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Central Iowa Fly Fishing: The Time is Now!

It's probably one of the best times to fly fish of the entire year in central Iowa. Water temperatures are great, fish are starting to move around a lot, and external temperatures are pleasant.


Many carp have finished their spawning ritual and have settled into a feeding routine in fishable waters. If you're looking to hunt these big guys, you will need some good bushwhacking clothing, stealth, slow movements, and a good tick-check after a day hiding out in the brush.

White Bass and Wipers

These fish, in many areas around Iowa, have now finished spawning and are happy to settle into their everyday lifestyle, which is eat, eat, and eat some more. What flies should you be fishing for them? Hint: 90+% of their diet is shad. Think Clouser Minnows and other baitfish fly patterns.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

Many bass, especially in our local ponds, have started to spawn. It's not a bad idea to leave the bass alone while they are doing their thing on their nests, as this reduces stress on the fish and promotes better survival within the bass population. If you're still looking to target bass, don't be afraid to fish some of the drop-offs near nests to find some of the fish that have either just finished spawning or are hanging out near other fish that are spawning.


Many of these guys are starting to spawn too; use good judgement and don't pester them incessantly for your own pleasure while they are protecting their nests.


Crappie spawn is definitely happening as well, and anglers across the state are finding both black and white crappie in large volumes. I've been really impressed seeing anglers who have been catching tons of crappie and being selective with their harvest rather than just killing because they can. Crappie are a strange species, as far as how they impact a fishery; most of our large fisheries have crappie populations that can be managed by angling pressure and predation from other species. In ponds, however, crappie can have an unpredictable effect on the population. While there are exceptions, in general, it is best to try to keep a crappie population in a small pond in check as much as possible to prevent them eating everything else in the pond out of existence.


Walleye fishing has been great as well during this 2023 season. While we haven't seen a ton of reports of fly-caught walleye lately, they are certainly reachable for the next month or so in our local lakes, and we will see more success in our rivers as spring flows subside. Fishing low and slow, especially with an intermediate or sinking line, can be a great way to find a few walleye.


NE Iowa has plentiful miles of trout streams, and the Driftless region is fishing well, as always. While spring rains can cause the waters to turn to chocolate milk for 24-48 hours, streams usually rebound quickly and often give up some quality fish. Rainbow trout and brown trout are found in many of these streams, along with some brook trout, various sucker species, and the occasional walleye. Baetis are present at this time of year, so mayfly patterns in size 16-18 are good to have along. Think Parachute Adams, Pheasant Tail, and other attractor patterns like Pink Squirrels and Zebra Midges. Caddis are showing up too, so be sure to have some Elk Hair Caddis and some caddis nymph variations. Streamer fishing has been very good recently, too.

Yellow Bass

A few of our Iowa lakes have yellow bass, which can cause some serious issues in the balance of an ecosystem. However, they can also provide a ton of exciting action for anglers of all ages. These fish school up and spawn during May and can be caught in large numbers when they are in a bit shallower water. Fish large nymphs and/or small streamers.

Fishing Report

Click here for the Iowa DNR's Fishing Report (5/18/2023)

Local Reservoirs: Saylorville Reservoir has finally started to fill in since we had a few decent rains. We could still use some more rain to add a bit more water to the reservoir. Expect to see much more traffic throughout the past few weeks with warming temperatures.

Local Ponds: Bass and bluegill spawn has begun; use common sense and promote longevity of our populations in these smaller fisheries by not targeting every single fish on every single bed in a pond.

Des Moines River: Dirty as the sediment from high spring flows settles out; should be coming into good shape in the next few weeks.

Get in touch with us to book a fly fishing trip in Iowa!



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