In the past, the sport of fly-fishing usually meant trying to hook onto trout—well, up until several decades ago anyways. Today, the definition of a fly fisherman has expanded to anyone lucky enough to land a tarpon in the Florida Keys, a bonefish in the Bahamas, some Pacific salmon in Alaska, or even a load of brook and rainbow trout in lower Canada.
Let’s just say that the sport has become a near craze, allowing water aficionados of all sorts to cast, to tie a fly, to wade through rushing streams, and to come into intimate contact with some of the nation’s most pristine regions. Practice your skills of catch-and-release and satisfy your inner intrigue for the hunt all while enjoying highly beneficial mental and physical exercise. And although fly-fishing is possible in countless locations, we’ve rounded up some of the most rewarding, beautiful, and in some cases most remote fly-fishing spots in the United States. Rivers, multi-rivers, lakes, saltwater flats, or private streams, you name it. Here are the seven most amazing fly fishing destinations in the U.S.
Plan Your Fly Fishing Adventure In These 7 Places!
1. Alagnak River - Bristol Bay, Alaska
In Bristol Bay Region of Southwestern Alaska, the fishing season usually only lasts a few short months. But during those months, you’ll find salmon, steelhead, resident rainbows, northern pike, grayling, and so much more. It’s true American wilderness for even the fanciest of fly fishermen or women, and nothing really compares to going off the grid to this cold state for a fly fishing endeavor. The surrounding landscapes will no doubt be some of the most spectacular you’ll have ever seen, and you’ll be able to reel in a wide array of species.
Select Alaskan and Canadian fishing camps even provide "fly-out" fishing opportunities, as well as guided fly-fishing trips staffed with some of Alaska's finest guides who can provide expert instruction in Alaskan angling methods. Pair that fishing adventure with a relaxing stay at Katmai Lodge, which is located on a lake with facilities for floatplanes, or the Enchanted Lake Lodge, which has been rated Alaska's premier fly-out fishing operation by offering superb comfort in the heart of Nonvianuk Lake.
There’s no other spot that compares to Florida when it comes to the best saltwater fly fishing in the States. The Keys offer everything from big, wary bonefish and wily permit, to tarpon, redfish, snook, and even largemouth bass.
Experts often say that Florida is for saltwater fly anglers as what Michigan is for freshwater fly fishermen-- it’s an absolute mecca of inland waters that are definitely worth checking out, since sizable fish can be found pretty much anywhere-- whether in a quiet pond or a city-side canal! Get your hands on a true variety of game fish all along the Atlantic beaches just off the central Florida inlet. Find spinner sharks in the winter, jumbo jack crevalle or cobia in the spring, wahoo, mahi, and blackfin in the summer, and even some Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and pompano for those fly-rodding enthusiasts out there. Diversity is the name of the game.
3. Potter County, Pennsylvania
For private fly-fishing enthusiasts, the Hammersley Wild Area is the spot for you, where trophy-size fish are the rule rather than the exception. Fishing for brown, brook, and kamloop rainbow trout can be easily be done along the almost seven miles of private streams that are divided into 3/4-mile beats.
Experience privacy at its ultimate best, with never more than two anglers with one guide on a single beat, as well as private year-round redwood lodges like Big Moores Run Lodge in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, which can accommodate ten anglers in five rooms. They also offer sumptuous cuisine, special fly-fishing schools, and even one-on-one private instruction. Plus, the area is easily accessible by commercial air from Bradford Regional Airport or by private plane from nearby Ranch Aero Airport—it also offers various spring-fed creeks like the Little Juniata, Penn’s Creek, and Spring Creek, which have thousands of brown trout per mile. What’s more is that like New York, Pennsylvania has got numerous steelhead and salmon rivers, including the bountiful Elk and Walnut creeks. The only thing really missing in this state is a saltwater scene, but you can bet that all that privacy sure makes up for it.
No favorite fly fishing list would be complete without mentioning Colorado, with attractions from the Platte River, the San Juan River, and the Colorado River, which all offer heavenly spots for fly fishing enthusiasts. The large number of beautiful locales to stop at in the region are also well-known for the high number of trout to be found in their rivers—it’s truly difficult to find a better combination of gold-medal waters, blue-skies, nice climates, and stunning canyons anywhere in the world besides Glenwood Springs. Many say that it's the geographic center of the best fly-fishing in the entire state, with the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers merging right in town, and the Eagle River, the Frying Pan, and the Gunnison conveniently nearby for those who want to take a day trip.
What’s more is that Glenwood is far enough downstream from the all-too-popular Aspen to keep things relatively affordable, and with over three hundred sunny days a year—not to mention a bunch of natural hot springs to enjoy—the trout-laden lakes and rivers of this region is bound to soothe any stressed angler's soul. Make sure to try out the enchanting Elktrout Lodge overlooking the Colorado River. You’ll find superb fishing, outstanding meals, and a rewarding all-around fly-fishing trip. Air shuttle service from Denver or Kremmling airports are also available.
From the Oceanside fishing of Long Island and Montauk, all the way to traditional river and stream fishing in the Adirondacks or in the Catskills, there’s no doubt that the Empire State is a stellar fishing destination for anglers.
There’s no need to leave the Big Apple in order to find some world-class fly-rod action because come mid spring to mid-summer on Long Island, guides and anglers alike can be seen stalking the clear shallow flats surrounding Gardiner’s Island and Peconic Bay for ample amounts of bluefish and stripers. In the late fall, there’s even a Montauk craziness that ensues as huge schools of baitfish bring in tons of striped bass, blues, and albacore. Get yourself ready.
6. Coastal Marshes – Louisiana
Want the best inshore fishing in the world? Head on out to Louisiana, where fishing for speckled trout and redfish is a favorite pastime of anglers—all of whom adore the vast marshes and saltwater bays of Louisiana’s coast. The state has an amazing complex of creeks, channels, bayous, and ponds that’s perfect for any serious fly-fishing enthusiast exploring the waters come autumn time into spring. There are even a number of excellent southeastern Louisiana guides that set up shop to take anglers to the fish on bay boats or skiffs, as well as various multi-day options on mother ships and floating resorts that are available.
The Louisiana Marsh is hands down one of the best Redfish fisheries the world has to offer. So go on out to the outer marshes where you’ll wade yourself in 1-8 ft. of water and reel in fish as big as 20-50+ lbs. Plenty of world records have been caught in Louisiana, that’s for sure.
It’s one of North America's prime fly-fishing areas for large trout, as the highly productive waters boast copious hatchings of insects year-round, as well as tons of streamer flies suggesting minnows that are incredibly effective in attracting migrating brown trout. Montana’s appeal for anglers is very similar to that of Wyoming’s—the state with that oh so “Big Sky” has a lot to offer in terms of sprawling, wide open expanses that make for plenty of awesome fly fishing locales to seek out. Let’s just say that Montana is all about rivers, streams, and creeks that all offer superb fishing any time of year.
For sizable trout, try the Bighorn River in the eastern portion of the state. There’s also the Yellowstone, the Madison, and the Montana portions of rivers in Yellowstone National Park, the Beaverhead, the Missouri, and other various spring creeks, as well as the popular towns of Missoula and Bozeman, which often tie for the best spots in the state for fly fishers. What’s more is that Bozeman has blossomed from a sleepy railroad and college town into a western-chic hotspot over the years, so fish junkies can mingle along with artists, entrepreneurs, and tele-commuters all while experience gritty cowboy culture mixed in with modern ambiance.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.