For fly anglers, April is the start of new beginnings. After sitting inside for months due to the cold weather, April provides warmer temperatures and ample opportunities to spend time on the water. The hatches become more plentiful, the water flow starts to steady and fish become more aggressive. It’s a great chance to knock the rust off and prepare for the rest of the season.
Below are my 7 favorite places to cast a fly rod in April.
1. White River in Arkansas- a Fly Fishing Mecca
The White River is a fly fishing mecca. The water flows out of the deepest portions of the Bull Shoals Dam so it creates a wonderful cold water habitat for trout. What was once a high quality bass fishery was converted into a cold water trout stream due to the dam.
In the White River, you can find wild brown trout, stocked rainbows, brookies and cutthroat. The diverse fish population is another reason anglers must fish it! It’s not everyday you can find a stream that contains the four major trout species. Most argue that the White River is to only be fished out of a drift boat, but this isn’t the case. It’s easily fished from the bank or by wading.
However, be careful of the water levels. They can fluctuate depending on the amount of generators functioning. If there are two or less running, you should be safe to wade. Access is plentiful and people have no trouble finding solidarity on the water. If you’re looking to work with someone knowledgeable, there are many guides to hire that will put you on fish.
Where to fish on the White River
Right below the Bull Shoals Dam is a great spot to fish on the White River. The constant movement of bait and power from the dam make it an enticing place for the trout to gather.
Recommended Flies for the White River
Due to the higher water levels in the first half of the year, streamers are the way to go. The trout are used to seeing the shad kill and are in search of the larger baits. To best imitate the kill, go ahead and dead drift streamers through the pools or seams in the river. The trout aren’t shy when it comes to striking something that imitates a shad.
White Wooly Buggers are going to be a simple and productive option for anglers. Silver Shad Streamers with a heavier jig head are going to work as well. They’ll be exactly what the trout want.
GUIDE TIP: When dead drifting streamers, you don’t need to make a long cast. You want as little interference from the current as possible.
Where to Stay and Fly Shops:
–Gaston’s White River Resort is a great spot to stay on the White River. While they don’t have a fly shop on sight, you’ll be able to rent a boat and have little to worry about when it comes to gaining access to the river.
–Wishes and Fishes is in Bull Shoals and is a great option for any fly angler. They’ll provide insight on what is working and stock you up with any equipment you may need.
If you can’t make it to the White River but still want to explore Arkansas read about the 11 Best Places to Fly Fish in Arkansas
What to Pack to Fly Fish in April on the White River
Temperatures in April in Arkansas hover right around 65 degrees. It’s ideal weather for fly angling. You won’t spend the day overheating and or freezing. However, if you’re wading, it can be chilly due to the extended time in the water, but a few breaks throughout the day will make life more comfortable.
As far as gear is concerned, go ahead and bring a 9’ 6-weight rod. On your reel, Weight Forward or Sinking Tip line is necessary with a 12 foot 4x leader. This will be able to handle all of the trout you may catch in the river. Plus, you can manage the currents a bit more with this setup.
Resources for Fly Fishing on the White River
- Here is a link to the Arkansas Game and Fish Department.
- Here is a link to the Arkansas Trout Unlimited chapter.
2. Yellowstone River in Montana- Great Spring Fly Fishing!
The Yellowstone River in Montana is legendary year round. The beautiful views of surrounding mountains combined with massive trout makes for a wonderful time on the water. Anglers can fill their cravings of dry, nymph and streamer fishing. The runoff hasn’t yet started by April so water conditions are manageable.
Where to Fish on the Yellowstone
The Joe Brown Trailhead is a solid choice for access to the Yellowstone River. Be careful of Montana regulations. Access points can be difficult to find. The landowners own everything except the water so if you’re planning on wading, be sure you have plenty of room to maneuver and the water isn’t too high.
Recommended Flies to use on the Yellowstone River
The spring gives anglers a chance to use streamers, nymphs and dries. Go ahead and use any sort of Stonefly for your nymph rig. Also, the Blue Winged Olives and March Browns will work for dry fly options. Large bait fish streamers are great to swing for some of the larger fish.
Fly Shops in the Livingston Area
- The Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, MT is a great shop that has all sorts of insight on the Yellowstone. They offer guided fly trips and are a great starting point for any adventure in Montana.
- Park’s Fly Shop is another option for anglers looking to fish the Yellowstone. It’s located on the north entrance of the park.
What to Pack for Yellowstone Rivers’s Unpredictable Weather
The Yellowstone is a big body of water. Therefore, you’ll want a 6 or 7-weight to help make your way around the water. Use a sinking tip line to help reach the bottom with your nymphs. Weight Forward line is another option to use that will work with all three types of fishing.
Fly Fishing in Montana is a bucket list item for lots of fly fishers. If you do get there you might want to make the most of your trip. Here’s an article that describes 21 of the Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana
Also, April in Montana can hover around 45-50 degrees. Be sure you have enough layers under your waders. The water will be cold, but layering and breaks will make life more bearable.
Livingston Montana is the home of Fly Fishers International. If your in the area it would be worth your time to visit the FFI Museum and Library a great spot to learn some fly fishing history and immerse one’s self in hundreds of fly fishing books.
3. Deschutes River in Oregon – Fabled for Trout
The Deschutes River in Oregon is another world class fishery. Anglers from all over the world travel to fish the 200-mile river. It is full of rainbow trout, Steelhead and brown trout. It’s broken up into three different portions: Upper, Middle and Lower. The upper portion flows through the Deschutes National Forest and is great for anglers looking to wade and catch browns and rainbows. The lower portion holds both trout and steelhead. Below Pelton Dam is the best fishing and the Summer Steelhead will make an appearance late in the season.
Where to fish on the Deschutes River
The Lower Deschutes is the best fishing of the entire river. This access point near the town of Maupin is a great spot to start. Maupin is a wonderful fly fishing town with all sorts of shops and opportunities to grow in your knowledge of fly fishing in the Northwest.
Recommended Flies to use on the Deschutes
The Salmon Fly hatch in late April and May is what makes the Deschutes so attractive. The fish are anxious to feast on the flies. The Giant Salmonfly is nearly 3 inches in size. Plus, the Golden Stonefly makes an appearance every year.
Also, March Brown mayflies begin to hatch in April and are a common food for the rainbow trout.
- The Deschutes Angler Fly Shop in Maupin is a must stop for anyone looking to fish the river.
- The Fly & Field Outfitters in Bend is another good option for anglers looking to tackle the Deschutes.
What to Pack for Fly Fishing on the Deschutes
Similar to the other rivers on this list, this is a large body of water. You’ll need a solid pair of wading boots and waders. Also, heavier equipment like a 9’ 7-weight fly rod will allow you to maneuver your way all the way around the water. Sinking Tip or Weight Forward line are a must.. Depending on the time of day, you’ll find the hatches and dry fly fishing becomes exceptional. You’ll wish you packed your Weight Forward line!
GUIDE TIP: When dry fly fishing, don’t cast right on top of a surfacing fish. Cast a little ways upstream from where you saw it surface and let the fish strike.
4. Shenandoah River in Virginia – Smallmouth Bass!
The Shenandoah River in Virginia is a bit different from all of the other rivers on this list. It is a haven for smallmouth, largemouth, musky and many other types of fish. Also, the tributaries are often cold water fisheries full of Brook Trout. The diversity of the Shenandoah Valley leads to some of the most entertaining fishing in the United States. The peak smallmouth season is from April-September. It’s a slow moving river with few riffles and runs. It’s a great river to fish for anyone looking to target something besides trout.
Where to Fish on the Shenandoah
Island Ford Bridge is a solid access point on the Shenandoah. It provides a nice amount of Bank Fishing and is a great spot to launch a canoe or fishing craft.
Recommended Flies to use on the Shenandoah
Clawdads in size one or two are great flies. Also, CK baitfish in size one or two are going to work well. Depending on the water clarity, you’ll need to change the color of the fly.
In dark, high water go ahead and use darker colors. In lower clear water, use these same patterns but in smaller sizes and lighter patterns.
Fly Shops for the Shenandoah
- Mossy Creek Fly Fishing is a nice fly shop right outside of the Shenandoah Valley. They provide guided trips and can offer insight into a variety of types of fishing.
- Murray’s Fly Shop is another option near the Shenandoah Valley. Take advantage of the expert insight into the surrounding waters.
Recommended Fly Fishing Gear for the Shenandoah river
The average temperature of Virginia in April is 60 degrees. The weather won’t be too cold and the water temperatures will be bearable.
The Shenandoah is a great river for a canoe or kayak. Talk to the folks at either the fly shop or a canoe livery like Massanutten Adventures (link to website). Renting a canoe is perfect for exploring the waterway.
To fight those larger smallmouths, you’ll want a 9’ 7-weight rod. These fish are some of the best fighting freshwater fish. To reach the necessary depths, go ahead and use Weight Forward or Sinking Tip line. Your large streamers will need to create quite a commotion in the deeper parts of the river.
5. San Juan River in New Mexico
The San Juan River provides the best fly fishing in the Southwest United States. Large trout find their home all throughout the cold water stream. Plus, the surrounding scenery of Northwest New Mexico is well worth your while. You aren’t wasting your time even if the fish refuse to bite. The weather can be a bit volitile, but fishing gets better each spring day so don’t let a little incliment weather keep you off of the water.
Where to Fish on the San Juan
Try fishing the Upper Flats or the Texas Hole. The slower moving waters makes life easier. The Upper Flats are located right near the Catch & Release section at the beginning of the river. The Texas Hole is in between the Upper Main Channel and the Middle Main Channel. There are plenty of maps located online for the river, but here is the location of the Texas Hole:
Flies to Use on the San Juan
The spring sometimes makes it difficult to identify your dry fly on the water. Therefore, using a size 16 Elk Hair Caddis or Parachute Adams will help you catch fish. These are the best dries to use in the spring.
Also, baetis and BWO’s are going to catch fish in the spring.
Fly Shops on the San Juan River
- Fisheads San Juan River Lodge is a solid option for anyone looking for insight on the San Juan. It has guided float trips as well as a slough of equipment to choose from when planning your trip on the San Juan.
- Float N’ Fish is a large fly shop located near the San Juan. It has everything you would need to start your trip!
What to Pack for Northern New Mexico
Packing for a trip to the San Juan in the spring can be tricky. Be sure to have warm clothes. Snow can pop up at any time! Plus, the water is going to be quite cold. You’ll want layers, a hat and gloves.
As far as equipment goes, use a 5 or 6-weight rod. You’ll be dry fly fishing in the spring so you don’t want too heavy of a rod. Use Weight Forward line to help yourself be a bit more versatile. Also, have a large selection of flies in your box. Trial and error is sometimes the best method.
GUIDE TIP: Big water can be frustrating. Do your best to locate pools or seams that the fish might like. They don’t want to constantly be fighting currents.
6. Brule River a Northern Wisconsin Fishing Hot Spot
The Brule River spring Steelhead run is a wonderful test for anyone looking to catch big fish. Located in Northern Wisconsin, the 44-mile long river receives fish from Lake Superior. It’s a beautiful fishery with everything from salmon, brown trout and steelhead. The spring isn’t an easy time to fish to in Northern Wisconsin, but it’s well worth your time.
Where to Fish on the Brule
The river is divided into two separate areas. The mouth, on the edge of Lake Superior, all the way to Highway 2 is full of Steelhead and salmon. The section below Highway 2 is home to the brown and rainbow trout.
There is plenty of access on the Brule. Try this spot above the Brule Dam. It’s in a Forest State Nautral Area so it may require some hiking, but it’s nicer to access some of the lesser fished areas.
Flies to Use on the Brule
Blue Winged Olives, Midges and Sculpin are some of the best flies to use in the spring on the Brule. Also, egg patterns and large streamers are great to use for the Steelhead and Salmon.
Any sort of Egg Sucking Leech or Woolly Bugger in size 4-6 are going to catch fish. Remember, if the water is darker, use a darker fly.
What to Pack for Tossing Flies on the Brule
The Brule can be a lot to handle. Therefore, you’ll need anything from a 7 to 10-weight rod. Also, use 12-15 foot leaders between 2-3x. You’ll want a Sinking Tip line if you plan on swinging streamers. In the spring, a dead drift or swing is going to be your best bet to capture a Steelhead.
The temperatures can hover right around 45 in the spring. Plus, it’s not uncommon for quite a bit of rain to fall. Waterproof layers underneath your waders will make life much more bearable. Don’t be afraid to overdress. You’ll likely be glad for it.
GUIDE TIP: It’s always nice to carry polarized sunglasses when fly fishing. They’ll help take some of the glare off of the water.
7. South Platte – Fly Fishing for Trophies
The South Platte is not last on this list due to the fishing quality. It’s an extremely productive fishery in Southern Colorado that produces all sorts of large fish in the spring. Most say there are around 7,000 fish per mile.
The trout begin to spawn in the early spring and need to feed themselves! Early spring is a great time to catch a large fish.
Where to fish on the South Platte
There are numerous access points to the South Platte, but one of the more productive ones is near Lake George, CO. Here is the access point:
Flies to use on the South Platte
Blue Winged Olives, Stoneflies and Midges are going to find fish. Use these in size 14-18 and be sure to fish them slower. The water is still going to be a bit chilly in April so don’t be in a rush. Be patient and let the flies do the work.
What to Pack for Fly Fishing in April
Packing for a trip to the South Platte in the spring is similar to packing for the San Juan. It’s difficult to prepare for all of the inclement weather you might face. However, a nice set of waders with waterproof clothes will help.
There is a variety of water to fish on the South Platte. As a result, you’ll want a 6-weight rod to handle all of the different types of water. Don’t forget to bring your Weight Forward line to help you fish dries, nymphs and streamers.
April Fly Fishing – Why
For me April is the kick-off to a new season of fly fishing. The spring sunshine sinks in and warms you and the rivers we love. I’ve found time on the water clears my mind and allows me to think more clearly.
Take a good look at your gear at this time. Start cleaning and treating your fly lines and work into organizing your fly boxes. It’s also a great time to restock your fly box with most of the fly shops fully stocked for the new season.
More April Fly Fishing Articles
- April is a great place for Steelhead fishing in the Great Lakes region. Read about 17 Favorite Steelhead Flies: That Really Work.
- Lots of northern folks might be looking for some warmer weather but still avoid the crowds. I love fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Here’s an article describing where to go. 12 Best Places to Fly Fish in the Smoky Mountains another great place to go is North Carolina here are 16 Places in North Carolina to Toss a Fly
- Bass will be starting to get active in many parts of the country in April. Read about the flies you should be carrying in this article. 21 Proven Bass Flies