A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing in Manistee River

Manistee River Fishing Report

Also popularly known as the “Big” Manistee, the Manistee River offers a wide range of fishing opportunities for the people who want to visit Michigan. Not to be confused with the “Little Manistee River,” which happens to be one of its tributaries, the Big Manistee is the home to numerous trout populations and bi-annual salmon and steelhead run. So be sure to read the Manistee River Fishing Report beforehand.

In its upper reaches, the Manistee River has an ample supply of trout for people keen on fly fishing. However, when you get lower than Tippy Dam, the river offers many dynamic steelhead and salmon fishing options. Along the upper side of the river, the trout fishing slows down, but an angler can enjoy salmon fishing which picks up pace around the month of August. And in September, you will find a large rin of Chinook and Coho salmon.

In the month of October, you can find a large variety of steelhead coming into play. It enters the river to feed on the salmon roe, thus, making the river an ideal fishing spot almost every time of the year. Here is a guide you need to know about fly fishing on the Manistee River.

Origin of Manistee River

The origin of the Manistee River begins a few miles east of Mancelona and then flows south for about 12 miles. There is a Special Regulation Section along the Manistee River that covers Michigan #72 downstream to the CCC bridge. In this section, the anglers can only use artificial flies. However, on the brighter side, this particular area is residents of trophy size trout.

Apart from the fact that there are many trout in some sections of this river, it is also the host to huge runs of salmon and steelhead, which enter the river at its lower section just below the Tippy Dam. As the stream has sand and rock bottom, it makes the place an ideal spot for steelhead and salmon spawning.

In terms of fishing, the Manistee River is a mixed bag of fishing holes as some sections are flat and suitable for wading, while most of it has deep runs, pools, and riffles, thereby making it suitable for drift boat fishing. Since this river has deeper waters, most anglers fish from a boat. It is because a drift boat allows you to cover more fishing ground. It also has access to the bountiful fishing holes that a person will not usually get while wading.

Best Places to Fish the Manistee River

As the river offers 100 miles of fishing water, the access is quite easy for Manistee. If you want to catch the best trout, you can access the river’s upper section near M-38 or Mancelona Road #38. As you get below this road, you can get ample access points that give you amazing options to fly fish. Some of the noteworthy locations are:

  • Country Road 612 Bridge
  • Off Fayette Road in the Deward town
  • The CCC Bridge
  • Sharon Bridge

However, if you are looking to access the lower river for finding great salmon and steelhead during the right months, you can do so by:

  • North Bridge Road, crossing the river just below Tippy Dam
  • M-55 River Road
  • East River Road

Best Time to Fish the Manistee River

As is the case with almost every fishing destination, what you intend to catch is one of the primary factors to decide the best time. We will break down the types of fish you can fish during different weather:

  • Spring: Spring is the best time if you are keen on trout fishing. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s just about trout; you can also fish some steelhead even as late as April.
  • Summer: Summers also happen to be an excellent time for trout fishing.
  • Fall: If you want to indulge in trout fishing, fall is quite an excellent time as the salmon begin to enter the river, followed by steelhead as early as the middle of September.
  • Winter: Until it is extremely cold, winter is an ideal time for steelhead fishing as the fish species have a tendency to be quite sluggish on the coldest of days. However, you can still land a few no matter what the weather is.

In any case, it is best to check the Manistee River Fishing Report to know what’s happening in the river in prior.


If you are an angler about to embark on your fishing trip, you can either take a road trip to your preferred place or fly into Michigan. Towns such as Mesick, Wellston, and Mancelona are located near the Manistee River. You can reach these locations by flying in through Cherry Capital Airport.


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