. I was wondering if you guys could tell me some good spots to access fishing on the little south branch Pere Marquette River I live very close to that river. Also do you Have any information on the big South Branch Pere Marquette river, I was wondering if this river holds any trout. Thanks for any info you guys can provide and keep up the great work work.

    • Hi Chris, for the Little South you might try downstream from where it crosses Foreman Road. There are some two tracks that wind along the north side of the river. I have no ideas for the Big South branch but can tell you I have a photo of my grandfather with 27 inch hook jawed brown he caught somewhere on that river. I wish I knew where…

  17. Aaron on said:

    Thanks so much for keeping this blog. It has become a favorite of mine.

  18. Aaron on said:

    Luther, when there is a big rain how long do you wait to hit the smaller streams? Or do you prefer to be on the water while it is coming down?

    Thank you very much for keeping this excellent site.

    • Aaron, If I could time it so it starts to rain the minute I set foot into a stream that would be perfect. Timing is not critical though.. any time during a rain the trout are more aggressive. Fishing can be great in the middle of the afternoon. If you wait to long, where the river is over the banks and muddy, that presents a new set of problems. So it’s best to get to a stream as soon as possible. On the other hand.. some days it’s just plain nice to be on a stream enjoying the surroundings.

      • Aaron on said:

        Thanks for responding. I am pretty sure that we live in the same neck of the woods. A lot of the feeders are still low and clear. Perhaps the big rain today will liven things up.

        This blog is a treasure. Thanks

  19. Brandon VanDyke on said:

    Wondering if I could get some insight on a certain creek in northern Kent county. I would really appreciate it. Do you have an email or phone number I could reach you at?
    Hope you are doing well!

    • Hi Brandon. I don’t give my phone number online but can tell you that there are feeder creeks to the Rouge river, on state land, with nice brown trout. Check some maps but one idea is Duke creek north of 17 mile. Good Luck!

      • Brandon VanDyke on said:

        Duke was the creek I’m talking about. I’ve fished it a few times over the past few years, have caught two small trout but heard rumors of large ones. Just wondering what sections of the creek you would reccomend. I’ve tried over by 17 and 18 mile and recently at Duke Creek campground, although it didn’t seem like as good of water as lower downstream. Are there any other public access spots that you know of, or any areas I should definitely try fishing more?

      • It sounds like you have scouted that stream better than I have. My best advice is hit the lower section on a rainy day. Seems like it comes alive with rain. I have caught fish up to twenty inches there, but mostly in the fall when big browns run up there to spawn. Good luck!

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