There’s a reason there are nearly four million fly fisher-men and-women in the U.S. Fly fishing provides an opportunity to leave your worries behind and set off into the wilderness, to spend time in nature, to connect with the great outdoors in a primal way. It requires skill, patience, and perseverance. On the water, there are lessons to be learned and techniques to be honed—regardless of whether you ever catch a fish.
Fly fishing is also a democratic sport. The gear can be as fancy or as minimal as you make it. And there are outstanding places to fish all over the country. Here are six of them.
Bighorn River, MT
Bighorn is renowned as one of the best fly-fishing destinations for anyone looking to catch large trout. As such, the summers can be a bit crowded; you’ll have a lot more personal space come fall. No matter when you go, expect extremely productive waters and an average catch size of 17 inches. That said, Bighorn is a place to dream big—it’s not unlikely that you’ll make an even bigger catch. Camp out on the river or book a hotel in nearby Billings, MT.
Bristol Bay, Alaska
The Alagnak River in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region offers some of the best Pacific fly fishing around. Here you’ll find no shortage of arctic grayling, all five species of Pacific salmon, and rainbow trout that can weigh anywhere from two to ten-plus pounds. (Meanwhile, fishermen have reported king salmon catches upwards of 70 pounds.) Remember to look up while you’re fishing—bald eagles, brown bears, and moose are frequently sighted in the area.
Florida Keys, FL
Most fly fishermen agree that the Florida Keys offer the best saltwater fly fishing in the U.S. Whether you’re staying in tourist-beloved Key West, Marathon, Key Largo, Duck Key, or Islamorada, you’re all but guaranteed to catch large bass anywhere in the Keys. Other fish—including bonefish, tarpon, redfish, and snook—are also in abundance.
Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO
Tranquil lakes and a vast network of streams criss-cross Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness, which boasts stellar trout fishing and more greenback cutthroats than anywhere else in CO. According to one account, it’s not unheard of to catch upwards of 100 fish in a single day. But regardless of how many fish you catch, you’re guaranteed unbelievably gorgeous views. When you’ve had your fill, head to nearby Boulder for a long, hot shower.
Long Island Sound, NY
It may be near one of the biggest cities in the U.S., but the Long Island Sound still boasts some of the best fly-fishing around. Between Montauk and Long Island’s southern beaches, you’ll have plenty of bluefish, false albacore, and striped bass to choose from. If you do get tired of being near the city, head to New York’s Catskills, which boast some of the best trout fishing in the eastern U.S.
Silver Creek and the Snake River, Idaho
These two destinations in the American northwest are spoken about in hushed whispers among fly fishermen in the know—they’re widely regarded as two of the most challenging fly fishing locales in the U.S. If you really want to try your hand at fishing trout, these are the places to be. You’re certainly not guaranteed a catch, but you are guaranteed stunning scenery and a challenge that’s unparalleled anywhere else in the U.S.