Largely ignored, Northeast Iowa’s trout fishery is an journey ready to occur.

It might come as a shock to anglers that the northeastern nook of Iowa—a part of the Higher Midwest’s “Driftless Area”—gives a few of the most efficient, picturesque trout streams anyplace within the nation.

Generally known as “Little Switzerland” due to considerable valleys, hills and limestone creeks, the trout streams of Iowa’s Allamakee and Winneshiek counties are transected by a labyrinth of unpaved nation roads the place an angler can simply get misplaced.

However it’s good to get misplaced in Little Switzerland, so long as you retain a full tank of gasoline, just a few cold-cut sandwiches and a thermos of scorching espresso on the prepared.

Contemplate that just about half of the area’s forty-something streams provide naturally-reproducing brown trout; some with the bonus of wholesome, foot-long and higher brookies, in addition to “put-and-take” rainbows for constant motion and desk fare. There are good numbers and trophies to hunt, too, with browns within the 20-plus-inch class current.

iowa trout fishing
Experiencing the Northeast Iowa trout fishery needs to be on each trout angler’s bucket record.

Assume Early-Spring Trout

Following winter, the longer days, hotter temperatures and extra frequent insect hatches of spring can spell unbelievable days on Iowa streams. Likewise, entry is less complicated previous to the verdant bloom of summer time, which might weave virtually impenetrable streamside vegetation. Exploration is certainly made simpler with out the indignant sting of summer time’s sinister nettles. Good for tea, unhealthy for pores and skin.

As a bonus, plan your journey for mid- to late-April and it’s seemingly you’ll pair fried trout with morel mushrooms, which frequently seem round useless elms. It’s no hyperbole that there isn’t a finer meal than recent trout sautéed in butter with morels, ramps and fiddlehead ferns collected by streamside.

The Northern Triangle

Maybe the very best place to begin exploring Little Switzerland is by placing down stakes in Dorchester or Highlandville, permitting easy accessibility to North and South Bear Creek, Waterloo Creek and French Creek to the east.

fly fishing for trout in iowa
The bluff county of Northeast Iowa is just not solely picturesque, however the fishing is totally price a go to.

Former fly-fishing information Jene Hughes, writer of the definitive work The Full Information to Iowa Trout Streams, coined the time period “The Northern Triangle” to explain this community of unbelievable waters, which might all be fished in the identical day punctuated by brief, 15 minute drives.

North and South Bear Creek are prized by anglers for wild-reproducing brown trout and pockets of brookies. The Waterloo has maybe the best numbers of browns within the area with some giant fish current and French Creek options quite a few bends amidst fallow environment the place exact casts are required—and rewarded.

April and Might provide a few of the finest fishing of the 12 months, particularly if the morel mushrooms are popping up.

Native information Ethan Pole of NEI Fly Fishing agrees. “These streams are what we name the ‘trilogy’—heaps nice trout fishing not far aside.”

Really helpful Gear

First, don’t take into account fishing the realm with no copy of Jene Hughes’ e-book and the Iowa Trout Fishing Information (each which embrace maps), the latter accessible from the Iowa DNR.

A brief 3- or 4-weight fly rod within the 7- to 8-foot class is ideal for the small limestone creeks, though many anglers give the nod to a 2-weight for dry fly fishing. A 7 1/2- to 9-foot 4 or 5x chief with 6x tippet is ideal for many conditions.

An assortment of nymphs in sizes 16 to 22 and biodegradable putty weight are requisite gear for fishing trout close to the underside of runs and swimming pools. Some anglers will use strike indicators to extra simply detect bites.

iowa stream rainow trout
There are miles of small stream that supply distinctive fishing to the angler prepared to work.

“I’d say 80 % of your fly field needs to be measurement 18 to 22 bead head and non-bead midge and Pheasant Tail nymphs with some bigger measurement 16 Prince Nymphs and Hare’s Ears thrown in,” Pole stated.

On the dry fly aspect of issues, Hughes recommends measurement 16 and 18 Black Caddis and Stonefly imitators for spring trout, in addition to the identical measurement Blue-Winged Olives, which he says virtually all the time catch fish. Pole agrees with the BWOs and provides light-colored Adams and Cahill patterns are strong selections.

Each Hughes and Pole advocate anglers apply casting at residence previous to fishing Iowa’s limestone creeks, being attentive to accuracy, making repeated, brief casts with out pointless false casts.

“Every little thing we do on Iowa trout streams is beneath 30 ft; the standard solid is eighteen to twenty ft, loads of occasions a lot much less,” Hughes stated.

Pole agrees. “Arrange some hula hoops at residence and apply brief roll and flip casts. The thought is to get your fly within the water with minimal gymnastics. You’ll catch much more fish.”

If bigger fish are what you’re after, take into account bringing a 4- to 6-weight rod for lofting bigger streamers. You’ll would possibly need to up your chief to 3X and the tippet to 4X. Wooley Buggers, lighter Clouser Minnows, Muddler Minnows, and Zonkers are all common with the streamer crowd.

Non-fly anglers ought to pack an ultra-light spinning combo with 4-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament, a choice of in-line spinners, small minnow baits and tiny spoons. They’ll catch trout of all sizes.

Backwoods iowa trout fishing
There may be definitely a component of off-grid, backwoods trout fishing that may be present in Northeast Iowa.

High quality chest waders, boots and polarized sun shades are additionally must-have gadgets, in addition to a great pliers for eradicating hooks from fleshy maws.

The place To Keep

Select from primitive tenting on state land on the intersection of North and South Bear, the Sportsman’s Motel in Dorchester, Highlandville Campground (as soon as Jene’s second residence) and Bear Creek Cabins with charming common retailer or Massive Joe’s Cabins, proper on North Bear Creek.


Bear Creek Cabins & Highlandville Campground

3497 Highlandville Highway

Highlandville, Iowa 52149

(563) 546-7722

Bear Creek Cabins

Massive Joe’s Little Campground

351 Willow Drive

Dorchester, IA 52140

(563) 497-3500

Sportsman’s Motel and Campground

2753 Hwy 76

Dorchester, IA 52140

(563) 497-3615

Extra Information

Decorah Fish Hatchery

2321 Siewers Spring Highway

Decorah, IA 52101

(563) 382-8324

Iowa DNR


Trout Stream Maps

Fishing Licenses

Space Guides

NEI Fly Fishing

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