Blue River offers finest in fly fishing

A warm summer breeze belted the back of my neck as we shoved our canoe off from under the bridge.

Mist rose from the river as my wife and I began to strip line from our 6-weight fly rods in anticipation of smallmouth to come.

The Blue River is in my opinion the finest of all fly fishing waters in the great state of Indiana. Originating in Washington County, the Blue rolls on through Harrison and Crawford counties before arriving at its confluence with the mighty Ohio River.

This southern region of Indiana long has been recognized for its enormous expanses of forest. The river draws paddlers from around the state all summer long, who enjoy floating and fishing through this tranquil wilderness.

Squire Boone, brother of Daniel Boone, explored the area extensively in his early American travels. Of the many caves in the region, Squire Boone Caverns proudly bears his name. Native Americans thrived in the watershed, and evidence of their existence remains at numerous preserved locations.

The natural landscape of the region is rarely upset by civilization. Only a few towns have found a way to survive in the sparsely populated land along the Blue. Milltown is one such community that has remained over the years. By embracing river life and catering to those who seek recreation and solitude, this dot on the map has become the epicenter of Blue River activity.

You know a town is small when the most recognized industry in town is a canoe livery.

Cave Country Canoes is the No. 1 provider of access to the Blue River. A wonderful livery, this operation is fully sufficient for outfitting recreational paddlers or, in our case, fly fishermen. If you intend to use your own boat, shuttle services can be arranged.

A takeout in Milltown allows fishermen the opportunity to gauge their own speed without having to report back at any given time. This is nice for those like me, who find dusk to be the finest fishing time of any given day.

The essence of the Blue River may be found in the surrounding forests and limestone bluffs. But as fishermen, it’s the water I come for. I don’t know about you, but I would lay a loop into a mud puddle if I thought it might hold a smallmouth bass. Fortunately, the scenic appeal of the Blue River doesn’t stop at the water’s edge.

The water of the Blue is exceptionally clear most of the time, with the exception of immediately after heavy rains or during strong runoff.

Highly substantiated from subterranean sources, the Blue River is about as close to a spring creek fishery as one will find in Indiana.

In the fall and on through winter, the Blue is low and extremely clear.

The fishing can be quite technical at times, as bass are leery of exposing themselves to predators from above. Once you discover a deep pool, the chance of it holding multiple fish is relatively high. Slow movements and stealthy approaches are necessary around the pools.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors columns appear Saturdays in The Tribune. Send comments to