The following hatch chart lists the major fly hatches and emergence dates for Michigan’s northern trout rivers (Au Sable, Boardman, Manistee). Hatches for Michigan’s mid-state rivers (Muskegon, Huron, Pere Marquette) occur about 1-2 weeks earlier. Hatches on Tip of the Mitt trout rivers (Sturgeon, Pigeon, Black) occur about 1-2 weeks later. And hatches for Michigan’s Upper Penninsula rivers (Fox, Whitefish, Rifle, Jordan, Ontongaon) occur 2-3 weeks later.
The fly chart below includes the top fly hatches throughout Michigan including recommended fly sizes, hatch type, estimated hatch dates and emergence time. Hatch availability, dates and emergence may vary based on annual water conditions and weather.
|MICHIGAN FLY HATCHES||Fly size||Type||Dates|
|Tiny Black Stonefly||#16-20||Stonefly||1/1-4/30|
|Early Black Stonefly||#10-14||Stonefly||3/1-4/30|
|Early Brown Stonefly||#12-14||Stonefly||3/15-5/10|
|Slate Wing Mahogany||#16-18||Mayfly||4/1-6/30|
|Dark Hendrickson (Hendrickson, Red Quill)||#12-14||Mayfly||4/20-5/20|
|Little Black Caddis||#16-20||Caddisfly||4/20-6/30|
|Grannom (Black) Caddis||#12-16||Caddisfly||4/20-7/31|
|Medium Brown Stonefly||#6-10||Stonefly||5/1-6/30|
|Green Rock Worm Caddis||#10-16||Caddisfly||5/1-7/31|
|Green Oak Worm||#8-12||Terrestrial||5/15-7/10|
|Great Speckled Olive||#8-12||Mayfly||5/15-7/15|
|Sulphur Dun (Light Hendrickson)||#12-16||Mayfly||5/15-7/8|
|Tiny Blue-winged Olive||#20-22||Mayfly||5/15-8/30|
|Pale Evening Dun (PMD)||#14-18||Mayfly||6/1-7/15|
|Great Orange Sedge||#8-10||Caddisfly||6/1-7/31|
|White Gloved Howdy||#10-12||Mayfly||6/1-9/15|
|Hebe (Little Yellow Quill, Sulphur)||#16-18||Mayfly||6/15-9/30|
|Slate Winged Olive (Summer Olive)||#14-18||Mayfly||6/21-8/15|
|Big Golden Stonefly||#6-8||Stonefly||6/21-8/7|
|White Miller Caddis||#12-16||Caddisfly||7/1-9/30|
Michigan’s Major Fly Hatches
Michigan is known for its trophy trout and for having some of the best fly fishing in the Midwest. But what makes Michigan a premier trout fishery isn’t just its fish, it’s the diversity of fly hatches that occur each year that drive trout up from the depths to feed.
Figuring out what trout are feeding on at any given time—and matching the hatch—can be challenging for even an experienced angler. But the most novice angler can reel in some trophy catches if they just get familiar with a few of the more significant hatches and fly patterns.
The following are the most important hatches that every anglers should know when fishing Michigan trout waters. Match these hatches and you’ll be prepared to fish most of Michigan’s 12,000 miles of designated trout waters and 868 miles of blue ribbon trout streams.
The Hendrickson is one of the earlier and more abundant mayfly hatches in Michigan. It’s the first major hatch that anglers prepare for. It usually gets under way at the end of April toward the beginning of the Michigan Trout Opener and extends through mid May.
If you’re looking to fish this hatch, you’ll want to be on the river early. The Hendrickson mayfly emerges during day light hours with peak emergence from late morning to early afternoon—with spinner flies taking stage in the early evening.
The Hendrickson is one of the few hatches where males and female mayflies differ in color, size, and appearance. Males are small, rusty colored, with red eyes. Females are larger with golden olive coloration. The two sexes often hatch at different times and trout may prefer one sex over the other. I believe it’s a good idea to carry a selection of male and female dun imitations.
Trout will readily take fly imitations of adult, nymph, and emerger Hendrickson mayflies. Having a selection of all three stages is important. On of the more effective presentations for trout fishing a Hendrickson fly hatch is to use a dry fly dropper rig with a dun imitation followed by a dropper with a nymph or emerger pattern.
Recommended Hendrickson dry fly patterns:
- Hendrickson Spinner
- Parachute Adams
- Hackle Stacker Adams
- Parachute Borcher’s
- Rusty Spinner
Recommended Hendrickson nymph patterns:
- Hackle Stacker Emerger
- Hare’s Ear
- Henrickson Nymph
The moniker “Black Caddis” applies to several caddis species that hatch in Michigan trout rivers through the spring and sumer. Black caddis hatches are found throughout the Rocky Mountain, midwest and eastern United States but are especially prolific in Michigan.
Black Caddis patterns are crafted to allow anglers to fish every life stage (nymph, emerger, and adult) of the caddis fly. Having a selection of each is beneficial for fly fishing Michigans many trout streams and rivers.
Recommended fly patterns for nymph, emerger and adult:
- Black Caddis with Green Eggsack
- Black Elk Hair Caddis
- Adams Caddis
- Black CDC Caddis
- Black Foam Caddis
- Colorado Caddis – Gray
- Z-Wing Caddis – Olive
Recommended streamers for fishing caddis hatches when trout aren’t feeding at the surface.
- Royal Coachman Streamer #10
- Wet Skunk #8-12
- Muddler Minnow
The sulphur mayfly hatch is one of the most prolific hatches in Michigan, and it produces some large trout catches.
Sulphur mayflies hatch from mid May through July and range in size from 12 to 18, depending on whether they’re male or female. Larger mayflies typically emerge toward the beginning of the hatch and the mayflies continue to decrease in size until the hatch is over.
Nymph sulphurs tend to hold in quiet pools near the bottom. As emergers, sulphurs will move into the slower current. Sulphurs typically break for the surface early afternoon when skies are overcast. When fishing sulphur hatches, anglers should carry flys representing each life stage of sulphur mayflies (nymph, emerger and adult dun).
As sulphurs emerge and become duns, it’s common for adult sulphur mayfly to remain attached to their shuck. Using patterns that mimic a sulphur with a husk is effective for targeting Michigan river trout.
Female sulphur Duns are generally bigger than males. A male sulphur Dun is usually size 16-18. A female dun may be size 12-18. After mating male Duns fall to the river where they’re eaten by waiting trout. After mating and distributing their eggs female sulphur duns also return to the river and die.
Trout can be selective and it’s a good idea to carry different fly pattern sizes and colors. Adult sulphurs are typically a sulphur yellow color but spinners change to a tannish rust color. Carry a selection of fly patterns that accurately mimic adult duns as well as the spinners trout are accustomed to feeding on.
Recommended dry fly patterns for sulphur hatches:
- Robert’s Yellow Drake
- Sulphur Parachute
- Regan’s spent wing spinner
Recommended sulphur nymph and emerger patterns:
- Henry Ramsay’s emerger
- Sulphur Breadline Emerger
- SBR Sulphur Nymph
The Light Cahill is a common hatch throughout Michigan trout streams that gets under way in mid June. Light Cahill hatches occur sporadically throughout the day. When Cahill mayflies emerge they typically spend a relatively long time on the water’s surface while their wings dry. This makes Cahill an easy target for foraging trout and an important hatch for dry fly anglers.
Light Cahill hatches are not as popular some of Michigan’s larger hatches, but since the Light Cahill in the midwest is a late season hatch—June through August—there is little competition on the water from some of the larger early season hatches.
The Light Cahill is primarily a dry fly hatch, but fishing nymphs can also be effective for targeting trout. Since Light Cahill mayfly emergence is more subtle than for other duns, emergence patterns are of less value for fishing this hatch. Parachute and Catskill fly patterns are popular among anglers for fishing Light Cahill hatches.
Recommended Light Cahill dry fly patterns:
- Robert’s Drake #12-18
- classis Light Cahill dry fly
- Creamy, white comparadun #12-14
- Light Cahill Parachute
- Spent Wing Light Cahill
Recommended Light Cahill nymph patterns:
- Hare’s Ear
- SBR Light Cahill Nymph