A tributary of the North Platte River, the Michigan River forms one part of a trio of tributaries named for regions outside Colorado.
Like the Illinois and Canadian Rivers, the Michigan feeds into the North Platte in the northernmost part of the North Park Range.
From there it makes its way southward and braiding the further you get from the North Platte River, forming an ideal tailwater for trout fishing.
A Weekend in Walden...fly fishing in the North Park area around Walden, Colorado including the Michigan River, North Delaney Butte Lake and the North Platte River in North Gate Canyon.
Most anglers visit the Michigan for the brown trout, and they tend to be in the 14 inch and longer range. Over the 30 mile course of the Michigan, the majority of fly fishing takes place near the lower section due to the better conditions for trout. The occasional rainbow or cutthroat can be found among the braided streams of the Michigan on the downstream stretch, but the majority of the trout population here tends to be composed of large and medium sized brown trout as a rule.
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Public access to the Michigan River can be found right off Highway 125 near Walden, though you will find hiking from here to the water a bit tricky due to the dense brush and overhanging vegetation along the banks.
Most anglers do their best to get as close as they can to where they want to try their luck for the day, get in the river, and wade the remaining distance to find the ideal cut bank, pool, or riffle to fish.
Keep in mind that even if you are midstream wading, you could still be on private property and need to verify on an up to date and accurate map where you are before you start casting.
Anglers visiting the Michigan specifically for brown trout need to stick close to the braided region of the river further to the south. Access is particularly difficult here, and fishing from the banks is next to impossible, so plan accordingly. Patience and a little hiking can lead to great success on this stretch of water though.
Summertime from June onward is prime fishing season for the Michigan. The caddis hatch is very good from spring to fall, and terrestrial are plentiful in this area during the height of summer and early fall.
The best season for brown trout is definitely the autumn though, as this is their prime spawning season and they'll be aggressive.
Winter fishing is exceptionally difficult given the heavy brush cover and its tendency to accumulate large drifts and snow banks, so visiting during that time of year is definitely not recommended.
For a spring trip you want to pack for caddis, BWOS, midges, and stoneflies. If you are visiting in the summertime, you definitely need a bunch of terrestrials too, as they are going to provide the most success during peak season.
The preferred patterns for the Michigan River are as follows:
RS2 (grey #18-22)
Elk Wing Caddis (tan #16)
Bead Head Prince (natural #12-16)
TH 20 Incher (natural#10-16)
Holy Grail (olive #6-10)
Conehead Rubber Bugger (black #6-8)
Cone Head Zuddler (white #4-6)
Pat's Rubberleg (black #8-12)
HAD FAD Jigged Nymph (hare's ear#14-16)
Gold Ribbed Bead Head Hares Ear (hares ear #14-20)
Pack your waders for a trip to the Michigan as you are more than likely not going to be standing on the bank or in low water to land the big fish. You also want a good 9 foot rod with some 5 weight line on it.
Area fly shops that publish Michigan River fishing reports are listed below.
Fishing regulations are standard along the Michigan except where it passes through the Arapaho National Forest, where there are certain seasons and times of year that the CDW does not permit fishing in the area.
Furthermore, there are extensive tracts of private property that include sections of the Michigan’s banks, so always get in contact with property owners whenever possible to obtain their permission to fish.
Most anglers in the area find that they are welcome to fish the river on private land so long as owners are aware of their presence, but failing to ask permission is seen as the height of discourtesy.
Your best bet for a cheap flight (provided you don’t mind a 2.5 hour drive) is to fly directly into Denver International and then drive out along 70 and up 125 North to get to Walden.
The good news regarding accommodations is that Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins are all within a short drive of the Michigan River, so you can find traditional hotel accommodations, luxury hunting lodges, ski resorts, and numerous other places to rest the night in comfort while you are angling for those big browns.
Camping for those who enjoy outdoor living is also plentiful in this area, and you can also rent more rustic hunting and fishing cabins in the area should you prefer them to the larger resorts. Always check local vacation rentals too, as off-season pricing in popular ski areas can land you some great bargains.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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