DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Cedar River in Michigan

When you want extra privacy and a space where you can have the water all to yourself, Cedar River in Michigan could be a perfect choice. It offers a great time doing something you love without needing to fight through any crowds. If you are planning a fly fishing trip into Michigan, there’s no need to hire a guide to enjoy the Cedar River.

Cedar River is best known for offering majestic wild brook and brown trout. Once you know where you’re going and what gear to bring, you can find a spot and fish until your heart is content.

A glimpse of the Cedar River in northern Michigan

The Cedar River may not be well-known and teeming with anglers, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. The river is located in the lower peninsula near Beaverton, Michigan. The mainstem of this gorgeous little river runs 30 miles and encompasses three separate branch - the North, Middle and West.  The Cedar River joins with the Tabacco River and eventually flows into the the Tittabawassee.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) formerly designated this river as a blue-ribbon trout stream. It includes a public natural area with more than 6,000 square feet right on the front of the river. Anglers can expect to bring in both brook and brown trout, especially in the hatching season.

In addition to fish, Cedar River offers the beauty of other wildlife. The conifer forest that surrounds the water creates the ideal habitat for all sorts of animals. You can expect to run into reptiles, birds, and fur-bearing animals. Deer are common, and you may also see gray foxes, minks, raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, otters, and many songbirds.

A few years ago, a trip to Cedar River might not have been as satisfying as today. Many cedar trees had fallen into the water, which slowed the water, blocked water flow, and left sediment in the waters, preventing some insects from hatching. Volunteers have removed many of the trees and the bank was re-stabilized and seeded.

Nowadays, the river is clean and clear with waters that are teeming with trout. This is a great spot for anyone who enjoys small streams and it has plenty of vegetation to keep the sun off your face.

Many anglers who spend time there hook-up with small to medium-sized trout, but there are also a few of bigger fish around for those who get lucky or have the skills to catch them.

Cedar River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of the best fishing spots on the Cedar 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 Cedar River

Cedar River is a great trout stream with a variety of feeder streams for anglers to explore. The Cedar eventually joins with the Tobacco River in Beaverton. But, before it does so, it goes through all sorts of natural scenery in Michigan, including swamps, a lake, banks, meadows, and farmland.

For those who want a bit of a challenge with their fishing, consider wetting a line off Townline Lake Road in Hamilton Township. The stream here is slightly tinted but largely clear. However, you may run across a few beaver dams and deadfalls as you work to bring in some trout.

Another option is heading farther upstream and leaving for the water from Hoover Road. Finally, you can head down to Wiggins Lake and fly fish near the dam. This area is only a few miles from Gladwin City Park, where you will find a campground looking over the water.

The easiest access starts out on US 27, taking the old 27 exit in the Harrison area. Then, go toward the east on M 61 until you reach Hoover Road. Take a left on the road and keep driving until you see the water in front of you. 

Best Time to Fish the Cedar River

The right time to fish Cedar River will depend on what kind of fish you want to catch. Since most people are angling for trout, that cuts down the options.

Keep in mind that some streams, including Cedar River, and lakes have specific trout fishing dates, often from April through September. Therefore, if you are out of season, you want to avoid fishing in any of those waters.

Some anglers who visit Cedar River go on to spend time at the Great Lakes. Many of these are open from the first day of the year through either September or October. However, winter and late fall months can get quite cold, so you’ll want to be sure that you are wearing warm clothes and prepared for the temperatures.

Hatches are also something to take into consideration. Stoneflies are typically found all year, while mayflies and caddis may not show up until April. As the months pass, terrestrials may be found at Cedar River and other Michigan waters.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Cedar River. There are no USGS stream gauges on the Cedar River. The gauge on the South Branch Tabacco River near Beaverton, MI will, however, provide a good indication of current conditions.

Best Flies for the Cedar River

What you pack in your fly box will depend on when you visit Cedar River. For instance, you can take advantage of hatching mayflies, caddis and stoneflies for dry fly fishing in the summer months.

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

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!

Cedar River Fishing Report

Currently, there are no area fly shops, guides and websites that provide a Cedar River fly fishing report and update on current conditions.  You'll just have to go check it out!

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

While spending time at the Cedar River, there is far more than fishing to do. This location has space to canoe, kayak, or even experience camping in Michigan. Choose to stay in a hotel or bring a tent and rough it in nature to create an inexpensive fly fishing adventure.

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

Feature image by Tim Kiser

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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