People don’t think of Indiana for fly fishing streams, but there are some hidden gems if you know where to look.
Growing up in Indiana, I cut my teeth in the fishing world chasing bass in farm ponds and carp in the rivers. For the most part, bass is the dominant species people chase around the US, and Indiana is no exception. As fly fishing became more dominant in my life, places where I fished changed as well. These days, I spend most of my time seriously fishing outside of Indiana. However, when I do fish there, the fly fishing streams in Indiana that I do fish, tend to repeat, and for good reason. At certain times of the year, you just can’t go wrong.
#1. Saint Joseph River, South Bend
The St. Joe, flowing through South Bend, is a fly fisherman’s paradise. The state of Indiana stocks the living daylights out of this Lake Michigan tributary with steelhead trout on a year round basis. The result is lake run fish that are always on a spawn run flooding in and out with every hard rain, pretty much year around.
On top of this, most steelhead fishermen know that in order to really find the good fishing, it’s during the winter when it’s the coldest, worst days of the year. Well, Indiana has a summer run of steelhead. These fish flood inland from the big lake starting when the weather begins to warm. Thankfully, they stay all summer, then leave again in the fall. Catching 10lb steelhead on a 70 degree day is just special. This fishery is Indian’s true world class fishery.
#2. White River, Brookville
During the spring months, white bass flood up the white river coming out of Brookeville reservoir. They do this in numbers that are impossible to describe. 75 to 100 fish days are not uncommon. I’ve even heard of higher catch rates than that in only a few hours of time on the water. All you need is a 5wt or 6wt fly rod and a streamer that looks like a small baitfish. Once their spawn run is over, it’s over quick. If you are there during the peak, it’s hard to find fishing like that anywhere else.
#3. Tippecanoe River, Delphi
Do you love carp, gar, and smallmouth bass? Well, wait until the summer dry season in Indiana and you will catch all you want. Just take a float trip down the scenic Tippecanoe and see what I mean. Often touted as one of the best fly fishing streams in Indiana, it made this list with little hesitation. The Tippy gets real clear as the summer comes on. Tailing carp are common and pods of gar are plentiful. Beneath every bridge, boulder field, or log jam you will find a solid football shaped smallie ready to pound whatever you throw.
#4. Yellow River, Knox
Large female northern pike are the dominant species in the Yellow river. You don’t think of Indiana offering pike fishing, but if you are looking to find some toothy critters in moving water, the Yellow has it. In the early spring when they are spawning, 30 inch pike are abundant, and heavy. Grab an 8wt and some larger sucker pattern streamers and get ready. They are there, aggressive, and ready to eat.
#5. White River, Indianapolis
The White River, flowing through most of central Indiana is the most dominant of the fly fishing streams in Indiana. Everyone fishes it. The best part of this river though is that this is a fishery that allows it. Carp are everywhere, but for most, they chase smallmouth. It’s not uncommon to have 20 fish days with strikes from just as many. The best access is by drift boat, but ample wading spots allow more fishing opportunities than most can fish in a year.
Hopefully this might be a the beginning to a new appreciation for a state not known for fishing opportunities. If you learn a few spots on any of these bodies of water, timing is key. However, if you are there at the right place and right time, you can experience some truly exceptional fishing.