Leave the fly rod and grab the muck boots. For an interesting take on brook trout angling, make for the hardwoods instead of the main stream. These quick tips on catching small creek, under the radar brookies will make you close to a Northern Michigan fishing expert in no time.

Fishing out the valleys of small creeks and tributaries like those in the Boardman River basin can produce some quality pockets that hold eager brookies. The DNR Inland Trout and Salmon Regulations Map can get you started. Pick possible locations and then cruise the two-tracks to narrow down your stream dreams. A GPS is a handy companion for navigating the labyrinth of roads and also for verifying that you are fishing public waters.

Scout shallow valleys with plenty of cover, preferably starting nearer the headwaters and working downstream. Culverts running under the road are a convenient starting place, and often hold brook trout lingering in the dark waters. A creek running through a cedar swamp is prime habitat for woodland brook trout, as the collapsed trees, roots and stumps in the water afford ample structure.

Bring along an ultralight rod with light tackle (4-pound test, size 8 or smaller Aberdeen hook and a small splitshot is perfect), to pluck out specks from tight cover. Trout worms are preferred over night crawlers. Springtime in the Northwoods also means swaths of mosquitoes, so bug spray is a must. Pull on a pair of tall rubber boots for fording the shallow creeks and maneuvering the mucky banks.

These creeks are often slight and narrow, so its not about casting to the other bank so much as flipping or drop- ping a line into a particularly appealing hole. Look for pools of deeper water (relatively speaking—perhaps two to three feet) under or on the backside of logs, obstructions, or cut-under banks. Pockets with slightly faster current and burbling water are also good targets.

Like all trout, brookies get skittish when shadows flitter across the water surface, so keep a low profile, and hang back from the run as much as possible, extending your arms and pole to drop your line.

The trout hoisted from these uncharted hovels are unlikely to be master-angler class, but the limited fishing pressure and acres of creek tangle can provide fast and consistent action. Be sure to consult local regulations and trout stream designations before keeping any of these backwoods beauties for the frying pan. Next time you go for brookies, leave the main stream and try the small water.

TVM July 2016


This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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Photo(s) by Andrew VanDrie