The Best Places to Go Fly Fishing in the U.S.
Editor's note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Few things are as graceful as a line floating through the air and resting on the surface of the water — for a just a moment — before returning to its airborne dance. Fly fishing is not an easy sport, but once you learn to tie a fly, master the cast, and hook your first fish, it's hard to stop. When you're out on the water, the chatter of daily life is replaced by the whirr of the reel and the rumble of the river — it's solitude at its best.
If the promise of a remote escape isn't enough to get you packing up your tackle box, then the beautiful places it takes you to will. Some of the best fly fishing in the U.S. can be found on quiet streams in open valleys, Caribbean-blue waters, and roaring rivers at the base of jagged peaks. To help you plan a trip, we've curated a list of some of the best fly fishing spots in the U.S.
Rock Creek, Montana
The fish-rich waters of Rock Creek flow for 52 miles just southeast of Missoula. It's a dreamy destination for trout lovers, with rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and bull trout found alongside Rocky Mountain whitefish. And the views aren't bad either — the river flows under endless Montana skies through the wild Lolo National Forest.
For the best fishing, make your way to upper Rock Creek and plan your excursion for the morning, late afternoon, or evening. You can set up camp in the national forest, or book a stay at The Cabin at Grassy Knoll or The Ranch at Rock Creek.
Gauley River, West Virginia
There's plenty of great fly fishing in West Virginia – home to New River Gorge National River and Bluestone National Scenic River — but not much can top the Gauley River in the Gauley River National Recreation Area. You'll find trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass, and a remoteness and beauty that tops most fly fishing destinations.
Bristol Bay, Alaska
You knew Alaska had to appear somewhere on this list. The northernmost state is home to larger-than-average Arctic grayling and rainbow trout, plus plenty of Pacific salmon. And even if you don't catch anything (which is unlikely), you might spot an Alaskan brown bear, caribou, or moose. It's a win-win.
Book your stay and a guided fly fishing trip with Bear Trail Lodge, and enjoy their gourmet, all-you-can-eat meal program.
Blue River, Colorado
The Blue River splits away from the mighty Colorado River near the town of Kremmling and flows south, winding its way through ranchlands and the towering Gore Range. While a kayak or canoe might glide by during the day, depending on where you go, you may have a stretch of this 65-mile river all to yourself. Just make sure to bring along some sunscreen and a solid sun shirt, so you're ready to battle the intense Colorado sun.
You can post up in one of the many campgrounds surrounding Green Mountain Reservoir, or head south and book a room at Hotel Frisco in downtown Frisco. Just make sure you set aside enough time to visit the Rising Sun Distillery for a full tasting room experience.
Florida Keys, Florida
You don't have to head to the mountains to find great fly fishing. Saltwater fly fishing poses its own set of challenges with big fat rewards — sometimes in the form of a 200-pound tarpon. When it comes to saltwater fly fishing, it's hard to beat the Florida Keys, home to bonefish, tarpon, and permit.
While down in the Keys, the Cheeca Lodge & Spa on Islamorada is hard to pass up. They can connect you with a guide or send you out on a fishing charter, while providing a luxurious beachfront base for downtime between fishing trips.
South Fork of the Snake River, Wyoming
The Snake River literally snakes across southeastern Idaho and into Wyoming, where it glides past the resort town of Jackson Hole. Fly fishers will find their match on the South Fork of the Snake River, home to the largest native cutthroat fishery outside of nearby Yellowstone National Park. When you're not busy snagging cutthroats, you can drop into Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks, or hop on one of the area's many hiking trails.
After a long day on the water, put up your feet at The Lodge at Jackson Hole, a Western-inspired property that's minutes from Jackson's historic Town Square.
Yellow Breeches Creek, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's Cumberland Valley is home to world-renowned limestone streams that have been revered by fly fishers for generations. Beginners can try their luck on Yellow Breeches Creek, while the nearby LeTort Spring Run and Big Spring Creek provide an added challenge (and added reward).
You can try your hand on all three waterways from Allenberry, an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge with on-property access to Yellow Breeches Creek.
Tanasee Creek, North Carolina
Off Tanasee Creek Road, east of Tuckasegee, is a stretch of North Carolina water that shelters plenty of wild brown trout. Tanasee Creek is found within the scenic Nantahala National Forest and is one of 15 fly fishing spots accessed by the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, the only designated fly fishing trail in the U.S.
Set up camp in the national forest, or book a cabin in the nearby town of Cashiers and treat yourself to a cozy, lakeside cabin rental.