When someone mentions fly fishing, you might conjure up a mental image of an old-fashioned fisherman, his hat full of lures, a wicker creel at his belt, waders secured with suspenders as he wades into a stream in the forest primeval. But like many sports across the US, fly fishing is growing in popularity with both men and women – of the nearly 9 million fisher-folk who took up the sport in recent years, 30 percent were women. Whether they’re getting back to nature or enjoying the thrill of the hunt, fly fishing fans are hooked. We’ve put together a list – in no particular order – of nine of the best spots to cast your line in the United States.
The Florida Keys have a lot going for them: sand, surf, sun, food, and, of course, fishing. This Islamorada resort offers getaway-style packages for fishing fans looking to snag a vacation as well as a few trophies, and has, since opening in 1946, attracted everyone from presidents and celebrities to everyday folks looking for a sunny and relaxing place to get away from it all.
On the Hook:Tarpon and bonefish. Those looking to move beyond the fly and into deep water can pursue marlin, sailfish, and dorado. Guided fishing available.
More than Just Fish: Its location in the Florida Keys and its full-service resort approach means you’ll never lack for activities, food, or adventure. A full-service spa, villa-style lodging, multiple restaurants, and Florida’s longest fishing pier can make your fly fishing getaway one for the books as well as the hooks.
Those stalking the wily trout – whether brookies, rainbow, or brown – will find good angling in this wild and wonderful corner of Pennsylvania. Teeming with lakes and streams – their waters home to both native trout and stocked fish provided by the state – Potter County is the place to be during trout season. Lodging can be found at any number of charming inns, cabins, and camps, and the area offers a multitude of outdoor activities, including hiking, swimming, boating, and hunting.
On the Hook:Trout is the name of the game, although bass, bluegill, perch, crappie, and sunfish (among others) also call these waters home. Fly fishing training and guided fishing packages are available through local providers.
More than Just Fish: Potter County justifiably promotes itself as “Untouched, Unspoiled and Untamed” – it’s home to eight state parks, more than a million acres of wilderness, and dedicates well over half its available land to state forest and gaming. The area’s multiple streams, lakes, reservoirs, and creeks offer an abundance of fishing fun, and the sprawling wilderness is ideal for hiking, camping, boating, hunting, exploring, and stargazing.
Beaverkill is around 44 miles long and located in the Catskills region of New York. This river is also recognized as one of the most famous trout streams in the nation. Since the early 19th century, this has been a popular spot for trout fishing. In the 1850s, there was a significant depletion of brook trout in the area which sparked a movement to preserve the wildlife in the river. The river also flows through the city of Roscoe, which is nicknamed “Trout Town, USA.”
On the Hook:Currently, most of the brook trout can be found at the headwaters of the river. Anglers can also expect to find brown and rainbow trout in these cold waters.
More than Just Fish:More than Just Fish: Beaverkill also offers visitors the opportunity for kayaking, rafting and paddling. Dry off by hiking around the area or visiting the campground in Roscoe.
Located in Dillon, Montana, this lodge offers access to five local rivers – The Beaverhead, Big Hole, Jefferson, Red Rock, and Ruby – as well as an assortment of private ponds and bywaters. Dedicated to serious fly fishing for amateurs and seasoned pros alike, Five Rivers offers guided fishing packages and accommodations designed to give you the best of Big Sky Country’s wildlife, waters, and weather.
On the Hook: The area is famous for its blue-ribbon trout streams, and you’ll find rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat lurking in these unspoiled waters, along with one of the last populations of Arctic Grayling in the southern U.S.
More than Just Fish: Resort-style luxury meets flexible float or wade fishing packages at Five Rivers. If you’re ready to take a break from fishing, you can explore the area’s many parks (including Yellowstone!), take in some history and see the sights at Lewis & Clark Caverns, or work on your handicap at one of several nearby golf courses.
Fame first came to Glenwood Springs courtesy of the area’s eponymous bubbling waters. The city’s home to the world’s largest naturally occurring hot springs pool, and is located at the point where the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers meet. Today, however, this Colorado gem is nationally famous for its Gold Medal (i.e., high-capacity, fishing-friendly) waters, which boast some of the best trout fishing not just in Colorado, but in the country – year ’round.
On the Hook: Both the Colorado and the Roaring Fork are home to brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. Whitefish are prized by those who fish the area in winter.
More than Just Fish: Hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking, swimming, snow sports, exploring – the natural wonders of the Glenwood Springs area make it easy to find a way to enjoy nature even if you’re not fishing. The famous hot springs (and their accompanying vapor caves) offer soothing relaxation after a long day on the stream, and nearby restaurants and attractions (including a theme park and a variety of historical and cultural museums) offer plenty of entertainment.
Connected as it is to Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and TEN blue-ribbon trout streams, Traverse City is rightly famous for its fishing. In the words of Field and Stream, “there is no consistently better place to be fishing in America than Traverse City, Michigan.” In addition to some truly amazing fishing, many of the area’s inns, hotels, and camps cater to anglers, with services ranging from helping to prepare your catch to full-service, guided, wade-and-float packages.
On the Hook: Lake Michigan offers up salmon and steelhead, while Grand Traverse Bay is home to some of the best smallmouth bass and carp fishing in the U.S. Blue-ribbon trout streams are also teeming with bass and panfish.
More than Just Fish: Traverse City styles itself as the “Caribbean of the North,” and offers tons of sun, surf, and beachy fun. Boating, sailing, swimming, hiking and cycling are very popular in the spring and summer months, and the local wineries and golf courses give you even more outdoor activities to enjoy. The area also has a variety of shopping and entertainment options, including a local pro baseball stadium and one of America’s last remaining original drive-in theaters.
You might think of Nantucket – an island steeped in marine history – as more of a deep-water fishing location than a fly fishing one, but one of America’s oldest fishing communities is also a prime spot for fly fishers looking to take on a challenge. Nantucket offers both inland and offshore fishing for a variety of species, and several charter companies specialize in fly fishing as well as deep-sea sport fishing.
On the Hook: Striped bass and bluefish are the big draws here, although bonitos and false Albacore also have their fans.
More than Just Fish: Famously mixing the salt of the sea and earth with the upper crust of society, Nantucket Island is much more than fishing. A bevy of upscale shops and restaurants, as well as lighthouse tours, museums, vineyards, and breweries offer indoor delights, while the island itself boasts beaches ready for swimming, exploring, biking and beachcombing.
Bass fever is an incurable affliction at Alabama’s largest lake. Stretching 75 miles and covering more than 69,000 acres, this mountain lake is nationally famous for its big, big bass. Anglers looking to bring home “a biggun'” can also have a go at the area’s blue catfish (some of which have tipped the scales at more than 80 pounds), as well as crappie, sauger, and bream. The park offers both cabins and cottages for rent, making it easy to stay close to the water – and the action.
On the Hook: Largemouth bass are the goal for about two-thirds of the fishers visiting the lake, but bream (sunfish, bluegill, longear sunfish, redear sunfish), crappie, and catfish are also popular.
More than Just Fish: The city of Guntersville occupies much of the lake’s southeastern shore, and offers a variety of shopping, museums, restaurants, and entertainment. Anglers should keep their eyes peeled for bald eagles, some of which make their homes at the lake year ’round.
Fly fishing is enjoying a rather extended resurgence in popularity, and that’s due in no small part to the 1992 film A River Runs Through It (based on the 1976 book of the same name by Norman Maclean). Having provided the setting for a film that has at its heart both fly fishing and deeply metaphysical concerns, Missoula has become something of a modern mecca for fly fishing enthusiasts seeking to find natural wonders, illumination, and, if they can, plenty of trout.
On the Hook: Trout are abundant in the local waters, including rainbows, brownies, brookies, and cutthroat.
More than Just Fish: Beyond any soul-searching that might accompany the fishing, visitors to Missoula can indulge in biking, hiking, golf, camping, winter sports, and more. The area also has a number of historic museums (including the Montana Museum of Art & Culture), plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment, and ready access to other nearby historic attractions such as Garnet Ghost Town and Big Hole National Battlefield.
The San Juan River is a total of 383 miles long and flows through areas of Colorado and Arizona but mostly, the river is located in San Juan County, New Mexico and Utah. The Fisheads of San Juan website tells visitors, “Come enjoy the fly fishing trip of a lifetime on the San Juan River.” For decades, the Quality Water section of the San Juan has been the ultimate spot for fly fishing, just below the spillway at Navajo Dam. Many areas of the river are strictly catch and release as they “take pride in preservation of the river.” The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish estimates that there are about 20,000 trout per mile in the Quality Water section of the San Juan.
On the Hook: This is one of the best spots to find rainbow and brown trout. For the optimal fly fishing conditions, do so between 11 am and 6 pm.
More than Just Fish: If you’ve finished up fishing for the day and want to cool off, there is easy access to Navajo Lake State Park. Here, there is plenty of opportunity for cliff jumping and kayaking. Get off the water for a bit to do some hiking, or visit one of the over 200 camping and picnic areas.
Did we miss your favorite fishing spot? Got the inside scoop on a secret fly fishing paradise? Let us know!