Indiana’s West Fork of the White River comes to life in the farm fields of east-central Indiana and winds west through the cities of Muncie and Anderson. It picks up feeder creeks and grows into a formidable river northeast of Indianapolis. The White River is a warm water fishery with Smallmouth Bass being the primary game fish. While you can catch good numbers of smallies, the lower river is also home to populations of largemouth bass, channel catfish, carp, sauger, rock bass and other warm water species that will sometimes eat a fly. Many an angler has expressed surprise at the good fishing and beautiful scenery within a 20 miles of downtown Indianapolis! One of the great things about the White River is its convenience. If you live locally, you can work half a day, get on the river for a great float trip and be home before the late news!
The White River can be accessed easiest by canoe/kayak, or drift boat, however wading is possible and can be productive in some spots during lower flows. The best wading access is at Potter’s Bridge Park, 146th St. bridge, and 116th St. bridge, Hazel Dell Park at 106th & Hazel Dell, and at 96th & Hazel Dell. At higher flows the White River is not recommended for wading.
The angler armed with 6-8wt rods with floating and sinktip lines will be able to fish effectively. The most trustworthy day in and day out tactic is streamer fishing with Clouser Deep Diving Minnows (olive/orange, chart/white, Olive/Tan), Spoon Flies, and beadhead Wooly Buggers. Topwater fishing can also be productive with Sneaky Pete’s, Dahlberg Divers and other sliders or poppers. For extra credit, add a trailer of a Spoon Fly, beadhead Wooly Bugger or Clouser Swimming Nymph 3-4 feet behind your popper.
The “dirty work” of fly fishing is, of course, dredging deep pools with sinktip (or full-sinkng) lines using crayfish or sculpin flies. It's not always that much fun, but the biggest fish and the widest variety of species are frequently caught this way.
While not a common tactic for Midwest smallmouth, indicator nymphing with small crayfish, leeches, or hellgrammites can be very effective. This is best tried along steep banks and in deep midstream runs. Also, this is the only reliable way to catch Smallmouth during the colder months.
Indiana Flyfishing Guides starts exploring the river each March in hopes of starting our guiding season by mid-April, weather and water allowing.