≡ Menu

HeraldTimes, Fly fishing is good on Michigan’s Beaver Island by Brandon Butler

This article appeared in the HeraldTimes along with several other newspapers around July 13, 2008 and was written by Brandon Butler.

When considering typical fish pursued by those armed with a fly rod, the common carp is rarely one of the first to come to mind. Unfortunately considered by most to be nothing more than rough fish, carp are in actuality hard fighting, highly intelligent, large-sized fresh water fish worthy of respect. I recently traveled to Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan to pursue these "bone-fish of the north" with fly fishing gear.

This past spring, in between releasing steelhead during a great day on the river, my good friend and well-known Michigan fly fishing guide Kevin Morlock, of Indigo Guide Service, asked me if I was interested in trying something new. From the smile on his face, I knew it would be good. When Kevin invited me to join him on a carp fishing expedition I began to think all those days on the water had finally caught up with him.   

Brandon Butler fly fishing for carp - Courtesy of Indigo Guide ServiceAlways a sucker for adventure, I pulled into Charlevoix, Michigan at about noon in plenty of time to catch the 2:30 ferry. Situated approximately 30 miles off lower-Michigan’s mainland (about a 2 hour and 15 minute ferry ride), Beaver Island awaits those looking to get away from it all. When I first stepped off the ferry, I was pleasantly surprised. Having traveled to Mackinac Island numerous times before, I supposed I expected Beaver to be similar. There were no fudge shops, no horse drawn carriages, and most importantly, no lodges requiring a suit jacket at dinner! Beaver Island is rustic and remote, yet completely satisfying. There is one grocery store, a few restaurants and bars, two marinas, a golf course, and 42 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.

Kevin Morlock has come up with an innovative idea for fishing the crystal clear, aqua colored waters surrounding the Island. The innovation simply comes from applying ocean flats fishing to the northern waters of Michigan. Kevin has mounted a platform on the rear of his 17′ boat and uses a 20′ push pole to quietly maneuver around the flats in search of cruising carp. When carp are located in a pod, Kevin anchors the boat so a stealthy approach can be made on foot. The sand and gravel flats are at times only ankle deep a quarter-mile of the shore. I swear, if there had been a tiki-hut, with a bartender offering me a Red Stripe, ‘mon, I would have thought I’d finally realized my dream of Jamaica.

The fishing was much tougher than I thought it would be. In two days on the water, I boated 3 and Kevin 7. The wind was ferocious, so Kevin said we did well considering the conditions. He was a little upset that we didn’t get into them the way he is used to; when twenty fish days are common. We used 8 wt. and 10 wt. rods, with weight forward floating line, and 7 foot leaders tapered to 12 lbs. The carp took a variety of flies imitating crayfish, gobies, and leaches. Go ahead and hold the dough ball and corn jokes. We got plenty of them our first day on the island!

If you are interested in a true Midwestern adventure, head to the wilderness of Beaver Island. Be careful though, the locals warn, "You’ll get sand in your shoes!"

Brandon Butler is a professional outdoor communicator living in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife and two daughters. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, and the Hoosier Outdoors Writers. Brandon writes a weekly outdoor column for almost a dozen newspapers and has been featured in many outdoor publications. You can contact Brandon from his Web site at

www.driftwoodoutdoors.org External Link

This article is also on the Pure Michigan web site…