Iowa Fly Fishing

loading map - please wait...

Upper Iowa River at Lime Springs, IA: 43.466778, -92.297528
Upper Iowa River at Kendallville, IA: 43.441306, -92.035944
Upper Iowa River at Bluffton, IA: 43.406913, -91.899046
Dry Run Creek near Decorah, IA: 43.291361, -91.809322
Upper Iowa River at Decorah, IA: 43.304889, -91.795543
Upper Iowa River near Dorchester, IA: 43.421084, -91.508752
Waterloo Creek near Dorchester, IA: 43.451084, -91.505141
Yellow River near Ion, IA: 43.111927, -91.265132
Bloody Run Creek near Marquette, IA: 43.040817, -91.206519
Mississippi River at McGregor, IA: 43.027012, -91.172630
Mississippi River at Clayton, IA: 42.903598, -91.145130
Turkey River at Spillville, IA: 43.207278, -91.950333
Turkey River near Eldorado, IA: 43.054188, -91.809098
Otter Creek at Elgin, IA: 42.952417, -91.642972
Turkey River above French Hollow Cr at Elkader, IA: 42.843485, -91.401277
Volga River at Fayette, IA: 42.844139, -91.818167
Volga River at Littleport, IA: 42.753875, -91.369025
Turkey River at Garber, IA: 42.739988, -91.261799
Middle Fk Little Maquoketa R nr Rickardsville, IA: 42.560554, -90.859851
Maquoketa River at Manchester, IA: 42.469988, -91.448715
NF Maquoketa River below Bear Cr at Dyersville, IA: 42.470333, -91.124556
North Fork Maquoketa River near Fulton, IA: 42.164333, -90.729333
Maquoketa River near Maquoketa, IA: 42.083353, -90.632912
Maquoketa River near Green Island, IA: 42.163861, -90.335083
Beaver Slough at 3rd Street at Clinton, IA: 41.827252, -90.190405
Mississippi River at Clinton, IA: 41.780586, -90.252073
Wapsipinicon River near Tripoli, IA: 42.836091, -92.257400
Little Wapsipinicon River near Oran, IA: 42.714694, -92.041556
Wapsipinicon River at Independence, IA: 42.463598, -91.895172
Buffalo Creek South of Prairieburg, IA: 42.195833, -91.422778
Wapsipinicon River near Anamosa, IA: 42.083339, -91.267382
Wapsipinicon River at Oxford Mills, IA: 41.971944, -90.960000
Silver Creek at Welton, IA: 41.915025, -90.600137
Wapsipinicon River near De Witt, IA: 41.766974, -90.534859
Crow Creek at Bettendorf, IA: 41.551144, -90.455132
Duck Creek at 110th Avenue at Davenport, IA: 41.556697, -90.687641
Duck Creek at DC Golf Course at Davenport, IA: 41.546144, -90.524024
West Main Drainage Ditch 1 and 2 near Britt, IA: 43.102462, -93.784664
Iowa River near Rowan, IA: 42.759944, -93.621849
South Fork Iowa River near Blairsburg, IA: 42.543611, -93.589444
South Fork Iowa River NE of New Providence, IA: 42.315083, -93.152056
Iowa River at Marshalltown, IA: 42.065821, -92.907700
Timber Creek near Marshalltown, IA: 42.008878, -92.852421
Iowa River at County Highway E49 near Tama, IA: 41.964256, -92.636550
Richland Creek near Haven, IA: 41.899439, -92.474355
Stein Creek near Clutier, IA: 42.079438, -92.300186
Salt Creek near Elberon, IA: 41.964162, -92.313242
Walnut Creek near Hartwick, IA: 41.834997, -92.386297
Iowa River near Belle Plaine, IA: 41.859056, -92.277917
Big Bear Creek at Ladora, IA: 41.749447, -92.182127
Iowa River at Marengo, IA: 41.812726, -92.064792
Price Creek at Amana, IA: 41.805007, -91.873234
Iowa River below Coralville Dam nr Coralville, IA: 41.715293, -91.530170
Rapid Creek near Iowa City, IA: 41.700017, -91.487668
Muddy Creek at Coralville, IA: 41.700000, -91.562778
Clear Creek near Oxford, IA: 41.718346, -91.740174
Clear Creek near Coralville, IA: 41.676682, -91.598781
Iowa River at Iowa City, IA: 41.656683, -91.541002
South Branch Ralston Creek at Iowa City, IA: 41.651406, -91.507668
Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, IA: 41.606405, -91.615724
Deep River at Deep River, IA: 41.591392, -92.355184
English River at Kalona, IA: 41.469739, -91.714613
Iowa River near Lone Tree, IA: 41.423778, -91.478528
Deer Creek near Carpenter, IA: 43.414965, -92.984919
Cedar River at Osage, IA: 43.283472, -92.852500
Cedar River at Charles City, IA: 43.062195, -92.673884
Little Cedar River near Ionia, IA: 43.033280, -92.503544
Cedar River at Waverly, IA: 42.737220, -92.470090
Cedar River at Janesville, IA: 42.648316, -92.465186
West Fork Cedar River at Finchford, IA: 42.629426, -92.543522
Spring Creek near Mason City, IA: 43.213293, -93.210759
Winnebago River at Mason City, IA: 43.164962, -93.192703
Clear Lake at Clear Lake, IA: 43.124167, -93.383889
Shell Rock River near Rockford, IA: 43.005389, -92.925583
Shell Rock River at Shell Rock, IA: 42.711925, -92.582966
Beaver Creek at New Hartford, IA: 42.572000, -92.618278
Cedar River at Cedar Falls, IA: 42.537568, -92.443493
Black Hawk Creek at Hudson, IA: 42.407764, -92.463245
Cedar River at Waterloo, IA: 42.495542, -92.334352
Wolf Creek near Dysart, IA: 42.251528, -92.298889
Cedar River at Vinton, IA: 42.170828, -92.023792
Cedar River at Blairs Ferry Road at Palo, IA: 42.069163, -91.785180
Cedar River at Cedar Rapids, IA: 41.971945, -91.667124
Indian Creek at Marion, IA: 42.030944, -91.611861
Cedar River at Cedar Bluff, IA: 41.787222, -91.313750
WB Wapsinonoc Cr abv Baker Ave at West Branch, IA: 41.690389, -91.350444
Unnamed Trb to WB Wapsinonoc Cr at West Branch, IA: 41.690583, -91.350194
WB Wapsinonoc Cr at College St at West Branch, IA: 41.673583, -91.343694
Hoover Cr at Hoover Nat Hist Site, West Branch, IA: 41.669583, -91.350639
Cedar River near Conesville, IA: 41.409192, -91.290434
Iowa River at Wapello, IA: 41.178086, -91.182094
Iowa River at Oakville, IA: 41.103194, -91.063528
Mud Lake Drainage Ditch 71 at Jewell, IA: 42.314425, -93.639938
Keigley Branch near Story City, IA: 42.150262, -93.620495
South Skunk River near Ames, IA: 42.066513, -93.620134
Squaw Creek at Ames, IA: 42.023042, -93.630496
South Skunk River below Squaw Creek near Ames, IA: 42.006653, -93.595495
South Skunk River at Colfax, IA: 41.681378, -93.246594
Indian Creek near Mingo, IA: 41.805266, -93.309374
South Skunk River near Oskaloosa, IA: 41.355699, -92.657359
North Skunk River near Sigourney, IA: 41.300845, -92.204626
Skunk River at Merrimac, IA: 41.087944, -91.720361
Cedar Creek near Oakland Mills, IA: 40.925305, -91.674220
Big Creek North of Mount Pleasant, IA: 41.006973, -91.551550
Skunk River at Augusta, IA: 40.753650, -91.277094
Des Moines River at Estherville, IA: 43.397459, -94.844153
Des Moines River at Emmetsburg, IA: 43.126075, -94.706092
Pilot Creek at County Hwy P15 near Rolfe, IA: 42.805528, -94.462474
Des Moines River at Humboldt, IA: 42.719416, -94.220518
East Fork Des Moines River near Algona, IA: 43.082278, -94.230861
East Fork Des Moines River at Dakota City, IA: 42.723582, -94.193489
Lizard Creek near Fort Dodge, IA: 42.529194, -94.256694
Des Moines River at Fort Dodge, IA: 42.508303, -94.203573
Boone River near Goldfield, IA: 42.724417, -93.946694
Boone River near Webster City, IA: 42.432475, -93.805776
Des Moines River near Stratford, IA: 42.251920, -93.996898
Bluff Creek at Pilot Mound, IA: 42.166367, -94.019954
Des Moines River near Saylorville, IA: 41.680544, -93.668275
Beaver Creek near Grimes, IA: 41.688322, -93.735500
Des Moines River at 2nd Avenue at Des Moines, IA: 41.612489, -93.621051
North Raccoon River near Sac City, IA: 42.354750, -94.990333
Black Hawk Lake at Lake View, IA: 42.304150, -95.041935
North Raccoon River near Lanesboro, IA: 42.169083, -94.726028
North Raccoon River near Jefferson, IA: 41.988039, -94.376913
Brushy Fork Creek near Templeton, IA: 41.945819, -94.879431
Middle Raccoon River Tributary at Carroll, IA: 42.041652, -94.878875
Middle Raccoon River near Bayard, IA: 41.779083, -94.492861
Lake Panorama at Panora, IA: 41.695542, -94.381633
Middle Raccoon River at Panora, IA: 41.687209, -94.371077
South Raccoon River at Redfield, IA: 41.589432, -94.151346
Raccoon River at Van Meter, IA: 41.533878, -93.949950
Raccoon River near West Des Moines, IA: 41.531712, -93.781973
Raccoon River at 63rd Street at Des Moines, IA: 41.561656, -93.703554
Walnut Creek at Des Moines, IA: 41.587211, -93.703276
Raccoon River at Fleur Drive at Des Moines, IA: 41.581656, -93.642996
Des Moines River blw Raccoon Riv at Des Moines, IA: 41.577767, -93.605495
Fourmile Creek near Ankeny, IA DS1: 41.717377, -93.570133
Fourmile Creek at Des Moines, IA: 41.613878, -93.545493
North River near Norwalk, IA: 41.457907, -93.654969
Middle River near Indianola, IA: 41.424158, -93.587439
South River near Ackworth, IA: 41.337216, -93.486325
Des Moines River near Swan, IA: 41.489400, -93.278250
White Breast Creek near Dallas, IA: 41.246639, -93.290167
Des Moines River near Pella, IA: 41.360553, -92.973256
English Creek near Knoxville, IA: 41.300553, -93.045481
Des Moines River near Tracy, IA: 41.281391, -92.861504
Cedar Creek near Bussey, IA: 41.219002, -92.908533
Des Moines River at Ottumwa, IA: 41.010848, -92.411296
Des Moines River at Keosauqua, IA: 40.727806, -91.959617
Fox River at Bloomfield, IA: 40.769466, -92.418796
Rock River below Tom Creek at Rock Rapids, IA: 43.422972, -96.164887
Burr Oak Creek near Perkins, IA: 43.245257, -96.177523
Rock River near Rock Valley, IA: 43.214426, -96.294471
BIG SIOUX R AT AKRON,IA: 42.837520, -96.561922
BIG SIOUX RIVER AT SIOUX CITY, IA: 42.524439, -96.480503
Missouri River at Sioux City, IA: 42.485828, -96.413918
Perry Creek near Millnerville, IA: 42.693333, -96.370306
Perry Creek near Hinton, IA: 42.619715, -96.372528
Perry Creek at 38th Street at Sioux City, IA: 42.534883, -96.410724
Little Floyd River near Sanborn, IA: 43.186000, -95.725111
Floyd River at Alton, IA: 42.981931, -96.001129
Floyd River at James, IA: 42.576660, -96.311416
West Fork Ditch at Hornick, IA: 42.226935, -96.078072
Monona-Harrison Ditch near Turin, IA: 41.964432, -95.991955
Spirit Lake near Orleans, IA: 43.469684, -95.123884
West Okoboji Lake at Lakeside Lab near Milford, IA: 43.378575, -95.181386
Little Sioux River at 300th St near Spencer, IA: 43.212778, -95.239167
Ocheyedan River near Spencer, IA: 43.128026, -95.210830
Willow Creek near Cornell, IA: 42.972500, -95.161111
Little Sioux River at Linn Grove, IA: 42.895811, -95.243330
Little Sioux River at Correctionville, IA: 42.482222, -95.792611
Maple River at Mapleton, IA: 42.156934, -95.810007
Little Sioux River near Turin, IA: 41.964432, -95.972788
Soldier River at Pisgah, IA: 41.830544, -95.931399
Boyer River at Logan, IA: 41.641611, -95.782222
Willow Creek near Soldier, IA: 41.921377, -95.701673
Keg Creek at Epperson Avenue near Glenwood, IA: 41.102111, -95.718417
West Nishnabotna River at Hancock, IA: 41.389992, -95.371667
West Nishnabotna River at Randolph, IA: 40.873055, -95.580275
West Nishnabotna River near Riverton, IA: 40.687140, -95.600493
East Nishnabotna River near Atlantic, IA: 41.346101, -95.076936
East Nishnabotna River at Red Oak, IA: 41.008604, -95.241658
East Nishnabotna River at Riverton, IA: 40.694611, -95.562583
Nishnabotna River above Hamburg, IA: 40.601667, -95.645000
Tarkio River near Elliott, IA: 41.101658, -95.102767
East Tarkio Creek near Stanton, IA: 41.079991, -95.093044
Snake Creek near Yorktown, IA: 40.742493, -95.129704
Missouri River at Rulo, NE: 40.053639, -95.422417
Nodaway River at Clarinda, IA: 40.743278, -95.014194
East Fork 102 River at Bedford, IA: 40.660543, -94.716636
Thompson River at Davis City, IA: 40.640280, -93.808280
Chariton River near Chariton, IA: 40.951890, -93.259848
South Fork Chariton River near Promise City, IA: 40.800561, -93.192430
Rathbun Lake near Rathbun, IA: 40.825011, -92.892699
Chariton River near Rathbun, IA: 40.821872, -92.891254
Chariton River near Moulton, IA: 40.692517, -92.772418

What comes to mind when you think of Iowa? Probably corn fields and plains as far as the eye can see. But this state harbors a secret – its dozens of rivers and lakes are actually excellent resources for the diehard angler. The Hawkeye State not only offers tens of thousands of miles of rivers, creeks, and streams, but the DNR also engages in a highly active trout stocking program that keeps fishermen coming back and always offers a good challenge.

There are over 100 trout streams in Iowa, and all are situated in the northeast portion of the state. The interesting thing about this state’s trout fisheries is that most of them run through private land, and public access is provided to fishermen through agreements between the landowners and the DNR. For the most part, these fish are not able to maintain their own population, so the state utilizes three hatcheries to provide fishermen with the opportunity to engage in this popular sport. There are, however, six trout fisheries in which naturally reproducing and sustaining browns and brooks offer anglers exciting action.

Altogether the state boasts roughly 148 species of fish, including bass, channel catfish (the state fish and the most popular gamefish in the state), perch, pike, and sunfish. If you’re headed to the Midwest, don’t count Iowa out of your fly fishing itinerary – you might just be pleasantly surprised.

​Where to Go?

Indeed, it can be overwhelming, deciding exactly where to begin. There’s a reason why the trout streams are localized to the northeastern part of the state – this area, along with southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota, is known as the Driftless Region. This term is used to explain terrain that was not cut through by the last continental glacier, thousands of years ago. Because the land was not ground into “glacial drift”, it remains hospitable to the cold, crystal clear waters that allow a wild trout population to thrive. Thanks to this lack of glacial drift, there are plenty of waters ideal for fly fishermen.

Paint Creek

This 11-mile stretch – a tributary of the upper Mississippi – cuts right through the Yellow River State Forest, three miles west of Harpers Ferry. The state stocks the creek with catchable rainbows and brooks weekly from April through October. There are also wild brown trout, in estimated numbers of 136 per mile, making Paint a highly desirable fly fishing destination in Iowa.

Part of the draw of this area is that there are many amenities available to enhance anglers’ experiences. Not only is the stream access good, but there are also campsites that butt right up to suitable fishing spots, plus restrooms and a picnic area.

Paint Creek offers fly fishermen brooks, browns, and rainbows, with a daily bag limit of five and no length limit. And while you cast your line, you’ll revel in being surrounded by incredible natural beauty – tree-lined banks, lush foliage, and richly textured landscapes create a tranquil scene that awes.

Waterloo Creek

This Upper Iowa River tributary is about ten miles in length and actually begins as Bee Creek in Minnesota – in fact, technically speaking you could hook a fish in Minnesota and land it in Iowa! Considered one of Iowa’s premier fly fishing destinations, the creek is divided into two sections for angling purposes. The upper portion is stocked weekly from April to October, with 10-12 inch brookies and rainbows, and the portion below Highway 76 is designated catch-and-release and artificial lure only.

Waterloo is a favorite among both locals and visitors alike in large part due to its high wild brown trout population – at its peak, the creek was thought to have about 4000 browns per mile. More recent numbers indicate specimens up to 23 inches long at a density of about 700 per mile. The healthy population, bigger size in comparison to the numerous tiny Iowa trout streams, and the creek’s path through serene pastures combine to make this an angler’s paradise that’s tough to beat.

Turkey River

This area is interesting because it runs straight through the Big Springs Trout Hatchery, six miles northwest of Elkader. You’ll enjoy camping sites, shore fishing with great access, and a carry-down boat launch. The waterway is stocked with rainbows and brookies twice weekly from April through October. The width of the river combined with the surrounding landscape offers something very few Iowa trout streams can – the ability to forget worries about the backcast, or even practice a 50-foot cast.

The other beauty of Turkey River fly fishing is that there is no length limit on trout, and no catch-and-release. As an added bonus, the corridor also contains smallmouths and walleye so you never know what you might find on the other end of the line. And, you never know how big they’ll be – word on the street is that even the little guys in this area put up a fight worthy of a much larger fish in any other stream. So don’t jump to conclusions about the size of what’s giving you all that struggle.

Yellow River

This waterway may only be fished by canoe or kayak unless you get landowner permission. There is public access with a carry-down boat launch available at the Volney Canoe Access. The river runs roughly between Waterville and the Yellow River State Forest, and is stocked yearly with fingerling browns and rainbows. Bag limit is five with no length limit for the trout, although you may also hook a smallmouth which must be a minimum of 12 inches to keep. White suckers in the Yellow River have no limit.

While the fact that you can’t wade or walk is inconvenient, if you’ve got a canoe it might be worth the effort, as the state deposits an average of 50,000 fish yearly.

​When to Go?

Fishing is year-round in Iowa, so the best time to go is whenever is best for you. Each season offers its own quirks. A spring rain can dislodge food and turn your day into a fishing glut, provided you’re using nymphs and streamers rather than dry flies. Summer brings hatches, which is advantageous to fly fishermen, but it will also reduce the spread of cold-water species, causing them to stick closer to their chilly water sources (such as the hatchery at Turkey River), rather than moving up or downstream. Fall is ideal for trout fly fishing, offering nice weather and a range of bait options. Winter can be a challenge to the fly fisherman but you could get lucky simply on the merit of the fish having not seen a lure in quite a while.

​What You Will Need When You Get There?

Bring along the standard gear – hip or waist waders, polarized sunglasses, broad-brimmed hat, sunscreen, bug spray, rain jacket or windbreaker, and a pack to hold small items. Felt soles on your boots will allow for better stealth than rubber or cleats. For your rod, the smaller trout streams of Iowa call for about a 4 weight, no longer than 8.5 feet, with 7.5 and 9-foot leaders with tippets from 3X to 5X.

When it comes to flies, a good selection for this state includes:

  • Caddis
  • BWO
  • Nymphs
  • Midges
  • Scuds
  • Stoneflies
  • Hoppers
  • Ants
  • Leeches
  • Beetles
  • Woolly buggers
  • Pheasant tails
  • Parachutes
  • Copper johns

Streamers are useful to have on-hand for autumn – try out some bright colors and patterns. On Waterloo CFreek in late summer you might want to pull out your grasshopper imitator, particularly in the catch-and-release section. As always, watch the hatches, consult local fly shops if possible, and match as closely as possible.

You will also need a fishing license from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. You can purchase these in person or online. A resident license costs $19 while a non-resident runs $41. If you’re going to trout fish, you’ll need to pay the trout fee, which is $13 for residents and $15.00 for non-residents. There are also resident and non-resident one-day and seven-day options, and discounts for veterans. Children under the age of 16 do not need a fishing license, although interestingly, they do need to have the trout fee in order to fish for or possess trout. If the child is with a trout fee-possessing adult then they do not need the fee, but the catches of the adult and child must be combined – in other words the adult and child together may possess only one person’s limit of fish.

If you’re anywhere near Iowa, it’s worth checking out the extensive network of trout fisheries that the state has to offer. Like other states, they have varying regulations and catch limits depending upon the fish species and location, but unlike many other states, Iowa has an outstanding DNR website with thorough and comprehensive information on all of their fishing sites, and even advice, how to’s, maps, fishing reports, and much more. The DNR puts exceptional effort into the improvement and promotion of their angling resources, so if you’re out that way, take advantage of the many fly fishing opportunities in Iowa.