Michigan Fly Fishing 5 min read
DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Fox River in Michigan
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The Fox River is a gorgeous stream located in the eastern upper peninsula of Michigan near the town of Seney. While there are tens of thousands of miles of water in the state, this stream offers something special. Many locals and fly fishing travelers who have tried several fisheries in the state keep coming back to the Fox River.
The fish that most are looking to catch in the Fox River are wild brook trout. Here squaretail grow to impressive size, with two- and three-pound fish not uncommon. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know if you plan to cast a line in the Fox River.
About Fox River
Fly fishing for wild brook trout in the legendary Fox River in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
The Fox River originates up near Lake Superior and then winds its way through through Alger, Schoolcraft, and Luce counties until it reaches the majestic Lake Michigan. It runs nearly parallel with the East Branch and the two end up joining together to create another great stream, the Manistique River. Both the East branch and the mainstem are best known for brook trout but you can also expect to catch brown trout, perch and rock bass.
In addition to offering up great fish, the Fox River is famous for another reason. World-renowned author, Ernest Hemingway, visited Seney in the 1910s and spent time fishing on the north branch of the Fox River. The author even wrote a story called “Big Two-Hearted River” about Seney and nearby waterways. Although the Fox River was the inspiration for the story, Two Hearted River is also a great trout stream.
Wild and Scenic
Both the main stretch of the Fox River and the east branch above Michigan #28 move through a large section of undeveloped land owned by the state and are utterly filled with wild brook trout.
Small Stream Fishing
You might think that the Fox River would be a huge fishery based on the presence of the word “river” in its name, but that isn’t entirely true. Both the main and east branches are relatively small streams. Each is fed through a groundwater supply that seldom reaches a temperature beyond 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spring Fed and Bushy
The bottom of the Fox River is mostly made up of sand, but there are still spots for the fish to hide. There is a lot of fallen wood throughout the stream and the bank is lined with alders. This ensures a lot of shade is present and makes sure the spring-fed water stays at a reasonable temperature.
Fox River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map
Best Places to Fish the Fox River
Overall, access to the river is good, but an angler may need a canoe and should be comfortable hiking in some areas. The Michigan #77 bridge is an excellent spot on the east branch for brook trout fishing. It has woody debris, deep holes, and undercut banks to ensure trout stick around.
If you’re leaving from Seney, go north on Michigan #77 until you reach the Michigan #77 bridge. This is an easy area to access some of the best trout in the state. Reach the river by using the right of way along the bridge and the road.
Another spot where you can expect to pull up brook trout that can reach sizes of nearly 20 inches is the Michigan #28 bridge. However, this area has split regulation types, with part of it being gear restricted. Be aware of this upstream of the bridge until you reach the Fox River State Forest Campground.
Starting in Seney, visit the Michigan #77 and Michigan #28 intersection and take the Michigan #28 stretch for around 500 feet. You’ll find yourself at the bridge and can locate parking in the surrounding area. You can fish off the bridge or hike farther down the river to find other fishing spots.
Best Time to Fish the Fox River
Since the Fox River focuses on trout, the standard Michigan fishing season will apply in areas without special regulations. However, make sure you check the rules of the section or tributary where you want to fish to avoid any problems during your fly fishing excursion.
Late Spring is a great time to spend a few hours on the Fox River because all of the insects are starting to hatch. This unfortunately includes mosquitoes that can be fierce. In all reality, June is probably the earliest you’ll want to head out to fish the Fox.
Many consider August, even September, to be prime-time on the Fox. Conditions are more consistent and water clarity is better.
The Fox River remains an excellent place to fish in the early fall, but remember Old Man winter comes early up north.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Fox River. The USGS stream gauge on the nearby Manistique River provides a good indication of current conditions in the area.
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.
MANISTIQUE RIVER NEAR MANISTIQUE, MI
- Streamflow: 560 ft³/s
- Gage height: 2.75 ft
Best Flies for Fox River
There are a variety of hatches on the Fox that necessitate a well stocked fly box. Basic attractor patterns to mimic mayflies, caddis and stoneflies will usually do the the trick.
Here is a list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Fox River:
- 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)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with floating line will work for fishing for trout on the Fox River. Given the tight confines of stream-side vegetation though you may want to down-size to a 7.5-foot, 3- or 4-wt rod.
A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Fox River Fishing Report
Unfortunately there are no area fly shops, guides or websites that provide a Fox River fly fishing report and update on current conditions. If the weather is good, meaning it hasn’t rained a ton recently, and the mosquitoes are not too fierce then the fishing is bound to be good!
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
Since you’ll get the best access to the Fox River from Seney, you’ll want to fly in at the nearest airport. In this case, you’ll be coming in at Sawyer International Airport and then driving almost 80 miles to reach the town. Since the travel is extensive, renting a vehicle tends to be an excellent idea.
Several hotels are located in the area, as well as a selection of restaurants. Those who don’t mind leaving Seney can also choose a rustic campground near the water. The East Branch Fox River Forest Campground, Seney Municipal Campground, Fox River Forest Campground, and Stanley Lake Forest Campground are good options to consider.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Michigan
Feature image credit MI DNR