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Fly Fishing in Minnesota- Fly Fishing in Duluth, Minnesota

Fly Fishing in Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is widely known as one of the best places in Minnesota to fish. The town borders Lake Superior, so the miles of shoreline and countless rivers and streams are ideal for fly anglers of all levels. Most anglers in the Duluth area choose to fish with traditional spinning gear, so the fish aren’t used to seeing flies. Once you leave the outskirts of Duluth, you have access to almost every type of fish you want.

Geography and Topography

Duluth is only two hours north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but it looks like an entirely new world. The tall hills, lush pine forests and lava rock that covers much of the landscape near Duluth make anglers feel as if they’re high in the mountains.

High cliffs and heavy vegetation are fairly standard for bodies of water near Duluth. Anglers have the opportunity to hike into to smaller rivers and streams or drive to nearby freshwater lakes filled with a variety of fish. It’s a beautiful area that gives people a chance to escape some of the business of other areas.

Type of Water

Many of the rivers and streams feed in or out of Lake Superior, so they’re generally cold and clear. Most are spring fed, so they rarely freeze in the winter and stay filled all throughout the year. Some of the rivers are large and flow at high CFS, but most are small streams that are fairly similar to what anglers would find in the western United States. These streams have populations of trout and many will have a Pink Salmon run that occurs in the fall.

Pocket water, deep pools and large eddies are standard for most moving water. Besides Lake Superior, which is one of the deepest lakes in the United States, most freshwater lakes are 40-60 feet deep and cover several acres. Most have populations of bass, pike, walleye, and even trout.


Duluth in the winter is extremely cold. Fly anglers won’t have much access to great fly water in those cold months, so it’s best to fish in the spring, fall and winter. In the spring, anglers will find a decent amount of snow runoff and temperatures in the 50s and 60s. 

In the summer, Duluth generally stays fairly pleasant. The highs are in the low 80s and the mornings and evenings are around 50 degrees. The fall temperatures are very similar to what anglers would see in the spring.

There is a decent amount of precipitation that keeps the streams and rivers flowing throughout the warmer months.

Fishing on the Lester River & Surrounding Waters

The miles and miles of streams and rivers that surround Duluth are wonderful, but they present their own challenges. One of the best rivers, however, is the Lester River. It actually flows right through the heart of Duluth and has a great trout and salmon population. Anglers are able to test their skills in a variety of ways due to the pools, seams, and pockets that fill this river. Plus, the wider sections of the Lester are great holding spots on those especially warm days when the fish want to be lower. 

This 20-mile river is one of the best fishing rivers in the state. Large fish from Lake Superior migrate up the waters each year giving anglers a chance at landing a trophy. 

Other streams around within 20 minutes of Duluth include Chester Creek, Amity Creek, Buckingham Creek, Coffee Creek, Keene Creek and Kingsbury Creek. All of them hold populations of rainbow and brown trout. Some even have native brook trout populations.

Best Time of Year to Fish the Lester River & Surrounding Waters

The best time of year to fish the Lester River and the surrounding is in the spring and early summer. In May and June, the flows are down from the early season runoff, but they aren’t low enough that fish aren’t willing to be active or move. In the spring, fish are doing their best to eat as much as possible to recover from the long winter and begin to prepare for the spawn in the fall.  

Best Time of Year to Fish the Lester River & Surrounding Waters

Access to the Lester River is easiest near the Lester Park Golf Course. You can fish your way up and downstream all the way down to Lake Superior. Depending on your technique and preference, you can spend a few days covering all of this water.

Gear and Flies to Use

On Lester River, anglers are going to have success with egg patterns, Pheasant Tails, gnat patterns, Woolly Buggers as well as Prince Nymphs. Nymphs and small streamers are the name of the game near Duluth.

In terms of gear, a 4 or 5-weight 8’6” rod is perfect. None of the fish you’re landing are going to be too much for a 5-weight, but they’ll definitely give it a test. Make sure the reel you have matches the weight of the rod.

If you’re going after steelhead, you’ll want a 7 or 8-weight 9’ fast action rod with a matching large arbor reel.

Recommended Fishing Techniques

Nymphing is the name of the game on the Lester River. Since there are so many pockets and small pools, anglers can finesse their way around the river. Find a pocket or a seam, cast 15-20 feet above it and let your fly drift down into it. As the fly is drifting towards you, strip in any excess fly line and raise your rod tip. 

If you’re throwing streamers, look for deep sections of water. It could be cut banks, rock walls or even pools after the riffles. Cast your fly above the “strike zone” and let it drift into the deeper water. As it settles, give it a few hard strips and wait for the fish to chase it. This is a good method for steelhead fishing. 

If you’re fishing for salmon, stick with nymphing egg patterns. Find the slack water, cast your egg above it and let it drift down into the fish. Fish will be stacked on top of each other and absolutely love to eat eggs.

Type of Fish Near Duluth

Salmon, steelhead, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, bass and pike are some of the favorite fish for fly anglers in the Duluth area.


Duluth, Minnesota is a fly angler’s dream. While it may not produce the massive salmon one would find in British Columbia or the large brown trout found in Yellowstone, it offers privacy and seclusion that’s not common across the country. Take your fly rod and enjoy all this city has to offer.

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