Fly Fishing in Devils Lake, North Dakota
North Dakota is one of those places that is perfect for hardcore outdoor adventurers. The conditions aren’t always easy to navigate, but hard work is always rewarded. Fly fishing in the Devils Lake area will give you a true appreciation for still water fly fishing. The fish grow to be huge and the fish count is always high. It’s absolutely worth a visit if you’re anywhere near the area.
Geography and Topography
The land around Devils Lake is filled with lush forests and wide open prairies. It’s a true picture of the beauty of the midwest. There isn’t much in terms of elevation change, and the lake covers 330 square miles of land. It’s the epicenter of all things in this Northeast portion of the state.
There aren’t many unique geographical features in the area, so as long as you’re content with spending your entire time fishing, you’ll be more than okay.
Type of Water
As mentioned earlier, Devils Lake covers over 300 square miles of land and it reaches depths upwards of 1,500 feet. It naturally flows into the Sheyenne River, so there’s a ton of water for anglers to cover.
The 300 miles of shoreline often make for some phenomenal fishing. Most shallow portions of the lake are clear with a decent amount of cover and vegetation. As a result, there are healthy populations of perch and walleye. However, the primary targets for fly anglers are the pike and muskie.
The amount of launches and marinas spread across the lake make it easy to access almost every part of the lake you want.
While some of the surrounding rivers have good fishing, Devils Lake is going to be the most productive and you have a true chance to land a giant.
Fly fishing isn’t possible on Devils Lake from November through mid-March. From April to October, however, fly fishing is more than possible.
The spring and fall see average temperatures in the mid-50s and 60s. In the summer, the average is generally in the mid-70s and low-80s. It doesn’t see a ton of rain, so most days are going to offer great fishing conditions. The main thing anglers worry about is the high winds that are fairly common.
Fly Fishing on Devils Lake & Surrounding Waters
Devils Lake takes some time to learn. It’s a massive body of water with tons of acres that you’re able to cover. While it may take some time to get to the fish and find out where they’re hiding, it doesn’t take long to hook into them once you reach them. Time of year is especially important to keep track of when you’re looking to fish on Devils Lake.
Fly fishing isn’t overly popular on the lake, so you give yourself a great chance to land fish if you go after them with flies. They aren’t used to seeing them, so they’re always appealing to the fish. I absolutely love each of my visits to Devils Lake. I’ll spend time spin fishing, but as soon as I get serious about going after pike, I take out my fly rod.
Best Time of Year to Fish Devils Lake & Surrounding Waters
The best time to fish on Devils Lake is Mid-May to June. At this time of the year, the fish are shallow and eager to eat just about anything you throw their way. They’re eager to spend time in the warmer water after a long winter. The pike sit in the vegetation and near structure in 5-15 feet of water and will feast on your streamer patterns drifting nearby.
How To Access Devils Lake
There are around a dozen boat ramps on Devils Lake that you’re able to put your boat in or fish at if you don’t have access to a watercraft. My personal favorite access points are the Devils Lake Schwab Landing on the north side of the lake or the Graham’s Island Boating Access on the south side. Graham’s Island has a great campground and the pike population around the island is phenomenal.
Gear and Flies to Use
When I fish Devils Lake, I am almost always targeting pike and musky, so I’m using heavy gear. I like to use an 8-weight or 9-weight 9’ fast action rod. As mentioned earlier, the wind can be a challenge, so I like the power that a fast action rod provides. I use a matching 8 or 9-weight large arbor reel with 9-weight sink tip or floating line depending on the depth I’m fishing.
I always bring a 0x or 1x leader with some wire to tip it with when I’m going after pike.
For flies, I use a chartreuse size 2 or 4 Clouser Minnow, size 4 Barry’s Pike Fly, a size 4 Banger as well as the Northwoods Ninja. These are all streamer patterns that are bright and move quite a bit of water. The Umpqua Baitfish is another favorite of mine. My goal is always to find bright flies that create action. I will also use a large popper if I want to use a topwater fly.
Recommended Fishing Techniques
Fly fishing for pike is best done in fairly shallow water near vegetation. You can also find them on the edge of drop-offs.
If you’re fishing in shallow water near vegetation, cast along the edge of the weeds and make some hard strips towards yourself. When pike want to eat, they will attack your fly with some serious aggression. I like to make two hard strips and let it pause for a second or two. I will continue this pattern for most of the day.
If I’m fishing near a drop-off, I like to place my boat on the edge of my drop-off and imagine that it’s the edge of a weed line. I’ll do slow, long strips and let it fall off the edge. Otherwise, I’ll do short panicked strips to mimic a fleeing baitfish.
It’s important to be able to switch up your techniques when fly fishing for pike. They rarely respond to the same type of stripping technique, so don’t be married to one method.
Type of Fish Near Devils Lake
Pike, walleye, perch and bass are some of the most popular types of fish on Devils Lake.
Devils Lake, North Dakota isn’t a traditional fly angling community, but that is what makes it a special place. It can pay to stand out and use a different method especially if it’s been a particularly busy fishing season. It’s well worth the effort if you’re anywhere near Devils Lake. It’ll always be one of my favorite places to fly fish in the country.