Top Fly Fishing Spots in Iowa: A Comprehensive Guide

Iowa may not be the first state that comes to mind when thinking about fly fishing, but this Midwest gem is home to some outstanding fisheries. With its diverse river systems and stunning landscapes, Iowa provides an exceptional setting for the avid fly fisher. Here’s a closer look at the top fly fishing spots in the state.

Northeast Iowa’s Trout Streams

Location and Directions

Located in the northeastern corner of the state, the Driftless Area boasts hundreds of miles of trout streams. Towns like Decorah and Elkader serve as great bases for exploring the region.

Fish Species

The area is predominantly stocked with rainbow and brown trout, but there’s also a healthy population of native brook trout in some streams.

Techniques, Flies, and Seasons

Iowa’s trout streams respond well to traditional trout tactics. Nymphs, streamers, and dry flies are all effective, depending on the conditions. Prime trout season runs from April through October, but catch-and-release fishing is available year-round in many streams.

Accommodations and Amenities

The Decorah area offers a number of accommodation options, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds. Local fly shops, such as the Decorah Hatchery and Trout Run Bait & Tackle, can provide gear, advice, and guide services.

Des Moines River

Location and Directions

The Des Moines River, running through the heart of the state, offers excellent opportunities for warmwater species. Access points can be found in several towns, including Fort Dodge and Des Moines itself.

Fish Species

The river is home to smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and walleye, among others.

Techniques, Flies, and Seasons

For smallmouth, consider streamers and crayfish imitations. For catfish and walleye, nymphs and baitfish patterns can be effective. The best fishing tends to be in the warmer months, from late spring through early fall.

Accommodations and Amenities

Des Moines offers a wide range of accommodations and dining options. Local shops like JAX Outdoor Gear and Sportsman’s Warehouse can equip you with the necessary gear and local knowledge.

Check out our Top Fly Spot – Gear Reviews

Iowa Great Lakes

Location and Directions

The Iowa Great Lakes, in the northwestern part of the state, consist of a chain of glacial lakes including Spirit Lake, East Okoboji Lake, and West Okoboji Lake.

Fish Species

These lakes host a variety of species including yellow perch, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and even some rainbow trout.

Techniques, Flies, and Seasons

Try streamers for northern pike, nymphs, and wet flies for perch and trout, and poppers for bass. Fishing can be productive year-round, with ice fishing popular in the winter.

Accommodations and Amenities

The town of Okoboji offers numerous accommodations and restaurants. For gear and guides, check out Kabele’s Trading Post & Lodge in Spirit Lake.

Conclusion

From the abundant trout streams of the Driftless Area to the rich fisheries of the Des Moines River and the Iowa Great Lakes, Iowa offers a surprising variety of fly fishing opportunities. No matter what your preferred species or style of fishing, you’re likely to find a spot in Iowa that suits your needs. So gear up, tie on a fly, and come explore the fly fishing possibilities in the Hawkeye State.

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