Fishing Arkansas | Cody Milton’s Top 5 Arkansas Fishing Destinations

When most people think of fishing Arkansas, they think deep, clear, tough lakes. Yes, we do have plenty of deep, clear lakes that are difficult to fish, but we always have a plethora of lakes that are full of aquatic grass and lily pads. What is commonly overlooked is the diversity of the fisheries across Arkansas. In almost all of the lakes in Arkansas, you can expect to catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. This always makes for a fun trip. 

Without a doubt, the most famous waterways in Arkansas are those which hold our brown trout. Three of the best trout fishing rivers in the state have all held the world record brown trout at some point in time. The Arkansas record and previous world record of 40.1-pounds was broken in New Zealand in 2013, by a 42.1-pound brown trout. 

The trout fishing here in Arkansas is a very special treat and is not taken advantage of enough, in my opinion. Even if you have never caught a trout, you would love the beauty that these rivers hold. 

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Fishing Arkansas: Trout Fishing

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Fishing Arkansas: The Little Red River

My personal favorite and without a doubt, the most famous body of water for trout fishing is the Little Red River in Heber Springs, Arkansas. It held the world record German brown trout for almost 16-years! I was fortunate to grow up 15-minutes away from here! 

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As a kid, almost all of my summer afternoons were spent wading along some stretch of the 32-miles of trout waters that this river provides. Photo Credit:

The Little Red River is the tributary of Greer’s Ferry Lake. Most of the river is wadeable from several different public access points. Some of the most notable areas to fish are Swinging Bridge/Barnett Access, JFK Access, and Cow Shoals Access. 

The best months to fish here are November-January. This is during the brown trout spawn. It is truly an unbelievable sight to see so many fish swarm the shallow shoals. An added bonus is that this is in the middle of the winter when bass fishing is on the back burner of most people’s minds! Come give it a try and come check out this beautiful area of Arkansas. I promise it won’t disappoint! 

Fishing Arkansas: The White River

The White River in Mountain Home, Arkansas, also held the world record brown trout for many years and regularly kicks out a 30-pound brown every few years. 

The White River is much bigger than the Little Red River. Its trout waters below Bull Shoals Lake run over 100-miles long! It is much wider than the Little Red River as well and can be a little more difficult to fish on your own due to the sheer size of the river. I would recommend finding a guide out of Cotter Access or Gaston’s Resort for your first day on the river.

The winter months are by far the best for fishing but check regulations, as much of the river near the dam is closed during the spawning season. It’s been this way for a few seasons now and it has tremendously helped the fishery. Opening day up there is insanely crowded but totally worth going. One thing that is very special about the White River is the number of hay fields around the lower part of the river. These fields hold an enormous amount of grasshoppers and this makes the river notorious for an unbelievable “hopper” bite in October. It is not out of the ordinary to catch 100 brown trout this time of the year. 

Even though I have spent way more time fishing the Little Red River, my largest catches have actually come from the White River.

Fishing Arkansas: The Norfork River

If I could trout fish one river in Arkansas for the rest of my life it would be the Norfork. The crazy part about it is that it’s only 5-miles long from the Norfork dam until it dumps into the White River. 

The Norfork River, just like the White River and Little Red River, has also held the world record brown trout! It still baffles me that people travel all across the world to chase record size browns and we have 3 rivers in Arkansas within 2 hours of each other that ALL have produced world record size trout.

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What I love most about the Norfork is how easily you can catch the “grand slam” in a single day. Photo Credit:

The “grand slam” is landing a brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout all in a single day. 

The Norfork is also very wadeable and that makes for epic fly fishing throughout the 5-miles of trout waters. You can learn this river very quickly without hiring a guide!

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Fishing Arkansas: Bass Fishing

Fishing Arkansas: Lake Columbia

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Lake Columbia in Magnolia, Arkansas, is said to hold the next state record largemouth bass and I absolutely believe that to be true. I’ve personally only been on the lake about a dozen times but have seen bass pushing 13-pounds on two different occasions. 

The lake does get a lot of pressure but it is as healthy as any lake I’ve been to across the country. Columbia is loaded with cover for monster bass, something much of the state lakes lack. There is aquatic vegetation that runs close to 15-feet deep most years and the water is gin clear.

If you can find yourself on this lake around the spawn in April, you are in for a treat! You may not catch a double-digit bass but I can almost guarantee that you’ll see one if you look long enough.

Fishing Arkansas: The Buffalo River

The Buffalo River in St. Joe, Arkansas, was the first-ever “National River”. This occurred in 1972 to protect the river from plans to dam up sections for power. 

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Today, it is a Blue Ribbon smallmouth stream because of this act of Congress made back in 1972. Photo Credit:

The river stretches 152-miles. Over 100-miles of the Buffalo River is floatable and loaded with smallmouth bass. What I appreciate so much about this area of Arkansas is the sheer beauty that surrounds you. Caves, bluff walls, bike and hiking trails, all surround this famous river. 

There are tons of public access points along the river but I will share my favorite stretch of the river. Ponca-Pruitt is a fantastic stretch, even in low water months, Ponca-Pruitt still makes for a good float without dragging your canoe or kayak. The Buffalo River is a destination that you can take your whole family on and spend several days. It is the heart of why Arkansas is called “The Natural State”.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Fly Fishing in Virginia’s Beautiful Mountain Streams

 With wild trout quietly lurking in 2,300 of its 2,900 miles of trout streams, Virginia’s state slogan should be “Virginia is for Anglers” instead of “Virginia is for Lovers.” In addition to water discoverable by those willing to wear out boot leather in search of a sparkling mountain stream in a private setting, Virginia has over 600 miles of delayed harvest and put-and-take destinations close to population centers and associated road networks. Trout fishing Virginia doesn’t leave much to be desired!

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Trout Fishing Virginia: Fishing the Mountainous West

Not surprisingly, the best fishing is in the mountainous west. A 30-minute side trip off I-81 at Abingdon leads to Whitetop-Laurel Creek, a freestone wild trout stream that is the jewel in the Virginia crown. Whitetop has two special regulation areas (single hook artificial) in addition to put-and-take. Whitetop is a medium-sized stream, typically 20 to 30 feet across, featuring the standard set of pools, riffles, and runs associated with perfect wild trout habitat.

Its close proximity to the Virginia Creeper bike and hiking trail built on a converted railroad bed with a wide, smooth surface and a gentle gradient makes it both unique and accessible. The trail gives those willing to sweat a bit the opportunity to get away from any real or perceived pressure near the trailheads.

Instead of making a strenuous hike, smart anglers use a bike to move quickly from spot to spot. Given the popularity of the trail, there are numerous places to rent a mountain bike in both Abington and Damascus. For example, the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop in Abingdon, charges only $25 for a full day rental of a high quality bike (no department store cheapos) with an angler friendly after-hours return policy, allowing you to catch the evening hatch.

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A few cable ties on a rod tube converts a rental bike into a fishing machine ready to travel miles on the trail to find great fishing destinations!

For advice on Whitetop, check in with the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop in Abingdon. As a full-service fly shop, it has gear, guides, and friendly staff. In addition to guiding on Whitetop, their service covers the nearby trout heavens on the South Holston and Watauga tailwaters in Tennessee as well as smallmouth on the New River and the James.

Use a 4 or 5 weight rod and fish the prime time from April through the middle of June with quill gordons, march browns, stoneflies, blue wing olives, sulphurs and even green drakes all making an appearance.  Before you go, understand the trick to fishing Whitetop!

Since the Virginia Creeper trail gradient runs downhill from north to south, most bikers start at the northern terminus for an easy ride, coasting most of the way down to meet a bike shop shuttle at the bottom. In addition, bikers sometimes stop to either watch or have a conversation as they take a break. If you prefer solitude, start fishing at the lower end at either the well-developed Straight Branch trailhead on US 58 (36.644122, -81.739857; restroom, picnic tables and bike rack) or the middle trailhead in Taylor’s Valley (36.630216, -81.707967; no facilities). Once the bike traffic eventually reaches your location, slide over to one of the many sections out of both ear and eyeshot of the trail.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Looking East for More Fishing Opportunities

Heading East, the next major trout stop has to be the South River outside of Waynesboro just off I-64. While the South River has a sad history as little more than toxic dump for the effluent from various industries lining the banks and even catching fire once, miracles do happen. As a result of the hard work of the Shenandoah Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), the river was completely cleaned up and now leverages the large limestone springs south of town pumping thousands of gallons of clear, cool water into a revitalized fishery for wild browns and the normal mix of stocked trout.
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The South River is wide with an easy, wader friendly gradient.

While the town of Waynesboro has an easily accessible, stocked urban fishery under delayed harvest and put-and-take regulations, a better bet is the four-mile-long special regulation area south of town opened to the public in 2011. Fishing there requires a free landowner permit obtainable from the VDGIF website or the South River Fly Shop; a full-service store only a block from the river with guide service covering not only the South River but the Shenandoah, James, Jackson and mountain streams in the Shenandoah National Park.

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A feisty South River brown trout giving a dirty look as he tries to wiggle free.

In what is a consistent theme for trout fishing Virginia, the best fishing is between April and June with sulphurs, light cahill, and caddis (check with the fly shop for the specific variant) being the flies to use on the end of a 4 or 5 weight rod. The special regulation area requires anglers be on their best behavior to prove to the landowners the risk they took in opening their land to public use was justified. Never stray from the marked angler trail and only use one of the five designated parking areas. All lead to good water with my favorite being the section upstream from South Oak Lane (38.043038,-78.925506).

Trout Fishing Virginia: Fly Fishing the Blue Ridge Mountains

Just north of Waynesboro, the Blue Ridge Mountains scream, “Fish here!”

Two choices. East slope or west slope? I recommend the east slope since the water is more reliable.  The smaller streams on the west slope may go bone dry in years of drought (Paine Run, West Branch Naked, and Madison). The two largest west slope streams, Big Run and Jeremy’s Run, are popular destinations primarily accessible via a tough hike from Skyline Drive.  If you want to fish the west slope, check with the Mossy Creek Fly Shop for real time advice.

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Paine Run and other small west slope steams can completely dry up in a bad year as shown in this photo from 2010.

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Trout Fishing Virginia: Focusing in on the East Slope

Moving to the east slope, the famous Rapidan River is always a good choice, but do not neglect its lesser-known neighbors – Conway, Rose, Hughes, and Hazel Rivers. Ignore the “river” designation – these are small streams where short 10 to 15 foot casts do the job for waiting brook trout that will eat just about anything presented properly.

Key flies are Mr. Rapidan, mosquito, adams, blue wing olives and terrestrials (ants and crickets).

This is ideal Tenkara water with either the 8’10” Tenkara USA RHODO or Temple Fork’s 8’6” Cutthroat rods being the weapons of choice. Not a fan of Tenkara?  A 3 or 4 weight works fine. Fishing is physically demanding given the need for stealth, with slippery rocks, large boulders, and dense underbrush making streamside movement challenging. Leaving the feasible, yet strenuous, hike to each of these rivers from Skyline Drive to the very fit, most anglers usually approach from the foothills.

The parking area for the Hughes River at the Old Rag Mountain parking lot (38.589848,-78.315321) is approximately a half mile from the trailhead (38.573030, -78.295552) and the public water is another half mile beyond that via an easement across private property. Public pressure on Hazel is controlled by the limited parking (3 cars) three quarters of a mile from the Park boundary (38.614976,-78.256624; walk up Hungry Horse Lane).

Getting to the Conway requires bumping over a rough dirt road doable on a gently driven “flatland” vehicle to reach a small turnout at 38.432682,-78.4338. Once there, bushwhack west and carefully slide down the steep 20-foot embankment to reach the stream; the trail is on the far side. There are good hiking trails adjacent to the Rapidan, Conway, Hazel and Hughes rivers.

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The Rose River is worth the hike!

The Rose River trailhead has room for six or seven vehicles (38.514334,-78.365769). After entering the Park, anglers can begin fishing immediately by walking 100 yards downhill to the stream. However, the best fishing is upstream from where the trail takes a permanent sharp turn away from the stream, leaving the angler in deep forest with not even a beaten game path next to the stream. Regardless of which stream you choose, bring a canister of bear spray or noisemakers (whistle or air horn) since the Shenandoah National Park has a robust population of black bears.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Targeting Metropolitan Areas

Metropolitan area anglers in eastern Virginia can also get a trout fix; albeit not in a very scenic setting. For example, Accotink Creek is literally within earshot of the Washington DC Beltway and is a delayed harvest stream just under 2 miles long (38.817891, -77.223881). It’s a sad, lazy puddle of water with muddy banks, overhanging trees and nothing interesting beyond the stocked trout.

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Accotink Creek… grateful it is stocked, but no expectations for typical trout scenery.

A better, more scenic option during the stocking season is Chopawamsic Creek on the Quantico Marine Corps Base (38.528413, -77.381977). The best fishing on Chopawamsic is beyond the final vehicle gate.  Walk or “fish bike” upstream to the dam; paying special attention to the two ponds at the top. The creek is open to the public, but everyone, military and civilian alike, must have a Quantico license ($10) available at either the Game Check Station (38.512500, -77.388636) or on Base at the Marine Corps Exchange sporting goods counter (show your driver’s license at the gate). The Base Commander usually closes vehicle access at the turnoff from the main road when the trout are gone.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Some Final Takeaways

In an article this short, I cannot discuss all the great places for trout fishing Virginia. In particular, where you may want to go depends on season, where you happen to be and what is close by. Unlike the days long ago when we would find out about fishing locations through friends and family, there are no secrets any longer. Actually, that is a good thing. Secret water might get polluted or developed if it does not have a constituency. Google “paint branch brown trout” for an example of a wild trout stream in Maryland that would have been wiped out if kept secret.

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The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has gone the extra mile to ensure anglers know every opportunity to wet a line via the interactive map available on the VDGIF website. Not only does this increase license revenue and the sportsmen spend in local areas, but it gives everyone the opportunity to experience a broader set of locations than are documented in books, websites, or whispered about at Trout Unlimited meetings; spreading the pressure.

Visit the Kayak Hacks Fishing channel on YouTube for fly fishing and kayaking hacks (tips and tricks). For stream specific guidance on trout fishing Virginia, visit or check out Steve’s books available on Amazon:

Originally published in Southern Trout Magazine. Reprinted with permission.


Steelhead Fishing with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

While everyone has a few crazy fishing tales to tell, steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Lake Erie in the fall seems to really draw an interesting crowd. So much so, that these anglers wind up a sort of combat, fishing shoulder to shoulder. ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor had a few fun tales to tell when we chatted with him the other day. He was getting ready to head up to the Great Lake with his buddies and was reminiscing on some of their experiences up there.

Steelhead Fishing: A Whole Different Experience

I like Steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Erie, even though sometimes it’s sort of like going to Walmart. The fish are still there, but the environment is a little different from what you would find elsewhere. The creeks are smaller, and you’re sort of surrounded by colorful, yet rough characters. We chalk all of that up to being a part of the experience. Not only do we get to catch a bunch of awesome fish, but we get in some quality people watching during the process.

In Erie, fishing for steelhead is what they call “combat fishing.” There are so many people out there fishing. It’s not uncommon to be fishing a pool with 25 other people around you, making it pretty close quarters. It’s never pretty, and there are usually guys shoulder to shoulder, but everyone is usually pretty cool about it. When someone hooks a fish, people are pretty respectful and bring their lines in to let the person land their fish before going back to what they were doing. Some people are less talkative than others, but it’s usually a pretty good time.

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My buddy has a video he took of this ‘character’ while we were fishing under a bridge. He had hooked a fish and took off running. He wasn’t only following the fish, but he was being kind of a nut. His boots were full of water, so he was squeaking as he went running through this crowd of people under the bridge. We still refer to him as “Squeaky Boots.”

I usually like to observe what people are doing for a few minutes to see what casts they’re making to make sure I don’t interfere before I step in. On another trip up there, we had found a pool with about 30 fish under an overhanging tree. No one was fishing right under that tree, so I slid in there. I had about six different fish come and chase my bait on the first cast, which told me those fish hadn’t seen a bait in a while. 

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I hooked one and lost one, then I caught one. I called my buddy over and he caught one. Two older men fishing up stream from us decided to leave and were obviously furious with us, expressing their concerns verbally. They told us that we were fishing too closely, and that we didn’t ask to come fish near them. I tried not to really engage with them. Really, what it was about was that those guys weren’t catching anything and us young guys walked in and started catching fish right away. It hurt their feelings and their pride, so they felt like they had to say something. Everyone around us commented the same sentiments after they left. That’s really the only verbal confrontation that I’ve ever seen on the creek, which is amazing, considering all the combat fishing that’s going on.

Things like that happen at least once every trip up there. In addition to the fish themselves, things like that are part of what make the trip.   

Nolan’s Very First Steelhead

When I caught my first steel, we were fishing at the “tubes;” two large culverts that tunnel underneath a set of train tracks. There are usually a bunch of steelhead under there because it’s cool, dark, and protected. There were some pretty large logs in the water under the tunnels and I could see some fish hanging around them. We had already spent three hours looking for fish and I hadn’t caught one yet ‘till we came upon this pool.

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Well, I hooked this fish, but was using 6 pound test line, so there wasn’t really much I could do to steer it away from snags. It decided it was going to head into these downed trees and ran around one branch before taking off in the opposite direction. The fish wound up 30” from the tree, but my line was going around the tree. Then it got caught up on something, so I couldn’t pull him back around the tree. I’m shocked my line didn’t break off because it became so stuck in there.

The fish must have decided that he wasn’t hooked anymore, so he just swam over to the tree and was sort of just hanging out. At first we thought he wasn’t hooked anymore, but then I could still see my hook with the line hanging out of his mouth with my bait.

We had to take a different rod and snag the line to get it closer to us. We managed to get him about halfway to us, but the line got hung up again so we couldn’t get him any closer. We had to take a third line to snag the second line to pull him close enough to us to net him. By that point we had a crowd around us watching these shenanigans, but we got that fish! He was average size, which is around 21-22 inches; about a three pound fish.

That was my first steelhead, and it’s kind of a fitting way to have caught one in Erie, PA. There’s nothing bright and flashy. You just have to do what you have to do.

Fishing for Steelhead with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

In the corner of northwest Pennsylvania lies the next best thing to a vast ocean: one of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie. With its almost tidal surf and vast, dark, deep waters, it’s an angler’s dream. From roaming schools of smallmouth, giant walleye, and the hard fighting steelhead, Lake Erie has a species for any angler!

We caught up with ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor just as he was returning home from a trip to the outfitters. The Virginia native was gearing up for a trek from his home in Morgantown, West Virginia to travel three hours to Erie. He and his buddies were heading out fishing for steelhead.

What Makes Fishing for Steelhead in Erie so Unique?

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Steelhead is a rainbow trout, but what makes it unique is that it’s migratory, similar to salmon. They live out in the ocean, or Great Lakes in this case, for the first two to three years of their lives before they make their first trip back in the streams to spawn. Unlike trout, they don’t meet their demise in the rivers, but are able to return to the lake in the spring.

They live their lives out in the vast lake, only concerned about food, but then one day something clicks in their brain and they decide they need to go spawn, so they begin to head to the creeks sometime around the end of September, early October. They keep flooding up the creeks until December. That’s where they’ll remain until the spring, when they return back to the open waters. Their life cycle is similar to their cousins’ out in the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, where the biggest difference is that those steelhead live most of their lives out in the open ocean.

There are two main creeks that harbor the majority of steelhead as they make their spawn run: Walnut Creek and Elk Creek.

An average Erie steelhead is usually around 21-22 inches and about three pounds, maybe a little less. Most of the fish we catch there are around that size. The largest one I’ve caught so far was 28 inches. That’s not that large of a fish, but it was really fat and weighed about seven and a half pounds. The smaller jacks are usually around 17-18 inches, but they’re less common.

When I Got That First Bite… I Was Hooked

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I didn’t know what to expect on my first trip. I had done a lot of trout fishing in rivers and streams down in Virginia. My skills transferred over pretty smoothly. Fishing for trout and steelhead is closely related. The two fish’s behaviors are very similar, the baits they each take are almost the same, so tackle is similar as well.

This is a huge fish that’s a very aggressive fighter. It’s sort of one of the coveted freshwater fish to pursue. Growing up in Virginia, I hadn’t had an opportunity to go fishing for steelhead before my college years. With Erie being so close [at three hours away], I had to try. My buddy goes regularly, so he took me up there for my first time during my freshman year. Three or four of us still get together and head up to Erie for a long weekend as often as we can. Being college students and members of the West Virginia Fishing Bass Team, it’s difficult but we still manage to make it up two to three times a year.

Because I’m still in school, I’m really only able to get up there about two to three times a year. I’d love to go more often if I was close enough to take a day trip through the weekdays. Fishing pressure is a big factor to your success. When it’s busy, for every 40 fish you see, you may catch one.

Usually about 90% of the fish are being caught by about 10% of the anglers.

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Gearing up when Fishing for Steelhead

Most anglers up in Erie fish with noodle rods. I’ve never used one because I was used to trout fishing on creeks in Virginia. I use a shorter 6’6″ light action rod, pretty light tackle. When we’re up there, we’re catching more fish than most people, so we must be doing something right. In the larger rivers like in the Pacific Northwest, a longer rod is necessary to keep your line off of the water, but these creeks are so little, so you don’t need that length. It’s such tight quarters in the trees and under bridges. The trees are actually covered in hooks, line, and bobbers. This is similar to fishing for stream trout; you have to cater your gear to the environment you’re fishing in.

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We fish our baits underneath a small split-shot float. We’ll use single eggs, and we’ll use spawn bags, it really depends on what the fish are telling us. Some people use minnows or worms. We use a light line and an 8-14 hook, depending on the bait and conditions. Typically, the clearer the water, the smaller the equipment. We’ll use small jigs, and will grab a trout magnet a lot. Another staple of ours is a three inch pink trout worm. It’s the ‘Wacky Senko’ of trout fishing. Since the water is so small, we typically use smaller stuff.

Some people tend to overcomplicate things, but fishing for steelhead is pretty simple. Unlike bass fishing, you only have a handful of different baits and 3 or 4 color choices for most situations.

The fishing changes from day to day, based on the conditions. That’ll determine the bait or technique that works best for the day. There’s no bait that’ll be any better day in and day out.

You’ve got to have a drag-free drift under your float. That’s the key to being successful. You need that bait to be floating in a natural way. That’s the biggest fundamental, and once you have that mastered, you’ve got it. You’ll have your bait underneath your float, then use small split-shot weights to balance things out. Starting with a larger one, tapering off to a smaller weight closest to your bait since you want your bait to drift a little in front of the bobber to get that drag-free drift; a more natural drift, which is the key to getting a bite.

Steelhead sit up off of the bottom a little bit, and you want that bait to be drifting so they don’t have to move very far to eat it. You almost want it to hit them on the nose, since food is not their main priority when they come into the creek. While you can typically see 30-40 fish in the water at a time, they’re not always taking the bait, so you have to be patient, and present it to them in such a way that they can’t say no.

While landing these fish is exciting, it’s the time spent in the crowds of people that flock to Erie during this time that really makes the outing unique. I will be talking about my experiences fishing off of Lake Erie in our next Steelhead Edition. Make sure to catch it!

Winter Fly Fishing Tips With Jacob Jesionek

Don’t let the frigid water temperatures deter you from hitting the rivers and streams this winter. There’s still plenty of fish out there looking to be hooked.

Ohio State University Senior and ANGLR Expert, Jacob Jesionek, talks to us about his excursions winter fly fishing. He’s always been an avid outdoorsman and remembers trying to net minnows in the surf during his family’s beach trips during his younger years.

He convinced his family to try some guided trips and found the fun in working with a rod and reel. He was turned on to bass fishing during his high school years and hasn’t turned back. While a member of OSU’s bass team this past year, he made the National Championships which he fished during the ANGLR Tour.

Getting Started Into the Fly Fishing World

Jesionek was in Gander Mountain one day and saw a sale on fly rods. “I had seen some YouTube videos and decided I needed another thing to spend money on,” he joked.

“It’s more of an artform and a challenging way to fish. It’s fun to fly fish for just about any species.”

He got on the Orvis YouTube channel to educate himself before spending a few days out in his backyard casting, learning to lay down the line.

He eventually started going to the pond across the street from his house, working on getting his false casts down. “Before that, I wasn’t really into trout fishing, but by now, I’ve caught so many trout on the fly rod, I couldn’t imagine not having that as a tool for fishing.”

The Buzz on Winter Fly Fishing

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“When it comes to trout, utilizing a fly and fly fishing tactics to target them works incredibly well because of how finicky the fish could be,” Jesionek says. “But you need to be spot-on with your fly selection.” That’s especially true in the winter.

When you’re trout fishing in the wintertime, it’s all about your fly selection. Trout don’t tend to mind the cold water much.

While they don’t tend to hunker down in really deep holes like bass, they still find deeper areas. You’ll be looking for heavier-weighted nymphs; something along the lines of tungsten head Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ear, or Pheasant Tail. In warmer months, you wouldn’t typically be fishing with such a heavy nymph, but in the winter you need to get a little lower, so the extra weight is going to be your best bet. You definitely wouldn’t have any need for dry flies, as there are no hatches going on this time of year.

Jesionek recommends trying your hand at fly tying.

“It’s a really cool way to tune your fly fishing skills because the more you work on tying these flies, the better you get with names, and the better you get with matching the hatch. I definitely recommend it as a way to improve your skills if you’re stuck inside or you’re unsure of what you can do better.”

Cabela’s offers inexpensive kits you can pick up. Trout patterns for nymphs are normally fairly simple, so there’s no need to worry about trying to learn the intricate dry fly patterns.

Rainbow trout can be counted on to always eat either an egg imitation or the pink squirmy wormy. “It’s absolutely the best fly to catch a rainbow trout on,” he begins. “A lot of people say it’s cheating, but it’s still a fly that you can tie, and if you’re catching fish on it, you can’t really complain.”

In the wintertime, you’ll be seeking trout towards the deeper side of outside bends in the channel. While not as affected by the change in temperature as bass, they will still prefer sitting in deeper water.  That’s why the heavier-beaded tungsten nymphs come in handy. You can also use a split shot rig. Jesionek uses two nymphs to a rig and ties them 12-18” apart from each other. Above that, he adjusts the height of his indicator as high as he needs to go. You could choose either a bobber-style or the more finessed New Zealand indicator, an almost feather-weight clump of hairs that barely floats on the surface. Staying stealthy is important when fly fishing.

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With the deeper floating nymphs, you’ll notice more subtle takes because you’re typically trying to find bottom. As your fly is tapping bottom, your indicator will be ticking. When the indicator shoots under, you know for sure it’s a fish, but you really need to pay attention and learn the tick from the take.

“I’ve heard that all over the country, coming from seasoned fishermen. I heard it when I was out west fishing in Yellowstone, and I heard it when I was in Tennessee fishing the South Holston with the ANGLR tour.

Winter Fly Fishing Gear

Jesionek uses an assortment of rods. Right now, his preference is among three rods. The first is a 3-weight Cabela’s three-fork rod with the wind-river reel.

“That’s my super light-weight set-up for those super small streams since there’s no room for back casts or false casting.”

It’s a shorter 7’6” rod. “My favorite is the Orvis Recon.” It’s a 5-weight nine-footer. The third is the Orvis Clearwater. It’s an 8-weight nine-footer. He reserves that one mainly for steelhead and saltwater. There’s not really a whole lot of difference between the 5-weight and 8-weight, though it is easier to cast greater distances with the eight since there’s more strength in the rod.

He fishes a floating line with all three of his rods. With the 3-weight, Jesionek normally grabs ultralight 6x tippet, which is somewhere in the three pound breaking range. For the 5-weight, he uses 2x to 4x, depending on the water clarity. He’ll use 0x for the steelhead rod because he hasn’t really found those fish to be very line shy.

Keepin’ It Cool – But Not Too Cool

Always be prepared for the cold. It’s better to try to layer down as you go, rather than trying to figure out how to layer up. “Wading around in the water is a lot colder than you’d think.” he warns.

Jesionek confesses he’s not always as prepared for his adventures as he should be. Last year when steelhead fishing, he broke his cold-water waders, so he used his beach waders. “There was zero insulation in these wading boots. They were literally made for sand, so I was sliding everywhere.” He was also miserably cold.

I definitely recommend the proper attire when trying to fish in the winter. Since his uncomfortable mishap, he’s been relying on Compass 360 Gear. They’ve mastered the ability to add in a lot of insulation, while still keeping their waders lightweight. They’re also affordable, which is nice.

Seeking Trout When Winter Fly Fishing

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Planning your trip beforehand by studying the stream you’ll be fishing to figure out where the best meanders are is key to success. You can utilize resources like local guides and tackle shops that can give you tips. Apps like ANGLR can be an incredible asset. You can start by researching your location ahead of time by using the Explore Feature, marking waypoints to try. From there, the local word of mouth can send you to those spots that can be the most successful, also giving you pointers on what sort of ties are working well for the area right now. is a site recommended by Jesionek as a source that provides the most comprehensive maps and mapping data for locating wild trout streams throughout the continental U.S. You can view each creek in the state and see what sort of trout stream it’s classified as.


Top Fly Anglers You Should Be Following

There are a lot of long winded folks out there. Some of them have a lot of knowledge to impart, and some of them just like to shoot the breeze. So who should you be watching out for, and who should you be watching? We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fly anglers and why you should be following them.

Devin Olsen

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Devin Olsen, self-proclaimed obsessed fly fisherman, co-founded Tactical Fly Fisher along with his partner Glade Gunther. He’s been fishing since the age of nine and has been competing since 2004. Last year marked his ninth consecutive berth as an angler for Fly Fishing Team USA. He finished with the individual bronze medal and was a member of the team that won the first team medal (silver) for USA at the 2015 world fly fishing championships in Bosnia. He’s been featured in the acclaimed Modern Nymphing Elevated, Beyond the Basics with Lance Egan.

Devin’s blogs are a good combination of modesty and useful information. He’s got a Bachelor’s degree in ecology and a Master’s degree in fisheries science and spent three years working as a fisheries biologist before taking on Tactical Fly Fisher as a full time business in 2017. That means he has a lot to teach us that goes way beyond just how to tie a tungsten taco egg (and why you shouldn’t avoid it!)

Tyler Cornett

Tyler Cornett of Rivers Edge Outfitters (REO)  may just be the next up-and-coming thing. A junior at Western Carolina University, Tyler has a good thing going. As a national fly fishing team member, Tyler co-founded his university’s fly fishing club. He’s put together countless tutorials for REO already (found on their YouTube Channel) and seems to have big things up his sleeve. Keep your eyes on this guy!

April Vokey

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April Vokey has been spey casting since the age of 18. She spent her early years watching instructional VHS tapes about how to cast, and now she hosts a popular fly fishing podcast called Anchored with April Vokey, where she interviews some of the most influential people in the fly fishing game. She believes that fly fishing is a sport for both genders. It “requires finesse, timing, passion, excitement, intrigue, and dedication – descriptives that are not sole features of either gender,” she says. “I urge women who have not given this sport a try to skip their next yoga class or hike. Tranquility or excitement, whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not follow Mother Nature to the river to find it?”

Her blogs bring on the finest fly fishing trips and adventures in the world.

She owns her own guiding service, flygal, specializing in Steelhead trips on British Columbia’s Skeena River, and is currently a member of the Patagonia ambassador team, where she is assisting in the design and direction of an upcoming women’s line of fishing apparel.

Hilary Hutcheson

Hilary Hutcheson grew up plodding around Montana’s Glacier National Park, where her father worked as a ranger for the National Park Service. She started fly fishing in the seventh grade, and by age 14, she had landed a gig with Glacier Angler. By 17, she was guiding fly fishing excursions. While in college, she earned her degree in broadcast journalism, which lead to a television news anchor position in Missoula, then one in Portland, Oregon.

Back in Montana again, she worked to create an outdoor marketing firm, Outside Media, and a network television show called Trout TV, which she hosts.

Pat Dorsey

Pat Dorsey is a Denver, Colorado based fly fishing guide that has been pursuing selective, Rocky Mountain trout for over 35 years. His vast knowledge and expertise makes him a true authority in the fly fishing industry. He generally posts a blog update about once a month with topics ranging from travel to tips on tippet selection

Anni Yli-Lonttinen

Anni Yli-Lonttinen is a fly fishing journalist and entrepreneur who’s been writing about fly fishing for about seven years. She started her own fly fishing business in 2014, Kajana Club. It offers fly fishing enthusiasts inspiration, courses, community, and help with international travel planning.

Chris Dore

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Chris Dore is a professional New Zealand fly fishing guide, writer, FFF casting instructor, SCOTT pro staff, and rep for Manic Tackle Project. He is a recognized freshwater fishing writer and has been a regular contributor to a number of New Zealand angling publications over the last 15 years. He believes that “life’s too short to not catch fish,” and takes a highly instructional and fun-filled approach to fly fishing.

Jeff Blood

Jeff Blood is not only a very well-seasoned steelhead angler with over 40 years of experience under his belt, he’s quite possibly one of the geniuses of the industry. He’s had the great fortune of fishing all over the world, and still favors Lake Erie as some of the best fly fishing he has found. He’s the famed inventor of the Blood Dot egg fly for steelhead, which he created in 1977 while still a college student, and developed Frog Hair tippet and leader material with Gamma Technologies. He’s also a managing partner of NetStaff, LLC, a netting device encompassing multiple tools for fishing. You can find his wisdom on many interviews, blogs, articles, and instructional videos across the net.


Ice Fishing Forums For All Of The Bucket Butts Out There

The lakes aren’t yet frozen over, but soon they will be. Now is the time to start brushing up on some of your techniques and making sure that you have the right jig for the job. Just how do you do that in the off-season? By visiting an online forum geared toward ice fishing.

Just like those that partake in this rugged sport, ice fishing forums are few and far between and not always easy to spot. So how do you know which ones are worth visiting and paying attention to, and which ones you should slide on by?

Stick with us, as we go through some of the best ice fishing forums out there.

Why Visit a Forum?

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A forum is a great place to connect online with like-minded people that share similar interests. Users from across the globe can hold discussions, ask questions, share information, tell tales, and talk about the one that got away. Pros can offer advice, and beginners can expand their knowledge base. Often forums will include competitions hosted by sponsors where users can win prizes. Unlike a chat room, conversations are typically able to be viewed long after they started.

Just as ice fishing is seasonal, the ice fishing forums tend to go through a period of hibernation. During the off-season, the conversations can become a little quiet as many users take up other hobbies and endeavors. Some of the threads continue to be active, though most are left to rest until the season draws nearer. As the weather takes a colder turn in the fall, more and more anglers flock back to their favorite forums, getting geared up.

Ice Fishing Forums: IceShanty

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IceShanty is one of the most active and helpful sites around. Even through the offseason, members carry conversations throughout the day. This time of year, they’re motivating each other with videos of last season’s highlights and lamenting the fact that the lake can’t freeze over fast enough.

They tout themselves as the ice fishing spot for everyone. Whether you are a rookie ice-man or seasoned ice fishing master, you will definitely learn something. You can discover what jigging rod, reel, auger, fish locator, or portable or hard side shack is appropriate for your methods and budget. If you think ice fishing isn’t necessarily your sport because of the temperature, there’s a special section on “Dressing For Ice Fishing.”

Canada is featured in prominence (where better to fish cold weather?), but each cold-wintered North American State from Alaska to Maryland has its own thread featured! This is where locals and visitors, alike, can share reports on their favorite ice. This forum maintains one of the most exhaustive lists of technical threads with conversations on equipment, “Ice Shack Tips,” and Darkhouse Spearing, to a very lengthy list of every kind of ice fish imaginable. If you’re looking to increase your knowledge base and make some friends across North America and beyond, IceShanty is a great forum.

There are typically upwards of 300 visitors to the site at any given time, and over 20 contributing members.

Ice Fishing Forums: In-Depth Outdoors

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In Depth Outdoors is another highly active forum, especially given the current off-season. Posts are updated within the hour daily, so there is always plenty of fresh new content to draw you in. If you’re looking for a new perch rod, or tip down system, there’s plenty of expert advice to be had. If you’ve got an opinion on which auger is the best for you, feel free to throw your 2-cents in on your favorite: hand powered, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, or electric.

While threads aren’t organized well into easy-to-locate-and-navigate sections, there is no lack of variety and information. You’ll have absolutely no trouble locating a wealth of knowledge. While they don’t list how many members are a part of this forum, or how many are currently active, we get the feeling the quantity and quality of posts speaks for itself.

This Ice Fishing Quick Start Guide Covers All You’ll Need!

Ice Fishing Forums: Ice Fishin 247

Ice Fishin 247 is also a relatively active site, though not quite to the extent of the previous two. Many conversations are updated daily and members are starting to really get in the mood for the upcoming season. There are generally over 200 users online at any given time, though the vast majority of them are guests, with less than five contributing members at a time. That appears to change during the ice season. This is likely the result that this forum doesn’t have the same quantity of members as the other ones.

Content is solid and extensive, with already over 8,000 topics garnering over 75,400 posts. Posts are easily organized and broken down into easy-to-digest topics. New to the sport? There’s an entire section dedicated to “Ice Fishing For Newbies,” where beginners can glean knowledge from more experienced experts. There’s a whole section dedicated to “Ice Safety” (making it hard to miss for those in a hurry). Just as with the larger IceShanty page, Ice Fishin 247 offers all the information you could desire on ice fishing in the States and beyond.

They even offer an occasional contest or giveaway.

Though the lakes aren’t yet frozen over, the time is coming! Get inspired to hit the ice with your cleats on this year by visiting one of these informative forums!


Fly Fishing Forums Every Fly Guy or Gal Needs To Know About

Fly fishing forums are like opinions. Everyone has one, but only some are based in fact and reality. And when you’re visiting a forum, you’ll notice that there are plenty of opinions and plenty of judgement. You’ll have that. Sometimes people tend to take “free speech” too far.

The good news is that since there are such an abundance of fly fishing forums, there are many to choose from, and some are quite helpful, which allows you to whittle it down to those that offer you the best advice, camaraderie, and useful sounding board.

We’ll hit on some of the best fly fishing forums out there and touch on what makes them worth a visit and a consideration to join.

Forums at Their Best

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When we introduced the idea of a forum in our Bass Fishing Forums post, we discussed that a forum is a great place for users to get together to offer help and advice, and for professionals to lend their expertise, making some interactions a good learning experience. In order to get that balance, forums need a combination of their “old faithfuls,” as well as a splash of consistent incoming new-to-the-sport anglers. That way, everyone benefits from each other’s knowledge, and the “newbies” stoke a refresher course for those that are somewhere in the middle. Good conversations follow.

In the world of fly fishing, there is so much old-world knowledge to be shared and gained. In the years gone by, anglers seemed to hoard their expertise like it was a coveted prize. Not everyone was willing to share their hard-earned secrets of the river for whatever reason. Convincing someone to cough up their tricks to fishing small flies at dusk was like pulling teeth.

Nowadays, people are much more eager to help a fellow out and share their skills with others, and a forum is a great place to get together with people, not just in your region, but across the globe, and better each other’s tackle box. Through the sharing of knowledge and information, a forum can help to make each member a better angler and increase their enjoyment of the sport.

Fly Fishing Forums: North American Fly Fishing Forum

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The North American Fly Fishing Forum, which lands on, is the most active and interactive forum out there, by far, with upwards of 7,000 visitors daily. The trend with forums tends to be that more “visitors” . . . .well . . . . visit the page than actual contributing members. NA Fly Fishing Forum is no different, but still has an impressive number of members landing on the page each day at over 600.

Impressively, this site has an exhaustive list of every sort of post you can imagine, from the normal tips and tricks, fly tying help and advice on building your own rod. The Region section is broken down into much smaller areas of North America so you can get more specialized updates on conditions and reports, even going so far as to include the “Driftless Region” of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Many conversations about fishing in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean allow you to plan for your upcoming travels, or converse with locals about your current trek.

Competitions for prizes are offered regularly every month, with the added bonus of extra, random games in between. There’s a section to share fishery webcam links to assist with figuring local river water levels. More of the unique qualities that this page offers are conversations geared towards youth fly fishing, and women who tackle the art.

Fly Fishing Forums: Paflyfish

Paflyfish is touted by many as one of the most user friendly forums to visit. Chad Schmukler says that this site actually succeeds in offering what most fly fishing forums claim to offer: “a community of individuals that are extremely knowledgeable, generous with their time and information, and welcoming to newcomers.”

While mostly centered on Pennsylvania, there are members from around the globe. It’s expanded to include the neighboring states, much of the northeast US, and far beyond. A “Beginner Forum” focuses on those new to fly fishing or looking to brush up on some of the basics.

In-depth discussion on tying encourages users to share what they’re working on today, stoking conversations about both new oddities and modifications to old favorites like the zebra midge.

While the member count isn’t as high as North American Fly Fishing forum, the site is active, with contributions being made within the hour. Over 50 users visit the site at a time, with over 10 being registered members. They hold several gatherings throughout the year and many have had the opportunity to meet face to face.

Fly Fishing Forums: Spey Pages

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While geared specifically to those aficionados of the popular spey cast, Spey Pages also has an active membership, with conversations being updated each day. Over 400 users are online at any given time and over 90 of those are contributing members. This seems to attract may new members, as they arrive daily. That’s what may be so attractive about this site. There are solid offerings for both new members and new casters. A “New Member Introduction” thread offers advice on how to post, code of conduct, and a way that new members can introduce themselves to the general population. A “Spey Basics” section is geared towards new spey casters as a way to encourage them to participate and have their questions answered.

Fly Fishing Forums: Troutnut

This one is definitely worth mentioning. Troutnut provides a  light-hearted feel, while offering probably the best gathering place for those very new to fly fishing. The owner has a great sense of humor, and lays out the “Forum Rules” at the bottom of the landing page with realistic style, threatening to “call your mother on you” if you use naughty words. It dictates that you should “use common sense and don’t be a jerk.”

Funny aside, this is an active site with conversations being updated daily. There are usually over 280 users online at any given time.  This is a great page, probably catering more to beginners. The “Fly Fishing Beginner Help” thread offers a safe place where newbies can ask “getting started” questions and the old-timers can share their “wish-I-had-known” lessons. Questions are generally answered within a day or two.

The general feeling from members is warm and welcoming, with very little of the negativity that many other forums can sometimes affect.

Fly Fishing Forums: New York Angler

One last forum to make sure you check out is New York Angler or NYAngler for short! This site features a forum, blog, and even podcasts! For anglers in the New York area, this is your one stop shop for information, tips and tricks, and for talking fishing!

Whether you’re new to the sport or are looking for a sounding board to tackle difficult techniques, using the community of an online forum is a great way to come together with other anglers