Illinois Fly Fishing

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MIDDLE FORK VERMILION RIVER ABOVE OAKWOOD, IL: 40.136981, -87.745858
SPOON RIVER NEAR ST. JOSEPH, IL: 40.164167, -88.027500
SALT FORK NEAR ST. JOSEPH, IL: 40.149444, -88.034167
BONEYARD CREEK AT URBANA, IL: 40.111143, -88.226438
BONEYARD CREEK AT LINCOLN AVE AT URBANA, IL: 40.111389, -88.219444
SALINE BRANCH ABOVE 1700E NEAR URBANA, IL: 40.128889, -88.151389
NORTH FORK VERMILION RIVER NEAR BISMARCK, IL: 40.265314, -87.642799
VERMILION RIVER NEAR DANVILLE, IL: 40.100870, -87.597242
EMBARRAS RIVER NEAR CAMARGO, IL: 39.791421, -88.185599
KICKAPOO CREEK NEAR MATTOON, IL: 39.465278, -88.336389
KICKAPOO CREEK AT 1320E ROAD NR CHARLESTON, IL: 39.465000, -88.230278
EMBARRAS RIVER AT STE. MARIE, IL: 38.936433, -88.022535
NORTH FORK EMBARRAS RIVER NEAR OBLONG, IL: 39.010042, -87.945588
EMBARRAS RIVER AT LAWRENCEVILLE, IL: 38.723611, -87.664444
WABASH RIVER AT MT. CARMEL, IL: 38.398333, -87.756389
BONPAS CREEK AT BROWNS, IL: 38.386437, -87.975588
LITTLE WABASH RIVER NEAR EFFINGHAM, IL: 39.103931, -88.594218
LITTLE WABASH RIVER BELOW CLAY CITY, IL: 38.634770, -88.297266
LITTLE WABASH RIVER NEAR GOLDEN GATE, IL: 38.371993, -88.233098
SKILLET FORK AT WAYNE CITY, IL: 38.363333, -88.587778
LITTLE WABASH RIVER AT MAIN ST AT CARMI, IL: 38.092269, -88.156149
LITTLE WABASH RIVER AT CARMI, IL: 38.061157, -88.159760
OHIO RIVER AT OLD SHAWNEETOWN, IL-KY: 37.691944, -88.133333
SOUTH FORK SALINE RIVER NR CARRIER MILLS, IL: 37.637827, -88.677834
MIDDLE FORK SALINE RIVER NEAR HARRISBURG, IL: 37.738056, -88.501389
LUSK CREEK NEAR EDDYVILLE, IL: 37.472583, -88.547694
OHIO RIVER AT DAM 51 AT GOLCONDA, IL: 37.357830, -88.482542
CACHE RIVER AT FORMAN, IL: 37.336441, -88.923955
OHIO RIVER AT OLMSTED: 37.179219, -89.058404
PULLMAN CREEK AT PULLMAN, IL: 41.686111, -87.600278
SINSINAWA RIVER NEAR MENOMINEE, IL: 42.478611, -90.486667
APPLE RIVER NEAR HANOVER, IL: 42.252794, -90.285962
Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 13 nr Fulton, IL: 41.894473, -90.156793
PECATONICA RIVER AT FREEPORT, IL: 42.302797, -89.619561
PECATONICA RIVER NR SHIRLAND, ILL: 42.438056, -89.175000
ROCK RIVER AT ROCKTON, IL: 42.450278, -89.072500
ROCK RIVER AT LATHAM PARK, IL: 42.368889, -89.058611
ROCK RIVER AT AUBURN ST AT ROCKFORD: 42.288889, -89.065278
ROCK RIVER ABOVE DAM AT ROCKFORD, IL: 42.266528, -89.096028
FRANKLINVILLE CREEK AT FRANKLINVILLE, IL: 42.276667, -88.510000
KISHWAUKEE RIVER AT MARENGO, IL: 42.265278, -88.608056
KISHWAUKEE RIVER AT BELVIDERE, IL: 42.256132, -88.863157
SOUTH BRANCH KISHWAUKEE RIVER AT DEKALB, IL: 41.931111, -88.759722
SOUTH BRANCH KISHWAUKEE RIVER NR FAIRDALE IL: 42.110581, -88.900653
KISHWAUKEE RIVER NEAR PERRYVILLE, IL: 42.194444, -88.998889
ROCK RIVER AT BYRON, IL: 42.123081, -89.255940
ROCK RIVER AT DIXON, IL: 41.844167, -89.485833
ROCK RIVER ABOVE SINNISSIPPI DAM AT ROCK FALLS, IL: 41.787500, -89.676389
ROCK RIVER AT COMO, IL: 41.772222, -89.745556
ELKHORN CREEK NEAR PENROSE, IL: 41.902807, -89.696223
ROCK RIVER NEAR JOSLIN, IL: 41.556111, -90.185278
GREEN RIVER NEAR GENESEO, IL: 41.488923, -90.157619
MILL CREEK AT MILAN, IL: 41.442256, -90.555969
EDWARDS RIVER NEAR ORION, IL: 41.271980, -90.377627
EDWARDS RIVER NEAR NEW BOSTON, IL: 41.186977, -90.967366
POPE CREEK NEAR KEITHSBURG, IL: 41.128923, -90.919309
HENDERSON CREEK NEAR OQUAWKA, IL: 41.001426, -90.854307
BEAR CREEK NEAR MARCELLINE, IL: 40.142824, -91.337370
BAY CREEK AT PITTSFIELD, IL: 39.625325, -90.794018
KANKAKEE RIVER AT MOMENCE, IL: 41.160033, -87.668648
IROQUOIS RIVER AT IROQUOIS, IL: 40.822813, -87.581419
SUGAR CREEK AT MILFORD, IL: 40.630036, -87.723918
IROQUOIS RIVER NEAR CHEBANSE, IL: 41.008922, -87.823372
KANKAKEE RIVER NEAR WILMINGTON, IL: 41.346698, -88.186449
DES PLAINES RIVER AT RUSSELL, IL: 42.489187, -87.926466
NORTH MILL CREEK AT HICKORY CORNERS, IL: 42.465833, -88.009167
HASTINGS CREEK NEAR LINDENHURST, IL: 42.448056, -88.024722
NORTH MILL CREEK NEAR MILBURN, IL: 42.444167, -88.000556
MILL CREEK AT OLD MILL CREEK, IL: 42.415278, -87.969167
DES PLAINES RIVER NEAR GURNEE, IL: 42.343889, -87.941111
DES PLAINES RIVER AT LINCOLNSHIRE, IL: 42.200556, -87.918611
BUFFALO CREEK NEAR WHEELING, IL: 42.151944, -87.957778
DES PLAINES RIVER NEAR DES PLAINES, IL: 42.087222, -87.887222
MC DONALD CREEK NEAR MOUNT PROSPECT, IL: 42.095305, -87.912846
WELLER CREEK AT DES PLAINES, IL: 42.049473, -87.918123
DES PLAINES RIVER AT RIVER FOREST, IL: 41.888333, -87.832778
SALT CREEK AT ROLLING MEADOWS, IL: 42.060556, -88.016667
SALT CREEK AT HIGGINS RD NR ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL: 42.031111, -88.011111
SALT CREEK NEAR ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL: 42.016944, -88.000833
SALT CREEK AT ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL: 42.012083, -88.001000
SALT CREEK AT WOOD DALE, IL: 41.963889, -87.983889
SALT CREEK AT ELMHURST, IL: 41.886141, -87.959231
SALT CREEK AT 22ND STREET AT OAK BROOK, IL: 41.847500, -87.936667
SALT CREEK AT WESTERN SPRINGS, IL: 41.825833, -87.900278
ADDISON CREEK AT BELLWOOD, IL: 41.881698, -87.869228
DES PLAINES RIVER AT RIVERSIDE, IL: 41.821667, -87.821944
DES PLAINES RIVER AT LYONS, IL: 41.806111, -87.810278
FLAG CREEK NEAR WILLOW SPRINGS, IL: 41.738889, -87.896389
SAWMILL CREEK NEAR LEMONT, IL: 41.707778, -87.962778
DES PLAINES RIVER NEAR LEMONT, IL: 41.672222, -88.029444
NORTH BRANCH CHICAGO RIVER AT DEERFIELD, IL: 42.152778, -87.818611
SKOKIE RIVER AT LAKE FOREST, IL: 42.232500, -87.845278
SKOKIE RIVER NEAR HIGHLAND PARK, IL: 42.159722, -87.798056
WF OF NB CHICAGO RIVER AT NORTHBROOK IL: 42.138333, -87.834722
NORTH BRANCH CHICAGO RIVER AT NILES, IL: 42.012222, -87.795833
NORTH SHORE CHANNEL AT WILMETTE, IL: 42.071141, -87.685892
NB CHICAGO RIVER AT ALBANY AVENUE AT CHICAGO, IL: 41.974167, -87.705833
NB CHICAGO RIVER AT GRAND AVENUE AT CHICAGO, IL: 41.891699, -87.641720
CHICAGO RIVER AT CHICAGO LOCK AT CHICAGO, IL: 41.888366, -87.607552
CHICAGO RIVER AT COLUMBUS DRIVE AT CHICAGO, IL: 41.888366, -87.621163
CHICAGO S & S CANAL AT WESTERN AVE AT CHICAGO, IL: 41.837500, -87.685278
CHICAGO SANITARY AND SHIP CANAL AT STICKNEY, IL: 41.816944, -87.753889
PLUM CREEK NEAR CRETE, IL: 41.435556, -87.571389
THORN CREEK AT GLENWOOD, IL: 41.530313, -87.622266
DEER CREEK NEAR CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL: 41.520868, -87.590321
BUTTERFIELD CREEK AT FLOSSMOOR, IL: 41.540035, -87.649212
LANSING DITCH NEAR LANSING, IL: 41.528369, -87.529208
THORN CREEK AT THORNTON, IL: 41.568368, -87.607822
LITTLE CALUMET RIVER AT SOUTH HOLLAND, IL: 41.606979, -87.597823
MIDLOTHIAN CREEK AT OAK FOREST, IL: 41.614200, -87.729494
NATALIE CREEK AT MIDLOTHIAN, IL: 41.621667, -87.733333
TINLEY CREEK NEAR PALOS PARK, IL: 41.646700, -87.766440
CALUMET SAG CHANNEL NR RT 83 AT SAG BRIDGE, IL: 41.696389, -87.941667
CHICAGO SANITARY AND SHIP CANAL NR LEMONT, IL: 41.691389, -87.964444
CHICAGO SANITARY AND SHIP CANAL AT ROMEOVILLE, IL: 41.640833, -88.059444
CHICAGO SS CANAL AT LOCKPORT CONTROLLING WORKS, IL: 41.597500, -88.066111
LONG RUN NEAR LEMONT, IL: 41.642531, -87.999225
DES PLAINES RIVER AT ROUTE 53 AT JOLIET, IL: 41.536389, -88.082500
MARLEY CREEK AT MARLEY, IL: 41.539444, -87.930833
HICKORY CREEK AT JOLIET, IL: 41.515031, -88.073391
WEST BRANCH DU PAGE RIVER NEAR WEST CHICAGO, IL: 41.910862, -88.178961
KRESS CREEK AT WEST CHICAGO, IL: 41.856389, -88.203889
WEST BRANCH DU PAGE RIVER NEAR WARRENVILLE, IL: 41.817500, -88.171389
WEST BRANCH DU PAGE RIVER NEAR NAPERVILLE, IL: 41.720556, -88.131944
EAST BRANCH DU PAGE RIVER NEAR DOWNERS GROVE, IL: 41.831667, -88.047778
ST. JOSEPH CREEK AT ROUTE 34 AT LISLE, IL: 41.801944, -88.068889
EAST BRANCH DU PAGE RIVER AT BOLINGBROOK, IL: 41.718056, -88.070556
SPRING BROOK AT 87TH STREET NEAR NAPERVILLE, IL: 41.725833, -88.163611
DU PAGE RIVER NEAR PLAINFIELD, IL: 41.690000, -88.166389
DU PAGE RIVER AT SHOREWOOD, IL: 41.522253, -88.192562
AUX SABLE CREEK NEAR MORRIS, IL: 41.417253, -88.347566
MAZON RIVER NEAR COAL CITY, IL: 41.286143, -88.359787
ILLINOIS RIVER AT SENECA, IL: 41.299722, -88.614167
ILLINOIS RIVER AT MARSEILLES, IL: 41.326978, -88.717574
NIPPERSINK CREEK ABOVE WONDER LAKE, IL: 42.385298, -88.369536
NIPPERSINK CREEK NEAR SPRING GROVE, IL: 42.443333, -88.247500
FOX RIVER AT JOHNSBURG, IL: 42.376111, -88.236389
BOONE CREEK NEAR MC HENRY, IL: 42.320556, -88.312778
FOX RIVER NEAR MCHENRY, IL: 42.310022, -88.251475
FOX RIVER (TAILWATER) NEAR MCHENRY, IL: 42.309189, -88.251475
FOX RIVER AT ALGONQUIN, IL: 42.166413, -88.290360
FOX RIVER (TAILWATER) AT ALGONQUIN, IL: 42.161944, -88.293889
TYLER CREEK AT ELGIN, IL: 42.058333, -88.303889
POPLAR CREEK AT ELGIN, IL: 42.026111, -88.255556
FOX RIVER AT SOUTH ELGIN, IL: 41.996111, -88.295000
FOX RIVER AT SOUTH ELGIN, IL (TAILWATER): 41.996111, -88.295000
FERSON CREEK NEAR ST. CHARLES, IL: 41.932778, -88.340833
MILL CREEK NEAR BATAVIA, IL: 41.845833, -88.349167
FOX RIVER AT MONTGOMERY, IL: 41.733611, -88.333333
WAUBONSEE CREEK NEAR OSWEGO, IL: 41.701389, -88.327222
FOX RIVER AT YORKVILLE, IL: 41.642778, -88.443333
FOX RIVER TAILWATER AT YORKVILLE, IL: 41.642778, -88.443333
FOX RIVER BYPASS AT YORKVILLE, IL: 41.642778, -88.443333
BLACKBERRY CREEK NEAR MONTGOMERY, IL: 41.740833, -88.383333
BLACKBERRY CREEK NEAR YORKVILLE, IL: 41.671667, -88.441389
FOX RIVER AT DAYTON, IL: 41.384477, -88.789242
INDIAN CREEK NEAR FAIRBURY, IL: 40.722778, -88.530000
VERMILION RIVER AT PONTIAC, IL: 40.877811, -88.636173
VERMILION RIVER NEAR LEONORE, IL: 41.208368, -88.930912
BIG BUREAU CREEK AT PRINCETON, IL: 41.367222, -89.497778
ILLINOIS RIVER AT HENRY, IL: 41.107222, -89.356111
FARM CREEK AT FARMDALE, IL: 40.667538, -89.504261
FONDULAC CREEK NEAR EAST PEORIA, IL: 40.677260, -89.531207
MACKINAW RIVER NEAR CONGERVILLE, IL: 40.623648, -89.241752
MACKINAW RIVER NEAR GREEN VALLEY, IL: 40.454207, -89.606214
ILLINOIS RIVER AT KINGSTON MINES, IL: 40.553094, -89.777330
ILLINOIS RIVER AT COPPERAS CREEK, IL: 40.476151, -89.888446
INDIAN CREEK NEAR WYOMING, IL: 41.018889, -89.835556
SPOON RIVER AT LONDON MILLS, IL: 40.707778, -90.280000
SPOON RIVER AT SEVILLE, IL: 40.490041, -90.340403
SANGAMON RIVER AT FISHER, IL: 40.310589, -88.322275
SANGAMON RIVER AT MONTICELLO, IL: 40.030867, -88.588954
SANGAMON RIVER AT ROUTE 48 AT DECATUR, IL: 39.831148, -88.976467
SOUTH FORK SANGAMON RIVER NEAR ROCHESTER, IL: 39.742273, -89.567317
SOUTH FORK SANGAMON RIVER BELOW ROCHESTER, IL: 39.753661, -89.565651
LICK CREEK NEAR WOODSIDE, IL: 39.715539, -89.702444
SUGAR CREEK NEAR CHATHAM, IL: 39.659075, -89.658936
SUGAR CREEK NEAR SPRINGFIELD, IL: 39.779167, -89.592778
SANGAMON RIVER AT RIVERTON, IL: 39.843105, -89.547320
SANGAMON RIVER NEAR SPRINGFIELD, IL: 39.870833, -89.613889
SPRING CREEK AT SPRINGFIELD, IL: 39.815328, -89.698713
SANGAMON RIVER AT PETERSBURG, IL: 40.013333, -89.838333
NORTH FORK SALT CREEK NEAR DE WITT, IL: 40.235278, -88.809722
CLINTON LAKE NEAR LANE, IL: 40.140556, -88.881944
SALT CREEK NEAR ROWELL, IL: 40.115038, -89.049251
LAKE FORK NEAR CORNLAND, IL: 39.951667, -89.385556
KICKAPOO CREEK AT 2100E ROAD NEAR BLOOMINGTON, IL: 40.467778, -88.863889
KICKAPOO CREEK TRIBUTARY NEAR BLOOMINGTON, IL: 40.472778, -88.879722
KICKAPOO CREEK NEAR BLOOMINGTON, IL: 40.458333, -88.877500
LITTLE KICKAPOO CREEK NEAR HEYWORTH, IL: 40.365000, -88.963889
KICKAPOO CREEK AT WAYNESVILLE, IL: 40.254761, -89.129253
SUGAR CREEK NEAR BLOOMINGTON, IL: 40.471944, -89.028056
SALT CREEK NEAR GREENVIEW, IL: 40.131990, -89.735664
SANGAMON RIVER NEAR OAKFORD, IL: 40.124167, -89.985000
LA MOINE RIVER AT COLMAR, IL: 40.330322, -90.896245
LA MOINE RIVER AT RIPLEY, IL: 40.024770, -90.631795
ILLINOIS RIVER AT MEREDOSIA, IL: 39.823380, -90.568182
ILLINOIS RIVER AT VALLEY CITY, IL: 39.703380, -90.645405
ILLINOIS RIVER AT FLORENCE, IL: 39.632778, -90.607778
MACOUPIN CREEK NEAR KANE, IL: 39.234214, -90.394562
ILLINOIS RIVER AT HARDIN, IL: 39.160326, -90.615399
Mississippi River at Grafton, IL: 38.967972, -90.429000
Mississippi River Pool Lock and Dam 26 at Alton,IL: 38.886444, -90.182547
CAHOKIA CREEK AT EDWARDSVILLE, IL: 38.824492, -89.974825
INDIAN CREEK AT WANDA, IL: 38.841714, -90.033160
COPPER SLOUGH AT CHAMPAIGN, IL: 40.097254, -88.306719
KASKASKIA RIVER BELOW FICKLIN, IL: 39.791667, -88.367778
LAKE FORK AT ATWOOD, IL: 39.806422, -88.476169
KASKASKIA RIVER AT CHESTERVILLE, IL: 39.703088, -88.386441
KASKASKIA RIVER AT COOKS MILLS, IL: 39.583367, -88.413384
WHITLEY CREEK NEAR ALLENVILLE, IL: 39.506700, -88.527555
WEST OKAW RIVER NEAR LOVINGTON, IL: 39.731146, -88.662566
KASKASKIA RIVER AT SHELBYVILLE, IL: 39.407262, -88.781457
ROBINSON CREEK NEAR SHELBYVILLE, IL: 39.405873, -88.896463
KASKASKIA RIVER NEAR COWDEN, IL: 39.229764, -88.841732
KASKASKIA RIVER AT VANDALIA, IL: 38.960601, -89.088955
HICKORY CREEK NEAR BROWNSTOWN, IL: 38.936990, -88.952838
HURRICANE CREEK NEAR MULBERRY GROVE, IL: 38.922546, -89.236739
EAST FORK KASKASKIA RIVER NEAR SANDOVAL, IL: 38.688937, -89.100065
KASKASKIA RIVER AT CARLYLE, IL: 38.611715, -89.356190
KASKASKIA RIVER NEAR POSEY, IL: 38.536438, -89.381748
CROOKED CREEK NEAR HOFFMAN, IL: 38.506994, -89.273411
LITTLE CROOKED CREEK NEAR NEW MINDEN, IL: 38.441716, -89.416751
EAST FORK SHOAL CREEK NEAR COFFEEN, IL: 39.148611, -89.352500
SHOAL CREEK NEAR PIERRON, IL: 38.775881, -89.498972
SHOAL CREEK NEAR BREESE, IL: 38.610000, -89.494722
KASKASKIA RIVER NEAR VENEDY STATION, IL: 38.450605, -89.627593
SILVER CREEK NEAR TROY, IL: 38.716715, -89.829263
SILVER CREEK NEAR FREEBURG, IL: 38.406161, -89.873991
KASKASKIA RIVER AT NEW ATHENS, IL: 38.319722, -89.888611
RICHLAND CREEK NEAR HECKER, IL: 38.323889, -89.970556
KASKASKIA RIVER NEAR RED BUD, IL: 38.194216, -89.888160
BIG MUDDY RIVER NEAR MT. VERNON, IL: 38.309722, -88.988333
RAYSE CREEK NEAR WALTONVILLE, IL: 38.253889, -89.040556
BIG MUDDY SUBIMPOUNDMENT NEAR WALTONVILLE, IL: 38.176111, -89.006389
CASEY FORK AT MOUNT VERNON, IL: 38.286389, -88.871389
CASEY FORK SUBIMPOUNDMENT NEAR BONNIE, IL: 38.187550, -88.927289
MIDDLE FORK BIG MUDDY RIVER NEAR MACEDONIA, IL: 38.048611, -88.760278
BIG MUDDY RIVER AT PLUMFIELD, IL: 37.891389, -89.019444
CRAB ORCHARD CREEK NEAR MARION, IL: 37.731161, -88.889235
BIG MUDDY RIVER AT RTE 127 AT MURPHYSBORO, IL: 37.758333, -89.327778
Mississippi River at Chester, IL: 37.900742, -89.830211
Mississippi River at Thebes, IL: 37.221600, -89.462975
KASKASKIA RIVER INFLOW AT FICKLIN, IL: 39.800833, -88.363889
HANSON GRAVEL PIT AT CULVERT NEAR MORRIS, IL: 41.333056, -88.466944
KANKAKEE R AT INFLOW OF POWER PLANT NR LORENZO, IL: 41.388889, -88.261389

The Prairie State may not bring to mind visions of fisherman-lined banks, rather you might envision the bustling streets of Chicago and miles of driving just to get from top to bottom, but surprisingly enough the state does have plenty of action to offer fly fishermen. While most people associate Lake Michigan with Illinois, there are also 87,000+ miles of streams and rivers and dozens of beautiful lakes scattered throughout the landscape. These waters serve as home to a wide variety of fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, Coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and more.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with sticking to the urban experience by trying your luck on the banks of Lake Michigan, you’ll be rewarded by traveling a bit away from the big city and seeking out the Illinois fly fishing opportunities further inland.

​Where to Go?

This is a common question, even among residents of the state, and while trout fisheries aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, there’s no reason not to hit up some of the favorite angling waters for other fish.

Fox Chain of Lakes

Up in the northern part of the state, not far west of Lake Michigan, you’ll find a vast series of lakes at the top of the Fox River. This impressive collection is comprised of 15 lakes totaling more than 7100 acres of water. Fish species found in the chain include muskellunge, walleye, black crappie, white bass, yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegill, and more.

Public access is available via the state park. You can also try out the Route 12 bridge, as well as entrances along Route 173 along the river. Seek out a secluded spot for yourself, as the chain is the busiest recreational waterway per acre in the entire country. The Grass Lake bridge and the upper Fox River are both great places to cast a line, particularly for walleye.

The Kankakee River

This locale offers close proximity to Chicago, and features smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappies, as well as stocked trout. You can wade or canoe and there are many access points to make your adventure easier.

The following are some good sources for smallmouth bass, particularly in the fall:

Island Park at Momence – located at Route 17 and Route 1, this area offers riffles and rocks that harbor good action.

Warner Bridge Rd. Access – bridge pilings give shelter, making them ripe for the ambush.

Area 7 – located at Bonifield Rd. off of Route 113, this spot sits upstream from the access road and features water weed beds in deep pools that hide potentially large bass.

Rock Creek at Route 102 is another local favorite – this 24.7-mile tributary of the Kankakee empties into the river at Kankakee River State Park. The creek offers an isolated little branch of water that yields smallmouth bass, panfish, and rock bass, depending upon the time of year.

The DuPage River

Just southwest of Chicago there’s a 28-mile tributary of the Des Plaines River that features good public access and houses largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, and northern pike. The Naperville area in particular is known for its healthy sized smallmouths – the Riverwalk is a great place to try out. Knoch Knolls Nature Center is also located in Naperville and is a good place to wade. Other access points include:

DuPage County Forest Preserve District

Plainfield Park District

Shorewood

Trout Program

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources administers a trout stocking program funded by the sale of trout stamps on fishing licenses. The IDNR stocks over 80,000 rainbows in trout fishing waters all over the state. Some places to try include:

Northern Illinois:

Lake Milliken – Des Plaines Conservation Area

Apple River – Apple River State Park

Big Lake – Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area

Sand Lake – Illinois Beach State Park

Mill Race Ponds – Belvidere

Pine Creek – White Pines Forest State Park

Bird Park Quarry – Kankakee

Central Illinois:

Siloam Springs State Park Lake

Lake of the Woods – Champaign County Forest Preserve District

Miller Park Lake – Bloomington

Forest Park Lagoon – Shelbyville

Clear Lake – Kickapoo State Recreation Area

South Illinois:

Boston Pond – Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area

Fairgrounds Pond – Fort Massacc State Park

Frank Holten State Park Main Lake

Sam Dale Trout Pond – Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area

The important thing to remember when planning your Illinois fly fishing trip is that anywhere you can fish “normally”, you can fly fish as well. You’ll just need to learn the type of fish in the area and what they typically bite on.

​When to Go?

The state stocks trout in the spring, so it’s best to get in early on that action before the supplies are depleted (which happens by about June). Largemouth bass are also typically biting in April, and are known to be shallow.

Come June you’ll find stripers and hybrid bass, particularly in the tailwaters. June is also a good time to fish the Fox River for largemouth bass.

In September, hit Lake Michigan for large lake trout and the piers and short for Coho salmon, browns, steelheads, and smallmouth bass.

October brings out the walleye, especially up at the Rock River in the northwest of the state.

If you hit the Fox Chain of Lakes during November you may just hook yourself a monster muskie. While most of the fish won’t be keepers, the lakes have been known to give up some trophies.

​What You Will Need When You Get There?

The rivers in Illinois can be tricky – particularly the Kankakee and the Fox. In addition to your normal gear – chest waders, hat, sunscreen, insect repellant, polarized sunglasses, etc. – you’ll want a wading staff and preferably cleated boots. The rocks in the Kankakee can trip you up so be prepared for a plunge or two. Slippery surfaces and moss under the water can prove a challenge without spiked waders. In the Fox, watch out for sudden drop-offs that can take you by surprise and put you in over your head.

Because this state offers a wide variety of species, you’ll want to be equipped with a range of rigs. Use a 4 or 5 weight rod with 5X or 6X tippet and about a 9-foot leader for trout, but for bass, up that weight to between 6 and 8 depending upon the size of your fly. For bass you will want to use bushy streamers, clouser minnows, wooly buggers, and in the DuPage River – a crawfish imitator. The bass at Rock Creek respond well to hoppers, poppers, and minnows, while minnow patterns should also be in your box for Island Park on the Kankakee. You can even try plastics for bass, such as a worm or lizard.

If you want to fish anywhere except private property in the state of Illinois, you will need to obtain a fishing license from the IDNR. A yearly resident license can be purchased for $15, while a non-resident will pay $31.50. If you want to fish for trout, you’ll also need a trout stamp, available to residents and non-residents for $6.50. A Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp may be obtained for $6.50 as well. Children under age 16 do not need a fishing license in Illinois, and seniors receive a 50% discount. Active military members who are residents of the state and on leave from active deployed duty may fish without a license.

Most states impose size and quantity limits on fish takes, as well as designate catch-and-release areas and/or time periods for different waterways. Illinois is no different, and the best thing is to acquaint yourself with the regulations so that you can rest assured you’re angling within the limits of state law. While the complexity of the language can seem intimidating, simply search the document by the location you plan to fish and the type of fish you’re angling for, and you’ll be able to efficiently pinpoint exactly which rules you need to follow.

Illinois isn’t your traditional, textbook fly fishing locale, but that can work to your benefit because with the vast number of rivers, streams, and lakes, and plenty of public access throughout the state, you can stake out your own little gem of a location without being crowded out by other fly fishermen.

Don’t forget to check out some of the lesser known streams and retention ponds. With such a vast selection of bodies of water throughout the entire state, it’s impossible to cover every single area that might yield good fly fishing results. Despite the lack of dedicated trout fisheries such as some other states have, there is an active community of fly fishermen in the state, and they’re usually more than willing to offer advice through online forums and in “real life” to those who need a little guidance in the right direction. Time to grab your rod and check out one of the dozens of rivers and lakes in Illinois for some unique fly fishing action.