My Seasonal Cycle of Fly Fishing And The Quest to Fly Fish All Year Round!

The more I Fly Fish the deeper the sickness runs in my blood. Fly fishing consumes my thoughts so I have been on a quest to figure out how to fly fish all year round without traveling to some far off warm place. Within a three hour radius of me I can catch an overwhelming variety of species of fish including, King Salmon, Coho, Steelhead, Browns, Rainbows, Brook Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Striper, Northern Pike and Muskie. I think I have a seasonal fly fishing cycle figured out that will allow me to fly fish all year round.

Defining My Backyard

I live in Rockford, Illinois and have explored waters within a three hour driving radius. I prefer to fish rivers and creeks as compared to lakes and will focus on river fly fishing in the stateline area. Part of me wants to be selfish and keep all of these secrets to myself but as an addicted fly fisherman I feel the more conservation aware anglers on the water the more protected the waters will be. In the map below, the blue counties are where I fish in search of Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike. The orange counties are where I chase Browns and Rainbows. And the green counties are where I chase the migratory Browns, Salmon, and Steelhead. Click on each county to find some additional resources.

My Seasonal Cycle of Fly Fishing

My Seasonal Fishing Cycle

Starting in Winter

Since winter starts in December, I am still chasing Steelhead if the waters are still open. I spend a lot of time swinging glo bugs, egg sucking leaches, and wooly buggers in Southeast Wisconsin. Now that Wisconsin opens the early catch and release trout season on the first Saturday of January at 5 am, I start targeting Browns and Rainbows in early January. Last year I made it up a few times and had a little bit of success. Every chance I get I will make the drive up to either Dane, Iowa, Green or Grant County to get a fly fishing fix in. Here are links directly to the stream maps for each county:

I usually swing size 8 and 10 Wooly Buggers during this time of year but the more research I do the more I think I should try to do some nymphing. This season I am plan to learn more about entomology and the life cycle of different aquatic insects and try a few different things. A few patterns I will be trying this winter are the tiny winter stoneflies, midges, sculpins and egg patterns. Some Additional Hatches I will be looking for:
Aquatic Insect Size Jan Feb
Leeches 4-10 Nymphing Nymphing
Sculpins 1/0-10 Nymphing Nymphing
Scuds 12-20 Nymphing Nymphing
Midge chironomids 16-28 Nymphing Nymphing
Tiny Winter Black Stonefly 12-18 Emerger and Surface Emerger and Surface

Late Winter into Early Spring

In Late February it will be time to start looking for pre-spawn Northern Pike. I just started getting really serious about chasing Pike and the 2017 spawning season will be my first attempt at chasing prespawn Pike. From the little knowledge I have, the window of opportunity is very small and as soon as I see water temperatures hit 40 °, I will be looking for the ideal spawning locations on the Kishwaukee, Rock, Sugar and Pecatonica Rivers.

Couple Smallmouth Articles of Interest

Shortly after Pike, the Smallmouth will start feeding heavily during their prespawn period. Once I see the water temperatures hit 50 °, I will start focussing on Smallmouth. After a few weeks of prespawn the Smallmouth start spawning and no longer feed so my thought is to start chasing the spring Steelhead run this year. Starting in late March to early April the steelhead should start running again and this should get me through the Smallmouth drought.

Early Spring Smallmouth
Cam Releasing Smallmouth

Spring into Early Summer

I will spend as much time as possible chasing Browns and Rainbows in the Driftless. This is definitely time to pull out the streamers and swing away. If there is any stain on the water, throw a San Juan chased by a Pink Squirrel under and indicator and you will have great success. Here are a couple additional hatches you may catch:
Aquatic Insect Size May Jun
Black Caddis 16-18 Emerger and Surface Emerger and Surface
Baetis 18-22 Nymphing Nymphing

Article of Interest

Of course I will be spending the majority of my time chasing smallmouth during this period. Crayfish hopping crayfish patterns, popping and dropping Frosty Minnows, popping deer hair divers, and swinging streamers. The Kishwaukee River is my favorite Smallmouth destination but this season I think I will carve out plenty of time to explore the Rock River. I am thinking it is an untapped hidden treasure. I would also like to spend some more time exploring rivers in Southwest Wisconsin for Smallmouth. I think a one two punch adventure in Southwest Wisconsin chasing both Smallmouth and Browns would be epic. I explored a couple rivers last season that look very promising.

Summer into Early Fall

In the heat of the Summer I focus mainly on Smallmouth. I love summer so much because the water levels are typically lower and with the hot temperatures it is the perfect season to take my little ones Smallmouth fishing. I will try and make several trips up to Driftless to throw some terestrials for browns. A couple hatches you may be interested in:
Aquatic Insect Size July Aug Sep
16-18 Surface Surface Surface
Trico 22-26 Surface Surface Surface

Starting in mid August I will switch gears and focus on Northern Pike. Popping deer hair divers in the late afternoons and before any storm is key. Once the water temperature drops below 70 ° the Pike start getting more aggressive. Once the water hits the low 60s it is on like Donkey Kong.
Cam Releasing Smallmouth
Lost in Wisconsin
Cam Releasing Smallmouth

Fall into Early Winter

All of September and part of of October I focus soley on fishing for Northern Pike with an occassional Muskie trip. Stripping and swinging big streamers is where it's at and vicious strikes is what it's all about. The first big rain October starts bringing in the Salmon and the crowds on the rivers in Southeast Wisconsin. Shortly after, the Browns will start migrating up the rivers followed by Steelhead. This is when I will start taking some time off and going up on weekdays to swing glo bugs, egg sucking leeches, and wooly buggers and thus the cycle repeats.