June 12, 2024
Kankakee, Illinois

Whenever I mention that I fly fish to a fellow angler, he (or she) inevitably inquire whether I prefer fishing for trout or smallmouth bass. When I answer that trout and smallmouth bass are both OK, but that I also enjoy catching walleye, they look at me like I just deplaned from a spaceship.

True, fly fishing and walleyes are not often used in the same sentence, but the times they are changing. Fly fishermen who think outside of the box catch all varieties of freshwater fish on flies.

While a single fly may catch all of the species mentioned above, certain patterns are preferred when targeting specific fish. One can purchase many of the requisite patterns from fly shops, or one can choose to tie their own versions. I’m amazed at the numerous internet sites that offer fly tying instructions – even free videos – for many of the popular patterns.

My Technique

Fly fishing for walleyes, or any other species, requires 3 fish-specific considerations – equipment, fly patterns, and technique.

I recommend a 5 or 6 weight, 9-foot good quality fly rod. You don’t have to spend a fortune on the rod, but the better it’s quality, the more you’ll enjoy casting with it. The reel should be set up with 150 to 200 yards of backing connected to the rod weight-appropriate line. Depending upon the depth and speed of the current in the river, a line with a sinking tip section is a good starting point. I use a 3-foot, 12-pound test leader tied to a 3-foot, 6-pound test tippet.

There are 2 patterns that work best for me when I’m fly fishing for walleyes. One is a Clouser Deep Minnow. I tie this pattern on a No.2 Matzuo plain shank offset hook to resemble a fire-tiger perch.

The other pattern is my own creation that I call the K3 RiverBug. The K3 was born when I set out to tie the ‘perfect’ crayfish fly that would be irresistible to the legendary Kankakee River trout and smallmouth,

I was overwhelmed by the many crayfish variations that are out there in Google-land. on the internet. In every instance, the creators of these variations claimed that theirs was the best crayfish pattern they ever used. I picked the best parts of several patterns and tied the K3 on a Mustad No. 4 – 79580 streamer fly hook. Walleyes love this fly.

Acquired proper Equipment

Once you’ve acquired the proper equipment and selected your pattern, the key to your ultimate success is your technique. Of course, I’m assuming that you’re going to be fishing in a walleye-rich environment, which in most instances would be either a 4 to a 10-foot hole between gravel bars or a post-riffle run with a depth of 3 to 5 feet. The main variable in either case in the weight of the pattern.

I fish the Clouser with a cross-river swing technique, using a variety of retrieves. I start by using a medium-speed strip. If that doesn’t work, I slow things down and let the Clouser meander through the swing, giving it a few tantalizing strip-and-stops along the way.

Keep your rod tip close to the water, pointing at the fly. Watch your line and set it hard when you see it twitch. Walleyes will usually hit it on the drop after a strip, and at the end of the swing.

Although I use a similar retrieve with the K3 Bug, I’ve had excellent results using an up-river dead-drift technique that nymph fishermen use for trout. Long casts aren’t necessary here. In fact, too much line out can reduce strike detection and can cause you to miss hook-sets.

Float detectors are optional, but free nymphing with the K3 lets you feel it bump along the bottom, clicking on rocks and attracting the attention of Mr. Bug-eyes. Keep your rod tip 2 to 3 feet off the water and follow the pattern downriver. Watch your line and set it hard when you see atypical movement.

Beautiful Kankakee River State Park for Fishing (Recommended)

The city of Kankakee is located in Kankakee County in the state of Illinois. Kankakee lies approximately sixty miles south of Chicago. As of the 2000 census, the city of Kankakee had approximately 27,000+ residents that cover only about twelve square miles. Although the city itself may be small it does have a lot to offer including outdoor activities and a Kankakee river.

Kankakee is home to one a spectacular park. Kankakee River State Park has plenty to offer in terms of outdoor fun. Kankakee Park is especially popular among hunters. Hunters of all sorts can enjoy hunting deer, duck, pheasant, rabbit and fox just to name a few.

If you would rather enjoy a day of leisurely Kankakee river state park fishing has plenty of that as well. The Park is also great for picnicking, camping or even snowmobiling during the winter months.