Missouri Fly Fishing 6 min read

DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Missouri

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

August 8, 2015

If you’re on the hunt for trout, then you can pack up your bags and head to the state of Missouri, which offers plenty of places to engage in fly fishing. The state even has four designated trout parks, of which one is owned privately and the others are operated by the state. If you like the idea of fishing on a Blue, White, and Red Ribbon water, then you’ve got many to choose from in Missouri.

Missouri is not typically thought of as a big spot for fishing for trout. That’s probably because until 1880 the state didn’t have any trout at all. The Missouri Fish Commission decided to change that by stocking rainbow fry in the streams that bordered the railway line. To this day, the commission is still working to provide stocks through hatcheries that make the trout parks a possibility.

Fly fishing in Missouri takes a bit of planning as there aren’t quite as many options as some other states offer. You want to be sure you have time to visit all your favorite and must-see locations.

Missouri Fly Fishing Map

map of places to fish in Missouri

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish in Missouri

If you’re planning to do some fly fishing in Missouri, then a visit to one or more of the Blue Ribbon waters is an absolute must. In these streams, you can usually find rainbow and brown trout. So, let’s take a closer look at some excellent options for trout fishing, including some of these Blue Ribbon options.

North Fork of the White River

When it comes to rainbow trout, you won’t have a hard time locating them here. This is in part due to the fact that there are so many stoneflies and other aquatic insects living in the area. While you can fish here during spring, summer, and fall, the summer tends to get quite busy. This river is popular with those who love to canoe, so you may be dealing with multiple canoes passing by, which can really make fly fishing difficult. Spring and fall will be much quieter. There are some areas that require a boat if you wish to fish them, while others you can fish right from the shore. The Blue Ribbon area of the water is very easy to access, but be warned, there are regulations in place.

Lake of the Ozarks

If you are familiar with Missouri at all, then you’ve probably heard of the Lake of the Ozarks. This lake spans 54,000 acres, providing more than 1,100 miles worth of shoreline. Not only is it a great place to fish, but you can plan a full vacation at this lake. Typically, in this lake you’ll find largemouth bass, blue catfish, white crappie, black crappie, spotted bass, channel catfish, white bass, flathead catfish, hybrid stripers, walleye, paddlefish, and bluegill.

Access is extremely easy when it comes to the lake, as there are various boat docks, dock fishing options, and even crappie beds. Keep in mind that some areas of the lake will be busier than others, not just with crowds, but even with the fish themselves. The fishing season is broken down into spring, summer, fall, and winter, giving you year-round options. Even though the outdoor temperatures will be cool in the winter, if you want to brave it, you can enjoy some great fishing. It is suggested that January and February are in fact the best time to catch the big fish. During the winter months, you’ll have the best chance of catching them in their winter habitat, which is the deep water channel banks.

Crane Creek

Crane Creek isn’t a massive body of water, but it is a great spot to enjoy fly fishing. This creek is located just outside of the city of Springfield, making it easy to get to and access. Dating back to 1880, when rainbow trout were introduced and stocked in the water, they have done very well. This means that you’ve got some great opportunities to catch them.

Anglers love how crystal clear the water is here, allowing them to see the pebble covered creek bottom. There are also grassy areas of the water. While this area of Missouri can get quite hot during the summer, there is a large section of the creek that is protected by sycamore and box elder trees. This keeps the water much cooler, making the fish abundant and happy. This creek is best enjoyed by either fly-fishing or spinning. Access to the creek is open year-round, as are the fishing opportunities.

Little Piney Creek

Here’s another opportunity to fish in a smaller sized creek that yields plenty of trout you can catch. The creek is close to Newburg and Rolla, which makes it very easy to access. Ideally, this area is best visited during the spring or fall months. You can make a whole vacation out of it by bringing a tent and renting a campsite right at the creek.

What anglers love is the fact there are Blue Ribbon and White Ribbon designated trout locations on the creek. This also means that it has been protected so that the rainbow trout in the water can thrive and increase in their numbers. If you plan to fish during the summer, be prepared for the water levels to be low, which can make it harder to catch fish. This is why the spring and fall are the preferred times for fishing. As a tip, you’ll want to use dry flies and nymphs in 14-18 sizes. The creek is also known for a large variety of hatches, which take place in the summer. You’ve definitely got nothing to lose by checking this area out.

Best Time to Fish in Missouri

Missouri offers fishing all year-round, but some times of year will be better than others. As far as the fishing goes, you can find some of the largest specimens in the winter if you’re willing to brave the outdoor temperatures. Typically, during the winter the temperatures will sit between 30-40 degrees. This is of course perfectly comfortable if you’re dressed in warm layers and bring a nice warm thermos of coffee or hot chocolate along with you.

Fall is a beautiful time in Missouri and the Lake of the Ozarks is no exception. The temperatures can still get as high as the mid-70s during the day, then cool off at night. Be sure to pack a jacket if this is when you’ll be visiting. This is also a great time if you plan on fishing for bass.

Summer marks the time of year for the large sized bass, and beware that many of the fish in the water are extremely hungry and ready to bite. The temperatures can get as high as the mid-80s during the day, so you’ll need your sun protection, a hat, and of course, your polarized glasses so you can see into the water past the glare.

Spring isn’t to be missed either as the temperatures continue to climb from month to month. May is usually the start of the really good fishing.

Here’s a closer look at the bug hatches during the year. The early seasons of mayfly, caddis, and stonefly starts as early as March. Mid-season for the bugs is from mid-May to June. Then, late June through to October counts as late season for caddis, mayfly, and stonefly.

Best Flies for Trout Fishing in Missouri

Keep in mind when fishing in a Blue Ribbon trout stream, you’re going to need to flies that best match the hatch. Be sure to pack a good variety or buy some locally so you’re sure to get the best type for the area. 

Essential Fishing Gear

When picking your fishing rod it is suggested that you use a 9-foot, 5-weight rod. When it comes to reels, a single action fly reel complete with the disc drag will do just perfect. A fly line that is tapered, floating, and balanced to work with your rod is your best bet.

Be sure to pack your waders so you’ll have no problem fishing along the many streams and rivers.

Missouri Fishing Regulations

You will need to purchase a valid fishing license from the Missouri Department of Conservation before you do any fishing at all. In Missouri this is called a Fishing Permit. They come in an annual and daily form. Everyone needs to have the permit.

Fly Fishing in Missouri Has Never Been Better

Missouri offers a selection of intriguing and enjoyable fly fishing adventures. While this state may not be quite as popular as some of the others, that’s not to say it should not be missed.

Instead, plan to visit a few different spots and really make the most out of your vacation. If you’re not into crowds at the fishing holes, then Missouri is meant for you, as you’ll never have to contend with mass amounts of people.

Go ahead and pack all your gear, head to Missouri, and let your fishing adventure begin at last.

Looking for more places to fish?  Check our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Destinations in the U.S.