Michigan Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Black River in Michigan

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

November 26, 2021

Black River in Cheboygan County, Michigan

With a mainstream that flows for about 73 miles, Black River is one of Michigan’s renowned fisheries for brook trout.

Although there are a few rivers in Michigan that are managed fisheries, Black River is slightly different in that it’s exclusively managed for brook trout.

This is a quaint river in north Michigan’s lower peninsula that offers enormous potential for landing large brook trout. Anglers who are willing to tangle with tag alders on the river have been known to catch 15″ brookies on the regular.

If you are in the mood for huge brook trout, then maybe it’s time to head and do some fly fishing on the Black River in Michigan.

Overview of the Black River in Michigan

Fly fishing the Black River for brook trout in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan

When trout season is underway, you can expect to see places like the Au Sable River and Manistee River packed with anglers. This continues through the season, with people fly fishing only a rod’s length away from each other. These locations are great for those who want to socialize, but you could be missing out if you don’t visit the Black River.

This stream may not be as popular, but it packs in trout and is the perfect place for a new fly fishing adventure.While brook trout are the main attraction in these waters, anglers are also likely to pull up a few brown trout during a day of fishing. As a result, the river is packed with fish, including both stocked and wild brook and brown trout for the taking.

Black River is a type 2 trout stream that is perfect for wading. It also offers a wide-open tree canopy that appeals to anyone who appreciates fly fishing. The river here is deep and slow with a narrow channel. It provides a bottom made mainly of silt and sand with little hard substrate.

The environment creates the perfect home for big older trout rather than smaller, younger fish. So every year, a few angles come out of the river with some of the largest brook trout in the watershed by taking advantage of Black River.

Keep in mind that the fish here can be fickle. Sometimes, they will be ready and raring to go, and on other days, you might never see a fish below the water. The water is a swamp corridor location with lowland tag alders that line the river to create the illusion of a tunnel.

For fly fishers, you can expect a challenge when you take on the Black River. The brook trout grow up fast and large due to the slow water and quality diet capable of quickly packing on the pounds but they can be wary!

Black River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of the best fishing spots on the Black River in Michigan

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Black River

Like most rivers in Michigan, the Black River has a host of access points that work well for both waders and people who want to use their canoes or kayaks when fishing. Here are some of the better known and easy access points you can use to get into the Black River in Michigan:

  • Black River Road Bridge: To get to this point, you would need to head west on Onaway from either the M-68 or M-33, then head south for about 1.2 miles on S. Black River Road.
  • Crockett Rapids Bridge: This is one of the most popular access points with local anglers. One of the main reasons for that is because it has an aesthetic reach, and the water here is easy to wade and is favorable to most kinds of tackles.
  • Milligan Bridge: The waters around this bridge are best for those who want to float on the river while fishing. You are most likely to catch large trout here even though they aren’t abundant in this particular section of the river because of warmer waters just down the stream.

When fly fishing the Black River, you can access all Michigan and Black River fishing trails via the DIY Fly Fishing App.

Best Time to Fish the Black River

As is the case with most fisheries, when you go determines the level of success you will have fly fishing. Here are some tips on the best times to fish in the Black River in Michigan.

  • Spring: You will enjoy some of the best fishing on Black River in the spring. This is mostly because the river is much warmer, especially in the months of July and August. You can catch large trout in and around the Black River Road Bridge.
  • Summer: Summer and spring make for the best trout fishing time for an angler on the Black River. The fact that the water is warm on most of the river increases your chances of landing large fish. The only issue with summer fishing is that the river’s waters also tend to be a bit clearer which means landing the fish can be a bit tricky. 
  • Fall: The Black River can be bountiful in the fall, but this depends on when you go and the prevailing temperatures. It’s best to visit when the weather is a little warmer than when it gets a bit more frigid.
  • Winter: As is the case in most fisheries, winter isn’t exactly the best of months to fish, but this entirely depends on the temperature. During these months, the fish are more sluggish and don’t bite as much, but you can still catch some and find good fishing if you go on warmer days.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Black River. Unfortunately there is not a USGS stream gauge on Black River, at least not the one discussed here.

Best bet is to give a local fly shop a call and see how the river is fishing before making the trip.

Best Flies for the Black River

The native brookies in the Black River are not too fussy when it comes to flies provided you do not spook them while wading.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Black 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)


  • 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)


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

Gear Recommendations

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

Black River Fishing Report

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

Fishing Regulations

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

If you’re looking to visit the Black River for your fishing escapades, you might be wondering how to get there. To access it via air, fly to Traverse City, then head west on Highway 72 to Interstate Highway 75 North.

If you want to take a road trip there, you can access the river via Interstate Highway 75, Highway 72, 32, 33, 65, and 23. 

Not sure where to stay? You can never run out of options as there are numerous hotels and lodges along the road and near the river that will fit within any angler’s budget.  If you prefer to camp consider the Town Corner Lake Campground and the area just downstream of the the Tin Shanty Bridge.

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

Featured image source SweetCanadianMullet