Monday, December 24, 2012

Variety - Flyfishing in Iowa!

Flyfishing….its not just for trout!

Folks get started in flyfishing for different reasons.  I first tried flyfishing in about 2000.  I lived in Illinois at the time, and flyfished ponds for Bluegills and Crappies, and a nice stream for Smallmouth Bass.  I didn’t fall in love with it, and soon put the fly rod away in favor of spinning gear.   I started taking flyfishing more seriously back in 2006, well after my family had moved back to Iowa.  It was the answer to a problem I was having of presenting a small lure to Bluegills and Crappies with a very slow retrieve.  With ultralite spinning gear, I could cast as small as 1/64 oz jigs, but the retrieve was still often faster than I wanted it to be.  Using a small bobber helped to fish slower and cast lighter lures, but often spooked fish when it hit the water.

I reasoned that with the fly rod, I could fish a small unweighted fly extremely slowly…exactly the presentation I was looking for.  I bought a new flyrod and fly reel, line, and leader.  I bought some flies that looked like something I thought the fish would eat. I put the equipment together, and decided I should practice casting it to teach myself how to deliver the fly to the fish.  And, of course, what better place to “practice” than at the water’s edge?

Casting fly line is a different concept than casting lures with spinning/casting gear.  But anyone can learn it if they have a desire and the patience to do so.  There is an ever-changing rhythm to it.  I was soon catching fish, and the experience was everything I’d hoped it would be.  Presenting the fly, getting a take, setting the hook, fighting and landing the fish were all very enjoyable with flyfishing gear.  While casting wasn’t as quickfire as using spinning/casting gear, it was actively engaging, and entirely FUN!

Discovering how much I flat-out ENJOYED flyfishing, I began to expand the fish species I would chase with this gear.  I found myself taking flyfishing gear along on a trip to Florida, and catching such exotic freshwater species as Peacock Bass, Oscars, Mayan Cichlids, and Tilapia. Total blast!

The good news is, you don’t have to leave Iowa to catch some awesome fish species on flyfishing gear!  You just have to do your homework.  You DO need to understand the fish you choose to pursue.  Where do they live?  What do they eat?  Once you’ve gotten these two questions answered, then you can move on to field testing and answering the third question.  What does it take to get one to strike?

For many, figuring all this out is a big part of the FUN of FISHING, so I don’t want to be that annoying person that tells you the ending of a new movie before you get a chance to see it.  I will, however, endeavor to open your eyes to flyfishing for some fish species you may not have considered.  How about using fly gear to pursue some of these species of fish that are found right here in central Iowa?

There’s the obvious species to pursue, like Largemouth Bass:



Smallmouth Bass:

Hybrid Sunfish:

Green Sunfish:

All of the previous are reasonably common species.  How about these less common fly-fishing targets?

Grass Carp (possibly the most challenging fish of all to fool...but well worth the effort):

Common Carp (you’ll get a new appreciation for carp when you’ve fooled, fought, and landed your first one on fly gear…strong fish, yes sir!):

Smallmouth Buffalo (these were a delightfully unexpected reward caught while targeting carp):

Bigmouth Buffalo (disclaimer…this one was foul-hooked in the nose.  I’m still trying to solve the puzzle to hook one of these plankton feeders in the mouth with a fly):

Shortnose Gar (the gist of targeting these is that it is more like HUNTING and then casting to visible fish…very fun!):

Channel Catfish:

A trio of “yellows”…Yellow Bullhead:

Yellow Perch:

Yellow Bass:

..and White Bass:

Wiper (Hybrid):

Redear Sunfish:

Freshwater Drum:

…and even Walleye!  I’ve caught a few Walleyes with flyfishing gear in Iowa (in both lakes and rivers), but didn’t photograph any of them.  I did photograph some I caught on flies in Canada, however, so I’ll substitute one here.  The point is…it can be done.:
I started off saying that flyfishing isn’t just for trout.  It IS a good tool for trout, of course!  The Iowa DNR does stock trout in Central Iowa as part of the Urban Trout Program, so you can add the traditional flyrod trout to the list of possibilities for central Iowa, like this Brook Trout (not normally stocked for the UTP, but did get stocked at Lake Petocka in the Fall of 2011):

…and, finally, the more commonly stocked Rainbow Trout:

This would take us out of central Iowa, but if you don’t mind traveling to NE Iowa, you can add Brown Trout to your list:

I have also caught Northern Pike on a fly, but not in Iowa…yet.  They are in the Iowa River, and I’ve caught some on spinning gear in the Des Moines River and Raccoon River, so catching them on flyfishing gear is certainly a possibility.  They may be in other nearby rivers as well, so do your homework if you want to pursue Northern Pike on flies in Iowa.

There remains a number of other Iowa fish species I’m still looking forward to fooling with the fly rod, ranging from the Creek Chub to Flathead Catfish to Longnose Gar and a variety of suckers.  Asian Carp (Bigheads and Silvers) have invaded the Des Moines River to below Red Rock Lake.  It is unfortunate.  I’d love to be able to catch some of those large fish on flies too (even though this is unlikely since they are plankton filter-feeders), thus making lemonade from such lemons.

It has been said that if a fish eats, it can be caught on a fly.  I'll leave it to you to determine the truth of that statement.  Iowa abounds with a variety of fish species that you can pursue with flyfishing gear.  What kinds of fish do YOU want to catch?


  1. Your wild, as in crazy variety, and better, actually wild fish, is awesome. That was a well put photo essay.

    Merry Christmas as well!


  2. Thanks Gregg! Glad you enjoyed it.
    Lets hope we keep catchin' more in 2013! :)

  3. Nice post. You would really enjoy fishing in Alabama... I know i do. We have some of the greatest fish biodiversity to be found in the U.S.

  4. Its good blog I ever read,the pictures are amazing,Its wiil be every ones dream place for fishing at weekends.