DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Cooks Run in Michigan

Michigan is one of the most exceptional states for fly anglers who want to bring in a load of trout. While all of the streams in the state can offer excitement and fun, some are better than others – like Cooks Run in the western upper peninsula. It’s a tributary of the South Branch of the Paint River and offers similar fishing in a rustic environment.

Those coming to Cooks Run are often looking to bring in lots of brook trout and brown trout, although a few other species can be found on occasion. What sets this spot apart is that it isn’t as over fished as some streams in the area. It lets you enjoy yourself alone in a natural part of the state.

Fishing for brook trout and brown trout in Cooks Run in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Cooks Run is a stream that is just over 10 miles from Iron River in Iron County in Michigan. It’s a blue-ribbon trout stream that sits next to several other great fisheries like the Ford River, Brule River, Fence River, Iron River, and Paint River. Cooks Run is part of the South Branch Paint River watershed and will have many of the same fish as other streams in the area.

Blue Ribbon Spring Creek

Being a blue-ribbon trout stream means a lot in a state that has over 38,000 miles of streams and rivers. Cooks Run is one of the best and supports a large population of wild resident trout. It’s also distinguished by being a spring creek and shallow enough to wade while having the right characteristics for fly fishing.

As a blue-ribbon trout stream, Cooks Run has great fly hatches and a variety of insects make their homes on the bank. Beyond that, it’s a river that has been proven to offer excellent trout fishing in clear, clean water compared to other fly fishing locations nearby.

Cooks Run Map and Fishing Access Sites

Map of the best fishing spots on Cooks Run in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

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

Best Places to Fish Cooks Run

The NF-16 Bridge is a common location to bring up brook trout and brown trout from Cooks Run. Travel west from Iron River on US Highway 2 about 14 miles until reaching National Forest 16. Take a right on NF-16 and continue one-half mile until you reach a bridge set over Cooks Run.

After reaching the bridge, you’ll find a small parking area with room for several vehicles where you can leave your car. You can fish off the bridge, wade in, or even use a canoe or kayak in the waters. For those who want lodging near an excellent fishing access site, you’ll be close to the USFS campground at Golden Lake.

You can also head farther away from the bridge to get a more solitary experience. In addition, there are several great fishing spots on public land that anglers can take advantage of.

Best Time to Fish Cooks Run

In summer, you can expect exceptional dry fly fishing experiences. There are tons of hatches, the water temperature is good, and river conditions are as good as they will get. However, in August, things can get a bit too warm, so luring out trout can be hard and many anglers focus on warm-water fish.

Best Flies for Cooks Run

The best flies to use for fishing Cooks Run really depends on the season. Choosing imitation flies that resemble the ones that are hatching will give the best possible results. Streamers are one choice that many anglers go with; these flies are capable of luring out trout at any time of the year.

Starting in about May, Blue Winged Olives, Grannoms, and Little Black Caddis can come into play. Other caddis varieties, Gray Drakes, and sulphurs start to be useful at the beginning of June. Other options include Hendricksons, March Browns, and terrestrials. 

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Cooks Run:

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 Cooks Run. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Cooks Run Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Cooks Run 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

Iron River is the closest town to Cooks Run and can be accessed by flying into Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport. The town is small, but it is close to several other towns that offer lodging in the form of cabins, hotels, and more. In addition, several restaurants are located right in Iron River to make grabbing a meal between fishing excursions a breeze.

A handful of shops are located in or near the town and many of them are equipped with all the necessities for fly fishing. Try Luckey’s Sport Shop, Dark Waters Fly Shop, or the Outpost for the best fishing items on a budget.

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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