A River Runs Through Zionsville
June 2020/revised November 2020
As one who has been raised on the basics of traditional fishing: bait, lure and rod in static waters, I’ve always been interested in the art of fly-fishing in rivers or streams. Fly-fishing is an angling technique where an artificial “fly” is used to fool fish into biting and differs greatly from any other form of angling. In my quest to learn more about how to and where I can fly-fish in Indiana, I was surprised to learn that one of Central Indiana’s premier fly-fishing and kayak outfitters—Moving Water Outfitters—is located right here in Zionsville. Additionally, I’ve learned that one of best places to fly-fish is right here in our own Eagle Creek.
Fly-Fishing Promotes Tourism in Zionsville
I spoke with Mike Exl, the general manager and co-owner of Moving Water Outfitters. Exl also operates a guide service that takes people out to three Indiana rivers: Sugar Creek, Tippecanoe River and the White River. But as Exl shared, one can have an enjoyable experience at Eagle Creek, without leaving town limits.
“We [Exl and his partner, Chris Snodgrass] started this [Moving Water Outfitters] in May 2018,” Exl said. “I’ve been involved with the fly-fishing industry for a number of years. Snodgrass and I focus on not only demystifying what fly-fishing is but also on the educational aspects of it.”
Exl explained that there are a myriad of potential educational opportunities working with the local schools and youth—teaching about local ecosystems and river systems.
He added, “Additionally, there are opportunities that come with fly-fishing such as travel and new experiences.”
As word has spread throughout the region about the town of Zionsville’s accessible parks that lead to the creek and its efforts in stocking rainbow trout, Exl shared that people come from an hour or more, even out of state, to fly-fish here and afterward, they enjoy a meal or other activities in town. Exl shared that until the state’s lockdown due to COVID-19, a filming crew was poised to film part of a fly-fishing film here in Zionsville. It has been postponed, but Exl is hopeful the crew will want to return to Zionsville when they are permitted to begin production again.
“It’s pretty cool that we’ve got this neat little creek [Eagle Creek] that’s getting all this attention,” Exl expressed. “From an angler standpoint, the trout are stocked in the fall and this gives people an opportunity to fish this creek essentially all year-round. With some of Zionsville’s parks—especially Starkey [Nature] Park—you have access to this gem [Eagle Creek], and it’s a great resource that’s in the heart of the town.”
Stocking the Creek With Rainbow Trout Has Become a Community Tradition
For the past two Novembers, rainbow trout has been stocked as a result of former Zionsville Mayor and resident Tim Haak’s initiative to obtain a stocking permit from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and with the assistance of local enthusiasts who contributed to the budget last fall.
“Since I was a kid, I have been fishing,” Haak shared. “After college, I lived in the mountains of Colorado for five years and connected with a fly-fishing guide up there who taught me how to fly-fish. I like fly-fishing because it’s fun to learn and fairly easy once you get the hang of it. We [Haak and the Zionsville Parks and Rec Department] worked it out with DNR to obtain a permit and stock the creek, which has created quite a buzz in the [fly-fishing] community here locally, throughout Central Indiana and even regionally.”
Haak continued, “The economic impact speaks for itself and more than pays for itself. I know it’s generating business for the guys down at Moving Water Outfitters, and we know for a fact that people are coming into town, going to lunch, looking around and doing other things while they’re in town.”
Zionsville’s current mayor, Emily Styron, in a press release dated November 12, 2020, announced that her administration is continuing the tradition of stocking Eagle Creek with trout. http://www.zionsville-in.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=361
Free Clinics and Private Lessons for All Levels
Exl and his fellow instructors at Moving Water Outfitters offer free clinics that run about two hours in length on Saturday mornings and some Tuesday evenings—four to six times a month. Fly- fishing is a wonderful pastime to spend collecting one’s own thoughts or spending quality time—outdoors—with family.
“Our typical class size has downsized because of [COVID-19], but a typical class is about five to six people,” Exl said. “It’s a quick introduction to the difference between conventional fishing and fly-fishing and the equipment. We get people out there casting and afterwards, they are able to go out [and] actually fly-fish on their own. We do offer more advanced and private lessons. We understand that this hobby can be intimidating to a lot of people, and it unfortunately has an elitist stigmatism. If you break it down, it’s just a different way to fish, and it doesn’t matter if you fish for trout, bass, blue gill or ocean fish. We provide the equipment, and all we ask from individuals is that they show up willing to learn and to see what they can do with this form of fishing.”
Exl concluded, “What I enjoy most about fly-fishing is that you’re always learning. It keeps your mind sharp while fishing in moving water. It’s not as passive as conventional fishing—you’re actively casting and moving around. It’s a great way to get outside, enjoying the outdoors, especially with all of this going on, it’s a good way to recharge the batteries—mentally.”
For more information on Moving Water Outfitters, their products, clinics and more, visit mwoutfitters.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.