The Best Destinations in the U.S. for Fly Fishing

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There's nothing quite like fly fishing for pitting your wits against nature. The sport has come a long way since waders and bucket hats. Today, fly fishing has expanded from dry casting for trout to include angling for tarpon off the Florida Keys and casting for Pacific salmon in the wilderness of Alaska. No matter what level of fly fisher you are, there are lovely, pristine spots across the U.S. where you can tie a fly, wade into a rushing stream, and land the big one. Here are the seven best destinations in the U.S. for fly fishing. Good luck and "tight lines."

Bristol Bay, Alaska

Boat in water with mountain peak in distance
Credit: echoforsberg/ CC BY 2.0

For fly fishing in true American wilderness, Alaska's Bristol Bay region is hard to beat when it comes to casting off-grid. Although the season lasts just a few precious months, you'll be up to your waders in salmon, steelhead, and rainbow trout. Try one of the many fishing camps that offer "fly-out" trips that are run by some of the most exceptional guides in the state. Whether you're a novice or an experienced pro, landing on a wilderness lake in a floatplane is breathtaking. Check out the Enchanted Lake Lodge on Nonvianuk Lake. It's one of Alaska's leading fly-out fishing camps. Your stay is guaranteed to be unforgettable.

White River, Arkansas / Missouri

Two people fishing in a river with fall colored trees
Credit: Texas Tongs/ Flickr/ CC BY-NC 2.0

One of the best fly fishing destinations in the country is along the White River, a pristine waterway that runs over 700 miles through southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. A series of dams have created some fantastic fishing spots like Bull Shoals and Table Rock Lake (both hotspots for trout). To catch the most fish, head to the White River from April through June, when stocking of the waters is the highest. If you're into the art of dry fly fishing, check out the lower waters from late August through December. Fishing is tremendous in this area, so if you want to experience a serene spot for some quality alone time, avoid holiday weekends when campers, pro fishers, and tourists flock to this scenic area.

Henry's Fork, Idaho

Person standing in river while fishing
Credit: DianeBentleyRaymond/ iStock

If you're looking for the best dry fly fishing stream on the planet, then pack your rod and head to Henry's Fork. This fly fishing mecca is nestled in eastern Idaho and is a tributary of the Snake River. Just imagine casting your fly in the beautiful waters surrounded by lush grassland and towering mountains. To catch the prime fishing season, make sure to book your trip from the end of May through mid-July. Henry's Fork is very beginner-friendly so, if you need a guide, look no further than Henry's Fork Lodge, which is considered one of the country's greatest fishing lodges. They'll have you hooking a large, wild rainbow trout before you know it!

Bighorn River, Montana

Bighorn canyon with river running through seen from above
Credit: bennymarty/ iStock

For some excellent fly fishing year-round, it's hard to find a better spot than the Bighorn River. The Bighorn was once a raging river, but has been tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, which makes it an excellent place for trout to thrive. Wading into the clear waters of the Bighorn below the craggy canyons makes this spot in southeast Montana a haven for fishers of all skill levels. The bait of choice is artificial flies and the catch of the day is usually brown trout. To stay close to the action, you can find a campsite along the river or if you're looking for a bit of pampering, there are excellent lodges in nearby Hardin.

Fryingpan River, Colorado

Fryingpan river running through mountains with fall colored trees
Credit: lightphoto/ iStock

If you're looking for a family-friendly spot to camp with great fly fishing, the Fryingpan River is the place to be. This 14-mile long tributary of the Roaring Fork River is great for trying your hand at the art of fly fishing. Colorado is jam-packed with fishing spots, but ask most locals and they'll steer you toward Fryingpan River. The scenery is breathtaking with crystal-clear waterways surrounded by tall pines and sandstone. There are also great spots for camping, hiking, and mountain biking when you're not in the river casting for some brown or rainbow trout.

Florida Keys, Florida

Aerial view of bridge in Florida Keys
Credit: FilippoBacci/ iStock

The Florida Keys are legendary for their tarpon and the "Silver King" is the holy grail of all the saltwater fish on the planet. The experiences here are the stuff of movies, as you head out on a boat into the Florida Keys to witness the acrobatics and power of the tarpon. Young tarpon weigh in at 15 pounds and older tarpon sometimes tip the scales at 150 pounds! You can also find tarpon in bays, tidal rivers, estuaries, and beaches along the Gulf and the shores of the Keys. Head to the Keys from early April through June to catch the annual migration and the best fishing of the year.

Yellowstone River, Wyoming / Montana

Yellowstone river running through Yellowstone National Park with mountains in background
Credit: benedek/ iStock

The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the Lower 48 states and is internationally known for having some of the best trout in the world. The headwaters in Yellowstone National Park boast the much-coveted Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Downstream in Montana, the river contains large populations of rainbow and brown trout. Fishers can take their pick from the rapids, pools, and undercut banks. You might come to Yellowstone for the fishing, but you'll stay for the beauty of the park with its deep canyons, phenomenal wildlife, towing waterfalls, and thick forests.

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