Michigan Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Boyne River in Michigan

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

November 30, 2021

South Branch of the Boyne River

Offering excellent trout, steelhead, and salmon catches below the dam, Boyne River is ideal for fly fishing. This river in northern Michigan offers a true angler’s paradise. You’ll experience pure cold water coming out of sands to flow over gravel riffles near submerged logs that remind you of times long past.

This might be a small river compared to others in the state, but is full of beautiful brook and brown trout. It’s a DIY angler’s dream come true in terms of the fish, the atmosphere, and the location.

Overview of Boyne River

Fly fishing the Boyne River as seen through the eyes of Brian “Koz” Kozminski of True North Trout Guide Service

The Boyne River is located in the northern portion of the lower peninsula in Michigan near the Jordan River. It’s a fairly small waterway, but it offers a variety of angling opportunities for anyone who appreciates a bit of fly fishing. It provides plenty of trout, as well as a yearly migration of steelhead and salmon.

This river takes its name from a river in Ireland and, like the Jordan River, makes its way to Lake Charlevoix. It has both a north and a south branch which flow into each other just above Boyne Falls to create the main portion of the Boyne River, which is over 5.5 miles long.

This freestone river’s main section offers many large brown trout and runs of steelhead and salmon that originate from Lake Michigan. The migratory fish move from Lake Charlevoix and end up in the river to create a diverse fishing experience.

Some of the best fishing on the river is just below the dam and downstream all the way to Lake Charlevoix. Unlike some of the smaller streams in Michigan, Boyne River has quick access to both branches, with roads coming off U.S. Highway #131. While the upper section might be the best fishing spot, you can also find some large browns in the lower section.

The river here averages about 40 feet wide and has great hatches of insects. It can also offer good dry fly fishing at some times, although most fly fishing for trout and steelhead using streamers and nymphs. Below the confluence, anglers will find the Everett Kircher Preserve. It offers cold waters with the river dumping into Kircher Pond. Access to this area can be challenging, so it tends to be less crowded than other parts of the Boyne River.

Boyne River Map and Fishing Access Sites

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

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

Best Places to Fish the Boyne River

The easiest access to Boyne River starts by crossing the South Arm at Lake Charlevoix taking Route 66 into East Jordan. This will lead you to Route 32, which you can take to get onto Route #131 North. It only takes a few minutes of driving to reach Boyne Falls and make your way to the river.

The best fishing is generally agreed to be at the dam a few miles from the falls. You’ll find both massive brown trout and migratory salmon and steelhead in the area. The river can be fished by wading, but it has a strong current, so anglers should be cautious.

From the dam to Lake Charlevoix, look for large salmon, steelhead, and lake-run brown trout. They tend to burrow down into the deep seams and slots in this area. You can reach the main stream by taking Route 75 to some of the side roads leading to the river.

Anglers can also access Dam Road on the southeast side of Boyne City to get to the waters. There is parking near the road on dirt pull-off areas. It will give you access to pathways on the east side of the road.

Best Time to Fish the Boyne River

Boyne River follows the typical Michigan trout season in all areas except for the special regulation areas, which are open for fishing all year.

Spring is a great time to engage in fly fishing for trout in this area since there are tons of insects along the banks. This is also the ideal time to fish for steelhead.

Summer tends to be a bit slower, but the headwater sections of the north and south branches stay cooler than the rest of the river. You’ll also find good fishing at the dam near Lake Charlevoix.

During fall, you’ll find a good mixture of fish in the Boyne River. This will likely be the best time to take in a trophy steelhead or hook-up with a massive brown trout. However, this is also a popular season, so the river may be filled with other anglers looking to bring in a prize catch.

Whether winter is good for fishing depends on the weather each year. If it’s mild and there isn’t a lot of ice or snow, fishing is reasonable on the Boyne River. However, you can expect the trout and steelhead to be slightly sluggish when the temperatures have dropped.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Boyne River. Unfortunately there is not an active USGS stream gauge on the Boyne River that typically provide a good indication of current conditions.

In May of 2014, however, Friends of the Boyne River installed five Crowd Hydrology water level monitoring gauges on the Boyne River. By using the “crowd sourcing ” concept, information on the river water levels can be sent from anyone willing to send a text message from the stream gauges that are now in place.

The gauge numbers and locations of Boyne River monitoring sites are listed below.  To view water level data, click on the gauge number of interest.

  1. MI1022: Old City Park at East Street Bridge
  2. MI1023: Boyne Nature Area at Boardwalk No. 1
  3. MI1024: Dam Road, downstream of the crossing
  4. MI1025: Boyne Mountain Road, downstream of the crossing
  5. MI1026: Springbrook Road, downstream of the crossing

Best Flies for the Boyne River

Most of the fly fishing done at Boyne River will benefit from the use of streamers and nymphs. There are a wide variety of hatches that will help attract trout and other fish. In addition, this area is known for reasonably good dry fly fishing. Some of the largest hatches include terrestrials, mayflies, midges, caddis, and stoneflies.If you’re going for small browns, they can be fooled very easily. The mayflies are a good choice for dry fly angling from spring through fall, although other insects will often do the job. Even flashier dries have been known to attract a variety of brown trout.

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

Boyne River Fishing Report

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

Fishing Regulations

The Boyne River is a desingated Type I trout stream from its headwaters down to the Kirchner Dam. From the Kirchner Dam downstream to the mouth, the Boyne River is a designated Type IV trout stream. Please refer to the Inland Trout and Salmon Stream Regulations in the current Michigan Fishing Guide.

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

Boyne River is located near several towns, including Horton Bay, East Jordan, Boyne Falls, and Boyne City. Anglers visiting the area can fly in through Boyne City Municipal Airport or Boyne Mountain Airport. The city is set right against the lake for easy access to the waters.While staying in the area, there are several restaurants and even a few local breweries to choose from. You’ll find accommodations in the larger towns in the surrounding area.

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

Feature image by LTConservancy