Minnesota boasts an incredible variety of fly fishing opportunities for anglers. With trout streams stretching for more than 3,800 miles and a further 2,600+ miles of tributaries and streams, it can be hard to know where to start.
Wild native trout thrive here, and regular stockings boost their numbers, too. You can also try your luck at the local pike, bass, walleye, and steelhead. The North Star State has something for every fly fisher!
Our guide to fly fishing in Minnesota will let you in on the hottest fly fishing spots! Plus, read on to find out everything you need to know about MN fishing licenses, the best gear, and more.
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Best Places In Minnesota For Fly Fishing
So you want to know where to go fly fishing in Minnesota? Here are the top fishing lakes and the best trout rivers in the state!
1. Whitewater River
While the Whitewater River might sound like it’s fast and wild, it’s actually pretty sedate. You’ll find plenty of riffles here where you can fish dry flies successfully.
The Whitewater River splits off into four different branches. If you want to go after the big brookies, you’ll need to head for the Middle Branch. This section is calm – perfect for floating on a canoe or kayak. Nymph patterns do well here, especially under a strike indicator.
Check out our full review on fishing pelican kayaks here.
2. St. Croix River
If you’re not an avid trout angler, the St. Croix River might be the ideal location for you. On this first-class river, you can fish for muskies, catfish, sturgeon, and smallmouth bass. It’s the perfect destination for a day trip from Minneapolis, especially during the spring and fall.
You’ll have great results if you can fish from a boat, to get to those hard-to-reach pockets and pools. There are also some fantastic fishing spots on the banks, or you can choose to wade. Bass poppers and baitfish imitations perform consistently on this river.
3. Trout Run Creek
Trout Run Creek flows through prairie country, rewarding you with beautiful views of flowery meadows and hardwood trees as you fish. With more than 2,000 trout per mile, the Trout Run Creek fishing is an incredible experience.
It is a popular spot, but don’t let that put you off. You can pick just about any section along the 12-mile spring creek, and you’ll be guaranteed spectacular fishing. The structure is diverse, with everything from calm, slow runs to fast, wild waters. One of the best spots to head for is the section from Saratoga to Bucksnort Dam – come prepared with plenty of midge flies!
4. French River
The French River is another top fly fishing destination in northern MN. The best place to access this river is from Highway 43. Most anglers prefer the stretch between the lake and the hatchery, where the concentration of gamefish is higher.
The water conditions can be variable with low water levels at times, so don’t forget to look at the local water reports before heading out. When the water levels are high, you can catch big brown trout and rainbows here – especially after heavy rainfall.
5. Vermillion River
The Vermillion River spans more than 60 miles and has several designated trout areas. Much of it is catch-and-release only, but it’s still worth the visit for the big brown and brook trout that thrive here. You can easily access this river from Farmington City Park and County Road 66.
6. Baptism River
If you’re looking for the best fly fishing water in the north of MN, make sure you check out the Baptism River! This Lake Superior tributary is filled with rainbow trout and brook trout, and coho salmon and steelhead spawn here too. To get the full experience of Baptism River, pack your waders and get into the water!
Not far from the Finland town and the Tettegouche, there are plenty of public access points on this river. The most popular spot is a short section from the Highway 1 Bridge down to the spectacular Cascades. But it’s by no means the only place where you can catch decent-sized fish. If you want to escape the crowds and catch some big brookies, aim for the headwaters further upstream instead.
7. South Branch of Root River
Anywhere on the Root River will offer decent fly fishing experiences for beginners and pros. But by far the best section is the South Branch, where you can catch lunker brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Head to the area near Forestville for the highest concentration of fish, and make sure to bring your waders.
If you want to fish from your canoe, the lower South Branch near Preston is ideal. You’ll find some productive pools and plenty of shade from the trees. The river teems with wild brook and brown trout, supplemented by stockings of rainbow trout throughout the season. Try to match the hatch here, and you’ll have lots of success.
Best Gear for Fly Fishing
You can fish most of the MN rivers and trout streams with a 4-6 weight fly rod. Go for a 4X tippet and a 9-foot leader, and you’ll be all set to catch some fish! Stock your fly box with nymphs and streamers, especially baitfish patterns, but throw in a few BWOs too. And as always, keep your eye out for any sign of a hatch starting and try to match is as closely as you can!
If you want to fish for steelhead, you’ll need robust, sturdy gear that can put up a fight. Egg imitation flies, classic Woolly Buggers, and black stonefly nymphs work a treat to tempt the steelhead out.
You should also stock up on the following items for your fly fishing trip:
- Sturdy wading boots
- Polarized sunglasses
- Rain gear
- Hat with peak or brim (see our best fishing hat reviews here.
- Bug spray
- First aid kit
Minnesota Fishing License
There are both resident and non-resident options to choose from. If you go for the annual license, it runs from March until the following February. You can also get a 1-day, 3-day, or 7-day license, and there are discounts for married couples or families. Check the most up-to-date prices here.
Don’t forget to purchase a trout stamp, too. It costs $10 for both residents and non-residents.
Top Fly Shops in Minnesota
If you want to stock up on some flies or need to buy a new piece of fly fishing gear, here are the best fly shops in MN:
- Near St Paul: Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop
- Near Duluth: Great Lakes Fly Shop
- Near Blaine: The Fly Angler
- Near Preston: Driftless Fly Fishing Company
Useful Fly Fishing Resources
If you want to find out more about fishing in MN, check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Fishing website. You’ll find up-to-date fishing regulations as well as stocking info and more.
It’s always a good idea to check the water conditions by taking a look at the local fishing reports. You can find the latest MN fishing reports here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I fly fish in MN?
Minnesota has a lot of top fly fishing spots. You can fly fish in MN on the Root River, Baptism River, and Trout Run Creek, among other locations (see above for more recommendations!)
Are there trout in Minnesota?
There are trout in MN – both brook trout and lake trout are native to MN. You can also fish for rainbow trout and brown trout in Minnesota.
Where can you trout fish in MN?
Minnesota has 3800 miles of trout rivers and streams! You can trout fish in MN on the Whitewater River, Trout Run Creek, Badger Creek, and Root River, among other rivers and lakes.
Do I need a trout stamp in Minnesota?
Yes, you will need a trout ‘validation’ or trout stamp to fish in Minnesota, as well as your fishing license.
How many walleye can you keep in MN?
You can keep up to 6 walleye in MN, and they must be at least 15″. Only one walleye may measure more than 20″.
The Wrap Up
So there you have all you need to know about fly fishing in MN! The North Star State has so much to offer anglers, with the chance to catch brown, rainbow, and brook trout, as well as walleye, smallmouth bass, and even steelhead and salmon.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your rod, reel, line, and flies, and get yourself down to your chosen location! Everyone from beginners to pros will have great fun fishing on the fly in Minnesota!
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