River sunset

Summer Update

The dog days of August have arrived, although out on the river, it doesn't quite feel like a sauna. Cooler nights and mornings are giving way to some very pleasant fishing weather. The big flows of June and early July have dropped down into what smallmouth bass like best, consistent conditions. Water temps are remaining in the upper 70's, throughout the day.

Thanks Boogle Bug
Primary objective: having fun 
Fat fish are working the rock shoals and chomping flies in riffles and runs. More importantly, the top-water bite is bringing lots of action. I thoroughly enjoy bouncing crayfish patterns along river bottom and feeling a tug, but watching giant smallies roll up on poppers in slow motion is tough to beat.

This is a visual sport and the river is looking good! Clearing water, active fish and river mallow in bloom, lining the islands are just a few reasons why I love this time of year in Illinois.

A huge and sincere thanks to everyone who has come out this year and expressed interest in this guide service. Plenty of spots are open for late August and September. I hope everyone is having a great summer and has had a chance to enjoy some quality time on the water.

Boulder Boat Works
Tracy's first day fly fishing 

Big Start to a Big Year

As a Midwesterner, I embrace the four seasons. That doesn’t mean I don’t like some more than others. This spring has been incredible on the river. Over the last few months I’ve watched the river transform.  Ice-scoured banks are now green shorelines of water willows. Wild red columbine blooms out from the limestone bluffs.  The river has come alive.

Baitfish imitations and crayfish patterns have brought countless big-shouldered fish to the boat. And now, as the river warms into the 70’s and begins to clear, smallmouth bass are starting to look up for top water flies.

There’s a first time for everything. And as I’ve launched this guide service, I have seen a lot of firsts: Anglers landing their first fish on a fly rod, first 20’’ smallmouth bass of the year (nice work Dave), first time getting buzzed by a Bald Eagle, first time being chased by a beaver, the first damsel and dragon flies showing up on the water…

 I invite you to book your first trip with Big River Fly Fishing and escape the city, the office, work, routine for a day on a drift boat.  Enjoy some of the best angling to be had during these warm months and experience a river that never ceases to amaze.  A BIG thanks to everyone who has come out with me this year to put a few bends in the rod and share some laughs.

As we move into summer, I’d like to point out a few fly fishing resources, new and long-standing in the Chicagoland area.  Congrats to Jeremy, Andy and the guys at DuPage Fly Fishing Co., who opened their doors this year in Naperville.  Illinois is now home to two outstanding fly shops, staffed with the friendliest, fishiest guys in the industry.  Pay a visit to Dupage Fly Fishing Co. or Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters, where I’ll be working on Tuesdays throughout the guiding season. Check out the gear, take a casting lesson or brag about your most recent trip on the river.

Summer dates are filling fast. Reserve your spot soon. For more info or to book your trip, feel free to contact me. Thank you for your continued interest.
Join me on the river.

Captain Will Winans

A New Guide Service for the Kankakee River, IL

Fellow Chicagoans, Chicagolanders, Illinoisans, Midwesterners and Travelers to the Midwest:

Welcome to Big River Fly Fishing. Spring, finally, it’s here and I am happy to announce the start of this new guide service and resource for the sport of fly fishing.
Signs of Spring along the Kankakee River

 I am taking reservations for full and half-day drift boat trips this May through October on the Kankakee River, just an hour’s drive south from Chicago. 
A nicely marked Spring fish
For those of you not familiar with this river, allow me to introduce you to a stretch of water, relatively unchanged since the last ice age.  This river valley gives way to an incredibly rich and too often overlooked biodiversity that has ultimately produced a smallmouth bass fishery made for fly angling. For most of us, this winter has been relentless and I can’t remember being this excited for spring and summer. It’s time to get outside.

The drift boat comes out of hibernation

I am humbled and thankful for the amount of folks who have expressed interest in my new venture. I look forward to sharing time on the water with old and new friends this season. I will be sending occasional fishing reports and news relevant to the Kankakee and other local fishing. for more info, check out the site and feel free to contact me. Join me on the River.  ~ Will
Sun setting over the State Park

While fishing the lower section of the Kankakee River State Park it's hard to miss these large limestone bridge abutments rising up from the river just downstream of Warner Bridge. To me they've become iconic landmarks of this stretch of river. There are five of them total and while they provide great fishing structure, current seams, and ambush points for smallmouth, they have a sort of ancient ruin-like appearance, or at least historic intrigue. Up close the masonry is impressive, considering how long they've remained in such a harsh environment. They’re built from native limestone with a few junipers shooting out from impossible spots up high.

Another thing, there's no bridge connecting them. So I knew that they were intended for an old railway which was never completed, but I've always wondered about the details. I did a little research and it turns out that they were built in 1871 for the short-lived Decatur and State Line Railway, which would have connected Decatur to Chicago. It’s surprising how little I could find on the Railroad or the unfinished bridge. Most of the information looks to be based on hearsay and foggy accounts. This seems to be a theme in Kankakee River history and I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing. I probably hear and read more legends than history from the area.

During the Civil War, railroads proved their importance in their ability to cut inland. Unlike waterways and canals, rails had been transporting materials and passengers that would build towns across dry land, over the prairie. “The West” or “Northwest” as it [the Midwest] was called then was part of a resulting explosion in railroad construction. Unfortunately, for the Decatur and State Line Railway, the Great Chicago Fire took place later in the same year the bridge was being built across the river. Funding from financiers dropped and the Decatur and State Line folded, while bigger players like Illinois Central and The Wabash Railroad continued on. I’m still searching for the rest of the story.

So we’re left with these giant stone structures that, if connected, could have built towns. Instead, they provide some pretty neat scenery and food for thought. Sometimes it isn’t just about the fishing.