Indiana’s Sugar Creek for Smallmouth

Rarely does a plan come together, especially since there are so many factors involved in getting to float and fly fish Indiana’s premier smallmouth bass stream. The water has to be at an acceptable flow. To float one way I have to be able to somehow get a ride back up to the put in point…and lastly, the fish have to be willing to cooperate. On a beautiful day in June, everything came together!

My good friend Frank arrived at my home at 8:45 AM and off to Sugar Creek we went. On this day we both drove so that we could fish together; something that us good friends seldom get to do! Frank is a special guy, mid 70’s and still going strong and I might add, able to do 7 miles of stream fishing in water that required us to drag a good portion of the way.

The first half mile produced a few fish for both of us; my third fish was a beauty, 15 inches long and very aggressive as it swam back upstream to steal a meal from a smaller, lesser, smallmouth (if you get what I mean). I have to admit that my shoulder was still a bit touch and go from my recent trip up north to Wisconsin…so I grabbed my St. Croix 7 weight rod with a Rio Sink-Tip-Fly-Line and downstream we went.

I do have a fish story. About a fourth of the way towards our take out point I made a long cast back upstream and as I was stripping my own hand tied reverse tied bucktail; I had a small fish following when out of the shallows a big fish burst onto the scene and stole the fly from the little guy. I set the hook, several strips in the fish leapt and spit the fly directly at me. All speculation of course, but I do believe that it was one of the Sugar Creek 20 inch fish. I think Sacre’ Bleu was the only comment I made, that is fishing!

The water was as impressive as I have ever seen on Sugar Creek and at times, Frank was right when he said, “That it was like fishing in an aquarium”! Large rough fish were all around us. Carp, gar, suckers, buffalo and many more varieties frequented our area in numbers that were frankly hard to believe. I have fished among carp many times. And in fact, one of the largest fish I have ever had on, was on Sugar Creek a few years back. Carp will root around and kick out crayfish, minnows and other meals that smallies love to pounce on. On this day I casted among the carp and one of the big fish, a smallmouth bass of at least 23 inches, peeled off and slammed my fly. I had the big fish on for 15-20 seconds before he pulled me under a rock and cut my 20 pound test.

If you are able you must make a trip down a portion of Sugar Creek. My suggestion would be a float down from Crawfordsville to below Turkey Run State Park…or even farther downstream towards the Wabash River. The scenery is more like that of a western river. Animals of all types abound as you float the beautiful canyons. Eagles are a common and very welcome site. If you are looking for a canoe trip I would suggest Clement’s Canoes located just east of Shades State Park. Camping can be found at Turkey Run or at Shades (no electric). If you are looking for a nice town with a little of everything (a Culver’s) you can drive the 20 minutes or so east and visit Crawfordsville.

If you have questions or comments you can reach me at the comment section below or by emailing me at

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