Iowa Fly Fisher

 Yes, fly fishing in Iowa 

North American Midcontinent Rift Zone

Overview  All gauges  Around the high number = below dams.  Mid range = fish spread throughout. Around the low number = impoundments above dams or deeper pools downstream. Water clarity improves with stability.


Cedar  Osage 15.75 - 14.75ft.  Charles City 3.5 - 2.5 ft.  Otranto dam - Waverly dam; limestone changing to gravel and clay; northern pike, smallmouth bass, common carp


Shellrock  Rockford 9.5 - 9ft.  Shellrock 8.5 - 7.25ft.  Plymouth Pits - Shellrock dam; limestone changing to sand; northern pike, smallmouth bass, common carp


Winnebago  Mason City 3 - 1ft.  Fertile dam - Rockford; limestone; northern pike, channel catfish


Iowa  Steamboat Rock 6.5 (dam hopping, lots of float tubers) - 5.75 (good kayak travel w/ some wading) - 4ft. Alden dam - Eldora; limestone changing to gravel, sand; northern pike, smallmouth bass, smallmouth buffalo, common carp, channel catfish


Boone  Webster City 3 - 1.5ft.  Webster City dam - Bell's Mill park; mostly gravel/glacial rock, scattered limestone features; smallmouth bass, northern rock bass, native suckers, common carp, channel catfish


West Fork Des Moines  Humboldt 4.5 - 2ft.  Rutland - Humboldt; limestone: northern pike, smallmouth bass, common carp, channel catfish


East Fork Des Moines  Dakota City 8.5 - 7ft.  C26 - Frank Gotch park; limestone: smallmouth bass, common carp


Des Moines  Stratford 6.5 - 4ft.  Frank Gotch park - Saylorville lake;

Frank Gotch park - Ft. Dodge; limestone, clay; northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, common carp

Hwy. 20  - mouth of Brushy Creek; sand, gravel w/ scattered limestone; common carp, freshwater drum, smallmouth buffalo

Fraser dam - Ledges SP (Sentinel Rock); gravel/glacial rock, clay bluffs/pools, scattered coal, sandstone features; channel catfish, freshwater drum, white bass/wiper, flathead catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, common carp


Des Moines  Saylorville Lake 840ft. - Below this level expect bait on shoreline flats during late summer with an on-shore wind.  Above this level bottlenecks, etc. become more important. 

gravel flats, rip-rap features; largemouth bass, common carp, channel catfish, freshwater drum, white bass/wiper

stable, low - Wind, speedboats, algae blooms cloud the water.

stable or falling, mid-level - decent clarity

rising, mid level - Silt carried down the river clouds the water.

stable, high - decent clarity with some algae bloom upstream.


Des Moines  Saylorville Tailwaters Above 8.25 ft. the rock bar at the mouth of the emergency spillway is submerged and a kayak can reach the main backwater from Cottonwood Pier.  4.75ft. approximates Chad's number of 1800 cf/s.  Expect more fish, but less access above this number, fewer fish, but better access below. gravel bars, rip-rap features; smallmouth bass, freshwater drum, common carp, white bass/wiper, walleye, catfish.

USGS gauge -


Des Moines  Lake Red Rock

744 - 746ft. - Whitebreast creek above hwy. 14

746 - 750ft. - Competine creek floods Kennedy road on the south side of the lake.

750 - 755ft. -  Low-lying areas up Teter, Brush, Calhoun, Prairie, Walnut and several unnamed creeks begin flooding.

755 - 760ft. - Red Rock flows backward into Robert's Creek lake. Robert's and Wildcat creeks begin flooding Dubuque Rd.  Levees topped around waterfowl ponds near the towns of Runnells, Hartford, and Swan.

760 - 765ft. - hwy. 5 bridge over the South River.

782ft. - G28 floods near Brush Creek bridge, by now the situation is quite severe and should be avoided. 

Sandstone bluffs, but the water clarity and fly fishing action improves in flooded creek arms.  Flooded grass attracts frogs, baitfish, hatchling buffalo and carp -  these, in turn, attract; shortnose gar.

Gravel roads such as Dubuque Rd. and Gear St. often dead-end near the flood plain offering some degree of carry-down access.

Flood water involves dangers such as collapse of beaver dams, masses of floating logs and debris, current straining through culverts and fence lines, stranded snakes, rodents, spiders boarding your craft - avoid current, unnecessary contact with trees and plants, observable dangers like power lines, etc.


Des Moines  Red Rock Tailwaters 

0 - 683ft. fish moving out, backwater areas dry

683 - 689ft. access sandbar and rock piles near Ivan's campground

689 - 700ft. fish crowding in, backwaters full, no access at Ivan's


South Skunk  Mc Farland Park 1.5 - .5ft. ? Story City - Ames; gravel/glacial rock; smallmouth bass


North Raccoon  Sac City 8 - 6ft.  Lanesboro 8 - 6ft.  Jefferson 6 - 4ft.  Perry 6 - 4ft.  Sac City - Adel; gravel, sand, clay bluffs, numerous small dams; smallmouth bass, walleye, white bass, freshwater drum, common carp, channel catfish, rare shortnose gar


Middle Raccoon  Panora 5ft. (dam hopping, lots of float tubers) - 4ft. (good kayak travel, w/ some wading) - 3ft. 

Whiterock Conservancy (Coon Rapids); sandstone, sand, clay; common carp

Panora - Redfield; gravel/glacial rock changing to clay; common carp, smallmouth bass


South Raccoon  Redfield 4 - 2ft  Redfield - Van Meter; Sandstone, gravel changing to clay, sand; common carp, seasonal runs of walleye, smallmouth bass, white bass, freshwater drum, yellow bass


Raccoon  West Des Moines  Van Meter to Des Moines; A riffle between I-35 and Walnut Woods attracts carp during low water.


Thompson Fork of Grand  Davis City 1.5 - .5ft.  Talmage - Missouri border; The pools immediately above and immediately below Davis City are key spots.  alternating limestone and clay; goldeye, longnose gar, shortnose gar, black buffalo, smallmouth buffalo, channel catfish, common carp

Driftless Region

Overview  All gauges  Most of these rivers have trout in their upper sections and/or are fed by trout streams.  Smallmouth bass, rock bass, native suckers, common carp, walleye, and northern pike become more numerous downstream.  Features vary, but there is comparatively more limestone and deep clay pools and less gravel/glacial rock and sand.

Wapsipinnicon  Independence 

Maquoketa  Manchester 

Volga  Fayette 

Turkey   Cresco,  El Dorado, Garber 

Upper Iowa  Lime Springs, Decorah, Dorchester 


Border Rivers

Mississippi  Lansing (Pool 9), Mc Gregor (Pool 10), Dubuque (Pool 12), Camanche (Pool 14), Muscatine (Pool 17) Calm, weedy areas of main pools and backwaters attract; grass carp, common carp, largemouth bass, bowfin, shortnose gar, longnose gar.  Dams, spillways, pumping stations and other rip-rap features attract the species above and; smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, sauger, yellow bass, white bass, freshwater drum, catfish.

Big Sioux  Sioux City 


Missouri  Gavin's Point dam, Sioux City, Blair, Omaha, Plattsmouth  Wing dams and/or flooded grass may hold; grass carp, common carp, shortnose gar, longnose gar, goldeye.