100 Best: Pere Marquette River
Location: Northwest Michigan
Type of stream: Spring seep, Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, spin
Species: Browns, rainbows, steelhead, salmon
Supporting Services: Tackle shops, guides, accommodations
Short take: Famous steelhead, salmon and brown trout river
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapters: Pine River
All told, the Pere Marquette and its principal tributaries—the Middle Branch, the Little South Branch, the Baldwin River, and the Little South Branch—offer 138 miles of excellent trout, salmon, and steelhead fishing. Bob Linsenman, maestro of Au Sable Anglers in Mio, advises that the upper limit of good fly fishing is the bridge at about mid-way between Chase and the confluence of the Little South Branch southwest of Idlewild. Little more than 20 feet wide and averaging two feet deep, undercut banks and holes in bends harbor very respectable browns. This section of the Middle Fork also attracts steelhead from March through May. Sight fishing for them can be a phenomenal challenge.
Below its confluence with the Baldwin River flows, the Pere Marquette becomes an adolescent. More than three times wider than where the river becomes good trout water, channels in the gravel bottom deep “enough to dampen your hat,” Linsenman writes in his and Steve Nevala’s excellent Michigan Trout Streams: A Fly-Angler’s Guide. For 10 miles or so downstream, the river chases down riffles that fill with spawning steelhead in early spring and salmon in the fall. Very respectable browns hold in deeper holes and come out to feed on late evening mayfly and caddis hatches.
Water from the Baldwin River brings the Pere Marquette into adulthood. For eight miles, down to Gleason’s landing, fly fishing only rules apply. Though some of it is wadeable, fishing from a boat allows more water to be more thoroughly covered. The deep section does not last for more than a mile or so. Then the river’s gradient steepens. Riffles appear and the river develops excellent turn holes in its bends. The heavy water continues down where the Big South Branch comes in.