DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Brule River in Michigan

Michigan offers nearly endless numbers of streams and lakes that are great for both local and out-of-town anglers. What makes the Brule River different from other western upper peninsula streams is its location against the border between Michigan and Wisconsin. It's also home to trout of all kinds, including rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout, as well as several other fish species.

If you're interested in a DIY fly fishing experience in Michigan, the Brule River could be the perfect destination.

Fly fishing for brown trout on the Brule River that forms the border between the western upper peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin 

Nearly the entirety of the Brule River acts as a natural border between Wisconsin and Michigan. It's a smallmouth bass to trout transition river that also houses fish like pike and muskie. Those who want to bring in smallmouth will want to head to the area between Pentoga and the stream's confluence at the Paint River.

Is There More Than One Brule River?

The Brule River is not to be confused with another river in Wisconsin that has a similar name. The Bois Brule River is a unique waterway that doesn't cross into Michigan.

Wade or Float

During normal and low summer water flows, the Brule River is perfectly wadable, but most people choose to float across it since there are long expanses in the middle of the bridges. In addition to the available bridges, there is also a gravel launch ramp located around two miles west of Stager at the Carney Dam site.

Two States - One License

Since this river is located in two states, regulations can vary, so it's best to brush up on your Michigan Fishing Guide information. However, you only need a Michigan fishing license for angling, even if you choose to do so across the border in Wisconsin. The same applies to a Wisconsin license but only downstream of the Paint River.

Lots of Public Access

On the Wisconsin side of the stream, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest provides a border to the river. In the same manner, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources largely owns the area on Michigan land.

Gentle Flowing

Most of the Brule River has a small-town feel, beautiful scenery, and an intimate setting in the forest. Although there are a few sets of rapids, it's largely made up of quiet water, especially near the Farm Road 2446 Pentoga Bridge.

This bridge isn't overly long at 55 miles but is one of the most navigable and secluded rivers in this part of the state. It flows through a remote wilderness environment with very few roads and cabins. The river offers a great getaway experience for kayakers, canoers, and fly fishers.

Notable Tributaries

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Brule River Map and Fishing Access Sites

Map of the best spots to fish on the Brule River in Michigan and Wisconsin

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

Best Places to Fish the Brule River

Access to the Brule River can be found in multiple locations, including near the city of Iron River. Travel south of Michigan #189 and head over the bridge at the Brule, which acts as the border to the state. A small canoe platform and a parking area are on the Wisconsin side and anglers can float eight miles to Scott Lake.

This part of the river offers brook trout that can grow as large as 14 to 18 inches and brown trout that can reach sizes of up to 24 inches. It's a popular location for fishing and can easily be waded. In addition, some tree drops can be found in the river to create a habitat for trout.

A second great access site is also available when leaving Iron River by taking US Highway 2 west to Michigan #73 south. Head over the bridge to find parking and a boat launch area, as well as a 15-mile stretch that leads to an area filled with brook and brown trout. This is another area with lots of water obstacles for the fish to hide in.

The Brule River Campground is also set against the river for those who want simple and inexpensive lodging near fishing access. This can be reached by heading south on Arlberg Road until you reach the parking area for the campground. There are also other fishing spots in the area at a short hike.

Best Time to Fish the Brule River

The best time to fish the Brule River is during mid-May through late June when the mayfly hatches occur.

As the summer progresses Caddis become more prevalent and fishing is good. Low water conditions later in summer can make fishing a bit more challenging and you may need to downsize your tippet to 5X or 6X to fool the fish.

The fall is also a great time to be on the water and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Brule River. While there are not any stream gauges on the upper Brule River, the USGS stream gauge near Commonwealth, MI provides a good indication of current conditions.

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.

BRULE RIVER NEAR COMMONWEALTH, WI

  • Streamflow: 450 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 6.89 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph
USGS

Best Flies for Brule River

The Brule supports a wide variety of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies so come prepared with a good selection of flies.  Small nymphs and your favorites streamers are always a good choice when there is not an active hatch coming off.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Brule 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 5-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with floating line is perfect for fishing for trout on the Brule 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 seven- or eight-wt fly rod for smallmouth bass, pike or muskie in the lower reaches of the river.

Brule River Fishing Report

There aren't any local fly shops or guides that are currently publishing a Brule River fly fishing report and update on current conditions.  

If the weather is good and there hasn't been a ton of rain recently, just go give it a try!

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

Anglers coming into Pentoga to access the Brule River will likely fly in at Iron County Airport or Duluth International Airport. Since the river is reasonably long and located in two states, having a rental car or another form of transportation is recommended.

You can find lodging, gas stations, restaurants, and other businesses you might need on your fly fishing trip in the nearby area. 

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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