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New to Illinois Flyfishing

Eric Johnson

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Hi all! I'm new to ISA and just wanted to post a message to introduce myself. I've been flyfishing for 20 years now, but have little (ok....really no) experience fishing smallies in Illinois. I have fished for smallmouth in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan....just nothing close to Chicago, which is where I live. I recently got married and bought a house, so time to travel to the fertile fishing grounds of my past has evaporated. Can anyone share locations that I can fish for smallies close to Chicago that are wade-able? I'm not looking for any secret spots, just maybe some spots that everyone else in the world knows but me.


Also, if there is anybody out there that is interested in carpooling to save gas on trips, send me a message.

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You have so many choices that you won't know which to fish first. The Fox River from Batavia to where it flows into the Illinois, the Dupage River, the Kankakee River, the Kishwauke River. This just names a few of the better ones I fished before retiring to Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals, Stockton, Taneycomo, Pomme De Tere and Grand. Those rivers are all wadeable in most section and have excellent populations of Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and in some Musky. You will note that the Bassbuggers also have tying sessions that afford you and opportunity to meet others that share your interests and passion. Welcome to the ISA and to Illinois Smallmouth Fishing. You will be amazed by the catches you will make as it is a grand fishery.

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Welcome. Gary Hit the nail between the eyes on places to fish. Smallmouth fishing around Chicago is a river thing mostly though there is the Lake, too. Since Chicago is a big place, we have to ask,"Whereabouts in Chicago do you live?" That will make talking about fishing waters and car pooling easier.


My generic thoughts are that you should pick one place close to home for the times when you have just a few hours. Then find another place more distant for when you have the better part of a day. For example, someone who lives in the heart of the city might fish the Lake front when he has only an hour or two to spend. He could head out to the Kankakee if he has the whole day.


Since even the smallest stream can get up, I would wear Sospenders all the time even after I thought I "knew" the waterway.

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Welcome aboard, Eric! If I remember correctly, we met when you signed up with the ISA at the Fly Show in Chicago. (If I remember incorrectly, we didn't! :blink: ) Check the Chicago Region sections of the forum. The reports will give you an idea of what rivers are out there. Better yet, take advantage of an upcoming ISA outing. I'm not sure when the next Chicago area get together is planned, but you can check the calendar on the top of the screen.


Also, if you're ever looking for new water a little to your west, P.M. me and I'll either join you on the Kishwaukee or give you some ideas on access. Pretty soon you're gonna wonder why you used to spend all that time and money going out of state to chase smallies, when all along you've had such good fishing right in your own backyard!

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Some useful info can be obtained from:

Fox River Fishing and info guide,

Kankakee River

Kishwaukee river,

Rock river,

Dupage River,

just to name a few.


Info booklets can be obtained/ordered from the IDNR, thru their website.


Hot Spots Fishing maps are available for the Kank---good info.


Obtain maps of the local areas you plan to target fishing.

These maps will show towns, the streams, street names, dams, parks, etc.

You'll want to become familar with your way around, vs just driving aimlessly.


When you obtain the maps and info, study them---get an idea where what is at.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it'll be worth it.


When I find potential fishing places, I target the areas for earily am fishing.

Later in the day, go driving around an become familar with the area(s).

Then go back fishing in the pm.


Mark your maps---make notes, like where to park your vehicle.

Take a camera, take pics and make notes---make a log book, make notes, diagrams, etc---any and all useful info,

for furture reference.

All this info will be very valuable for subsequent visits.


After a few scouting trips and making notes, you'll learn more from that, than someone giving you a spot.


There are many shore access areas, along the Kank.

Momence, Aroma Park, Kank river from downtown dam and a few miles downstream, Wilmington area.


Fox River:

Elgin, South Elgin, St Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Aurora areas.


You could spend a day at each area, to learn it well.


Do your wading during low water periods.

Make notes and take pics of high water marks.

Make notes and take pics of objects, such as downfalls, rocks, walls, bridge piers---

all "fishy" looking spots or objects that a fish will use for cover, and objects that provide current breaks.

So when the water is up, you don't have to stay home and watch tv, you can go back to those areas and catch fish.


Works for me.

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Thanks for all the info, everyone! I really appreciate it! I live on the Northwest side of the city, so I guess that I should concentrate my efforts on the big lake. However, I really love fishing rivers so I'm sure that I'll be hitting those that have been listed.



You're right! I did join ISA at the Chicago Fly Show. You gave me one of your Jude Bugs. I just got back from a business trip to Michigan and I'm happy to let you know that your bug works well across state lines. I had a really good day using your bug on a small smallmouth stream. I'll be sending you a PM soon.


I also wanted to say that I recieved my members packet last night. Whoever came up with yellow card with the info. to turn in poachers deserves a pat on the back!

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The Northwest side of Chicago is just a short Expressway drive to the next Fox River outing and the time of your life. You will meet and trade information with some of the best guys you will ever meet. Don R. will guide you to some of the finest River Smallie fishing around. I'd say get out there and follow him around the Batavia area and catch you some Smallies. Bring the Wife and have a cookout in this Beautiful Park. This area also has a Bike Trail if your wife is into Biking or hiking and the shopping around Geneva and St. Charles is great too. I wonder if the Hotdog Cart is still around Geneva like it used to be?

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............Any pattern in particular that exceed expectations?


2.5" clousers---blue/white, black/white, chart/white---with a hint of flash or sparkle.

Muddler minnows---browns

wooly boggers---green, brown and black

bead head wooly boogers---green, brown and black

rabbit hair/fur---green and black

smelt fry (minnow imitators)

crawfish patterns---browns and greens.

Olive Zonkers

Leech patterns


a hint of green or chartruse sparkle/flash helps on some days.


Works for me.

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  • 3 months later...

Eric....You have entered the twilight zone of smallmouth fishing with the greatest group on the planet..

I.S.A.....Welcome!!!! The Fox River is where i fish for smallies & this River has it all. Rock bars..weeds...riffles....runs...wood....current breaks....cutouts...bays....oh yea and smallies & alot

of em ...you can go out & get 30 +++ fish a day sometimes ...BUT BEWARE OF THE MUSKIES they

do bite smallmouth flies...and if you hook a fish & he doesn't take to the air....get ready to take

a senic walk ...(MR CARP & MR WHISKERS) the law firm of the FOX RIVER.. Best of luck...John K.

(aka crappiejohn)

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Being new to flyfishing, what fly patterns have been productive for Fox River smallies? Any pattern in particular that exceed expectations?

In addition to the usual subsurface patterns (clousers, bunnies,etc.)try pounding bassbugs against rocky shorelines especially for bigger fish.Use flies in the larger sizes due to the murky water.

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