Summer Fly Fishing at Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park

Pack your fly rod and fishing gear for a summer excursion to remember. Whether you’re an experienced fly angler looking for a vacation spot or someone aiming to master new skills, there’s plenty to enjoy when it comes to fly fishing on Rainy Lake and in Voyageurs National Park.

Part of what makes fly fishing fun is it’s meditative, adaptable to your environment and it’s easy to find solitude. Plus, Rainy Lake makes one heck of a backdrop for any fishing trip. Home to a variety of fish species that are available in abundance, Rainy Lake features crappie, northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye. 

There’s great fly fishing conditions throughout Rainy Lake in the summer months, with the ability to catch crappie, which you’ll find in Rat Root River and Black Bay. Northern pike and smallmouth bass spend much of summer swimming around shallow bays, and walleye can be found around islands, reefs and shoreline breaks.

Preparing for Your Summer Fly Fishing Trip

If you’re a devout angler, you have a good idea of what to pack and you welcome the challenge of still water fly fishing. Heck, you may even know which spot you want to try out first. Keep in mind if you show up earlier in the summer, you’ll want to chase the warmest water possible. A good rule of thumb on Rainy Lake is to have fast retrievals in warm water and to take your time with retrievals in water that’s cooler.

The local smallmouth bass are strong and aggressive, making them an exciting target for fly-casting. In the summer, once spawning season ends in June, crappie take to shallow water in cabbage and reed beds and they can make for a great foe.

For more advanced anglers with previous experience on Rainy Lake, walleye can also make for great fly fishing if you have a boat and can move around for your catch. We don’t recommend novices going after walleye. Northern pike, meanwhile, can often be found nearby walleye and crappie.

Fly Fishing for Beginners

Fly fishing doesn’t have to be as difficult as some folks make it seem, but there is some nuance to it. You should practice beforehand to gain a basic understanding that will give you confidence in your casting and presentation, the skill you develop indicating how a fly is shown to the fish you want to catch. You can figure out which flies work best once you’re on the water (more on this later). 

For casting, focus on roll casting until you get that down pat, then develop an overhead cast. If you don’t have a buddy or family member who can teach you these casting techniques, there’s many reputable videos on YouTube to get you started. Some even show how to practice in your backyard.

What to Pack

For less experienced anglers or those new to fly fishing, you’ll also need some unique supplies before fly-casting on Rainy Lake

If you’re starting from scratch, you can visit your local sporting goods store to shop beginner kits. Options are available with midweight fly rods (the Minnesota DNR recommends 5 or 6 weight), reel, fly line, artificial flies, and more. Later on, after your excursion on Rainy Lake, you may decide fly fishing is something you want to pursue more seriously. That’s the time to start customizing and upgrading your setup.

When hitting the water, we recommend having a hand net, and wearing a hat with a brim and polarized sunglasses which allow you to easily see the water. Also make sure you’re wearing plenty of sunscreen. If you plan to spend much time outside a boat, you’ll also want waders.

When packing flies, you’ll want both sinking and surface options. Sinking flies are heavy and absorbent, making it easy for them to sink under the surface. Surface flies, meanwhile, are designed to float. Make sure you’ve got a good mix so you can attract multiple fish species with the casting techniques you’ll be learning.

Elevate Your Rainy Lake Experience

The only inland water-based park in the National Park System, Voyageurs National Park offers unrivaled opportunities, both for fly fishing and exploring the natural world. With Rainy Lake Houseboats, you can turn your fly fishing adventure into the perfect summer vacation. With houseboats that accommodate two to 12 people, our fleet can meet the needs of all family and group sizes. Book a houseboat to lock in your vacation plans!

To learn more about what you can catch on Rainy Lake this summer, check out our fishing calendar