Find Your Next Hotspot

Before We Find that Hotspot

I used to get frustrated when anglers would not share fishing spots with me. They would say, “put in the time, you will figure it out and where to go” and to tell you the truth, they were partially right. I did figure it all out, but it was a tedious and painful learning process that continues today. I ask myself the question, "How am I going to promote conservation of resources and the sport of fly fishing if I am not willing to share my knowledge with others?" Maybe it is a good idea not to give away your super hotspots but educating others about how to find them is a must if fly fishing is going to thrive long into the future. I just think how bored my kids get when we are not catching fish and how discouraging that can be to new fly fishing anglers. With that said, I am going to share a little bit about how I find mine and hopefully by the end of this article you will be equipped to find hotspots of your own. Before we can dive into how to find hot spots, you first must familiarize yourself with the current State and Federal Laws in the areas you intend to fish. I fish mostly in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. The laws and regulations for each state differ from one another greatly. In Wisconsin any navigable water is public and can be fished, floated, or walked as long as you “keep your feet wet.”

"In Muench v. Public Service Commission; the Wisconsin Supreme Court said “it is no longer necessary in determining navigability of streams to establish a past history of floating logs, or other use of commercial transportation, because any stream is “navigable in fact” which is capable of floating any boat, skiff, or canoe, of the shallowest draft used for recreational purposes.”

For more information about stream and river access in Wisconsin please take a look Public Access Fact Sheet. Now, Illinois is much more stringent and sides more with the landowners. To wade the body of water, it must be “Commercially Navigable”. As a general rule, the body of water must be on the Public Waters List. I would say almost all of the small creeks and rivers are private property including the Kishwaukee River. Many people believe that as long as you are floating the landowners cannot bother you but as soon as you step foot on the ground beneath the water you are trespassing. I am not really sure this is true, but many people float the Kishwaukee and I believe there were a couple of court cases to support the idea that the water is public. You can access many small streams and creeks through state and county forest preserves and parks which does open a little bit more of the water for fishing. Another option is to get permission from the landowner.

Now that all of the laws and regulations are out of the way, it is time to find a hotspot. There are several tools I use to find promising waters. One of the most important tools is GOOGLE maps. Google maps has 3 different views that I utilize. First, I use the map view to identify public land that borders the body of water I would like to fish. For instance, most of the Kishwaukee River runs through public land and more specifically County Forest Preserves.

Kishwaukee River Map

Now that public land access has been identified, it is time to use the satellite view. The satellite view allows me to see the physical characteristics of the river itself. Sometimes I spend hours just following the river in satellite view looking for ideal fishing locations. Knowing what makes a good fishing spot is important. Be on the lookout for riffles, runs and pools, boulders and rock shelves and cliffs.

Satellite View of a Hot Spot

Once you find these characteristics on publicly accessible water you will need to find access. This is where the street view comes into play. The street view can help you find canoe launches that are not well known. Look for bridges near where you are looking to launch and use the street view to get an idea if you can launch or not. Don't forget that you can use street view any where a bridge crosses a body of water to get another look to see if the water looks promising.

Street View of a Hot Spot

Transpose your findings to your favorite atlas/physical map and you are ready to explore. I typically dedicate a whole day to exploration of new waters. You can also use Google Maps for this. Place markers on the map at the various points and use the get directions tool. Once you have your day planned out, go fish! Don't be discouraged if you don't catch anything your first time out. If the water looks promising, keep it marked to visit another day.

Some Random Fly Fishing Action