Pine River – The Best Kept Secret in Northern Michigan Trout Water

The Pine River is the largest tributary of the Manistee, joining it upstream of Tippy Dam in the impoundment.  This smaller water is a very special and unique trout stream.  As the coldest and fastest stream in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, it has an impressive populations of entirely wild brown trout, brook trout, and the largest population of resident rainbow trout in the state.

The Season

The Pine’s season is still the traditional Michigan trout season opening the last Saturday in April and closing October 1.  In years past the early season has been a tough fish; with all its clay, the Pine does not handle rain very well and can be prone to blowing out after a storm rolls through.  However, the past few years have seen us in a drier weather pattern allowing for more May days spent on this water.  During May, the fish are looking to put on weight after a long winter, and on the right day can get quite willing to chase and eat our offerings. Some of our biggest fish of the year have been coming in this early season window.

In recent years, as we progress towards summer, some of our other trout waters have been becoming too warm to fish as early as June and remain dangerously warm throughout most of the summer.  The Pine, with its plentiful springs and shade, does not have this problem and still is fishable during even the hottest summer days.

The Hatches

Though there is good insect life and modest hatches, the Pine tends to be primarily a subsurface river. Streamer fishing is our preferred way to target these fish and floating the Pine in a comfortable and stable Smithfly Raft allows us to do this effectively while covering substantial amounts of water throughout the day.

In a “bigger is better” steamer fishing world, moderate-sized, weighted flies are actually more productive on the Pine.  These small, slimmer profile, flies get deep quickly and match the profile of the many baitfish found in the river.

The Techniques

The Pine can also be a very productive nymphing river on the days that the fish do not feel like chasing.  Due to a healthy stonefly population throughout the river system, fish will key in on them and a two-fly rig including a stonefly and mayfly nymph can be quite effective.

Using the raft as transport we hop out at productive runs, riffles, or pools and cover the water thoroughly with indicators or a tight-line method before hopping in and rowing down to the next area.  I have taken some very nice fish through the years on nymphs, and it is by far the best method to target rainbows on the Pine.

Other Points of Interest

There are a few other subjects to touch on regarding the Pine.  First, with its scenery and fast flows it is one of the busiest paddle sport rivers on the weekends.  This can be entertaining, but does not make for the best fishing and therefore we try and avoid weekend days whenever possible.  Second, with its steep banks and clay substrate, it can blow out for a few days after a good rain. When booking a date with us on the Pine there is always a cancellation possibility because it blows out easily.

As a final note, the lower 26 miles of the Pine run through the Manistee National Forest.  Special permitting is needed to guide on this water, and we are lucky enough to be one of only two fishing outfitters with access to this section.  Personal private watercraft (canoes, kayaks, rafts, etc.) must also have a special USFS permit to float this water so make sure you have the correct permitting before heading out on your own.

Given some of the temperatures issues we’ve been dealing with the last couple years, the large population of resident rainbows and browns and the beauty of the float, Hawkins Outfitters guides will be spending more days on the Pine in the future.

Give the office a call at 31-228-7135 or click here to find out more about booking a trip.  Join us, you’ll be happy you did!

Chris, Chuck and Matt