Fly Fishing in Niobrara, Nebraska
Niobrara, Nebraska is a small town in the northern part of the state, but its proximity to some great fishing water makes it a great home base on your next trip to or through Nebraska. Located right on the South Dakota and Nebraska border, it’s close to the Missouri River, Niobrara River as well as some small creeks that hold good fish populations.
Geography and Topography
The land around Niobrara isn’t unlike the rest of the state of Nebraska with bluffs, valleys and scattered forests. If you’re spending time on the river, you’ll be surrounded by a variety of trees and heavy vegetation, but you’ll also be able to travel high onto the bluffs and overlook the entire river valley.
It’s a surprisingly beautiful stretch of land located in a primarily flat portion of the state. The large rivers nearby make for a more unique landscape with ample adventuring opportunities.
Type of Water
The Missouri River is located north of town and this specific section is extremely wide and can present a challenge to fish without the proper knowledge. The Niobrara River is a tributary of the Missouri and flows right through the heart of town. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission stocks the Niobrara regularly. This is a much smaller and more manageable body of water compared to the Missouri. Anglers are able to attack the seams, riffles and pools from shore.
Another small stream, Verdigre Creek, is only a few miles long but it has some of the best trout fishing in the entire state. It’s a small stream that generally only gets to be 10-20 feet wide. There are great runs, cut banks and small pools that follow these few miles. There are around 200 or so trout stocked per week in this creek. Plus, it has a nice population of wild brown trout.
This section of Nebraska has some unique water that gives those diehard fly anglers a chance at some local trout.
The winter months in Niobrara aren’t overly cold with an average temperature in the mid-30s during the day. The spring and fall see temperatures in the 50s and 60s during the day and into the 40s at night.
The summers in Niobrara can be quite hot with average temperatures falling in the high-80s in June, July and August. Plus, it’s a fairly dry climate, so water levels can fluctuate depending on the amount of precipitation each year.
Fly Fishing on the Niobrara River & Surrounding Waters
Fly fishing on the Niobrara isn’t overly challenging. The section near town is going to hold more catfish, pike as well as bass. So, you’ll be throwing streamers and other wet flies in this section. If you want the trout sustaining water, you’ll have to travel a little ways east towards the Box Butte Reservoir. Everything west of the Box Butte Reservoir is able to hold trout.
The Verdigre Creek flows south out of the Niobrara and it’s more of a technical stream. Since the fish are a mix of stocked and wild, you’ll have to make sure your finesse techniques are up to par. The fish can be spooky, but they aren’t heavily pressured, so you have more chances to make mistakes.
Best Time of Year to Fish the Niobrara River & Surrounding Waters
The best time of year to fish these waters is from March through June. The water temperatures are still cool and the fish are as active as they’ll be all year. The summer months can cause the fish to go as deep as possible and become extremely sluggish.
How To Access the Niobrara River
Access to the Niobrara River can be done via state highway 14 or Niobrara State Park on the east side of the town. The state park has the best access points because the river flows through quite a bit of private land.
Access to Verdigre Creek can also be done in town or near the Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area. Pay attention to No Trespassing signs, but you shouldn’t run into too many of them when fishing on the Verdigre.
Gear and Flies to Use
You can use a 5-weight 9’ rod when fishing on the Niobrara. The river is fairly wide and you have the potential to land other fish like pike, bass or even catfish, so you want to be prepared with the right rod. I’ll use a 5-weight large arbor reel with a 5-weight sink tip line. I like to get a bit deeper when fishing on the Niobrara.
I’ll use green or white Woolly Buggers (size 4) as well as crayfish streamers when fishing the Niobrara. I’ll also look to use poppers and chubby chernobyls due to the high population of terrestrial flies.
When fishing Verdigre Creek, I’ll bring along my 7’ 3-weight with a matching 3-weight reel. My 3-weight is a moderate action rod and provides some feel when I’m throwing small flies. For flies, I like to use Elk Hair Caddis (size 18), gnat patterns (size 20) as well as small flies like Pheasant Tail and Prince Nymphs. If it’s later in the summer, I throw a small chubby in the deeper water. Small buggers work great for streamers.
Recommended Fishing Techniques
Finding deep water is the name of the game on the Niobrara and Verdigre. As temperatures warm in the spring and summer, they get to the deep and slack water. I cast my fly upstream and let it slowly float into the slack water. If I’m throwing streamers, I’ll give them a few hard strips and see if anything chases.
If I’m throwing nymphs, I’ll let them drift through that slack water. I’ve found that dead drifting flies has proven to be the most effective technique.
When I’m dry fly fishing, I’ll look for rises and any action near the surface and make my cast. Odds are, fish are going to hit it if it’s anywhere they’re used to feeding.
I’ve found that staying patient, fishing deep and slow has given me the most success when I’m on these bodies of water. The fish aren’t always eager to strike, so it takes time to coax them into feeding.
Type of Fish Near Niobrara, NE
Brown and rainbow trout, pike, bass and a variety of panfish are what fly anglers mostly catch around Niobrara, Nebraska.
Small Midwest towns are hard to beat. They’re not filled with a massive amount of restaurants and trendy outdoor shops, but they are filled with kind people who know their outdoor activities. This small town gives anglers access to some great water that rarely gets pressured with flies.