There’s no river like the one close to your home. While Michigan is full of world-class streams and rivers with wild populations of brown and brook trout, most of these are a 3-4 hour drive for those of us living in the southern lower peninsula. No matter how great some of these places are, there is something special about fishing our home turf. These are the rivers we learn to fish on, test out new strategies, and can get to multiple times each week. For me, living near Ann Arbor, there are not many options for trout fishing. However, over the past decade, the Ann Arbor chapter of Trout Unlimited set to work building a quality trout stream near home.
Mill Creek is a cold water stream in Washtenaw County that empties into the Huron River. It travels a total of 226 miles and winds through Chelsea, finishing in Downtown Dexter. Around 2010, Trout Unlimited began a restoration project on the creek. In 2008, the Mill Pond Dam was removed in Dexter which reduced the water temperatures in the creek. They also poured money and labor into restoring riparian areas along the creek to create quality habitat for wildlife. With the creek’s water temperature lowered, the Michigan DNR working closely with Trout Unlimited began stocking brown trout in the creek every year starting in 2011. The stocking efforts continue today and while there is not yet a wild population of trout in the creek, there have been brown trout caught there measuring over 20 inches.
Today, you can fish the creek for trout, smallmouth bass, pike, and even the occasional walleye. The creek is well set up with several good access points throughout Dexter and is wadable for much of its run. While the numbers of trout in the creek are minimal compared to many other rivers, you can regularly catch 8-10 inch brown trout with some patience. The area and trails surrounding the creek are beautiful and you can regularly spot whitetail deer, blue herons, minks, ducks, geese, and many other animals. Before you hit the creek, stop in at The Painted Trout fly shop in downtown dexter for some local intel and grab a couple of flies to match what the fish are biting on. When you’re done, you can grab a root beer float at the Dexter A&W or get some cider in the fall at the Dexter cider mill. If you want the experience of fishing for Brown Trout on a small scale, Mill Creek is a great spot. Shallow water, friendly locals, and conscientious anglers make this one of my favorite local areas to fish.