Captain Will Winans
Founder and Owner, Big River Fly Fishing
Chicago Fly Fishing
I grew up in northern Illinois along the Kankakee River on the edge of the State Park. Some of my earliest and best memories come from mornings at first light, paddling out on the water with my dad and brothers. We’d launch canoes or fire-up the outboard and get upstream a mile or two and just float, casting lines at the bank. Whether we caught fish or not, I couldn’t get enough of the river, and the fishing was just an excuse to be out there.

When I was eleven, my family rented a cabin in Wyoming on a spring creek that overlooked the Tetons. Sam Moore lived just upstream and he introduced me to fly fishing and how to take a deeper look at the water.  That summer, I became entranced with the sport and this new way of seeing rivers, creeks and streams.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 1999 that I began to work in the fly fishing industry. Through my job at Orvis, I taught casting lessons in Central Park. Urban fly fishing was surreal. And during this time in New York, I discovered legendary trout waters of the Catskill Mountains.

In 2001, I moved to western Montana, where I explored endless miles of free-stone rivers and streams. Since 2006, I’ve been working with the guys at Chicago Fly fishing Outfitters, selling the industry’s best equipment and teaching countless fly fishing schools, casting lessons and fly tying classes, all built on Midwest fly angling. Chicago is such a great place to live; my roots are here and, my family is here. The river that I grew up on is an hour from my front door in the West Loop, and with all that has happened and changed over the years, the river hasn’t. It’s still there and the fishing is better than ever.

I’ve taken my passion and made it my life and if meshing career and pastime is bold or reckless, the result is the same. I love the sport of fly fishing for the rich opportunities to learn, teach and share experiences with others. Big River Fly Fishing is a culmination of these years.  I look forward to introducing this multi-layered sport to new anglers and changing the misconception that travel outside the Midwest or Illinois is required to find quality fishing. Join me on the river.