Tucked in the heart of the United States, Missouri is a hidden gem for fly fishing enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. With its wide range of scenic rivers, pristine lakes, and tranquil streams, the Show-Me State is known as a great destination for anglers seeking the thrill of fly fishing.
As aspiring fly fishers cast their lines into these waters, they become part of a tradition that has withstood the test of time. In this article, we explore the captivating world of fly fishing in Missouri, where nature’s beauty and a rich angling heritage combine for locals and visitors alike for rainbow trout, brown trout, and the occasional brook trout fishing lakes and rivers.
Types of Trout In Missouri:
Missouri’s trout fisheries are primarily centered around the stocked and wild rainbow trout which is the most common and widely pursued trout species in the state. Rainbow trout are well-suited to the cool and clear waters found in Missouri’s numerous streams and rivers. They are known for their vibrant pink stripe running along their sides, and their acrobatic leaps when hooked make them a thrilling catch for fly anglers of different experience levels.
The rainbow trout thrive in Missouri thanks to the suitable habitat created by the state’s many cold-water springs and tailwaters below dams as well as the regulation and protection from the Missouri Department of Conservation. These waters provide the consistently cool water temperatures and high oxygen levels that rainbow trout require to thrive.
Some of the most famous trout fishing destinations in Missouri include the Current River, the Meramec River, the Niangua River, and the North Fork of the White River, among others, which we will cover below.
In addition to stocked and wild rainbow trout, you can also find brown trout in certain areas when fishing in Missouri. Brown trout are more elusive and can be a challenging species for fly anglers to catch due to their wariness and selective feeding habits. These larger trout are often found in slower-moving waters and can reach impressive sizes in Missouri’s prime trout habitats. If you’re looking for a challenge when it comes to hauling in a trophy, focusing on brown trout is perfect for you.
The Best Places to Fly Fish in Missouri
1. Current River
Nestled within the beautiful rolling landscapes of south Missouri, the Current River brings in fly fishing enthusiasts from all over the country with its clear, cool waters. As the sunlight reflects off the ripples of this spring-fed river, you will find yourself in a tranquil haven perfect for relaxing as well as catching some impressive trout.
With moderate to easy access, the Current River offers a diverse array of fly fishing opportunities. Its well-known reputation for rainbow trout and brown trout fishing has attracted anglers from far and wide, with many locals lining up shoulder to shoulder during the height of the season.
While the fishing pressure here remains moderate, the river’s reputation continues to draw those seeking the thrill of casting dry flies, nymphs, and streamers into its pristine currents.
Where to Fly Fish in Current River
Baptist Camp, Cedar Grove, Tan Vat, and the Big Spring Area are all great areas to consider when fishing in the Current River. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for shore fishing as well as wading.
Recommended Flies for Current River
Some of the most recommended flies for this spot would be the Elk Hair Caddis, Copper John, and Woolly Bugger, with the Adams Dry Fly, Pheasant Tail Nymph, and San Juan Worm bringing in some very enticing patterns for hungry fish.
2. Meramec River
Winding its way through the heart of Central Missouri, the Meramec River, also spelled Maramec River, presents fly anglers with an accessible gateway to trout fishing within a warm-water river setting. With easy access, this river is a blend of cold-water releases and warmer currents, creating an enticing habitat for wild rainbow trout and brown trout.
The Meramec’s reputation is solidified not only by its healthy and large trout fishery regulated by the Missouri Department of Conservation but also by its diverse range of other enjoyable fish species, including largemouth bass, walleye, and more. While the fishing pressure remains moderate throughout the year, with some weekends and the start of the trout season taking it up too high, the river’s expansive waters offer opportunities for casting streamers, nymphs, and dry flies to tempt your next trophy fish into striking.
Where to Fly Fish in Meramec River
If you’re looking for a true hotspot along the River, check out Maramec Spring and the trout hatchery or any part of the river in Caverns State Park.
Recommended Flies for Meramec River
Some highly recommended flies for this area are Griffith’s Gnat, Prince Nymph, and Muddler Minnow, along with other artificial lures. These flies will get you some quick and aggressive strikes without too much trouble.
For the best patterns, consider the Hare’s Ear Nymph, Parachute Adams, or Beadhead Woolly Bugger throughout the year.
3. Niangua River
Amidst the heart of Central Missouri’s scenic beauty lies the Niangua River, a spring-fed haven for fly anglers seeking encounters with beautiful rainbow trout and large brown trout.
Accessing its tranquil waters might take a touch of effort, but the rewards are well worth it once you find a spot to wade into the water or set up along the shoreline.
With its reputation for quality trout fishing and crystal-clear flows, the Niangua River offers a serene escape for those who appreciate the dance of dry flies and nymphs upon the water’s surface.
Where to Fly Fish in Niangua River
For the best fishing spot, consider the Bennett Spring access area where the Bennett Spring Branch meets the Niangua. It’s a very popular access point, but fish are plentiful.
Recommended Flies for Niangua River
Most trout anglers fishing this river will use Parachute Adams, Zebra Midge, or Olive Sculpin. For enticing patterns, consider using an Elk Hair Caddis, Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, or the RS2 Emerger.
4. North Fork of the White River
In the southern reaches of Missouri’s landscapes, the North Fork of the River emerges as a premier destination for fly fishing anglers. This spring-fed river is the true essence of trout fishing excellence, attracting anglers from around the state with its trophy trout potential and stunning beauty.
The North Fork’s moderate fishing pressure doesn’t detract from it and instead enhances the experience of casting dry flies, nymphs, and streamers into the waters. Throughout the river’s length, you will find a White Ribbon, a Blue Ribbon, and a Red Ribbon Trout Area, which have different fishing regulations and may need a specific daily trout tag or fishing permit.
Where to Fly Fish in the North Fork of the White River
Both the Patrick Bridge and Blair Bridge are great spots to fish in this area, although you can find a wide range of great wade fishing or shore spots along the river.
Recommended Flies for the North Fork of the White River
Most anglers I have spoken with would recommend using the Blue Wing Olive Dry, BH Prince Nymph, or Woolly Bugger along the river’s length for the best results. For patterns, consider going with the Pale Morning Dun or Caddis Pupa.
5. Bennett Spring State Park
Nestled within the heart of Central Missouri, Bennett Spring State Park offers a blend of convenience and opportunity for trout fishing enthusiasts.
With plenty of easy access, well-stocked waters, and a white ribbon trout area, this spring-fed stocked trout stream provides an excellent platform for beginners and experienced anglers alike to catch fish.
While fishing pressure is high throughout the year in this waterway, the chance to cast nymphs and wet flies amidst the trout park’s tranquil surroundings remains a rewarding endeavor.
Where to Fly Fish in Bennett Spring
One of the best areas to catch stocked and wild trout to be would be Zone 1, just downstream from the Dam. A huge group of fish will gather in this spot, giving you some easy opportunities for catching your next trophy. Also, ask about the white ribbon trout area since it changes from year to year.
Recommended Flies for Bennett Spring
The Squirmy Worm, Pheasant Tail Nymph, and Adams Dry are absolute game-changers for artificial lures in this spot and will get almost instant strikes in the right area. Also, give Griffith’s Gnat, Elk Hair Caddis, and Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail some consideration if you’re looking for the best patterns. Bait fishing works well here too.
6. Roaring River State Park
Tucked away in the scenic landscape of the southwest part of Missouri, Roaring River State Park offers an accessible haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. The trout park’s spring-fed trout waters provide a stunning backdrop for casting lines and pursuing rainbow trout and brown trout.
With easy access to the river, anglers from far and wide are drawn to its well-stocked waters, making it a popular family-friendly destination for anglers of all experience levels. While the fishing pressure is high throughout the year, the chance to cast nymphs and wet flies while standing in the park’s natural splendor is an experience not to be missed.
Where to Fly Fish in Roaring River State Park
Fishing in Zone 1 is for only flies and ranges from the trout hatchery all the way to the mouth of Dry Hollow Creek. It’s perfect for getting some quick strikes while also enjoying the beauty of the area.
Recommended Flies for Roaring River State Park
Some recommended and commonly used flies include the San Juan Worm, Copper John, and Adams Parachute. For the best patterns, consider the Hopper Patterns, Prince Nymph, and Zebra Midge.
7. Pigeon Creek in Montauk State Park
Located in south Missouri, Montauk State Park emerges as a cherished destination for incredible trout fishing enthusiasts. The trout parks spring-fed trout waters, characterized by their consistent flows, appeal to anglers seeking the thrill of rainbow trout and brown trout encounters.
With easy access and a reputation for being a well-managed trout fishery, Montauk attracts both novice and seasoned fly anglers. Despite the high trout fishing pressure, the opportunity to cast nymphs and wet flies and get strikes remains an enticing prospect, so grab your fly rod and head out here.
Where to Fly Fish in Montauk State Park
The springs that start Pigeon Creek are some great places to cast your flies into the water since many fish, including trout and smallmouth bass, will gather here throughout the hotter months of the year.
Recommended Flies for Montauk State Park
Some of the most commonly used flies include the Black Woolly Bugger, Sowbug, and Renegade. Also, pay attention to the Black Ant, Copper John, and Zebra Midge if you’re looking for enticing patterns.
8. Blue Springs Creek
Nestled in the quiet corners of Southwest Missouri, Blue Springs Creek entices fly fishing aficionados with its crystal-clear waters and tranquil ambiance.
With a moderate ease of access, this spring-fed creek sets the stage for pursuing rainbow and brown trout amidst its secluded location.
Renowned for its clear water and uncrowded conditions, Blue Springs Creek offers a respite from the every day, inviting anglers to cast dry flies and nymphs upon its inviting surface when fishing in Missouri.
Where to Fly Fish in Blue Springs Creek
Consider heading to the Spring Branch or Headwaters for some great fishing or the Blue Spring Area if you want extremely easy access.
Recommended Flies for Blue Springs Creek
For the best flies and patterns, consider the Blue Quill Dry, Olive Woolly Bugger, or Beadhead Pheasant Tail.
9. Crane Creek
Among the hidden treasures of Southwest Missouri, Crane Creek meanders through landscapes of quiet solitude. Offering a moderate level of access, this spring-fed creek becomes a haven for fly anglers seeking big brown trout.
Recognized for its challenging trout fishing conditions and intimate small trout stream atmosphere, Crane Creek stands as an invitation to present dry flies and nymphs to its discerning inhabitants.
Where to Fly Fish in Crane Creek
There are a variety of public access spots to wade or fish from the shore, while many areas downstream from private land can also be good.
Recommended Flies for Crane Creek
Most trout will eagerly strike at the Parachute Adams, Prince Nymph, or Copper John in this waterway.
10. Little Piney Creek
Central Missouri’s landscapes reveal a gem in the form of Little Piney Creek, a spring-fed creek that offers a moderate escape into the world of fly fishing.
With decent ease of access, this creek lures anglers with its wild trout habitat and the promise of rainbow and brown trout encounters.
Where to Fly Fish in Little Piney Creek
The river runs along Highway 63 for some of its length, so various bridges along the road offer good access for bridge trout fishing or to wade fish.
Recommended Flies for Little Piney Creek
Sulphur Dun, Blue Wing Olive Nymph, and Griffith’s Gnat are very popular in this creek. You can also get quick strikes from the Stimulator, Pheasant Tail Nymph, and Adams Dry fly patterns.
11. Barren Fork Creek
Southern Missouri unveils its hidden beauty through Barren Fork Creek, a spring-fed creek that offers a moderate escape into the world of fly fishing.
With moderate access, this creek has a reputation for seclusion and tranquility which adds to its charm while many anglers practice catch-and-release fishing.
Where to Fly Fish in Barren Fork Creek
While there are no outstanding key spots, you can find numerous access points along the length of the creek.
Recommended Flies for Barren Fork Creek
Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Copper John are the best flies and patterns to consider here.
12. Mill Creek
Amidst the heart of Central Missouri’s landscapes lies Mill Creek, a spring-fed creek that offers a moderate escape into the world of fly fishing.
With a moderate level of access, this creek allures anglers with its scenery and the promise of encountering big rainbow and brown trout.
Known for its challenging conditions and serene beauty, Mill Creek sets the stage for presenting dry flies and nymphs amidst its enchanting surroundings.
Where to Fly Fish in Mill Creek
The Highway C bridge can be a great spot for casting a line in the water, but access is somewhat simple along the length of the creek.
Recommended Flies for Mill Creek
The best patterns to consider on your artificial lures here are the Blue Wing Olive Dry, Flashback Pheasant Tail, and Beadhead Hare’s Ear.
13. White Ribbon Area of Roubidoux Creek
Southern Missouri holds the White Ribbon Area of Roubidoux Creek, where spring-fed currents paint a serene backdrop for fly fishing enthusiasts.
Renowned for its secluded charm and lower trout fishing pressure, this area provides an escape for presenting dry flies and nymphs amidst the natural beauty of the Ozarks.
Where to Fly Fish in the White Ribbon Area
There’s a 3-mile range of river that runs from Roubidoux Spring to the Gasconade River that offers an excellent white ribbon area of the White River.
Recommended Flies for the White Ribbon Area
The best options here are the Elk Hair Caddis, Copper John, and Griffith’s Gnat, which brown trout really react to.
14. Little Blue Creek (aka Little Blue River)
Northern Missouri offers a tranquil escape in the form of Little Blue Creek, a spring-fed creek that enchants fly anglers with its quiet beauty.
Known for its peaceful ambiance and low fishing pressure, Little Blue Creek provides a canvas for presenting dry flies and nymphs amidst the serenity of unspoiled nature.
Where to Fly Fish in Little Blue Creek
There are no key areas you should definitely visit, but if you can fish near the spring head, you’ll find some of the larger fish hanging out there at times.
Recommended Flies for Little Blue Creek
Most anglers here will use the Blue Wing Olive Dry, Hare’s Ear Nymph, or Woolly Bugger. For very effective patterns, consider using the Pheasant Tail Nymph or Beadhead Prince Nymph.
15. Eleven Point River
Meandering through the southeastern corner of Missouri, the Eleven Point River invites fly fishing enthusiasts into a world of natural wonder and angling adventure. With moderate access, this spring-fed river offers a serene habitat for rainbow and brown trout.
Its reputation for tranquil beauty and clear waters draws anglers seeking a harmonious connection with nature. Fishing pressure remains moderate throughout the year, but it’s still a great spot to fish.
Where to Fly Fish in Eleven Point River
The Turner Mill to Cane Bluff access areas provide some excellent trout fishing opportunities, with plenty of rainbows willing to strike.
Recommended Flies for Eleven Point River
Parachute Adams, Hare’s Ear Nymph, and Soft Hackle Wet Flies are almost the exclusive use flies here, but you can definitely experiment with more options and patterns.