Chicago Fly Fishing: Where to Go in Chicago, What to Bring

By Andy Whitcomb

Feb 13, 2018

Fly fishing opportunities abound in the Chicago area. Chicago is a worthy location due to its proximity to Lake Michigan and its tributaries which can hold steelhead, Coho salmon, and brown trout.

If you find yourself in need of some fly fishing near Chicago, there are plenty of options. Wind often complicates Chicago fly fishing but the “Windy City” is a worthy location due to its proximity to Lake Michigan and its tributaries which can hold steelhead, Coho salmon, and brown trout.

When researching where to go fishing in Chicago, I learned there are bank fishing access points at several piers, harbors, and marinas to cast for smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and sunfish.  In addition, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources holds about 500 “clinics” each year with chances to fish for stocked channel catfish and sunfish. Participating parks may include Gompers, Marquette, Columbus, and Douglas, to name a few.

Basic fishing instruction is provided but check with the department regarding volunteer instructors and additional clinics for the possibility of fly fishing instruction. There also are catch and release fly fishing near Chicago sites for stocked trout in the counties of Lake, Cook, DuPage, and Will which are in or near Chicago.

If you have the time and means to travel a little further during your Chicago fly fishing adventure, additional scenic fly fishing opportunities await. About an hour drive away anglers can find the Kankakee River near Wilmington, where you can fish for smallmouth bass (“Da bass,” as they might say) or northern pike, and the Fox Chain of Lakes by Spring Grove for some largemouth bass, bluegill, or muskie, and you can fish from fishing piers or boat.

What fly fishing equipment to use when fly fishing depends somewhat on your target species and the size of the water. A light 5-6 wt, 7-foot fly rod will be plenty for stocked trout in small streams and sunfish, well, anywhere. However, if you are chasing steelhead or muskies on bigger water, you’d better kick it up a couple of sizes. A longer rod with more backbone will help provide a shock absorber for big, leaping fish.

Among your fly fishing tackle make sure to have a selection of flies to cast for several species such as sunfish (insect patterns) and smallmouth bass (baitfish and crayfish patterns). There also are Chicago fly fishing opportunities for freshwater drum (crayfish or goby fly patterns near bottom in current), carp (insect patterns) or muskie (giant streamers, near 7 inches long).

Are you still looking for other ideas of places where to go fishing in Chicago? Check out our Interactive map to find places where to fish near you. You can select a place to go fishing and boating by zip code, fish species and many other options.

Andy Whitcomb
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 banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.