Scioto River, Fly Fishing in Columbus, Ohio
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Four major rivers run through Columbus, Ohio with each one providing an opportunity for some urban fly fishing. The Scioto was one of the first rivers I fly fished when I moved to Ohio, and it is still one I go to for smallmouth bass fishing. Running over eighteen miles from the O'Shaughnessy Dam to downtown Columbus, the river has room to enjoy a day alone fishing for bass, carp, panfish, or catfish. Since I have mainly fished the Scioto for smallmouth bass I will focus the details on that. And, if you do go fish the Scioto please consider bringing a bag and filling it up with any trash you find on the river, urban streams take a lot of punishment but are absolutely worth looking after.
The river can be fished from canoe/kayak/paddle board, from the bank, or while wading. Wading the river is best when flows are lower and more stable (below 200 cfs) and those flows can be checked at the USGS monitoring stations below the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Griggs Dam. The main species to fish for are smallmouth, channel catfish, carp, panfish, and saugeye. For the most part, fishing the river is best late spring through late fall. It will occasionally run high and off-color (it is an urban stream) which can make fishing downright difficult.
Access for both floating the river or wade fishing is best at Glick Park, Amberleigh Park, Kiwanis Riverway Park, and Hoover Park. Floating any section river between O'Shaughnessy Dam and Griggs Dam is easier due to more public access, but I have regularly floating below Griggs Dam to 5th Ave since there is a nice take-out on the west bank under the 5th Ave bridge. Also, both the O'Shaughnessy and Griggs Reservoirs provide public access to launch a boat and fish the reservoirs when the river is just not fishing well or is too high to float/wade safely.
If you are going to wade the river just prepare yourself to get a bit dirty. Some of the river bottom is sucking mud and in the back eddies it can be tough moving around. If I am wade fishing, I will just wear some polyester pants and wet-wading boots with over the ankle protection. The rocks are not that slick so having studs your boots is not really necessary.
Useful Fly Fishing Gear and Flies-
Nothing fancy here, anything from a five to seven weight fly rod, a floating line, and an inexpensive reel to hold that fly line is all you really need. The one piece of gear that I will mention in particular is the Orvis Bank Shot fly line, this thing really helps to turn over the heavier and larger flies that are used in smallmouth fishing. That line is a bit pricier but putting your money towards a quality fly line that casts and shoots smoothly will help you to deliver flies more accurately, and you will also be less frustrated than if you had a cheap line that was hardly better than a wet pasta noodle.
For flies, crawfish imitations in sizes 2-8 are key for most of the year. Having those patterns in black and rust with a bit of flash have been my go-to colors. Two particular patterns that I like using (and enjoy tying) are the HD Craw and Crawdad Craig. Baitfish imitations do not get much better than the classic clouser minnow in pink, chartreuse, red, and olive in sizes 4-10. Swimmy Jimmy, mini-Bangtail, and wooly buggers are also effective. Having unweighted or lightly weighted baitfish imitations (like a Brahma Bugger) are key when the water levels drop and the smallmouth are in the shallows hunting but can be easily spooked. Deer-hair poppers, sliders, and foam poppers in sizes 2-6 are great for top water action and black, chartreuse, yellow/black, and white have been my favorite colors.
For more information on fly fishing the Scioto and other urban waters in the area check out the article on fly fishing in Columbus, Ohio.