When (and where) to fish

Iowa has over 50 trout fisheries that are available to the public that boast catchable rainbow, brook, and brown populations. With roughly 3 million humans in the state of Iowa, plus tourists, one would think it would be difficult to “get away from it all.” Not so. In a previous post, I described timing your trip with weather in mind. Equally as important is choosing a fishery that suits your schedule, abilities, and desires. Iowa boasts streams that are located in semi-urban areas to handicap accessible locations, to remote areas requiring a hike-in.

If your (and mother nature’s) schedule permits it, find a time to go that will offer the least amount of fishing pressure. Most times of the year, this naturally means Monday- Friday. Having miles of spring-fed creeks to yourself is the makings for a wonderful day. On my most recent trip, I was delighted to pull in and find my truck alone in the lot. Talk about excitement. I spent the whole day taking my time on each bend, trough, and ripple, looking at bugs and feeling no pressure to move on ahead. It doesn’t always work this way, and it’s a rare situation to feel overcrowded here in Iowa.


Don’t overlook night time fishing. Some streams provide some incredible late-evening hatches that many people miss. Even running a mouse pattern across the water in certain situations after the sun has set has been known to produce some hungry browns.

Think about the date you choose to go too. Two years ago, my wife and I went fishing on the evening of the fourth of July. What some might call “Independence Day party poopers” we call “strategically-timed fishing”. With the stream to ourselves, we got a whack at every run and un-fished area. After about an hour, Amanda had managed to hook into something BIG. She had found a remote run and when I got to her-  her rod was wrapped over with a fish holding deep, what turned out to be a 19″ brood bow.  She was thrilled, we took some pictures, and got the guy back in the water.  Any celebrating we did fell on deaf ears on the empty stream. Timing may or may not have helped, but the solitude was nice.

Sometimes you really get out what you put in. We have a few streams here in Iowa that do require a more serious walk-in. While not the rugged terrain of Colorado or Western states, negotiating timber, snow, or high grass of the summer can make for a hike. The first trips to a few these places is always exciting and sometimes interesting.   If you’re up for it, these places offer up some of the best small stream fishing you’ll find- hungry, brightly colored brookies and browns- as well as some of the most gorgeous landscape for pictures.

Look at some maps, your schedule, do some research, and plan accordingly. There is a stream for everyone in Iowa’s Driftless region.

With years of fishing streams in NE Iowa, Driftless on the Fly would love to be your resource and can help plan a day that will get you the most out of your time. Contact us for an unforgettable fly fishing trip.


State of the water: June 21st

This week I had a chance to get out do a little fishing in between teaching a “Learn to Fly Fish” course in Osage. It was a fun opportunity to expose some beginners to the joys of fly fishing. More on that later. Tuesday we traveled to Spring Creek to do a little scouting for my class outing on Wednesday evening and then fished North Bear Creek on Thursday.

Spring Creek, a small coldwater stream 5 miles SE of Osage, is our go-to stream when we need want to get away to fish quickly. It’s one of a few streams furthest West on the Iowa trout map. Thanks to local conservation efforts, Spring has seen a couple of years of improved fishing and has been known to host all three species of Iowa trout (rainbow, brook, brown). Spring is where I have taken classes to release our trout from our Trout in the Classroom project, and trout fishing mini course day for many years. One activity students participate in has been stream seining with a DNR biologist. The invertebrates that the students found this year included mayfly nymphs, beetles, caddis, dragon and damselfly nymphs which are all indicators of fair to good water quality. While helping out my new anglers on Wednesday night, I was excited to find a stonefly shuck on a rock in stream, which are indicators of “excellent” water quality and fairly rare to find in Iowa.  Spring still has a way to go, but it’s encouraging to watch this watershed improve before your own eyes. The stream is still running a little murky from the rains a couple of weeks ago that blew it well out of its banks, but fish are keying in on attractor nymph patterns in the deeper runs.

North Bear creek, one of Iowa’s premier trout streams, is where I headed yesterday for a day of fishing rehab. North and South Bear (it’s neighbor stream) can be as tricky to fish as anywhere, but a trip to these two beautiful streams is always worth the drive. Water was running slightly off-color, but yielded some great surface action in the morning and as as afternoon came around, streamers and nymphs in some deeper runs and pools. Had some nice takes on beetles and even some crickets in the more wooded sections of the stream. Terrestrial fishing is one of my favorite times of the year and will last through the fall.

I can’t say enough good things about the folks who took our “Learn to Fly Fish” course. They were some great people to get know from different walks of life who really enjoyed learning, which for a teacher is a blessing. I am looking forward to seeing them on the streams. The next course we’ll host will be in November, the 12-14, again in Osage. Please contact Cathy Simon at 641-494-7307 or simoncat@niacc.edu. We’re interested in teaching an advanced class (maybe fly tying, etc), so please let her/us know the wishes of the public.

Timing your fishing trip and tools to help

It’s been a wild weather spring in Iowa. Granted, Iowans never seem to be satisfied with the weather. We’re either too hot or too cold, too dry or too wet for the liking. One look at high school athletic schedules this spring and the mass number of cancellations and postponements, however, would show even the novice meteorologist this has been an odd start to 2013. Unseasonably cold temperatures, late accumulating snow, and then flooding was the story for the month of May. Now into June, we’re struggling to keep dry for a few days and to keep the mercury in the 70s, the warmer temps necessary for crop growth.

Despite the uncooperative weather, the fishing has been remarkably good if you can mind the stream flows, the forecast, and your schedule permits a certain degree of flexibility. My wife and I had the stream to ourselves last Sunday. The area had received a half inch of rain in the 48 hours preceding and the water was decidedly off color, clearing, but not high. This may have been key. It turned in to one of those days that you wished you could have spent another 6 hours with big, high water-hungry browns and bows feasting on attractor nymphs and streamers. It was fun to get creative with different patterns and combos, and seeing bright yellow and silver flashes in the water as you stripped streamers through a run. Images that make you want to go back….soon.

I had another opportunity to fish two days ago for about an hour before a hard rain was scheduled to hit the area. It had been 2-3 days since the last wet day, so the streams had had a chance to clear up. This time, the caddis were coming off in droves on a cloudy afternoon. Big, meaty, feathery caddis (#12-14) were everywhere and fish were keying in to an accurate cast with these bugs dropped on or skittered across the surface. The fish caught were not stock rainbows, rather wild browns with big shoulders, adolescent fish that are beefing up for the summer and fall. It makes an angler very excited for what is to come with terrestrial season coming in the next few months.

So, finding the time and place with the weather pattern we’re in can be tricky, but there are a few places that can help you out online without spending the gas money. First is the NOAA forecast page. Forecasting is tough, but NOAA rarely leads me astray. Once you have what the weather will hold for the next day, see what the weather has been like using the precipitation map. This gives you an idea how much rain has fallen in the last 24 hours plus and is zoomable to any specific location. Lastly, I check the river levels on the water chart to see what they are and where they are forecasted to land. Since all streams feed in or out of these major area rivers,  you can get a sense of what the levels will be like.

Obviously there are other variables to a good day of fishing besides the weather, but these help me get the most from my time on a trip. Ultimately, the moisture we’re getting now is going to provide us with a great summer of fishing in the months ahead. Check out our page at http://www.driftlessonthefly.com for information on guided trips and lessons as well as pictures from our most recent trips.