Flyfishing Michigan's Betsie River near Traverse City, Michigan with Kelly Neuman, fly fishing guide and custom rod builder. There are a number of sections of this river, but the consistent drawback is lack of access. For the nostalgic history buff or interested angler, one of the most popular dry fly pattern used – The Adams, was originally developed for angler Charles Adams who fished the Boardman River. Below Brown Bridge Pond to Sabin dam is quick, swift water that offers some deeper holes along its gravely bottom. The water bellow Sabin Dam is the upstream limit for Steelhead and Salmon and their migration. Below Boardman Lake there is a short dam and fish ladder which creates another section of river before it enters Grand Traverse Bay. Anglers can be found in the surf — where the mouth of the Boardman meets the bay — swinging flies or casting baitfish patterns which can bring a Steelhead, Salmon, Lake Trout, Cisco, or Smallmouth Bass to hand. If you haven’t heard much about the Boardman River before, you certainly will in the future.
The removal of Brown Bridge Dam experienced an unfortunate event near the end of the process. As a result of the Brown Bridge removal the fate of the other dams is still somewhat undetermined. There are a number of insects that can be found on the various sections of the Boardman River, and the times of the hatch can depend on which section as the dams and the waters above and below them are affected. The summer months can offer some good terrestrial fishing due to the overhanging vegetation along the river.


The Boardman is located in Traverse City and starts 20 miles east near the villages of Kalkaska and South Boardman.
Starting as two rivers, the North and South Branches near the villages of Kalkaska and South Boardman, they merge and become one, flow north and eventually drain into West Grand Traverse Bay. There are places to fish this river — if you’re willing to do some research and a little extra hiking, you may find some great water. Hatches of Hendricksons, Sulphurs,  Brown Drakes and Grey Drakes can offer the fly angler some great fishing for brookies and brown trout close to town.
In Traverse City downstream of the Front Street bridge, a fish weir is lowered in late August to collect salmon;  some fish make it upstream prior to and after they remove the weir in mid-fall (typically the first part of November), offering some fishing for the migrating and spawning fish. While de-watering the pond — a process planned to last close to a month — a failure occurred and the pond was drained in less than a day. The most noteworthy of insects include Hendricksons, Tan Caddis, Sulphurs, Brown Drakes, Grey Drakes and The Hex.
When nothing seems to be working on top, try swinging soft-hackles, smaller streamers that imitate small fish or, when all else fails, go with a big streamer on a sink-tip. The river generally runs clear and cooler, resulting in insect hatches that can be delayed behind its neighboring rivers. There are a number of dams and impoundments on the Boardman that make up the different sections of the river and also impact the fishery below them. In the warmer months, anglers can find Smallmouth, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Pike, Carp, Walleye and who knows what else swimming in it. The water above the former dam, Brown Bridge Pond, has been returned to a river following the historic river bed.


Watching the fish jump up the fish ladder can be entertaining as is watching the fish processing – if in town this time of year, stop by and have a look. The area is in the process of restoring and with time more vegetation, more structure will mean more productive water to fish in this swift moving section of water. Fish remain in the miles of river below the former dam site, but their density and that of aquatic insects remains to be completely understood. Much has been done to make sure that all aspects — environmental and social — were considered in this process, but not without controversy.
One thing happened for sure – the downstream water temperature runs much cooler in the warmer months which is beneficial to trout populations. A number of factors are playing significant roles in the final determination and scheduling of the dams removal and it will probably be a number of years before removal takes place. You will be soon as there are bank-side and overhanging trees in much of the upper section of river. Fish slow and thoroughly and you might be rewarded with something a little bigger than and handful of brook trout – larger fish do exist in this water.



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