All of Michigan's rivers drain into one of the Great Lakes. For that reason the majority of its rivers are rather short. The Grand River is Michigan's longest. It begins south of the city of Jackson and flows north and then west for about 250 miles to Lake Michigan. The river actually begins closer to Lake Erie but meanders to the west instead.
The Grand begins as a very slow-moving stream and continues this way for about 30 miles. The low gradient results in a soft bottom making the river difficult to wade. The river is floatable but the fishing is only fair with northern pike, walleye, and largemouth and smallmouth bass the principal game fish. As the Grand nears the small town of Eaton Rapids it begins changing to a classic smallmouth bass stream. It widens, the flow quickens, the bottom firms up, and boulders poke their round tops above the surface of the water. Eaton Rapids was named for the character of the river here and proclaims itself as the "only Eaton Rapids on Earth."
Except for where it is impounded, the Grand continues to alternate riffles with pools and contains boulder-strewn runs all the way to the city of Grand Rapids. This is the prime fly fishing reach of the river. Most of the dams on the river are relatively low head, but three hydroelectric dams (Smithville, Moores Park, and Webber) do create substantial backwaters. The areas below each dam offer prime fly fishing opportunities. Access is good at each dam and there is usually a good concentration of fish below each barrier. The two main reasons for the increased numbers are the blockage of fish movement and the presence of disoriented or injured baitfish that have just passed over the dam or through its turbines. Of course anglers can also be concentrated at these locations and you may do better by trying stretches that receive less pressure.
Many road bridges provide additional access as do the developed public access sites with launch ramps which are shown on maps of the river. The Portland State Game Area, just upstream from the town of Portland, provides a number of additional access locations. Canoes and kickboats can be launched at many points where launch ramps are not present. You can exercise lots of smallmouth, with a few walleyes and channel catfish thrown into the mix. At normal summer flows you can also safely navigate the river in a float tube or personal watercraft. If you like to cover lots of water, try launching at Charlotte Highway and then float through the entire state game area. The riverside park in Portland provides a good place to take out. Other prime floats in this section of the Grand include Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge to State Road or Jones Road to Turner Road.
Prime months for the Grand River's Resident fish are May through September although most species remain active into October until the water temperature falls below 50 degrees. Walleyes can be caught throughout the year but they will hit better when the water is above 45 degrees. The Grand's second season - the first in the minds of many anglers - begins as soon as the river water temperature cools into the 60s in late August or September.
Riffles with pools, boulder-strewn runs