DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Baldwin River in Michigan

Michigan is well-known for having more than 12,000 inland lakes and so many rivers that counting them all could be impossible. However, the Baldwin River is a stream that many anglers frequent, perhaps partially due to its location near the Pere Marquette River. It’s a beautiful place for all sorts of outdoor activities, including excellent fly fishing for brook trout, brown trout and spring steelhead.

With so much great fishing water, attractive natural features, and plenty of parks, it’s no surprise that anglers come in droves to visit the state. Maybe the Baldwin River isn’t as popular as some of the larger streams, but it still has plenty to offer.

Baldwin, Michigan is best known as a destination for fly fishing the nearby Pere Marquette River. Don't, however, overlook the great fishing opportunities in the Baldwin River itself.

As might be expected, the Baldwin River winds its way through the town of Baldwin. This river runs over 25 miles out of the Baldwin-Luther Swamp eventually discharging to the Pere Marquette River.   Tributaries to the Baldwin include Cole and Sanborn Creeks that are both excellent trout fisheries as well.

Birthplace of Brown Trout in US

Baldwin flows in a southern direction until hitting Cherry Valley Township. It then moves southwest to reach Baldwin, which is where it joins Sanborn Creek. One of the most notable things about the Baldwin River is that it was the first place where brown trout were introduced into United States waters back in 1884.

Brook Trout and Lunker Brown Trout

The upper reaches of the Baldwin are best for brook trout.  Heading downstream to the confluence with Cole Creek the river slows and gets deeper.  Here brown trout are predominant and grow to impressive size.

Spring Steelhead

Trout are the most common fish to catch in these waters, but the Baldwin also sees an excellent run of spring steelhead that runs up from the PM.

Pristine Waters

The waters are clear and pristine, while the surrounding area lets you really enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan. While fly fishing on this river might take a little work, it’s somewhere you will want to visit at some point.

Baldwin River Map and Fishing Access Sites

Map of the best places to fish on the Baldwin River in Michigan.

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Baldwin River

Several roadside pull-offs provide relatively easy access to the Baldwin River.  Following the river from the north to the south the river is accessible at:

  • 24th Street
  • Kinney Drive
  • Forman Road
  • 40th Street
  • North Street
  • U.S. 10
  • 8th Street
  • M-37

The upper reaches above 24th street are best for brook trout.  The River gets  wider and deeper below the confluence with Cole Creek where you will find more brown trout.

Best Time to Fish the Baldwin River

Trout Season

Spring and summer tend to be the best time to fish for trout in the Baldwin River. Throughout these two first two seasons of the year, the temperatures are ideal for fly fishing. You’ll also find various hatches through the year, with stoneflies in all seasons, caddis and mayflies starting in April, and terrestrials in June and beyond.

In most cases, fly fishing is best in the later morning hours through early afternoon. However, plenty of people also head out around 4 p.m. to catch fish after work. As a result, the stream is the less fished in the later evening and all the way through until morning.

Steelhead Season

Steelhead start running up the Baldwin in April and are available well into May.

Michigan can get quite cold in the winter months. If you are going to be fishing in late fall or the winter, make sure you dress in warm clothing.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Baldwin River. The USGS stream gauge on the Pere Marquette at Scottville, MI provide a good indication of current conditions in the area.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.

PERE MARQUETTE RIVER AT SCOTTVILLE, MI

  • Streamflow: 555 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 1.34 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph
USGS

Best Flies for Baldwin River

Standard attractor dry flies work well on the Baldwin River, such as Adams, Royal Wulff, Chernobyl Ant, and the Orange Stimulator. Anglers can also do well with basic nymphs like the Zebra Midge and the BH Prince Nymph. As far as streamers go, many fly fishers swear by Wooly Buggers in olive or black.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Baldwin River:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 - 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 - 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 - 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 - 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 - 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 - 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 - 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 - 12)
  • Griffith's Gnat (#16 - 24)

Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail (#12 - 20)
  • BH Hare's Ear (#12 - 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 - 22)
  • Pat's Rubber Legs (#4 - 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 - 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 - 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 - 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 - 16)

Streamers

  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 - 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

Streamers
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with floating line is perfect for fishing for trout on the Baldwin River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

You'll want to step up to a six- or seven-wt fly rod when fishing for larger brown trout during the Hex hatch, and when targeting spring steelhead.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Baldwin River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Baldwin River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The Baldwin River is managed as a traditional Michigan trout stream.  The trout season starts in late-April and runs till the last Saturday in September.

The state of Michigan requires that all people who are 17 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a Michigan state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Trip Planning Tips

Traveling to Baldwin to hit up the river will usually require a flight into Gerald R. Ford International Airport or Cherry Capital Airport. Both of these destinations are several miles from the river, so having a rental car or truck is also a good idea. This also gives you easier access to the areas of the river with the most fish.

There’s one fly shop right near the river, but several of the towns in the area have additional necessities. In addition, Baldwin offers a selection of restaurants, a few hotels, and other shopping destinations where anglers can sleep, eat, and otherwise experience the best of small-town Michigan.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Michigan

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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