Kankakee River State Park Fishing: Fly-Fishing for Trout and Smallmouth in Rock Creek

Kankakee River State Park, IL fishing is certainly unique to the Chicagoland area in terms of scenery and topography. The park features limestone and dolostone rock outcrops abutting parts of the Kankakee River proper, and all along Rock Creek. The gorge is believed to have been carved in a flash flood of glacier water melting after the last ice age, forming the steep cliff backdrop for what will be the most pleasant and exhaustive wade up the creek in search of trout and smallmouth.

Equipment Needed for Fishing Rock Creek

Fly Rod Outfit

Chest Waders

Selection of Dry Flies

Selection of Wet Flies

Selection of Nymph Flies

Strike Indicator

Landing Net

Catch and Release Trout Fishing in Rock Creek

Fishing for trout and smallmouth at Kankakee River State Park can be the pure frustration for the impatient beginner, and the most rewarding for the careful, thoughtful angler due to the unique characteristics of this stretch of water. The creek is crystal clear throughout, being one of the few creeks of this quality for this part of the state. While this will make for quite the scenic wade, early spring or amidst a backdrop of fall color, this will make it easy for the trophy fish to spot you and run away. The further up the creek you wade, away from the main angling spots, the more you will find it necessary to tiptoe, stork-like and not create ripples and wake to alert fish to your presence. The blocky, sedimentary stone of the cliffs has been tumbling into the creek for centuries, creating plenty of wobbly, ankle-twisting and tripping stances so tread lightly and don’t spook fish by twisting and knocking around the freestone bottom. The majority of the creek is relatively shallow, lined with many deep pools for fish to hide, which make the journey fairly straightforward for the casual wader. Although I have maneuvered this creek in just hip waders, carefully tip-toeing sections to keep my pants dry, a proper set of chest waders is recommended for a no-hassle day on the water.

Trout and Smallmouth Flies that Bite – Tackle Selection

Rock Creek is stocked twice annually with trout by the parks department in April and October. This is a busy area as it is the closest to the Chicago metro for fly-fishers and trout enthusiasts to get to. Take advantage of the pre-season “catch and release” only period to sink into stocked trout. The creek also teems with smallmouth and several non-native seeming ‘bait fish” which can create a headache with lure selection and presentation. Many times I have cast the teensey-est, size 18, 20 dry flies and tried to set the hook on what seemed instantaneous bites, only to see that this was the baitfish hungrily attacking the lure. Best bet is to use a sub-surface pattern, such as a Wooly Bugger or one of many Nymphs and a strike indicator.

Kankakee River Fishing – Shore and Boat Fishing

Outside of the state park proper, boat and shoreline fishing the Kankakee River itself is a fruitful activity. Those seeking to target Catfish, Smallmouth, and the occasional Pike will have luck exploring the shoreline access points abutting the Kankakee River itself. The focus of this guide is the pristine and unique Rock Creek at Kankakee River State Park.

Nearby Places to Eat and Refuel

Brickstone Brewing, (Kankakee, IL)

Brickstone brewing specializes in sessionable, extra-hoppy IPA’s and Pale ales. Their unique approach eschews the trend of hazy, thick IPA’s for highly sessionable and filtered beers that have a delicious hop profile. The food is superb, including the Pot-Roast Grilled Cheese and the Creamy home-made Queso dip. Highly Recommended if you are in the area.

City Pizza & Sub Co. (Wilmington, IL)
Great spot to get a quick bite if you decide to take the I-55 all the way down to Wilmington and then drive east to KKRSP. Hot and Cold sandwiches, Paninis, and Wraps at a reasonable price.