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.
Minnesota boasts an incredible variety of fly fishing opportunities for anglers. With wild 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 when Minnesota fly fishing.
Wild native trout thrive here, and regular stockings boost their numbers, too. You can also try your luck at the local northern pike, largemouth bass, walleye, and steelhead. Fly fishing in Minnesota has something for every fly fisher!
Best Places In Minnesota For Fly Fishing
So you want to know where the top fly fishing destinations in Minnesota are? Here are the top fishing lakes and the best trout rivers where fly anglers can enjoy some Minnesota fly fishing.
1. Whitewater River
While the Whitewater River might sound like it’s fast and wild, it’s actually pretty sedate. This is a small river and a tributary of the Mississippi River. You’ll find wild brook trout as well as stocked rainbows and browns.
The Whitewater River splits off into four different branches. If you want to go after the big brook trout, you’ll need to head for the Middle Branch. This section is calm and the river flows slow – perfect for floating on a canoe or kayak (Check out our full Pelican Kayak Reviews here.). Nymph patterns do well here, especially under a strike indicator.
This is one of the designated trout streams that is great for its dry fly fishing. You’ll find plenty of riffles here where you can fish dry flies successfully here and have a ton of fun.
Where To Fly Fish On The Whitewater River
You’ll find this river located in southeastern Minnesota near the western Wisconsin border. The river flows through two state parks and a large wildlife management area and accessing it is easy.
The main river is where you’ll find the most rainbow trout and as mentioned above the middle branch is the best of the brookies. You’ll find wading this river a lot easier than floating it.
Recommended Flies For the Whitewater
- Pheasant tails
- Prince nymphs
- Copper john
- Black caddis
- Wooly bugger
2. St. Croix River
If you’re not an avid trout angler, fly fishing the St. Croix River in eastern Minnesota 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.
When fly fishing this river make sure to be patient as you will catch fish eventually, just be patient and hold on tight as they will pull hard.
Where To Fly Fish On The St Croix
This is a very easy river to fly fish in Minnesota as it’s close to Minneapolis and it’s quite a big river too so it doesn’t get crowded. One of the best stretches to go fly fishing on is from Riverside landing to Wild River State Park.
Recommended Flies For The St Croix
- Minnow patterns
- Large streamers
- Bass poppers
Bring a sink-tip line with you too for the deeper sections
3. Trout Run Creek
Another great river to hit when fly fishing Minnesota also sits in southeastern Minnesota just an hour south of the White water it Trout Run Creek.
Trout Run Creek flows through prairie country and flows into the root river system, rewarding you with beautiful views of flowery meadows and hardwood trees as you fish.
With more than 2,000 – 3,000 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 fly fishing for both brook trout and browns.
The structure is diverse, with everything from calm, slow runs to fast, wild waters, providing some of the best fly fishing in Minnesota.
Where To Fish On Trout Run Creek
One of the best spots to head to is the section from Saratoga to Bucksnort Dam on this creek as it’s very well managed but you can find great fishing all along its 12 miles down to where it joins the Root river. Make sure to fly fish this river wading as it changes quickly and is not for canoes or drift boats.
Recommended Flies For Trout Run Creek
- Small Midges
- Small Adams
- Nymphs (as per whitewater)
- Olive Streamers
4. French River
The French River is another top fly fishing destination in northern Minnesota and it flows out of Lake Superior near the Canadian border, so whatever fish live in Superior, they live in the French too.
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, and the odd Lake trout can be found in the spawning season.
Since this North shore river isn’t spring-fed, temperature plays a large role. If the temperatures are too cold or too hot, fish as close to the lake as possible.
Where To Fish On The French
The best place to fish this river is down from Highway 43 which is the first section below the lake and the hatchery, where the concentration of gamefish is higher. Most anglers fish in this section but if the water levels are high, don’t be scared to venture downstream and explore.
Recommended Flies For The French
- Copper John
- Zebra Midge
- Wooly bugger
5. Vermillion River
The Vermillion River in central Minnesota 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 trout that thrive here as well as the local brookies too.
This river is stocked well but water clarity can be a challenge on some days, so be sure to check the river levels and choose the right flies to match when you get there.
It’s one of the harder rivers to master while fly fishing Minnesota so be prepared for a challenge. But it has open banks so you can use any casting techniques you like.
Where To Fish On The Vermillion River
You can easily access this river from Farmington City Park and County Road 66 and a lot more spots on the County road too. Try to get away from the cities, crowds, and load roads and find a quiet section.
Recommended Flies For The Vermillion
- Green Drake
- Black caddis
- Cinnamon caddis
- Small nymphs
6. Baptism River
If you’re looking for the best fly fishing water in northern Minnesota, make sure you check out the Baptism River!
This Lake Superior tributary is filled with rainbow trout and brook trout, plus coho salmon and steelhead spawn here too. To get the full experience of Baptism River, pack your waders and get into the water!
Where To Fish On The Baptism
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.
Recommended Flies For The Baptism
- Pheasant tail nymph
- Prince nymph
- Bright wooly bugger
- Orange egg pattern
- Various midges
7. South Branch of Root River
Anywhere on the Root River will offer decent fishing experiences for beginners and pros. But by far the best section is the upper South Branch, where you can catch lunker brown, brook, and rainbow trout.
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 on a dry fly rod.
Where To Fish On The Root
Head to the area near Forestville for the highest concentration of fish, and make sure to bring your waders. Don’t be afraid to explore either as the fishing is awesome all along the river.
Recommended Flies For The Root
- Size 18 Caddis
- Size 18 Trico
- Size 18 Parachute BWOs
- Small Adams
- Streamers – in fall
- Small nymphs
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 12-foot leader, and you’ll be all set to catch some fish!
Stock your fly box with nymphs, and prepare your streamer fly box, especially with wooly buggers.
And as always, keep your eye out for any sign of a hatch starting and try to match it as closely as you can – small BWOs, midges, caddis, adams, drakes, sulphurs, and tricos need to be in your dry fly box.
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 nymph work a treat to tempt the steelhead out.
You should also stock up on the following items for your 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
You’ll need a Minnesota fishing license to fish the state waters if you’re aged 16 or over. You can buy your license online from Minnesota DNR or from many stores across the state. (Look up your nearest store here.)
There are both resident and non-resident options to choose from at Minnesota DNR. 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 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
Top Fly Fishing Guides in Minnesota
I would always recommend fishing with a guide when you are fishing somewhere new. It’s a great way to get you started successfully on day one before you go off and do it yourself for the next few days or weeks.
- Headwaters Fly Fishing Company
- Front 20 Outfitters Fly Shop & Guide Service
- On The Fly Guide Service
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, 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
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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