While the Rogue River is located just past Grand Rapids in Michigan, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an aesthetically pleasing stream as it winds through the state. If you were to be taken there without realizing how close it was to a city, you might think it was a remote river under fresh air and warm sunshine. But, instead, it’s the perfect place for fly fishing near a city.
If you want to enjoy one of Michigan’s largest cities in between excursions to free-flowing waters teeming with trout, this is one of the better river you could imagine for fly angling in the state.
Fly fishing for Steelhead on the Rogue River near Rockford, Michigan
The Rogue River is one of the primary tributaries of the Grand River, which is another location known for its huge numbers of salmon, steelhead, and other fish. The Rogue is great for fly fishing if you are looking to catch trout, salmon, and steelhead. It’s located in the southern lower peninsula of the state and is divided into two sections by the Rockford Dam.
A River Divided
The upper part of the Rogue River is the section found above the dam, while the lower area is below the dam. Because of the dam’s existence, steelhead and salmon are not able to migrate further upstream.
Upper Rogue River
At 42 miles long, the upper section of the Rogue River offers great opportunities to catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout. As for the lower area, there are spring and fall runs of salmon and steelhead. Most people fish the upper section from canoes and boats since much of the water has a soft bottom that isn’t conducive to wading.
The river has its headwaters in several ditches where the old Rice Lake bed drain is near Grant. This area of the river has been straightened and dredged and doesn’t offer much of a habitat for trout, but other upper sections have trout.
One of the most well-known areas that the Rogue River goes through is the Rogue River State Game Area. Here the river resembles a miniature version of the nearby Muskegon River and fishes well.
Lower Rogue River
The steelhead and salmon area of the Rogue River runs about seven miles in the area near the dam to the confluence with the Grand River. While in the area you may also want to check out Flat River, another tributary to the Rogue, that is also known for offering excellent runs of steelhead.
For those who prefer wading to fishing from a boat, several areas accommodate that kind of fly fishing. Some of the best locations are at Childsdale, Jericho, Packer, and West River Road.
Rogue River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Best Places to Fish the Rogue River
Most of the best access points for the Rogue River are located in or near Rockford, Michigan. An easy access area for anglers is at the intersection of Spring Street and West Bridge Street Northeast. In addition, there’s an area to launch a boat or you can wade off the shore right next to town.
A bit south of this area is another location for fly fishing. It’s on 10 Mile Road Northeast off of South Main Street. The fishing spot is right across from Pickett Park and the White Pine Trail. This access point and the one above can get pretty crowded due to their immediate proximity to the main part of Rockford.
Head south and a bit to the west to reach another access point on Jericho Avenue Northeast. From 10 Mile Road Northeast, turn onto Oak Street and take it down until it turns into Jericho. The river access area will be just slightly south of this area.
Belmont also has several areas where you can fish the Rogue River. The two most notable locations are at Rogue River Park and the Rogue River Trail. However, anglers can easily walk up and down the river shores to find the best spots to bring in trout and other fish.
Best Time to Fish the Rogue River
The right season to fish the Rogue River depends on what species of fish you are going after. If you’re interested in fly fishing for trout, spring is an excellent time to get started. First, however, make sure you check on up-to-date regulations to determine when the fishing season starts.
Spring is also an excellent time to catch steelhead that migrate into the Rogue in February or March and remain there into April or May.
Summer can also be a reasonable time to catch trout and other fish, but it isn’t as ideal as spring. In some areas of the Rogue River, the water can start to get a bit warm for trout.
The fall brings a run of salmon that start to enter the Rogue in September, followed by another run of steelhead in November.
Steelhead stick around to some extent throughout the winter months. If the weather is decent, this can be a good time to fish. However, when the temperatures get fairly low, the trout and steelhead can start to get sluggish and tricky to catch.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Rogue River. The USGS stream gauge at Rockford, 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.
ROGUE RIVER NEAR ROCKFORD, MI
- Streamflow: 249 ft³/s
- Gage height: 4.54 ft
Best Flies for Rogue River
Having the right items in your fly box will greatly affect how well your fishing trip goes. Hatches on the Rogue include mayflies, caddis and stoneflies and rival those found on the famed Au Sable River.
Steelhead nymphs are good for late winter, while later months might give better results with egg, nymph, and swinging flies.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Rogue 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)
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.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with floating line is perfect for fishing for trout on the Rogue River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
You'll want to step up to a seven- or eight-wt fly rod for steelhead and salmon.
Rogue River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Rogue River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
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
When coming into Michigan to fish the Rogue River, you’ll likely want to land at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. As an urban fishery, nearby Grand Rapids makes for an excellent base camp.
Several tackle shops are located in the area. The area also has hotels, restaurants, and shops that carry the necessities.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Michigan