Southwest of Mesick, the 12 mile Manistee River Trail follows the eastern shore of the Manistee River, one of the finest trout-salmon streams. It's a flat route through pine and groves of oak and maple. The route runs from Red Bridge in the south to Hodenply Dam Pond in the north (good trailhead park at NFS Seaton Creek Campground).
To reach the Red Bridge trailhead for fly fishing the Manistee River from Cadillac, follow SR55 west. Turn north on SR37 for 9 miles. Head west on SR30 for 5 miles to Coates Road, then turn right and follow signs.
Another good fly fishing section is in the upper stretch near Mancelona Road (SR38) heading downstream for about 30 miles to SR66. You can expect to find excellent brook trout.
Below Tippy Dam, you can expect to find large steelhead and salmon runs, but plan on floating this stretch. Check out the Bear Creek tributary.
Note: The North Country Trail also runs near the west side of the Manistee River for fly fishing access.
Overall, Manistee River is the 17th most popular fly fishing river of all 26 fly fishing spots in Michigan.