Iowa Fly Fishing

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Overview on Where to Fly Fish in Iowa
There are many opportunities to use a fly in Iowa. Besides for trout, Iowa fisheries support the following species: smallmouth and largemouth bass, wipers, pike, and bluegill. The bluff country of the the Mississippi River basin contain spring creeks known to contain wild brown trout. Acording to native Iowan, Jene Hughes, Spring Branch Creek supports stream-born brown trout that can be targeted with Hare’s Ears, prince nymphs, and caddis flies.

The Northeastern counties of Iowa contain many trout streams that provide for endless combinations of Iowa fly fishing experiences. Iowa trout fishing exists mainly because of the Iowa DNR’s continuing stocking efforts. However, there has been signs that natural reproduction is increasing. But if the Iowa trout streams are unable to handle natural reproduction, then unless you stock Iowa trout streams… there won’t be trout. Having said that, small stocked fish can and do grow to be bigger trout that may be able to reproduce. The Iowa trout streams located in northeastern counties are listed below with links to their respective waters.

  • Allamakee County – Clear Creek, Hickory Creek, Little Paint, Lower French Creek, Paint, Patterson Creek, Pine Creek, Silver Creek, Upper French Creek, Waterloo Creek, Wexford Creek
  • Clayton County – Bloody Run Creek, Buck Creek, Ensign Hollow, Joy Springs, Maquoketa River, North Cedar, South Cedar, Turkey River
  • Delaware County – Baily’ Ford, Fountain Springs, Little Turkey, Richmond Springs, Spring Branch Creek, Twin Bridges
  • Dubuque County – Bankston Creek, Swiss Valley
  • Fayette County – Bear Creek, Glover’s Creek, Grannis Creek, Mink Creek, Otter Creek
  • Howard County – Bigalk Creek
  • Jackson County – Big Mill Creek, Brush Creek, Little Mill Creek
  • Mitchell County -Turtle Creek, Wapsi River
  • Winnesheik County – Bohemian Creek, Coldwater Creek, Coon Creek, Lower South Bear Creek, North Bear Creek, South Pine, Trout River, Trout Run, Twin Springs, Upper South Bear Creek, West Canoe

Winter Fishing in Iowa
There are two very different kinds of fishing during the winter in Iowa; ice fishing, and open water fishing. I do very little to none of the former, but a fair amount of the latter, so the comments from here on pertain only to it.

As pheasant season draws to a close in mid January, I again start to focus on my weekend trips to northeast Iowa. With the exception of walleye fishing below dams; open water fishing throughout the winter is confined mainly to the spring fed streams of the northeast corner of our state. Most fish go nearly dormant for the winter; trout, on the other hand, continue to feed and remain active in most waters. Pursuing them throughout the winter presents a unique set of challenges and rewards.

The first and most obvious has to do with the season itself. As temperatures drop and snow falls, the landscape changes from green and brown to white. Almost as striking as the colors of fall is the contrast of the skeletons of trees against the snow white backdrop. The terrestrial hues of winter may not be as vibrant as those of the other seasons, but what it lacks in color is more than made up for by the atmosphere. With fewer humans around, and the foliage long gone from the trees, it is much easier to observe all that goes on in nature.

Along with this striking visual contrast comes the physical differences. You are not sweating buckets in your “breathable” waders, or trying to shed layers to cool down. If you pick a good day; one of 20 degrees F or higher with negligible wind, you should be comfortable in a good pair of hunting socks, sweats, a few layers of shirts, your waders, vest or jacket, and a stocking hat. A pair of fingertip-less gloves goes a long ways in keeping the hands warm on cooler days. Comfort is key here, as no one enjoys freezing and it makes for a short day.

Winter is a good time to fish those spots that are just too busy during the rest of the year. You will still see people at some of the more popular spots, but there will be significantly less of them. This is a particularly good time to fish places like Big Springs and Spring Branch Creek. This winter, I have concentrated almost entirely on the Turkey River. This is a great time of year to fish it because of the low water and the water temperature. The rainbows especially seem to disperse up and downstream from Big Springs with the cold water. The size of the Turkey provides an unique experience for trout anglers in Iowa. There are very few places in our state where you can fish for trout in bigger flowing waters. Even a stocker sized rainbow puts up a good fight when working with 150+ cfs flowrate of water.

As for tackle this time of year. When the temperature is much below freezing, I recommend sticking to spinning gear. Your fingers get very cold from contact with fly line, and trying to keep guides from freezing up can be a bear. If the temperature is 30 or above though, I love to fly fish. This time of year, you will mainly be using nymphs, streamers and other wet flies. A few of my favorites are wooly buggers and worms, marabou streamers, and muddler minnows. Wooly buggers are probably the most versatile, as they can be dead drifted or stripped in with good results. Make sure you take care in approaching your intended target, as the water is generally low and clear this time of year. Fish in the stream have been there since at least November, so they have acquired some stream smarts, but still dumb enough to be had by a cautious angler.

This said, there are still usually plenty of fish left clear through the winter, so get out and enjoy your next free day on one of our trout streams.

Iowa Trout Fly Hatch Chart and Emergence Schedule

The Iowa Trout Fly Hatch Chart and Emergence Schedule is a guide to assist you choose the appropriate Iowa Trout Fly patterns. Remember, this is only a guide. Iowa trout fly hatches may vary depending on the weather, water conditions and other factors.

Common Name Latin Name Size Mar Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct.
Baetis #20-22 xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx
Taeniopteryx Nivalis #10-14 xxxx xxxx            
Paraleptophlebia Adoptiva #12-16 xx xxxx xxxx          
Ephemerella Subvaria #12-14   xx xxx          
Cinygmula #12-14   xx xxx          
Baetis Tricaudatus #14-20   xx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx    
Chimarra Aterrima #16-18   xx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx    
Ephemerella #14-16     xx xxxx xx      
A. chloroperla #14-18     xx


xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx
Stenonema Vicarium #10-12     xx


Epeorus Pleuralis #12-14     xx xxxx xxxx      
Ephemerella Rotunda #14     xx


Siphlonurus Alternatus #10-12     xx xxxx xxxx      
Ephemera Simulans #10-12     x xxxx


Stenonema Canadense #10-12       xxx


Ephemerella Dorothea #14-18      



Iowa Fly Fishing Articles
Iowa’s Walk-in Trout
Walk in streams are more for the angler who wants a challenge
Dubuque Fly Fishers
Fishing Directory of Iowa
Fishing Regulations
Iowa DNR Redirect
Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association
Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association
Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association
Iowa Fishing
Iowa Fishing Guides
Iowa Fly Fishing and Trout Streams
IOWA FLYFISHING discusses Iowa trout streams and other Iowa fly fishing pursuits. The report is presented by Jene Hughes at Second Avenue Fly Shop, Iowa’s only dedicated fly fishing pro shop.
Iowa Fly Shops
Iowa Fly Shops – Listing of Iowa Fly Shops, their addresses and contact information.
Iowa Outdoors
Fly Fishing for Carp
Iowa Recreation and Sports
Iowa Trout Fly Hatch Chart
Iowa Trout Flies – Iowa Trout Fly patterns and an Iowa Trout Fly Emergence Chart.
Iowa Trout Streams
Iowa Fly Fishing – Including Iowa Fly Shops, Iowa Stream Locations, and Iowa Fishing Reports.
Joy Springs – Maquoketa River
Little Mill Creek
McCloud Run
Provide a viable option for those of us faced with driving more than an hour to get to the southern most trout
Midwest Fly Fishing
Spring Trout Fishing
The Flies of Mark E. Brown
UFiSH Iowa
Grannis Creek
Grannis Creek is located east of the town of Fayette.
Iowa DNR
The urban lakes trout program is an effort to introduce trout fishing to more anglers across the state, and has recently been expanded to include more urban areas.
Richmond Springs
As for many Iowans, Richmond Springs is one of the first places I went when I started trout fishing.

Iowa Fly Fishing Maps
Iowa Fishing Maps

Iowa Fly Fishing Reports
Iowa Fishing

Iowa Fly Fishing Forums

Iowa Outdoors
Midwest Trout Fishing – Iowa Fishing Reports

Iowa Fly Fishing Shops

Fin & Feather
125 Hwy 1 West Iowa City, IA 52246 319- 354-2200
2nd Avenue Bait House & Fly Shop
133 Franklin Av, Des Moines, IA 50314 515-282-4217

Ames Outdoor Gear – 4723 W. Lincoln Way, Ames – 515.292.2276

Bait Shack – 2095 Kerper Blvd, Dubuque – 319.582.9395

Casey Bait & Tackle – 2243 Easton Blvd, Des Moines – 515.262.2760

Clausens Bait – 3325 Rolf Ave, Lake View – 712.657.8700

Dick’s Bait and Tackle – 110 Greely St., Cedar Falls – 319.266.5253

Eds Spinners – 2442 240th St. Marshalltown – 515.628.9058

Fin & Feather – 3338 Center Point Rd., Cedar Rapids – 319.364.4396

Fin & Feather (Iowa City) – 943 Riverside Dr., Iowa City – 319.354.3144

Floyds Sporting Goods – 4359 Merle Hay Rd., Des Moines – 515.276.3498

Hank’s Live Bait & Tackle – 186 W. 15th St., Tama – 319.234.0711

Louis Bait & Tackle – 254 Geneva Dr., Pleasantville – 515.891.7138

Marion Live Bait – 480 7th Ave., Marion – 319.377.0557

Murphy’s Bait & Tackle – 3403 350th Ave., Ruthven – 712.837.5227

Parker Cassidy Sporting Goods – 1940 Lincolnway, Clinton – 319.242.0683

Pauls Discount of Iowa City – 424 Highway 1 W, Iowa City – 319.338.7217

Putts Bait & Tackle – 1104 198th Street Pl., Pella – 515.628.9058

Second Ave. Bait House – 133 Franklin, Des Moines – 515.282.4217

Tackle Shack – 1850 SE Army Post Rd., Des Moines – 515.287.3912

Wapsi Sporting Goods – 4649 Hwy 13,Central City – 319.438.6328

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