Minnesota Fly Fishing

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PIGEON RIVER AT MIDDLE FALLS NR GRAND PORTAGE MN: 48.012108, -89.616198
KNIFE RIVER NEAR TWO HARBORS, MN: 46.946880, -91.792401
ST. LOUIS RIVER NEAR SKIBO, MN: 47.481111, -92.040000
STONEY BROOK AT PINE DRIVE NEAR BROOKSTON, MN: 46.781667, -92.636667
ST. LOUIS RIVER AT SCANLON, MN: 46.703277, -92.418802
OTTER TAIL RIVER NEAR ELIZABETH, MN: 46.369404, -96.017556
ORWELL LAKE AT ORWELL DAM NEAR FERGUS FALLS, MN: 46.216389, -96.178056
OTTER TAIL RIVER BL ORWELL D NR FERGUS FALLS, MN: 46.209682, -96.185061
OTTER TAIL RIVER DIVERSION AT BRECKENRIDGE, MN: 46.282459, -96.582573
MUSTINKA RIVER ABOVE WHEATON, MN: 45.820794, -96.490622
LAKE TRAVERSE AT RESERVATION DAM NEAR WHEATON, MN: 45.768572, -96.638681
LAKE TRAVERSE OTLT AT RESERVATION DAM NR WHEATON: 45.769444, -96.638889
BOIS DE SIOUX RIVER NEAR DORAN, MN: 46.152181, -96.579239
BUFFALO RIVER NEAR HAWLEY, MN: 46.849960, -96.329509
SOUTH BRANCH BUFFALO RIVER AT SABIN, MN: 46.775518, -96.628132
BUFFALO RIVER NEAR DILWORTH, MN: 46.961074, -96.661465
WILD RICE RIVER AT TWIN VALLEY, MN: 47.265556, -96.247500
S. BR. WILD RICE RIVER AT CO. RD. 27 NR FELTON, MN: 47.113333, -96.385833
WILD RICE RIVER AT HENDRUM, MN: 47.268027, -96.797578
RED RIVER OF THE NORTH AT HALSTAD, MN: 47.351918, -96.843691
MARSH RIVER NEAR SHELLY, MN: 47.412471, -96.764244
SAND HILL RIVER AT CLIMAX, MN: 47.611918, -96.814800
UPPER RED LAKE AT WASKISH, MN: 48.175519, -94.514399
LOWER RED LAKE NR RED LAKE, MN: 47.957457, -95.276394
RED LAKE RIVER NEAR RED LAKE, MN: 47.957457, -95.276671
RED LAKE RIVER AT HIGH LANDING NR GOODRIDGE, MN: 48.048573, -95.808630
THIEF RIVER NEAR THIEF RIVER FALLS, MN: 48.185525, -96.170034
CLEARWATER RIVER AT PLUMMER, MN: 47.923297, -96.046423
LOST RIVER AT OKLEE, MN: 47.843016, -95.858637
JUDICIAL DITCH 64 NEAR MENTOR, MN (SW4): 47.737778, -96.202500
CLEARWATER RIVER AT RED LAKE FALLS, MN: 47.887468, -96.273936
CYR CREEK NEAR MARCOUX CORNERS, MN (SW5): 47.803611, -96.276667
COUNTY DITCH 140 ABV BR-6 IMP NR TILDEN, MN (SW8): 47.667222, -96.338611
JUDICIAL DITCH 66 NEAR MARCOUX CORNERS, MN (SW6): 47.781944, -96.331389
RED LAKE RIVER AT CROOKSTON, MN: 47.775527, -96.609510
COUNTY DITCH 72 (BURNHAM CK) NR. MAPLE BAY (SW3): 47.638611, -96.280000
COUNTY DITCH 65 NEAR MAPLE BAY, MN (SW2): 47.611944, -96.279167
RED LAKE RIVER AT FISHER, MN: 47.800252, -96.808963
RED RIVER OF THE NORTH AT OSLO, MN: 48.193873, -97.140628
SNAKE RIVER ABOVE WARREN, MN: 48.209722, -96.718056
MIDDLE RIVER AT ARGYLE, MN: 48.340255, -96.816450
SOUTH BRANCH TWO RIVERS AT LAKE BRONSON, MN: 48.732479, -96.667544
ROSEAU RIVER BELOW SOUTH FORK NEAR MALUNG, MN: 48.794702, -95.742488
ROSEAU RIVER DIVERSION AT CO RD 24 ABV ROSEAU, MN: 48.834889, -95.746139
ROSEAU RIVER AT ROSS, MN: 48.910260, -95.921940
ROSEAU RIVER BELOW STATE DITCH 51 NR CARIBOU, MN: 48.981648, -96.463080
KAWISHIWI RIVER NEAR ELY, MN: 47.922675, -91.535126
FILSON CREEK IN SWSE SEC. 24, NEAR WINTON, MN: 47.835611, -91.670389
SOUTH KAWISHIWI RIVER NEAR ELY, MN: 47.839903, -91.695419
KEELEY CREEK ABOVE MOUTH NEAR BABBITT, MN: 47.766861, -91.749528
SOUTH KAWISHIWI R ABV WHITE IRON LAKE NR ELY, MN: 47.841850, -91.799034
BASSWOOD RIVER NEAR WINTON, MN: 48.082394, -91.652624
VERMILION RIVER NR CRANE LAKE, MN: 48.264628, -92.565994
GOLD PORTAGE OUTLET FROM KABETOGAMA LK NR RAY,MN: 48.524364, -93.074869
RAINY R AT BOAT LANDING BLW INTERNATIONAL FALLS,MN: 48.592222, -93.446667
LITTLE FORK RIVER AT LITTLEFORK, MN: 48.395776, -93.549327
BIG FORK RIVER AT BIG FALLS, MN: 48.195785, -93.807125
RAINY RIVER AT MANITOU RAPIDS, MN: 48.634401, -93.913228
RAPID RIVER NEAR BAUDETTE, MN: 48.536081, -94.562716
RAINY RIVER NEAR BOAT LANDING AT WHEELERS POINT,MN: 48.836944, -94.699167
LAKE OF THE WOODS AT WARROAD, MN: 48.904155, -95.316071
LK OF THE WOODS @ SPRINGSTEEL IS NR. WARROAD, MN: 48.945823, -95.306904
MISSISSIPPI RIVER NEAR BEMIDJI, MN: 47.483286, -94.728044
LEECH LAKE AT SUGAR POINT NEAR FEDERAL DAM, MN: 47.170511, -94.286916
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT WILLOW BEACH AT BALL CLUB, MN: 47.302222, -93.901389
MISSISSIPPI R. AT DAYS HIGH LANDING NR DEER RIVER: 47.252172, -93.802999
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT GRAND RAPIDS, MN: 47.232166, -93.530214
PRAIRIE RIVER NEAR TACONITE, MN: 47.388828, -93.380757
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT AITKIN, MN: 46.540513, -93.707471
MISSISSIPPI RIVER DIVERSION NEAR AITKIN, MN: 46.591667, -93.686944
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT BRAINERD, MN: 46.377744, -94.183328
STRAIGHT RIVER NEAR PARK RAPIDS, MN: 46.874959, -95.065855
CROW WING RIVER AT NIMROD, MN: 46.640238, -94.879184
LONG PRAIRIE RIVER AT LONG PRAIRIE, MN: 45.974964, -94.865855
CROW WING RIVER NEAR PILLAGER, MN: 46.304967, -94.377504
MISSISSIPPI RIVER NEAR ROYALTON, MN: 45.826077, -94.355278
SAUK RIVER NEAR ST. CLOUD, MN: 45.559687, -94.233603
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT ST. CLOUD, MN: 45.547188, -94.145822
ELK RIVER NEAR BIG LAKE, MN: 45.333854, -93.666910
CROW RIVER AT ROCKFORD, MN: 45.086630, -93.734132
MILLE LACS LAKE AT COVE BAY NEAR ONAMIA, MN: 46.109958, -93.619133
RUM RIVER NEAR ST. FRANCIS, MN: 45.327743, -93.372454
ELM CREEK NR CHAMPLIN, MN: 45.163298, -93.436621
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT HWY 610 IN BROOKLYN PARK, MN: 45.126632, -93.296895
RICE CREEK BLW OLD HWY. 8 IN MOUNDS VIEW, MN: 45.093333, -93.195000
MISSISSIPPI RIVER ABV 37TH AVE. NE IN FRIDLEY, MN: 45.043278, -93.279389
SHINGLE CREEK AT QUEEN AVE IN MINNEAPOLIS, MN: 45.049965, -93.310227
LAKE MINNETONKA ABV GRAYS BAY OTLT IN MINNETONKA: 44.953333, -93.487222
MINNEHAHA CREEK AT HIAWATHA AVE. IN MINNEAPOLIS,MN: 44.915521, -93.212722
MINNESOTA RIVER AT ORTONVILLE, MN: 45.295520, -96.444223
YELLOW BANK RIVER NEAR ODESSA, MN: 45.226909, -96.353665
POMME DE TERRE RIVER AT APPLETON, MN: 45.202739, -96.022546
LAC QUI PARLE RIVER NEAR LAC QUI PARLE, MN: 44.995236, -95.919754
MINNESOTA RIVER NEAR LAC QUI PARLE, MN: 45.021347, -95.868365
CHIPPEWA RIVER NEAR MILAN, MN: 45.108292, -95.798922
CHIPPEWA R. (HW) ABOVE COUNTY RD 13 NR WATSON, MN: 45.022778, -95.790278
CHIPPEWA RIVER (TW) NEAR WATSON, MN: 45.021069, -95.790585
MINNESOTA RIVER AT MONTEVIDEO, MN: 44.933290, -95.733637
MINNESOTA RIVER AT HWY 212 IN GRANITE FALLS, MN: 44.805556, -95.544167
YELLOW MEDICINE RIVER NEAR GRANITE FALLS, MN: 44.715167, -95.544111
REDWOOD RIVER NEAR MARSHALL, MN: 44.430167, -95.829556
REDWOOD RIVER NEAR REDWOOD FALLS, MN: 44.523570, -95.172499
MINNESOTA RIVER AT MORTON, MN: 44.546072, -94.996384
COTTONWOOD RIVER NEAR NEW ULM, MN: 44.291352, -94.440249
LITTLE COTTONWOOD RIVER NEAR COURTLAND, MN: 44.246353, -94.338856
WATONWAN RIVER NEAR GARDEN CITY, MN: 44.046352, -94.195514
BLUE EARTH RIVER NEAR RAPIDAN, MN: 44.095520, -94.109402
LE SUEUR RIVER NEAR RAPIDAN, MN: 44.109688, -94.041900
MINNESOTA RIVER AT MANKATO, MN: 44.168855, -94.003289
HIGH ISLAND CREEK NEAR HENDERSON, MN: 44.571908, -93.921911
MINNESOTA RIVER NEAR JORDAN, MN: 44.693018, -93.641902
MINNESOTA RIVER AT FORT SNELLING STATE PARK, MN: 44.870243, -93.192443
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT ST. PAUL, MN: 44.944444, -93.088111
MISSISSIPPI RIVER BELOW L&D #2 AT HASTINGS, MN: 44.745833, -92.847778
ST. CROIX RIVER NEAR DANBURY, WI: 46.076111, -92.246667
KETTLE RIVER BELOW SANDSTONE, MN: 46.105505, -92.864090
SNAKE RIVER NEAR PINE CITY, MN: 45.841622, -92.933541
ST. CROIX RIVER AT STILLWATER, MN: 45.056078, -92.804096
VERMILLION RIVER NEAR EMPIRE, MN: 44.666633, -93.054936
STRAIGHT RIVER NEAR FARIBAULT, MN: 44.258019, -93.231047
CANNON RIVER AT CO. HWY. 29 BELOW FARIBAULT, MN: 44.359722, -93.256667
CANNON RIVER AT NORTHFIELD MN: 44.458583, -93.159667
CHUB CREEK AT CO. HWY. 47 ABOVE RANDOLPH, MN: 44.528889, -93.072500
PRAIRIE CREEK NEAR CANNON FALLS, MN: 44.486111, -92.987222
CANNON RIVER AT 9TH ST. BRIDGE IN CANNON FALLS, MN: 44.516972, -92.912028
CANNON RIVER AT WELCH, MN: 44.563856, -92.732143
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT RED WING, MN: 44.565306, -92.542444
SOUTH FORK ZUMBRO RIVER AT ROCHESTER, MN: 44.061631, -92.466289
ZUMBRO RIVER AT ZUMBRO FALLS, MN: 44.285556, -92.430000
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT LOCK AND DAM 5A NR WINONA, MN: 44.086352, -91.668483
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT WINONA, MN: 44.055519, -91.637649
ROOT RIVER NEAR PILOT MOUND, MN: 43.784686, -92.030157
ROOT RIVER ABOVE RUSHFORD, MN: 43.797778, -91.803889
ROOT RIVER NEAR HOUSTON, MN: 43.768577, -91.569865
SOUTH FORK ROOT RIVER NEAR HOUSTON, MN: 43.738578, -91.564032
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT BROWNSVILLE, MN: 43.686636, -91.272635
CEDAR RIVER NEAR AUSTIN, MN: 43.637185, -92.974637
DES MOINES RIVER ABOVE WINDOM, MN: 43.890235, -95.161104
DES MOINES RIVER AT JACKSON, MN: 43.618292, -94.984991
SUPERIOR BAY DULUTH SHIP CANAL AT DULUTH, MN: 46.779444, -92.091389
South Fork Whitewater River (Co Rd 37 Bridge): 44.077000, -91.987600
North Fork Whitewater River (Sandy Shore): 44.086100, -92.040200
North Fork Whitewater River (Corn Field): 44.092500, -92.065200
Beaver Creek East (Park): 43.643300, -91.582200

The North Star State is a wonderland of water activities. In this vast Midwestern landscape, you will find over 5,000 lakes that house game fish, and 15,000 miles of streams and rivers. In fact, fishing is such a beloved pastime in the state that the DNR offers a workshop specifically for women, and the state boasts an organization made up solely of fly fisherwomen. It is a vast, friendly state that embraces its natural recreation offerings and offers sportsman a glut of advice and information, online and otherwise.

With so many bodies of water, where does one even begin? Let’s start with a few of Minnesota’s reportedly best fly fishing spots.

​Where to Go?

South Branch of the Root River

Located in the far southeastern corner of the state, this lower portion of the 80-mile long Root River is unique in that it houses a mixture of stream-bred wild brown trout, wild and factory-raised brook trout, and stocked rainbows. The limestone makes for a higher pH level, and the water is largely comprised of rain and melted snow. You’ll find the best access above Preston, in the three miles of public waterfront at Forestville State Park. There are other access points at bridges, but the park is the main public location.

The stream is mostly made up of long pools and slow riffles, though you will encounter a run here and there. There are plenty of fish to go around if you play your cards right. Browns tend to shelter under the shade of the banks on outside bends, and favor tree limbs and deadfalls. Seek out swift runs for rainbows and smaller browns.

As for the hatches, this area plays host to a healthy selection of aquatic insects and terrestrials, giving you a variety of imitations to choose from depending on the season. The pastoral scenery and easy-to-wade waters make this a delightful destination for the experienced and novice fly fisherman alike.

Trout Run Creek

Travel a bit to the northwest and you’ll hit Trout Run Creek, which sits nestled in the prairie region and runs for 12 miles before hitting the North Branch of the Root River. Enjoy the hardwoods and peaceful meadows surround the stream, as you take advantage of the many improvements which have enhanced the fishing experience of these waters. In fact, legend has it that Trout Run may house a trout population as dense as 2,000 – 4,000 per mile!

While many of the area’s spring creeks flow smoothly, Trout Run is a bit of a rebel with its riffles and runs. This is to your advantage, as the tumultuous surface serves as camouflage, preventing the trout from detecting your activities. Along with fishing in the faster sections of the creek, rain can also help your cause by muddying the water. You’ll find both wild and stocked browns and brookies at Trout Run.

The Twin Cities

The Minnesota DNR is a goldmine of fly fishing information. They provide a comprehensive list of metro area Twin Cities fly fishing sites, along with the types of fish you’ll find and what to use to catch them. Some of these locales include:

  • Cenaiko Lake – bluegill, trout
  • Rum River – smallmouth bass, walleye
  • Lake Waconia – largemouth bass, bluegill
  • Courthouse Lake – brookies, browns, and rainbows
  • Valley Lake – northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegill
  • Calhoun Lake – bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, muskie
  • Eagle Creek – brown trout
  • Holland Lake – trout, bluegill

There are many more lakes listed, as well as additional resources from the DNR – even including a complete guide to rods, flies, lines, casting techniques, virtually everything a beginner needs to know.

The Whitewater River

Despite its deceptive name, this small river is not a playground for whitewater rafting. Rather it is a compilation of three branches that flow out of the prairie region. It is also a Mississippi River tributary. Surrounded by heavy vegetation, and some cottonwood and aspen trees, the waters offer riffles and slow runs, with the occasional trout-packed deep pool. You’ll find some wild, and mostly stocked, browns, rainbows, and brooks. With a gravel and sand bottom that offers plenty of even enough areas for fly adjustment, it’s a great location for both nymph and dry fly fishing.

As for access, you won’t have a problem at the Whitewater. Not only does it pass through a large wildlife management area, but it also flows through two state parks, making public access points plentiful. You can also fish along public easements. Again, the Minnesota DNR is a fantastic resource for specifics on all things Minnesota fly fishing.

The Vermillion River

For the bug chucker who’s angling for a challenge, this 60-mile length contains designated trout sections which are catch and release areas, except for one stretch in Farmington. There are public access areas on County Road 66, as well as at the Farmington city park. The river contains both wild and stocked browns and brooks.

Hatches

While these can vary according to location, the most common are as follows:

  • blue-winged olives – March through September
  • blue quills – April through May
  • sulphurs – late May through mid-July
  • late drakes – mid-July into September
  • little black caddis – mid-April to mid-May
  • cinnamon caddis – mid-May through September

Also take crane flies into consideration – imitations can be useful from June to September. Grasshoppers, ants, and beetles are also effective in summertime, along grassy banks and under tree overhangs.

When to Go?

In general late spring is the most lucrative for fishing the streams. During the hottest part of the summer you probably won’t have much luck on the lower portions of the Root River, while fall is a great time because of Trico hatches and spawning of browns. Fall is a lively time to fly fish Trout Run Creek, and even in winter as the water only freezes in limited areas. The Whitewater River yields best in fall, though the upper sections are still fairly good throughout summer. Spring can be okay, as long as the water doesn’t rise too high.

When planning your trip, you’ll need to take a comprehensive look at the rules and regulations on the Minnesota DNR website, particularly if you want to keep your catch. The state maintains extremely detailed rules for each species, including size and possession limits, catch and release, and timing for various fish.

What You Will Need When You Get There?

You’ll want a standard set of gear, of course, including as much of the following list as you can reasonably carry:

  • Waders
  • Boots
  • Rain poncho or jacket
  • Hat with brim
  • Polarized sunglasses (allow you to see more clearly under the water)
  • Insect repellant
  • First aid kit
  • Binoculars
  • Snacks and beverages

As for fishing equipment, you’ll want an array of choices so that you’ll have a variety on hand depending upon the available fish and their size.

  • 4-6 weight rod for trout
  • 9 and 12 foot leaders with 5X or 6X tippet for dry fly, 7.5 foot leader with 3X or 4X tippet for nymphing, 0-2X tippet for streamers
  • 4-6 fly line
  • Accessories – nippers or nail clippers, forceps, retractors

The amazing selection of fish means you’ll want to equip yourself with a boatload of fly choices. Keep streamers on-hand for the bigger browns – sculpin, minnows, leeches, and baitfish are ideal, particularly in dingy waters. Also bring along foam flies, nymphs, bass poppers, pheasant tails, and woolly buggers. Fly fishing devotees swear you can catch anything with the right fly, so you want to be prepared for the wonderfully diverse fish population that Minnesota’s thousands of miles of water have to offer.

As in most states, you’ll require a fishing license, and you’ll need to keep it on you. Those over age 18 and under age 90 can purchase a license for $22. Youths – 16-17 – can obtain one for $5. You can also purchase a three-year license for $63, as well as one-day and three-day options, at $10 and $12 respectively. There is a lifetime license for a cost of between $304 and $508 depending upon age. Non-residents will pay $45 for a yearly Minnesota fishing license, $12 for a one-day, or $32 for a three-day and $38 for a seven-day.

There is also a separate trout and salmon stamp, as well as a walleye stamp, that give you permission to fish in designated trout streams and lakes. Exceptions are children under 18 and people over 65. Compared to some other states, Minnesota has extensive, complex guidelines for seasons and licenses. The good thing is that they’ve laid everything out in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand online brochure.

Minnesota is a wonderland of water, and a thriving, vibrant fly fishing community. Between the thousands of lakes, streams, rivers, and creeks, the educational clinics offered by the Minnesota DNR, and the prolific trout population that extends throughout the state, there’s no shortage of excitement for anglers. Add to that the serene landscapes, peaceful farms, and prairies that lay claim to rivers and creeks, and you’ve got a fly fisherman’s vacation paradise.