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Top 10 Places to Fly Fish

By Chad LaChance |
Man fly fishing on a lake

From coast to coast, North America offers no shortage of beautiful fly fishing locations in rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal regions. When you’re looking for your next fly fishing expedition, you want to find a beautiful vista that will offer plenty of your target species. To help you plan your trip, we’ve assembled a list of the top ten best places for fly fishing in the United States.

North Platte River, Wyoming

Wyoming’s North Platte River offers a steady supply of trout in one of the West’s iconic rivers. There are plenty of spots to choose from on this river, which flows from Colorado up into Wyoming. The Grey Reef portion is highly populated with rainbow trout at approximately 8,000 fish per mile. While much of the Grey Reef is on privately owned land, there are plenty of options for BLM-managed land on the North Platte River. The area below Alcova Reservoir also attracts trout thanks to its cooler temperatures in the summer – here you’ll find 4,000 fish per mile. Many fly fishers come equipped with minnows, buggers, dries, nymphs, streamers, and grasshoppers.

Florida Keys

If saltwater fishing is more your speed, don’t worry: mountain streams are not the only places you can find excellent fly fishing. Saltwater fly fishing can have you bringing in some serious trophy fish, and the Florida Keys offers plenty of these, plus an incredibly diverse selection of species. Here you’ll find bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish, snook, and more. The Keys make up 120 miles of shoreline from the end of Florida to Key West, with incredibly clear waters and beautiful scenery. Since the Florida Keys are also a vacation destination, you’ll find plenty of resorts and beach houses if you’re looking to travel in style, or more simple campgrounds if you prefer to stay in the great outdoors.

Rock Creek, Montana

Another excellent choice for trout fishers, Montana’s Rock Creek offers beautiful scenery and plentiful subspecies. Rock Creek stretches 52 miles southeast of Missoula through the Lolo National Forest, between the Sapphire and John Long Mountains. Plenty of people come to Montana just for the beautiful skies and rolling views, not to mention the fun to be had in its streams. Here you’ll find rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and bull trout, plus Rocky Mountain whitefish. This creek offers the highest populations of fish in Montana, and you can wade into banks, pools, and patches of current. There are plenty of cabins and ranches where you can stay indoors, or the national forest offers opportunities for camping. When you’re not fly fishing, you can hike, bike, and more in the surrounding area.

Gauley River, West Virginia

West Virginia offers many incredible opportunities for fly fishing, but a favorite of many anglers is the Gauley River. Situated in the Gauley River National Recreation Area, this river offers natural beauty amid rolling hills. Gauley River has a higher fish population than other West Virginia rivers, and winds through 25 miles of challenging terrain with a 668 foot drop. Here you can fish for trout, smallmouth bass, or walleye. There are local offerings for cabins and campsites, and even guided fly fishing expeditions if you prefer expert leadership over taking on the river by yourself. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy when you need a break from fishing, such as paddle boarding, rock climbing, and biking.

South Platte River, Colorado

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado are famous for their beauty, but they also offer plenty of fly fishing opportunities. The South Platte River is a beloved destination for fly fishing thanks to the 3,000 fish per mile that occupy it. Many of these fish are 18-20” long, making this a great spot for those who like to bring in a more hefty prize. The Cheeseman Canyon is a popular destination for many anglers, but this can lead to a bit of overcrowding that causes the fish to be more shy to bite. In the spring, the South Platte River can get a bit overrun with fishermen, and it’s a good idea to have a backup location in the Rockies, such as the Colorado River, Eagle River, or Yampa River. The area outside the canyon is usually less crowded, and floating the river will increase your chances of bringing home a serious trophy fish. You can also avoid the rush by fishing this river in the late fall and even in the winter.

Snake River, Idaho

Idaho’s Snake River is one of the top destinations for wild cutthroat trout, which are particularly plentiful here. You can also find brown and rainbow trout, and many fish are over 20” in various segments of the river. The Snake River runs 60 miles and offers plenty of options for structure over this journey. While this is a well-known destination for anglers, the sheer size of this river means you shouldn’t have to deal with overcrowding – if your first choice spot is unexpectedly packed, there will be plenty of room for you a little farther down the riverbank. The area between the Palisades reservoir and Henry’s Fork offers particularly good fishing. For Snake River, you’ll want your salmon flies and heavier streamers.

Yellow Breeches Creek, Pennsylvania

Yellow Breeches Creek is a tributary of the Susquehanna River, right in the middle of Pennsylvania. It runs for 56 miles and offers plenty of wading opportunities for fly fishers looking for a river consistently filled with both wild and stocked trout. Here you can find brown, rainbow, and brook trout, and insect hatches are plentiful. If you like to explore, you’ll find plenty of options to wander down smaller creeks and streams that shoot off of the big river. Some of the river winds through private properties, so plan your trip in advance and pay attention to the signs. The Creek’s most popular stretch is near Boiling Springs, but this is only for catch and release. Nearby, you’ll also find LeTort Spring Run and Big Spring Creek, which also offer plentiful fly fishing opportunities if you want to get three big, scenic rivers on just one adventure.

Alagnak River, Alaska

For those who love big mountains and clear waters, Alaska is an unparalleled beauty in the United States. It is also teeming with wildlife and fishing opportunities. The Alagnak River is a tributary of the Kvichak River that runs 64 miles. This is a salmon fisher’s paradise. It has equally plentiful populations of all five species of salmon. If you’re looking for trout as well, you can find rainbow trout in most areas, and they are particularly plentiful in the Alagnak River Braids. The Alagnak begins in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, and is highly popular both for fishing and nature photography. The area offers plenty of lodging, and you can find recreation such as hiking and moderate whitewater rafting. The Alagnak mostly runs through remote wilderness, but you’re likely to see a few other fishers and outdoor enthusiasts on your trip.

Tanasee Creek, North Carolina

Have you ever wished for a designated Fly Fishing Trail? Well, there’s only one that we know of in the United States, and that’s the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. This trail includes several creeks, including Tanasee Creek. Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Tanasee Creek offers a large population of brown trout of various sizes. This creek runs through a particularly beautiful section of the Nantahala National Forest. By fishing here, you also have the opportunity to explore the many other spots on the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, such as Raven Fork, Whitewater River, Caney Fork, and Panthertown Creek, which offer varieties of trout species, waterfalls, and other beautiful scenery.

Green River, Utah

Utah’s red mountains and canyons offer plenty of topography for rivers, lakes, and streams with plentiful populations of fish. Located in southeastern Utah about 180 miles from Salt Lake City, Green River flows through the Green River State Park, which offers plentiful camping opportunities. There are three river sections below Flaming Gorge Dam which are particularly populated, with over 8,000 fish per mile by some reports. This is an excellent spot to fish a variety of trout, and you can find rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and cut-bow trout. This river does restrict fishers to artificial flies and lures, and limited harvest is permitted. Named for its emerald waters, Green River offers beautiful scenery and can be fished solo or with a guide.