Missouri probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of world class fly fishing destinations- a fact that the fishermen who live there are thankful for.
My fly fishing friends in Missouri will be shun me for writing this article, because Missouri’s fly fishing is (luckily) a well kept secret. But there are plenty of fish to go around, so here’s 13 of the best places for you to toss a fly in Missouri.
Best Places to Fly Fish in Missouri
1. Barren Fork Creek
Barren Fork Creek is a Blue Ribbon trout fishing area. That means the Missouri department of conservation manages the fishery specifically to produce trophy class trout. Fishermen are allowed to use only flies and artificial lures- no soft plastics. The daily harvest limit is one fish per day with a minimum size of 18 inches.
This is difficult water to fish, but once you figure it out you will be rewarded.
Where to Fly Fish on Barren Fork Creek
To get to the trout fishing on Barren Fork Creek, you’ll need to get on County Road A-D, which is accessible from Highway 19 and Highway 72. The trout will be in the first mile of water below Twin Springs up to the Sunklands Conservation Area. You’ll want to leave your boat at home for this one and wade fish instead.
Recommended Flies for Barren Fork Creek
- Avoid streamers, as the clear and shallow water makes for spooky fish.
- Focus on your basic nymphs, caddis and other small dry flies, and terrestrial patterns. The smaller the better.
2. The North Fork of the White River Wild Trout Management Area
The North Fork of the White River is part of one of the most famous trout rivers in the United States. This specific section holds notoriety for holding one of the southernmost wild rainbow trout populations. The river also holds massive brown trout that are stocked ever year, making for pleasant surprises during days filled with catching rainbows.
Where to Fish on The North Fork of the White River
The Missouri Department of Conservations has designated the river between Rainbow Springs and Blair Bridge as the Missouri Wild Trout Management Area of the North Fork River. This area is sometimes wadeable, but often times will require a boat. Check in with local fly shops to see what level the water is at and be aware of changes.
About 80% of the trout in this section are wild rainbows (it hasn’t been stocked since 1964) with the remaining 20% being big brown trout that have swam upstream.
Where to Fly Fish on North Fork of the White River
Recommended Flies for The North Fork of the White River
- Dark colored caddis flies in transition seasons, lighter colored in the summer. Size12-14. Size 6 black stoneflies during hatches.
- Size 6-12 stonefly nymph patterns during hatches and pheasant tails, rubber legs, midges, scuds, and worms in normal sizes when you there isn’t a hatch.
- If you’re looking for big brown trout, strip the biggest articulated streamer you’ve got.
3. The Current River
Part of the Current River is designated as a White Ribbon area, which means fishermen are harvesting smaller fish more often than in other types of trout water. But specific areas of the Current River are Blue Ribbon, which means there are trophy trout. This section of the river gives you a great chance at landing a brown trout over 20 inches and also holds a healthy population of both stocked and wild rainbows.
Where To Fish on the Current River
Walk in access to the Blue Ribbon section of the Current River can be found in the Montauk State Park. Enter the park and continue until you reach the Baptist Camp Access Point- park there. There are signs and well-worn paths designating the area as a Blue Ribbon Trout fishery, so it’s not hard to find.
Be aware of private land restrictions while wading.
Recommended Flies for the Current River
- Ants, hoppers, and other terrestrial patterns during the summer months.
- Size 22 zebra midges will work in between hatches.
- Leeches, Wooly Buggers, other small streamer patterns work as these fish tend to be opportunistic feeders.
- Huge Trico hatches occur in August and September, so be ready with some dries and emerges.
If you need help selecting flies for The Current River or anywhere else, checkout this FREE Downloadable Hatch Chart.
4. The Missouri Special Trout Management Area of the North Fork of the White River
Another spot on the world famous North Fork of the White River is the Missouri Special Trout Management Area, just down river from the Wild Trout Management Area we talked about earlier. This part of the river is annually stocked with thousands of Brown Trout, and they grow to massive sizes.
This par of the river is a large body of water, so you’ll likely need a boat or canoe to fish it. There are also private sections to be aware of to avoid trespassing.
5. Blue Springs Creek
Blue Springs Creek is another trophy Blue Ribbon trout stream in Missouri, just a stones throw from St. Louis. Though small enough to roll cast across, this river has a strong population of wild rainbow trout. The upper sections are on private property, by the rest of Blue Springs Creek can be publicly accessed through the Clue Springs Conservation Area.
Fish in this creek are easily spooked, so use a shorter rod and a longer leader. Size 12 to 18 nymphs and midges work well, and 12-14 dry flies. Be quiet and careful with your approach and you’ll catch fish.
6. Crane Creek
Another Blue Ribbon trout stream in Missouri is Crane Creek. Locally, it’s legendary and they try to keep it a secret. But it’s been featured in ESPN and a few fishing magazines, so the secret is pretty much out.
It’s mostly famous for being possibly the last water in the world to have the McCould River strain of rainbows. And these fish in this creek are all completely wild. So you may spend your day catching fingerlings, or you may hook a monster.
People find success fishing around the dairy farm, as well as fishing downstream of the town of Crane. Fish small caddis, mayflies, and stoneflies alongside your typical hare’s ears and terrestrials- the smaller the better.
7. Eleven Point River
The Eleven Point River is protected by the US Forest Service and is another Blue Ribbon Trout Fishery (told you Missouri is stacked). It has over 20 miles of trout fishing waters from the Green Spring Branch to near Riverton. Eleven Point River is very similar to Current River in terms of the fishing as well as the regulations and management.
The trailheads are not the easiest to find, as the river runs through the rugged Mark Twain National Forrest, but once you make it you’ll be in heaven The River is both beautiful and filled with eager trout. Be aware of black bears and mountain lions, though, while you’re enjoying the fishing.
8. Mill Creek
Also in the Mark Twain National Forrest is Mill Creek. This is another smaller creek with a healthy population of rainbow trout. Most fish in this stream are small, but sometimes they break 14 inches.
The key to fishing Mill Creek is not letting the fish see you. So be prepared for high sticking, dapping, and other stealthy maneuvers to keep them blind. Fishing on Mill Creek technically extends from Yelton Spring to Little Piney Creek, but the best fishing starts at Wilkins Spring.
9. Little Piney Creek
Little Piney Creek is a White Ribbon trout fishing area. That means that there are no bait restrictions and people can harvest up to 4 fish per day. So, trout in these areas are regularly stocked and don’t reach as large of sizes. But it’s still a great place to fish in the winter time.
Little Piney Creek is still in Mark Twain National Forest, and is also managed by the US Forest service. The place is a beautiful place to wet a line. Since these are stocked trout, use patterns that are aggressive. Glo-bugs, streamers, big hoppers, and other large terrestrial patterns all work well for trout.
In the summer, if you fish Little Piney you’re going to want to target smallmouth bass. Fish the deep holes and drift your streamers right past their noses.
10. Spring Creek
Spring Creek is similar to Blue Spring Creek, as it’s another small trout stream in the Northern Ozarks, and like Blue Spring, Spring Creek is full of eager trout. Most fishermen don’t come here for the quality of fishing, though; it’s to get away from the crowds. Though it’s technically a Blue Ribbon trout stream, Spring Creek is usually full of smaller fish- 14 inches would be a trophy.
On Spring Creek, the best way to catch trout is to use small nymphs and big dries. For nymphs, think size 14-20, while leaning towards size 18. And for dries, use size 12 to 14.
11. Lake Taneycomo
Trout fishing Lake Taneycomo will actually take you to the tail waters beneath the dam, and it will fish more like a large river than a dam. This is one of the best places to fish for big trout in Missouri, as the rainbows in Lake Tanycomo are often referred to as “footballs.”
Taneycomo is home to two distinct trout fisheries, both productive and beautiful. The upper section is wadeable and extends from Table Rock Damn to the mout of Fall Creek. This area is flies and lures only, and has a 4 trout daily limit with only one being a brown trout. There are some massive trout here.
Below that, from Fall Creek to the dam, there are no bait restrictions, but the same harvest restrictions. Wading and fishing from the bank is borderline impossible, so you’ll need a boat to fish here. Taneycomo is a unique trout fishery at this point, and fishing it may seem odd to many people, as the water looks “boring.”
13. Meramec River
The Meramec River has 8 miles of fishable trout waters and is a popular destination for local fishermen. Getting to the river can be difficult though, which makes the fishing all the better. The bank access is limited, so on crowded days you may still be alone on the river.
You can access Meramec from the pay-to-park trout park and the Highway 8 bridge. There are a few famous holes on this river, but I’ll keep them a secret to avoid upsetting the natives.
14. Roubidoux Creek
This is another quality trout fishing location, with parts designated White Ribbon, and others Red. It is less fished than other places we’ve talked about, and therefore receives fewer stocked fish. You can still tear them up if you know what you’re doing, though.
Rainbow trout and Brown trout alternate habitats during the different seasons, with rainbows downstream from summer until winter, and the browns replacing them in the spring. Around here, the brown trout are particularly receptive to big streamers. So tie on some meat and get to stripping.
As you move downstream, you’ll begin to encounter more and more warm water species: small and largemouth bass. This is actually a great smallmouth fishery, so give it a try if you get a chance.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in Missouri
If you’re fly fishing in Missouri, your typical trout fishing setups will work for you. A 9 foot 5 weight with floating line will be great in most situations.
If you’d like a recommendation, check out the TFO BVK Fly Rod. I’ve written about it in this article. Recommended Fly Rods
But, if you’re using two rods, that changes things. I would recommend taking a 6-weight rod with both floating and sinking line- floating for dry flies and nymphs, and sinking in case you decide to strip streamers at big browns. I’d also recommend a 3 or 4 weight for some of the smaller streams in the Mark Twain National Forrest.
There is plenty of fishing that you can enjoy by wading, but having a boat opens up possibilities on the larger water. Fish Missouri if you get a chance no matter what, but you’ll have a blast if you can find a boat.
Check with the local fly shops around the rivers you’re fishing to know what’s hatching, but when in doubt throw terrestrials and streamers in the warm months, and small nymphs and scuds all the time.
Official References for Fly Fishing in Missouri
Missouri obviously has incredible trout fishing, but you need to be aware of the regulations and laws affecting the fishing and access to the water you’re fishing. Use these resources to keep yourself on the water out of jail.
- Missouri Department of Conservation Fishing: https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish
- Missouri Trout Areas: https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish/trout-areas
- Fly fishing clubs: http://missouritrout.com/clubs/index.htm
- Other resources: http://www.missouritrouthunter.com/