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Fly Fishing in Wisconsin - Fly Fishing in River Falls, Wisconsin

Fly Fishing in River Falls, Wisconsin

River Falls, Wisconsin is located on the Northeastern side of the famous Driftless Region that occupies much of the Southwest portion of the state. The Driftless Region is one of the best small-stream trout fishing areas in the United States. It provides anglers with a chance to land wild and native fish in the midst of some beautiful country. Making River Falls your home base will give you access to dozens of streams and rivers filled with fish.

Geography and Topography

Like the rest of the Driftless Region, the landscape near River Falls is filled with tall limestone cliffs, cow pastures and beautiful forests. Thousands of years ago, glaciers failed to flatten this section of the country, so the high cliffs, rolling hills and spring fed streams seem to pop up out of nowhere.  

This 20,000 square mile section of country gives anglers a chance to have some of the most productive fishing in the lower 48 states. It’s an absolutely beautiful section of the United States that happens to have some world class fishing.

Type of Water

The Driftless Region near River Falls is filled with small, spring-fed streams as well as a few decent sized rivers. The water temperatures are cold and the aquatic plant life creates some highly oxygenated water that’s perfect for trout. Throughout the year, the water temperatures stay between 35 and 65 degrees. The streams are filled with deep pools and riffles as well as large eddies and the occasional section of pocket water.

The beauty of the water near River Falls is that many of the streams and rivers are fairly easy to read. If you’re able to find deep water, you’ll find fish. In the summers, they’ll look for shade and pools. In the colder months, they’ll also sit deep because the surface water is the coldest. 

While there are lakes in the River Falls area, the best fishing is going to be on the thousands of miles of streams and rivers.


River Falls in the winter is full of snow and freezing cold temperatures. The average temperature from November through March fluctuates between 10 and 30 degrees. Plsu, they see a massive amount of snow, so fishing isn’t always productive near River Falls in the winter.  

In the spring and fall, average temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees. In the summer, temperatures will get up into the 80s and even low 90s in July and August. Rain is common through the spring, summer and fall, and it helps keep the stream and river flow rates at a good level.

Fishing on the Kinnickinnic River & Surrounding Waters

The best body of water to fish near River Falls is the Kinnickinnic River. Known by the locals as the “Kinni”, this 25-mile river begins near River Falls and empties into the St. Croix River nearby. The Kinni has one of the highest populations of brown trout in the entire United States with many of them growing over 20 inches.  

Some of the other great streams and rivers nearby include Parker Creek, Kelly Creek, South Fork as well as the Rocky Branch. The River Falls watershed spreads across 170 miles, so there are a ton of nearby streams that are worth the effort of fishing.

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

The best time of year to fish the Kinni is in the early summer and fall. In the early summer, water temperatures aren’t too high and there are thousands of hungry fish waiting to fatten up after a long, cold winter. The water levels are high enough that food is continually being washed downriver and the fish are eager to eat. The upper reaches of the Kinni north of River Falls stays cool for most of the year, but the lower section of water about 10 miles from the St. Croix River can warm up in the summer, so it’s best to get out there early and land fish.  

As temperatures cool in the fall, fish go on another feeding frenzy to make sure they’ve fattened up enough for the winter. The winters near River Falls are long and the fish need quite a bit of fat to last.

How To Access the Kinnickinnic River

The Kinni is easy to access north of River Falls. The Iowa DNR has worked hard with landowners to create easements that allow anglers to cross private land to get to the public water. State Highway 65 north of the city runs along the Kinni for several miles providing over a dozen access points to fishable water. This is where I always like to start.

Gear and Flies to Use

The Kinni is known to have some sizable fish, so I like to use a 5-weight 9’ fast action rod. You’re able to throw all different types of flies on the river, so it’s best to be prepared for quite a bit of action.  

In the summer, terrestrial patterns like Chubby Chernobyls and Attractant Beetles are some of the best options.

Otherwise, you’ll land plenty of fish with a size 16 Pheasant Tail or size 12 Prince Nymph. Fish will also respond to Size 4 Woolly Buggers and Size 6 Clouser Minnows.

Recommended Fishing Techniques

The upper section of the Kinni is perfect trout fishing water. It has both wide and skinny sections of water that lend themselves perfect to nymph fishing. The seams and deeper sections throughout the middle of the river hold fish that feed near the bottom. When you find a seam, cast above it 15-20 feet and let it drift towards you. Strip in any slack and raise your rod tip as it gets closer. Fishing a nymph rig with a Pheasant Tail, Prince Nymph and RS-2 works well. 

Streamer fishing is especially great in the upper section. There are numerous cut banks that are extremely deep. Letting your streamer fall deep in the water and drift along the cut bank will lead to fish. A few hard strips away from the deep water will cause a big brown to chase.  

When fishing dries, look for those rises in the mornings and evenings during the hatch. Caddis and Mayfly patterns are going to help you land fish.

Type of Fish Near River Falls

Wild brook and brown trout dominate the waters near River Falls. There are known to be 5,000-10,000 fish per mile in the upper section of the Kinni, so be ready to land your fair share. Many of the nearby streams are also filled with healthy populations of fish.


River Falls is a great college town that happens to be on the doorstep of some of the best fly fishing in the country. Take your waders, 5-weight and get going. You can walk and drive for miles, find a nice bit of seclusion and target some beautiful, wild fish. River Falls will never disappoint!

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