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Fly Fishing in Columbus

Our capital city’s rivers and creeks may not seem like a fly-fishing destination, but one local angler has found ample opportunities to cast his line without ever leaving town.

I never gave the Olentangy River much thought when it came to fly fishing until I spotted a hefty carp feeding along its banks one morning three years ago. The next day, I brought my fly rod and waded through the water looking for carp and smallmouth bass. Before the morning was over, I landed a 10-pound carp, and since then the Olentangy and its sister rivers in and around Columbus have become my favorite waters to fish in central Ohio.

Knowing very little about Columbus’ rivers at first, I would set out with my fly rod prepared to catch bass, carp, panfish, catfish and saugeye because I had already encountered those species on my local outings. With four major rivers running through the city, there was more than enough water to explore.

Contrary to what is often portrayed in movies, books or magazines, fly fishing does not have to be a gear-intensive sport. A fly rod, reel and small selection of flies will get you started. Also, because water temperatures in Columbus stay relatively warm for most of the year, you can usually opt to wear a pair of water shoes and quick-drying pants. When the weather cools down, you can upgrade to waders and wading boots.

If you’re new to fly fishing, Mad River Outfitters on Bethel Road in Columbus and Orvis on North High Street in Worthington are two good places to start. They offer introductory fly-fishing casting classes and have extensive knowledge about where to fish. The shops also stock a wide range of gear and tackle, including relatively inexpensive rod, reel and fly line packages for those new to the sport. 

Local groups like Central Ohio Fly Fishers and Ohio Women on the Fly help connect you with others and are great ways to find fellow anglers and mentors to go fishing with. The groups hold meetups or the occasional instructional classes, and they provide additional insight about the best local fishing areas. (Also, don’t forget to pick up your Ohio fishing license, which can be purchased online from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.)

I’ve learned a lot fishing in and around Columbus. The Scioto, Olentangy, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek all hold multiple species of fish and there are spots on each that can be fished year-round. On the Scioto, head to Amberleigh Park and Griggs Reservoir Park for smallmouth bass and catfish. Along the Olentangy, use the riverside trail to walk along the river with your fly rod. Upstream of Fifth Avenue to Dodridge Street, the Olentangy fishes well for carp, saugeye and smallmouth bass most of the year. South of downtown, Three Creeks Metro Park is worth checking out to fish either Alum Creek or Big Walnut Creek for largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie and rockbass. Drive 30 minutes west to fly fish on the Big Darby River. Prairie Oaks Metro Park and Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park both offer opportunities to cast for smallmouth bass.

These places have offered me the chance to explore the outdoor scene that may go unnoticed in Columbus. The joys and excitement of fly fishing are often just a bike ride or walk away, and at times I can sneak out on a lunch break or on a commute home to relax and catch a couple fish. I pass over these creeks and rivers daily, and when I just need to be in the outdoors, all I have to do is reach for my fly rod.

Visit centralohioflyfishers.orgohiowomenonthefly.com, ohiodnr.gov, madriveroutfitters.com  and orvis.com for more information.

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