Fly Fishing Alabama – 5 Top Destinations
Let’s be honest here, most folks don’t think fly fishing in Alabama is a good destination for anglers devoted to the fly rod. However, this kind of thinking might just be wrong. Really wrong.
There are not too many other states where a fly angler can catch some fine rainbow trout in classic southern cool waters and then use that same long rod for some nice bass and other warm water species on the big lakes. For the ambitious fly fishermen there is the opportunity to catch some large saltwater fish on that long rod in the waters of Mobile Bay and surrounding great saltwater fishing territory.
Here are some great fly fishing destinations in Alabama to consider.
Best Locations For Fly Fishing In Alabama
Noccalula Falls – Black Creek
It’s not often anglers get to work a fishery that is very recent in development. That’s the Noccalula Falls/Black Creek trout fishery. This developed cool weather trout fishing destination is only four years old, but it is already a great success.
Located in the park at Gadsden, this fishery is very easy to access, and just seeing the falls as they pour the water of the creek over a long drop which creates rainbows in the air is worth the trip. However, the rainbows which swim in the water below the falls make the trip even more attractive for fly anglers.
Fly fishing Black Creek can be a year-round treat, but the trout fishing season runs from October 15 to June 30. During hot summer, water levels get low and the trout don’t do well in the warm water. There may be some hold-over from year to year for the trout, but most trout don’t make it through the summer. However, fresh stockings in the fall provide plenty of good trout to catch during the cooler months.
Fishing the Black Creek/ Noccalula Falls water is basically a self-guided trip. The water immediately below the falls is a great place to find trout, and for two miles below, anglers can find trout in shady and deeper pockets.
“Three to five weight rods will work fine, and double-taper fly lines make roll casting easier, and this overhead-covered stream requires a lot of roll casting, “ says Frank Roden of Rainbow City Fly Anglers, a local fly fishing club.
The small creek also lends itself well to tenkara fishing. If you’re new to fly fishing, a tenkara rod is a cheap and easy-to-learn method of fly fishing that can greatly reduce your learning curve. For anglers just getting started chasing trout, a weekend on Black Creek just after stocking with tenkara gear is a great way to dip your toe into the experience.
“For flies for the Black Creek trout, pheasant tail nymphs, stone fly nymphs and wooly buggers all do well, “ Roden advised.
There is a large RV campground at the park, and this fly fishing trip can be combined with loads of other non-fishing activities in the Gadsden area- this is a good family trip. For more information on where to stay, places to eat and things to do while in the Gadsden area, visit the Greater Gadsden Area Tourism website.
The Sipsey Fork is most likely the southernmost classic Southern tailwater fishing spot for trout in the entire country. This flow which comes from the Smith Lake dam gives fly anglers cool, clear water for trout fishing and there are lots of trout here. This stream is stocked monthly year-round, so there are always trout for a fly angler to work.
Fly anglers, particularly waders, which this stream is perfect for, must be aware that rapid water rises are possible when water is released from the Smith Lake dam. A loud horn blows, and that is the signal to head for the shore and watch the water come up.
Randy Jackson from Riverside Fly Shop, which is a good source for all things fly fishing in Alabama, said that the rainbow trout in Sipsey Fork will eat small midge pattern flies and other sinking nymph bugs all of the time, and when there is a hatch of mayflies or other aquatic insects, some very good dry fly fishing can be had.
Willow Fly Hatch
All of the big north Alabama lakes have a very special phenomenon which is of great interest to fly anglers. Annually, unless the weather has been very strange, in early summer a mass hatch of big mayflies, Hexagenia, for those who like scientific terms, creates clouds of free fish food for the residents of the big lakes.
For Smith Lake, Guntersville, Wheeler, and Pickwick, when these mass hatches occur, fly anglers can catch a wide range of fish from big, beautiful bream of all kinds to bass, smallmouth bass especially love the hatches, and even catfish.
The hardest part of fishing these hatches is that they are unpredictable.
“Depending on the weather, these hatches can occur from the second week of May into the second week of June, and they can occur on different locations of the same lake on different time, “ Jackson said.
Although all of the fish which will be gorging themselves on the willow flies will eat small white or yellow popping bugs, Jackson recommended the “Sexy Hexy” fly which is a perfect imitation of the real bug.
Jackson recommended that fly anglers use a five or six weight fly rod for fishing the willow fly hatches. Some pretty big bass can be encountered and a heavier fly rod will give the angler a chance to land the bigger fish while still having fun with the bream.
Mobile Bay- Eastern Shore
For some real big fish fly fishing, it’s hard for an Alabama angler to beat the Mobile Bay system. This massive body of salt water mixed with several fresh water inflows provides a wide range of fly fishing opportunities.
On the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, fly anglers can expect to find very good fly fishing for redfish starting in April and running through early winter.
Captain Dan Kolenich guides fly anglers on the Eastern Shore of the system.
“Around Memorial Day the salt water pushes up the bay toward the Causeway, and anglers can fish the many docks on the Eastern Shore and the grass beds. Look for clear water- that’s the salty water,”Kolenich said.
Fly anglers will want to gear up a bit more for the big saltwater fish. An eight weight fly rod is about right.
“I like Clouser minnows and Kirk’s Rattle Rouser flies- a Louisiana fly with noise and lots of flash- but the reds are not picky,” Kolenich noted.
For visiting RV equipped anglers, Meaher Park on the Causeway is a great place to stay, and there are many motels and lodges on the bay for visiting anglers.
The western parts of Mobile Bay and the waters of Grand Bay in particular are great for fly anglers and the fish are willing to bite flies offered to them. However, this is big water, and with the many marshes and backwaters, it is very easy for an angler not familiar with the area to get disoriented. It’s best for visiting fly anglers to use the services of a guide, and for fly anglers, Captain Yano Serra is one of the best.
“I like fall and late spring best and during the dog days of summer, the fish are out in open water which makes them harder to find. I like to look for islands and oyster beds to find the reds and specks,” Serra said.
Getting rigged up right for Grand Bay fly fishing is not too hard. For cool weather fishing up the bayous and creeks for speckled trout, a six weight rod will work. For fishing for the much bigger and stronger redfish, an eight weight gives more power, and the eight weight helps casting heavier lines in windy conditions better. Clouser flies in a wide range of colors will attract both redfish and speckled trout.
“You’ve got to be able to cast out a ways- thirty-five to forty yards is a minimum, Serra advised.
For visitors to the Grand Bay area for fly fishing, Dauphin Island is a great place to stay, and there are nice beaches, great places to eat, and plenty of non-fishing activities for family members. There’s a big RV park on Dauphin Island and rental properties for visitors to stay.
Fly Fishing Alabama Final Thoughts
Although Alabama may not hold the traditional attraction of northern and western states when it comes to fly fishing destinations, maybe it’s time to change that perception. Good old Alabama offers a wide range of fly fishing possibilities including great cold water trout fishing, superb warm water fly fishing for panfish and bass, and some world-class saltwater fly fishing.
If that’s not enough to get the attention of a fly angler, it’s hard to imagine what would. There’s a world of fly fishing in Alabama.