smallmouth bass, although the river holds healthy populations of walleye, sauger, northern pike, gar, channel catfish, rock bass, drum, carp and other rough fish.
Bald eagle, osprey, beaver, white-tail deer.
Your Day on the Water
Big River Fly Fishing is a guide service committed to providing a quality experience on the Kankakee River. You’ll spend your trip on a Boulder Boat Works drift boat. Fishing the river from this fly fishing specific craft offers comfortable access to long stretches of river and creates a stealth factor that maximizes top water potential and fishing shots in general.
- Big River Fly Fishing endorses catch-and-release angling in order to sustain a healthy fishery.
- All trips accommodate up to two anglers. Pricing is the same for one or two anglers.
- Day use of premium, high performance gear is included in the cost of your trip. Premium Sage fly rods, Waterworks/Lamson reels and Rio Fly lines are among my guiding equipment. And, if you prefer, you may also bring your own gear.
- Weather appropriate clothing, a hat, polarized sunglasses and an Illinois fishing license are the only things you’ll need to bring. Waders are optional.
- Follow this link to purchase an Illinois fishing license online. And, I suggest you bring your camera to record your memories.
- While fishing tends to be a priority, meals are prepared with fresh, quality ingredients. Lunch is provided on full day trips.
- It is YOUR day on the water. Allow Big River Fly Fishing to customize your trip by telling me what you hope to get out of the experience.
I grew up in northern Illinois along the Kankakee River on the edge of the State Park. Some of my earliest and best memories come from mornings at first light, paddling out on the water with my dad and brothers. We’d launch canoes or fire-up the outboard and get upstream a mile or two and just float, casting lines at the bank. Whether we caught fish or not, I couldn’t get enough of the river, and the fishing was just an excuse to be out there.
When I was eleven, my family rented a cabin in Wyoming on a spring creek that overlooked the Tetons. Sam Moore lived just upstream and he introduced me to fly fishing and how to take a deeper look at the water. That summer, I became entranced with the sport and this new way of seeing rivers, creeks and streams.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 1999 that I began to work in the fly fishing industry. Through my job at Orvis, I taught casting lessons in Central Park. Urban fly fishing was surreal. And during this time in New York, I discovered legendary trout waters of the Catskill Mountains.
In 2001, I moved to western Montana, where I explored endless miles of free-stone rivers and streams. Since 2006, I’ve been working with the guys at Chicago Fly fishing Outfitters, selling the industry’s best equipment and teaching countless fly fishing schools, casting lessons and fly tying classes, all built on Midwest fly angling. Chicago is such a great place to live; my roots are here and, my family is here. The river that I grew up on is an hour from my front door in the West Loop, and with all that has happened and changed over the years, the river hasn’t. It’s still there and the fishing is better than ever.
I’ve taken my passion and made it my life and if meshing career and pastime is bold or reckless, the result is the same. I love the sport of fly fishing for the rich opportunities to learn, teach and share experiences with others. Big River Fly Fishing is a culmination of these years. I look forward to introducing this multi-layered sport to new anglers and changing the misconception that travel outside the Midwest or Illinois is required to find quality fishing. Join me on the river.
Location & Transportation
Just over an hour’s drive from Chicago, through the cornfields of Illinois, runs a particularly scenic and well-preserved stretch of the Kankakee River. Will Winans of Big River Fly Fishing specializes in drift boat trips through this productive smallmouth bass fishery.
What people are saying about Big River Fly Fishing
“We kinda don’t want the secret to go too broad…but if you’ve found Will’s site, and reading this…just go!
(Plus, we’re happy to see Will grow his business with his exceptional guide skills). Our float of 8 miles or so of the Kankakee River was gorgeous, with a sublime Midwestern feel, as the water swings through cornfields into tall sedimentary cliff formations. Massive Bald Eagle sighting was a bit of a revelation. That such a wide expanse of nature preserve river is so easily accessible to Chicago, will most assuredly surprise you. Montana, ShoM-ontana…The overall fishing experience was better than you can imagine. There are a LOT of Smallmouth bass in this fishery…and swapping between big poppers and larger steamers, paid off handsomely…for some better than others….We’ll be back!”
-Mark Osmond and Spencer Kaehler
"If you are an avid, experienced fly angler or a complete beginner do yourself a favor and take a trip down the Kankakee with Captain Will. I came in for a trip with my oldest son (13) from Virginia and booked a trip a trip on a whim. I couldn’t have been happier with the experience. I was both completely thrilled with the beauty of the river and the wonderful time on the boat with Will. He is experienced, patient, and fun. Your time on the water will always be subject to the mood of the fish, but even on days like ours where the smallmouth make you work for the reward, if they are biting he will find them. I look forward to future trips out with him."
"Its energizing to fish with a guide who displays genuine passion and knowledge about a venerable river like the Kankakee. Will, a consummate professional, exemplifies the best attributes you seek in a guide. I really enjoyed my day on the river with him."
- Jeff, Chicago IL