3 types of fish for fly fishing in Illinois

Fly fishing is challenging and requires practice to propel an essentially weightless bait forward. However, anglers interested in fly fishing in Illinois or elsewhere have plenty of fishing opportunities.

Trout are typically what many anglers think a fly is, and luckily, fly-fishing fanatics in Illinois will find trout in 59 waters. An inland trout stamp allows anglers to fish 80,000 rainbow trout, which are kept across the state in both spring and fall.

Illinois sunfish include bluegill, redear, green, and pumpkin seed. These fish can be great fun on a fly rod. They are found in many bodies of water that have less dissolved oxygen and reach warmer temperatures than trout can tolerate. If you’re interested in fly fishing in Chicago, many of the parks are stocked with sunfish. Small poppers and dry flies work with surface activity, but when the fish are deeper it helps to locate clear water. Sunfish tend to hover and inhale, but are quick to turn down offers to fly. So be ready with the hook set.

Smallmouth bass is also a sought-after fly fishing quarry in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources website offers the top: “Dry or Wet Flies, Streamers, Bucktail, Poppers, and Hair Bugs”. Look for water with a current current and less silt and aquatic vegetation that you may find with largemouth bass water.

Fly fishing in Illinois can be very rewarding. When buying your fishing license, also pay attention to the regulations. The 80 information pages contain places to find these three species of fish, so you know where to start “whipping the water”.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After graduating with a degree in zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, in the US state of Iowa and the US state of Michigan.


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