Michigan Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Platte River in Michigan

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

January 29, 2022

Platte River entering Lake Michigan

Not to be confused with the much larger Platte Rivers in Colorado and Wyoming, the Platte River in Michigan is a much smaller yet medium-sized tributary of Lake Michigan.

It’s a well-known haven for trout and fly fishing. Apart from the plentiful resident trout population, the river also experiences excellent annual runs of both salmon and steelhead.

Because this river, more often than not, has clear and shallow waters, it’s the perfect destination for people who enjoy wading. Unfortunately, this also means that catching the fish in this river can be quite challenging.

Thankfully, the trout are plentiful, the waters easy to navigate, and the river has a great deal of access points, making it quite convenient for the recreational angler on their next fishing trip.

Here is a fishing guide telling you all you need to know about the Platte River in Michigan.

Platte River in Michigan

Fly fishing for salmon on the Platte River in Michigan

The Platte River in Michigan flows for about 30 miles, with its headwaters originating just above Bronson Lake. According to the Michigan State Department of Natural Resources, the river covers a watershed area of about 193 square miles, with most of that region covered in forest or wetlands. The river gently flows into Bronson Lake then down to Platte Lake before it heads out to Lake Michigan as its final destination.

The river’s bottom is mostly cobble, rock, gravel, and sand, with some parts of it having deadfalls. Because most of the river’s watershed area is forested, there are plenty of roots and shade for trout to hide under. Furthermore, the river itself has lots of undercut banks which are ideal hiding spots for larger trout.

While most of the river is narrow and gentle, it’s the waters that are just downstream of Bronson Lake that make for the best fly fishing for trout.

These waters not only enjoy more foliage cover than those lower down the stream but the river in this section is narrower and much easier to wade as well as fly fish than further down the stream.

Platte River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of the best fishing spots on the Platte River in Michigan

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Platte River

Depending on what you are angling for, the Platte River has many excellent fishing spots you can try out. If you are looking to catch salmon and steelhead, your best bet is to head out towards the river’s lower sections. The runs here are not as prolific as on the nearby Betsie River, but draw a crowd every year.

These parts tend to be anywhere from 25 to about 40 feet wide. You will find sections almost 60 feet wide above Platte Lake, where the water is much slower, and the bottom is made of mostly gravel. These spots are perfect for steelhead and salmon fishing and spawning.

The thing about the Platte River is that it has great access. Those interested in wading or kayak or riverside canoes on the next fishing trip should look to access the river at the M-22 Bridge near the National Park Service Platte River Picnic Area. From here, you will find steps and a gentle incline ramp leading you right to the water.

On the other hand, if you are fishing for trout, your best chance for hooking up with some decent browns is in the river’s upper section. About 10 miles between Bronson and Platte Lake, offers excellent fishing grounds for larger brown trout, especially at night during the Hex hatch. Naturally, these trout aren’t quite as easy to catch as the much smaller rainbows that also are present here.

Unfortunately, as you further downstream of Platte Lake, the river gets less and less productive for wade anglers. It’s not that easy to access, and you will find that you need a boat more often than not to fish here. 

Pro Tip: If you are chasing the Michigan Caddis hatch, aka Hexegenia limbata, the frog water above Platte Lake is the place to head.  The soft, silty bottom and slow pools are ideal Hex habitat, and resident and football-sized lake-run browns know it!  You’ll need a float tube, canoe or kayak to access this area.

You can access all Michigan and Platte River fishing access points via the DIY Fly Fishing Map.

Best Time to Fish the Platte River

As is the case with many bountiful fishing grounds, when you go will determine what you catch. As a result, what you are fishing for often determines when you visit, and the Platte River is not an exception to this rule.

Even though it offers excellent fishing opportunities all year round, how well you do and what you catch depends on the season.

  • Spring: Fly fishing the Platte River in Springtime is perfect for those who want to catch trout. This is mostly because there are plenty of hatches during this season. It’s still possible to catch the occasional steelhead even as late as the end of April, depending on favorable weather.
  • Summer: This is also a good time to catch trout even though the waters are shallower and much clearer, making them a bit more challenging to land.
  • Fall: During fall, you can catch plenty of salmon and steelhead in the Platte River. The annual run begins around mid-September when salmon first enter the stream, followed by steelhead. Angling for these two types of fish remains excellent throughout the fall. You can also still catch trout during this season.
  • Winter: Depending on how extreme the weather is, you can still catch steelhead in the winter. Unfortunately, very cold weather (January and February) make the fish a bit more sluggish, meaning they seldom bite.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Platte River. The USGS stream gauge at Honor, MI provide 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.

PLATTE RIVER AT HONOR, MI

  • Streamflow: 114 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 1.21 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph
USGS

Best Flies of the Platte River

Thankfully, the river generally offers wonderful hatches for an assortment of aquatic insects such as mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies that make fly fishing a delight.  As a general rule of thumb, smaller flies are better than larger flies due to the clear waters in the Platte.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Platte 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)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with matching fly reel and floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the upper Platte River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Salmon and steelhead require seven- and eight-weight rods, and as light a leader as you can get away with.

Platte River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Platte River 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.

Note: Law prohibits fishing within 300 feet from the Platte River Fish Hatchery or weir near Honor.

Trip Planning Tips

When traveling to the Platte River for angling, you can fly in through Cherry Capital Airport or Manistee County Blacker Airport. However, both of these destinations are a few miles from the river so it’s best to have a vehicle available to get around.

Lodging is available in nearby towns, whether you prefer a hotel room or camping out near the river. You’ll also have access to restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and bait shops to get all the necessities during your fishing trip.

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