When you think of Oakland County Michigan you probably think of a sprawling, highly populated, affluent suburb of Detroit. While known for shopping, concert venues, restaurants, and parks, you may be surprised to learn that there is also a pretty solid trout stream there called Paint Creek. The creek is fed from a dam in Lake Orion and runs southeast for thirteen miles emptying into the Clinton River. The water has earned a designation as a high-quality coldwater stream from the DNR. This means that the water temperatures, food supply, and habitat are capable of supporting trout year-round. The creek has been stocked with brown trout annually by the Michigan DNR since the 1940s, and today there are several sections of the stream which have wild and reproducing populations of the fish. This is a unique feature for a creek in this part of the state. Rainbow trout can also be found in the creek from time to time.
The Paint Creek trail, which spans 8.9 miles, goes from the city of Rochester to the Village of Lake Orion and weaves in and out of Paint Creek. This provides anglers with many public access points to the stream. Several parks in the city of Rochester offer parking, restrooms, and further access to the waterway. For more information on access points and a map of the stream, check out the ‘Fisherman’s Guide To Paint Creek’ which can be found here.
I was able to spend some time fly fishing the creek recently and found it to be a very pleasant day on the water. The area surrounding the creek is beautiful, and the well-manicured trail provides a great safe area to get into the water. The sections of Paint Creek near the Rochester municipal parks are easy to get to, though can get pretty crowded with people when the weather is nice. The creek itself was empty for the most part, though I did have to wade around families with children swimming in the water a few times. Traveling a little outside town via the Paint Creek trail yields a much more sparsely populated area with plenty of deep pools in the stream. Paint Creek is easily wadable, though it can get a bit rough after storms so use caution and be on the lookout for fast currents and high water levels. The water is very clear and cool through most of the creek. You can easily fly cast most of the area, though trees can get a little tight in spots so a shorter lightweight rod works really well here. My 8’6″ four-weight rod was perfect for the stream and allowed me to make lots of short precise casts to target the pools in the water.
I plan on getting back here as much as possible. Paint Creek is a very approachable stream for the newer fly angler and I’ve no doubt that during a hatch the fishing here would be pretty killer. While not the remote wilderness that some of Michigan’s best trout creeks are, Paint Creek provides a pleasant day on the water in a safe area and the chance to try and catch a wild brown trout close to home.