Boardman River Michigan
James Marsh fishing Boardman River Michigan
Copyright 2021 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Boardman River
This stream is known for its big brown trout and a high
population of brook trout. It's also known for the "Adams"
fly because it was originated for this stream by Len
Halladay and named after his friend Judge Charlie
Adams .

The Boardman River starts near Kalkaska, Michigan and
flows into the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay near
Traverse City. It is called Traverse Lake just above the
Bay. Two branches, the North and South Branch of the
Boardman River, form the main stream at the little
villages of Kalkaska and South Boardman.

There are several dams and impoundments on the
Boardman that affects the river and in effect, divides it
into different sections. Currently there is much
consideration about removing some of the dams. It is a
very controversial subject.

The upper section has some very good dry fly fishing.
As you will see in our hatches section of this site, the
river has a good population of many different species of
aquatic insects.

As with the Au Sable, not far away, night fishing during
the famous Hex hatch, or Michigan Caddis hatch as
some anglers refer to it, is popular on this river. Large
brown trout can be taken during the hatch.

Most of the larger browns are taken on nymphs or
streamers. Large streamer work great under low light
conditions of early morning and late afternoons and
evenings. Unlike the spring, during the fall months of the
year, you should be able to find plenty of water to fish
for brown trout without having to worry about pressure
from other anglers. You will most likely have the stream
to yourself.

The biggest problem with the Boardman River is access.
Some parts, mainly the upper section, has fairly good
access but much of the river doesn't.

One great thing about the Boardman River is that there
is always some good fishing available on the stream.
You can catch trout, steelhead or salmon, one of the
other, just about any day of the year.
Type of Stream

Brown Trout
Brook Trout
(Wild trout, wild and hatchery raised
steelhead and salmon)


Northwestern Michigan

Nearest Towns
Traverse City

Varies depending on species. See
current regulations Some sections
open year-round

Special Regulations
Yes, see current special regulations

Poor to Fair

Non-Resident License
State of Michigan

National Weather Service Link

Hatch Chart
Perfect Fly Hatch Chart

Fly Fishing Gear and Trout Flies

Stream Flow Data:
Real Time USGS Data (Above
Brown Bridge Road)
Boardman River,
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Fly Fishing Guide to the Boardman River
The Boardman River has a variety of fish from small
brook trout to larger brown, steelhead and salmon.
Fishing depends first and foremost on what you are
pursuing. The upper headwaters of the Boardman River
is a pleasant place to fish in a small stream habitat. It
probably only averages twenty to twenty five feet wide.
Both its North and South branches also provide good
fishing. The area they merge to form the main stream is
called the "Forks".  There are several places you can
access the upper portion of the river. Brown Bridge
Road runs fairly near most of the upper section from the
Forks to Brown Bridge Pond. It can be accessed at the
Forks, Trail Camp, Shecks Place and at points along
the Brown Bridge Road.
This part consist mostly of shallow water flowing over a
gravel bottom with lots of deadfalls.

Below Brown Bridge Pond, the river flows a little faster
down to Keystone Pond and below that, Sabin Pond.
There are some larger fish in this area than they are in
the upper part. Deeper pools along the way provide
holding places for the larger brown trout. Much of it
flows through private property. Access in this section of
the river is very limited.

Below Sabin Dam the water is open all the way to
Traverse Bay for Salmon and Steelhead migrations.
This section of the river can get quite warm in the
summer. It holds only a few trout. A fish weir is placed in
the stream during certain times that prevents the
salmon from moving upstream. This allows eggs to be
taken for hatchery use. Some move upstream before it
is placed and therefore some are in the river during the
spawning time.

The water flows slowly into Boardman Lake. Below the
lake, there is another dam and a fish ladder, creating
another section in the river before it reaches the Bay.
Steelhead can be caught in this section which is actually
in Traverse City, during late fall, winter and early spring.
The steelhead move into the river to spawn around the
middle of March. They can be caught until the first of
May. These fish return to the lake after the spawn. They
enter the river again during the fall and can be taken on
salmon eggs, large nymphs and streamers. The river is
full of spawning salmon at this time of the year.
The fishing season varies with the species
of fish. Some sections are open
Springtime is the best time for dry fly
fishing for trout due to the number of
hatches that takes place. There is a spring
steelhead run.
Summertime night fishing during the large
drake hatches can be excellent.
Boardman River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based on
our stream samples of larvae and nymphs, not
guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Boardman River and in all
stages of life that are applicable to fishing. If
you want to fish better, more realistic trout
flies, have a much higher degree of success,
give us a call.  We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.

The most important insect that hatches on the
Boardman River is the Blue-winged Olives.
There's more than one species and some of
them are bi-brooded. The first hatch usually
occurs around the first of April and last until
about the middle of May. There is a hatch from
the last week of May through the month of
July. About the end of August they will hatch
again. This last hatch usually ends by the first
of October.

Hendrickson hatch usually starts about the
middle of April. This hatch last for about a
month. Blue Quills (called Mahogany Duns
locally) will start to hatch about the middle of
May. It usually last about six weeks. American
March Browns start to hatch about the middle
of May. It last for about a month.

By the middle of May, you may also find some
Sulphurs starting to hatch. This hatch can last
to the middle of June. Brown Drakes start
hatching about the first of June and last for
about three weeks. The middle of June you
should find some Gray Drakes hatching. They
can last up to a month.

About the second week of June and lasting
until the middle of July, the Great Olive Wing
Dun, or what locals sometimes call the Hex
hatch or sometimes Michigan Caddis hatch
takes place.  The Slate Drake hatch last about
two months, or from around the middle of June
until the middle of August. In the faster water
sections, you will find some Light Cahills. They
hatch starting the first of June until August

Caddisflies are also very plentiful on the
Boardman River. There are many species but
the most important are species of the
Cinnamon Caddis. They start about the first of
June and can last all the way until the end of
August. Green Sedges start around the first of
June also. This hatch usually last about six
weeks. There is more than one species of
them. Remember, their larva, or the Green
Rock Worms, are around all year exposed to
the trout. Imitations of them work  just about
Hatches continued:
The first hatch of caddisflies is usually the
Little Black Caddis. They will start about
the middle of April and last for around
three weeks. There's some Great Autumn
Brown Caddisflies that hatch starting near
the end of August. They hatch at night
and usually last for about a month.

The Boardman River also has some
stoneflies. From about March 15th until
May 15th, early black or Little Winter
Stoneflies hatch. Of course these are
usually found in the faster sections of the
streams. Yellow Sallies (Little Yellow
stoneflies) are probably the most plentiful
of them. They start hatching around the
middle of May and last until the middle of

Terrestrial insects can be important
during the summer months. Ants are
plentiful around the stream from about the
end of June all the way to mid October.
The flying ants are usually found from
about the middle of August to the middle
of September. Imitations of beetles and
grasshoppers will produce trout during
the months of July, August and

Midges are around year-round and
imitations of their larvae, pupae and the
adults will produce most anytime but the
most important times are during cold
weather when few other insects are

Streamers are very popular flies on the
Boardman River. Imitations of sculpin,
baitfish, leeches all produce. They are
very good flies for catching the larger
brown trout, especially in low light and
dingy water conditions. Streamers also
work great for the Steelhead.

At "Perfect Fly," we have specific
imitations of everything that hatches on
the Boardman River. If you haven't
already done so, please give our flies try.
We feel confident you will be glad you did.
They are not only are the most realistic
flies you can buy, they are the most
effective at catching trout.

Steelhead Flies:
You may want to have a large selection of
small egg flies in natural colors such as
gold, orange, Oregon cheese, peach, and
cream in hook sizes #8 and 10's. Our
"Perfect Fly" Giant Black Stonefly Nymphs
in hook sizes 6 also work well. Our
"Perfect Fly" Hex (Great Olive Winged
Drake) nymphs in a hook size #6 also
work great. So do our Green Caddis
larvae imitations or Green Rock Worms in
a hook size 12.
Fall is a great time for fly fishing the
Boardman River, especially for the
large brown trout. There is a steelhead
run in the fall.
Steelhead can be caught during the
fly fishing boardman river
Fly fishing Boardman River
Boardman River
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated 02/09/2021
(Bottom Of Page)
Boardman River Fishing Report - 02/09/21
The river is flowing near a normal level and in good shape. Trout are still being caught.
There are some good hatches of midges and little winter stoneflies.
A few steelhead are
also being caught.

Stream Conditions:

7 Day Weather Forecast:
(click here to see more detailed weather information)

Recommended Trout Flies:
Rate: 112 cfs
Level: 3.24 ft
Afternoon Water Temperature: 40
Clarity: clear
USGS Real-Time Stream Flow Data abv Brown Bridge Road
Blue-winged Olives: size 18/20, nymph, emergers, duns and spinners
Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin and articulated streamers size 4/6
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Aquatic Worms, size 12, pink, red, and others.
Winter Stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
Our Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin streamers are great flies to use anytime.
Blue-winged olives are hatching.
We still think the best strategy is to fish a tandem Midge rig under a small strike indicator
with the midge lava as the bottom fly and the midge pupa as the top fly. Fish the adult
midge only when you observe trout feeding on the surface.
Aquatic worms are working.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Recommended Salmon  Flies:
Perfect Fly Salmon Flies
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
Recommended Steelhead/Salmon Strategies, Techniques and Tips
Steelhead are in the river and being caught in good numbers.
Recommended Steelhead Flies:
Perfect Fly Great Lakes Steelhead flies