Wisconsin is a beautiful place to be and the perfect destination for all outdoor activities. Wisconsin is a fisherman's paradise, having grown its collection of trout streams from 2,677 and 9,500 miles in 1980 to now more than 2,989 stretching across 13,000 miles. It's no wonder fishermen flock to the state!
Some of the best spots for fly fishing in Wisconsin include:
- Peshtigo River
- Pike River
- Pine River
- Root River
- Rush River
- Croix Headwaters
- The Wolf River
- Timber Coulee
- Willow River and more
Wisconsin has something for everyone, from canoeing and kayaking to snowshoeing and camping. But if you're an angler looking for the best spots in the state for fly fishing, you've come to the right place! Let's look at 17 of the state's prime spots in more in-depth.
Best Fly Fishing locations in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has a wide variety of fly fishing locations. No matter what type of angler you are, there will be something that suits your needs perfectly.
1. Big Green River
The Big Green River meanders through the gorgeous Driftless area of Wisconsin, past open fields and wooded areas. An exciting fly-fishing journey awaits those who take up the challenge - though catching these wild brown trout may be tricky, you will reap your reward with some stunningly beautiful catches!
Extensive work has been done on this stream to restore the Big Green River and maintain its wild brown trout fishery. Approximately eleven miles of the river are managed carefully, with pools and riffles throughout. Its average width is approximately 15 feet wide, but a few sections extend up to 25 feet in size near the lower section of the stream.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Big Green River, Wisconsin:
- Caddis Larva in Green or Tan - Size 16
- Spanish Bullet in Olive - Size 14
- Elk Hair Caddis CDC in Tan - Size 16
2. Black Earth Creek
Situated directly west of the City of Middleton, Hwy 14 is home to a 179-acre Natural Resource Area dedicated to preserving and protecting valuable natural environments. This property boasts an expansive wetland that serves as the source for one of Dane County's most renowned Class I trout streams - Black Earth Creek.
Black Earth Creek is renowned as one of the best trout destinations in the country, and its unique resources are greatly appreciated. This Class 1 stream receives no stocking, ensuring that all fish come from natural reproduction - primarily brown trout. As a result, Black Earth Creek has received great attention for its incredible wildlife and fishing opportunities!
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Black Earth Creek, Wisconsin:
3. Bois Brule River
Flowing through the Brule River State Forest in Douglas County, Wisconsin, and stretching 43.9 miles (70.7 km), the Bois Brule River (more commonly referred to as the 'Brule') serves as a natural border between Bayfield County and its eastern neighbor - Douglas County.
Originating from Upper St Croix Lake in central Douglas county, this beautiful river meanders downstream and culminates at majestic Lake Superior!
Home to the Brule is the majestic Brook Trout, originating from two diverse life histories. Most of these are native but live alongside Musky, panfish, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, Northern pike, and Walleye.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Bois Brule River, Wisconsin:
4. Castle Rock Creek
Castle Rock is a charming town in Grant County, Wisconsin. Located 10 miles south of Muscoda, the Blue River and Castle Rock Creek (also known as Fennimore Fork) flow through this limestone spring creek valley. This picturesque area provides an ideal setting for outdoor activities such as fishing or hiking along its breathtaking creeks and rivers.
Trout are notoriously hard to catch in Castle Rock Creek, making it an ideal stream for those seeking a challenge. The creek's high fertility combined with its alkaline pH allows plenty of food sources for the trout, providing excellent fishing opportunities all year round.
Other species that inhabit the water include Muskies, Panfish, Largemouth, Smallmouth bass, Northern pike, Walleyes, Sturgeon, and Catfish.
Recommended Fly Patterns for Castle Rock Creek, Wisconsin:
5. Kickapoo River West Fork
The West Fork of the Kickapoo, a part of the renowned Driftless Region that covers four states and more than 600 spring creeks, has undergone extensive restoration. Today, you'll find its waters teeming with brown trout - specimens measuring up to twelve inches are abundant, while those reaching eighteen inches have been known!
A fishing stream full of potential rewards awaits you here – abundant with a mix of Rainbow, Brook, and Brown Trout. You'll find these brown trout are more likely to stay tucked away in the shadows when not cloudy or overcast, so it is essential that your fly lands just right if you're looking for success!
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Kickapoo River West Fork, Wisconsin:
- Holy Grail in Hairs Ear - Size 16
- Zebra Midge Black - Size 16
- Flashback Pheasant Tail Gold - Size 18
6. Kinnickinnic River
The Kinnickinnic River, or the 'Kinni' as it is affectionately referred to, is a 35 km (22-mile) long river located in northwestern Wisconsin. This stunning body of water offers scenic views and recreational activities, and its cold waters are home to many native Brook Trout and Brown Trout that reproduce naturally.
The WI DNR recognizes the Kinnickinnic River as a Class I trout stream, signifying it is of "high quality." It has enough natural production to uphold wild trout populations at or near their maximum capacity. Moreover, this river has been given an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) designation from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, above State HWY 35 and below Powell Falls Dam.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Kinnickinnic River, Wisconsin:
7. Lower Wisconsin River
The Lower Wisconsin River is an incredible 45,000-acre stretch of 92 miles that flows freely within the Midwest. Not only does it boast a plethora of diverse wildlife and fisheries, but its exquisite scenic beauty makes this treasure trove unparalleled anywhere else.
An array of fish can be found in this lake, such as Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike, commonly seen here. In addition to these two species, Walleye are present along with the occasional Musky and Panfish, while Largemouth Bass have been spotted recently. Catfish may also inhabit the waters occasionally.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Lower Wisconsin River, Wisconsin:
8. Namekagon River
Home to stunning wildlife and fascinating geological formations, the Namekagon River is a 101-mile tributary of the St. Croix River situated in Wisconsin's Northwest region. As one of America's most treasured natural areas, this river has been safeguarded as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
Emerging from Lake Namakagon in Bayfield County, the Namekagon River winds southwest through Sawyer and Washburn counties before veering northwest into Burnett County and eventually converging with the St. Croix 45 miles south of Superior. As you continue to fish downstream, trout become more scarce, and smallmouth bass take their place.
Anglers will also find an abundance of walleyes and northern pike in these waters. Other species found here include muskellunge, lake sturgeon, catfish, white and yellow bass, and panfish.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Namekagon River, Wisconsin:
9. Peshtigo River
The legendary Peshtigo River stretches through Wisconsin across 136 miles (219 km). Widely renowned in the area, Roaring Rapids is a section of white water located on the Peshtigo River.
After its downstream journey from Forest County to Marinette Country and then towards Green Bay's bay, it passes through Caldron Falls Dam and High Falls Dam before merging into Thunder River. Various fish species reside in the area, such as Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Walleye.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Peshtigo River, Wisconsin:
- Trophy Dungeon in White and Red - Size 8
- Double Bunny in Black and Olive - Size 6
- Zoo Cougar in Yellow - Size 6
10. Pike River
The Pike River is a picturesque 15.8-mile trek through Wisconsin's Marinette County, culminating at the Menominee River. The pristine river begins with its two branches of North and South, which meet up just west of Amberg near Dave's Falls. From there, it winds easterly to join the Menominee below White Rapids Dam, where it completes its journey.
Anglers who venture into the Pike River Watershed could potentially come across an abundant array of fish species, such as yellow perch, southern redbelly dace, blacknose dace, bluegill, and largemouth bass.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Pike River, Wisconsin:
11. Pine River
Nestled in Lincoln County and graced by the Wisconsin River, Pine River is a vibrant community at the southern corner of Lincoln County, with Langlade to its east and Marathon to its south. The Pine River border also stretches towards Merrill - the county seat of Lincoln. To experience this picturesque town near Wisconsin's second oldest river is an opportunity not many people have!
Due to its ideal location on the Wisconsin River and pristine environmental conditions, the Pike River is home to various fish species, including yellow perch, southern redbelly dace, bluegill, blacknose dace, and largemouth bass.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Pine River, Wisconsin:
12. Root River
The Root River is an exhilarating 80-mile (130 km) long stream that meanders through the stunning Driftless Area of southeastern Minnesota, eventually becoming a tributary of the Upper Mississippi. This river contains three branches: The North, South, and Middle branches of the Root River and the South Fork Root River.
The river teems with a variety of aquatic life, including smallmouth bass, channel catfish, rock bass, sunfish, crappies, and various other species of coarse fish.13. Rush River
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Root River, Wisconsin:
13. Rush River
The Rush River is a stunning 80.1 km river in western Wisconsin, originating from St. Croix County near Baldwin and running southwardly to Lake Pepin of the Mississippi River, 1 mile away from Maiden Rock in Pierce County. Its most significant tributary is Lost Creek - part of an incredible 49.8-mile-long journey.
The Rush is home to an average of 2,500 trout per mile and houses brown trout from Centerville Springs all the way down to three miles south of Highway 10. Although most water comes from surface run-off, cooler temperatures have indicated natural reproduction in the river's ecosystem.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Rush River, Wisconsin:
14. St. Croix Headwaters
The St. Croix River has its source in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin near Solon Springs, about 20 miles south of Lake Superior, and cascades southward to Gordon before veering southwest. Joining with the Namekagon River in northern Burnett County, it then rapidly widens before crossing over into Minnesota, where it serves as a boundary between two states for another 130 miles until finally reaching its conclusion at the mighty Mississippi river.
The headwaters of the St. Croix River from Stillwater to Mississippi River are home to an array of fish species, including:
- Northern Pike
- Largemouth Bass
Recommended Fly Patterns for the St. Croix Headwaters, Wisconsin:
15. The Wolf River
Spanning a massive 225 miles (362 km) through the gorgeous landscape of Wisconsin, the Wolf River is one of two National Scenic Rivers in this stunning Great Lakes region. It eventually flows into the Fox River and offers visitors plenty to explore amongst its vastness when vacationing here!
The Fox River and connected lakes are renowned for the sturgeon that spawn upriver every spring until they meet a roadblock in Shawano Dam. This river runs mainly through untouched forestland from Forest County in the North to Lake Poygan (west of Lake Winnebago) Southward.
The Wolf River is home to a variety of fish species, including brook, brown, and rainbow trout; large and smallmouth bass; northern pike; musky; walleye; and various types of panfish, as well as forage minnows. Trout populations are most abundant between County Highway T downstream toward the county line.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the The Wolf River, Wisconsin:
16. Timber Coulee Creek
Timber Coulee Creek is an 8.2-mile stream managed as a Class I wild trout fishery consisting almost entirely of brown trout. If you're looking for a spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while fishing, this is it!
Catch-and-release fishing with artificial lures was the only permitted activity in all areas. From May to September, a five-trout bag limit per day was established for fish smaller than 12 inches, which applies to all eight access points.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Timber Coulee, Wisconsin:
- Half Chernobyl Brown/Orange - Size 10
- Hare's Ear - Natural - Size 20
- Caddis Larva in Green or Tan - Size 16
17. Willow River
Meandering for 61.1 miles (98.3km), the Willow River is a picturesque tributary of the St Croix River in St Croix County, Wisconsin, USA. Its origins lie deep in Polk County to the east of Clear Lake village amidst stunning landscapes and untouched nature.
Willow River runs through Willow River State Park, located five miles north of Hudson. The park boasts 2,891 acres (1,170 ha), complete with Willow Falls – an awe-inspiring 200-foot cascade that crashes through a 61-meter-deep gorge.
The waters of the Willow River offer up a variety of catches, from bass and panfish to northern species. Additionally, it has been stocked with trout for anglers seeking these delicious game fish both above and below the lake bed - though fishing for them is likely best upstream of the waterfall.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Willow River, Wisconsin:
What Gear do I need to Fly Fish in Wisconsin?
No matter where you’re fly fishing in Wisconsin, there are a few pieces of gear that should be included in your arsenal. First and foremost is the rod and reel. A quality graphite or fiberglass rod paired with a good quality reel will give you an edge over other anglers. Choosing the right line weight for the type of fish you’re targeting is also important.
Next, you will need a variety of flies to cast into the water. Dry flies, nymphs, wet flies, and streamers are all essential for catching various species.
Additional Facts about Fly Fishing in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is home to some of the best fly fishing in the Midwest. With over 13,000 miles of rivers, streams, and lakes for anglers to explore, you're sure to find something that suits your style. Plus, with an abundance of freshwater species such as bass, musky, walleye, sauger, northern pike, and largemouth bass - you'll have plenty of opportunity to catch a variety of game fish.
Where Is the Best Fly Fishing In Wisconsin?
When it comes to the best fly fishing in Wisconsin, there are several outstanding spots to target. Anglers can find great fishing in the Fox and Wolf Rivers, as well as in the northern streams of Timber Coulee Creek and the Willow River. The cool temperatures of these waters make them prime for fly fishing - especially during the early summer when trout, bass, and panfish begin their spawning runs.
Does Wisconsin Have Good Fly Fishing?
Wisconsin has some of the best fly fishing in the Midwest. Anglers can enjoy catching a variety of freshwater species such as bass, musky, walleye, sauger, northern pike, and largemouth bass - to name just a few. Fly fishing in Wisconsin also offers the perfect opportunity to take in the beauty of nature while experimenting with different techniques and tactics.
Where Is the Best Trout Fishing In Wisconsin?
The Kinnickinnic River is a beloved treasure of the Midwest and one of Wisconsin's best spots for trout fishing. The Kinni stretches from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and boasts the greatest population of trout in Wisconsin! It's fascinatingly one of only a few streams that are self-sustaining; no need for stocking.
Wisconsin is a fly fisherman’s paradise. From the Kinnickinnic River to the Willow River and everywhere in between, you can find some of the best fishing spots in the Midwest. With its abundance of freshwater species and cool temperatures, Wisconsin makes for an ideal spot for a variety of anglers.