The Pine River flows out of Tustin, Michigan and should be number one on your bucket list for the entire midwest! If you're a trout angler that doesn’t want to share your water with anadromous fish, this is your river.
The Pine River is a tributary of the Big Manistee River in north west lower Michigan that flows in upstream of Tippy Dam. Because of this the Pine River does not see any Anadromous fish and is home to wild trout.
The Pine is the coldest and highest gradient river in the lower peninsula of of Michigan and is deemed as a Blue Ribbon trout stream. After the removal of Stronach Dam near Wellston, Michigan the Pine river flows freely from its headwaters near Tustin, Michigan 54 miles downstream into Tippy Pond. The Pine River was designated a wild and scenic river in 1992 and flows through the Manistee national forest.
The Pine as most rivers in this region were, was used as log transportation through logging era. Today you will find many paddling enthusiast enjoying floating the pine making weekends difficult to fish. Each watercraft must obtain a float permit from the U.S. forest service for each day you would like to float to limit the amount of traffic on any given day. There are only three commercial use permits (guide permits) issued by the forest service, and D-Loop Outfitters are fortunate enough to hold two of them.
You will find all wild trout on the Pine River, for it is not stocked at all by the Michigan DNR. Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown trout can all be found throughout the entire system.
Perhaps the most recognizable trout you will find on the pine is a pure strain McCloud Rainbow Trout introduced here many years ago. Our strain of McCloud bows are actually being reintroduced to their native streams in California due to that strain being compromised because of breeding with cutthroat trout. The McCloud rainbow is a migratory rainbow or steelhead that were planted here with thoughts of a fish ladder at Tippy Dam that never materialized. Look for the average size ranging from 8-20 inches and are bright chrome in appearance. The fight is very impressive for their size and will be very acrobatic when hooked.
The Pine River’s insect life is predominantly stoneflies although caddis and mayflies are found. The abundance of giant Pteronarcys stonefly nymphs in the river make a nice high calorie diet for the trout (chocolate colored sizes 2-6). Nymphing is day in and day out the most productive way to fish the Pine. The go to flies for the D-Loop guide crew would be a Pat’s Rubber Leg in two tone brown/tan size 6 with a size 14 beadhead prince nymph trailed 18” behind.
Hatches are limited on the pine, but yellow sallies and blue wing olives are plentiful. The Pine River has a lot of clay along the banks so a freak heavy downpour can muddy the water up quite quickly. I’d recommend carrying a streamer box with you at all times on the pine in case this happens. Large black streamers with rubber legs is a great way to get a trout’s attention in cloudy water.
You will find riffles, gravel, and boulders throughout each beat of The Pine River along with sandy flats. This River mimics a western freestone more than any other river in the state. The lower river is predominantly all national forest that you are free to use. Although most of the pine is wadable we prefer to float it in a small drift boat or an inflatable raft on our guide trips. The U.S.Forest Service Accesses are Elm Flats, Dobson Bridge, Peterson Bridge, and Low Bridge.