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FlyTalk Picks the 12 Best States for Flyfishing in the U.S.A.

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April 11, 2011

FlyTalk Picks the 12 Best States for Flyfishing in the U.S.A.

By Kirk Deeter

Every now and then, magazines like to do a "Top 10" or "Best Of" list.  Best restaurants, best gear, best outdoors towns, and so on. It's a pretty reliable formula for attracting attention and stimulating debate among readers.

I got to write a piece for Field & Stream on "America's Best Fishing Cities" five years ago and another on "Best Fishing Towns" a couple years after that. While I'd like to tell you we held a sacred conclave of editors at the magazine's New York HQ where we all cast ballots, tossed them in a fireplace, and when the white smoke wafted over midtown Manhattan, it signaled the announcement of the best fishing city/town, well, it didn't come down exactly like that. But close...

In that same spirit, I've decided to compile a list of "Fly Talk's Best 12 States for Fly Fishing" so you can agree -- or call me nuts.  I'm basing my picks on a variety of factors, namely all-around (multi-species) opportunities, angler-friendly environment, and cultural affinity to fly fishing.  Here goes:

12. New York.  You can make a strong argument for the Catskill region being the cradle of American fly angling.  Great trout traditions have been born here for generations, but don't forget about the epic striped bass, albacore, and other salty things to be experienced off Long Island.

11.  Maine.  Another striper mecca for sure, but what really triggers the fancy of serious fly anglers is the pristine brook trout fishing you'll find in the ponds and small streams in the state's interior... not to mention landlocked salmon.

10. California.  The beauty of California is that you can find everything here, from a habit-forming mako shark fishery off the San Diego coast, to lunker largemouth bass (that eat flies, for sure), to carp, stripers, steelhead... and some of the most technically 
alluring trout creeks and backcountry fisheries in the world.

9. Idaho.  The Henry's Fork and Silver Creek are the "graduate schools" of fly fishing.  For the serious angler, experiencing these waters is a rite of passage, even if it means getting your butt kicked.

8. Washington.  Far more diverse than most anglers give credit, Washington has its salmon and steelhead, but also some great trout waters, and the smallmouth bass fishing can be off the hook.

7. Florida.  Of course.  The flats fly fishing tradition starts and ends here.  There are literally more species in Florida that can be caught on a fly rod than I can begin to list, freshwater and saltwater.

6. Colorado.  Okay, I'm biased.  I live here for a reason.  With the largest concentration of fly anglers anywhere in the country and some of the most beautiful rivers in the world, the Centennial state is a fly rodder's mecca.

5. Montana.  Big Sky country is sacred.  And, by the way, the stream access in the state is intelligent.  Thanks, Montana, for icing the stupid "Ditch Bill" that would have closed much of that access, and forced me to kick you off the list.

4. Alaska.  One trip to Alaska will change your fly fishing perspective forever.  The last frontier is one of the few places that consistently delivers more that what people expect.  Sure, it's vast and far away... but that's the beauty.

3. Louisiana.  A Louisiana fly guide once told me, "If we had all those pretty white sand beaches, we'd shut Florida down... our fishing appeal is so much better."  I tend to agree with him.  And the freshwater stuff, the food, the music, and all that isn't too 
shabby either.

2. Wyoming. Take the nice things I said about Colorado and Montana, and put it in a state with only around 500,000 people.  Wyoming simultaneously features some of the ugliest and most beautiful landscapes in the country, but where the fishing happens, it is astounding. And the cutthroat trout is an American fly fishing icon.

1. Michigan. Another sentimental pick, for sure.  But the first brown trout in America was planted here.  Trout Unlimited started here.  You're never more than a few miles or so from a fly-fishable body of water.  There's bass, pike, panfish, steelhead, salmon... and the carp fishing can rival some of the best "flats" action in America, no joke.

Okay Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee, New Mexico, Virginia, Carolinas (and elsewhere). I'm ready for the rebuttals. -- Kirk Deeter

Comments (52)

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from Koldkut wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Shoot, I've only fly fished one of your top 12.....I'd put Maine on the bench and send PA out to hit though.

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from dneaster3 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I don't see anything to object to in this list, except maybe a few changes in the order.

Regarding the "also rans", Arkansas and Tennessee have GREAT fishing, but most of the fly-fishing you see is done on stocked streams below dams. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but a 200' wall of concrete just doesn't compete well against the Tetons, for example.

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from cunninghamww wrote 3 years 1 week ago

How is NM not in the top ten? Stop anywhere on the enchanted circle (taos, eagles nest, angel fire, red river, questa) and you have world class fishing and scenery that, in my opinion, bests more of the traditionally beloved spots in colorado and wyoming. Not to mention the tailwater beneath the Navajo dam on the San Juan...some of the strongest fighting fish in America. Go anywhere south of Albuquerque and you have great warm-water carp fishing. Got to be in the top ten!

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from steensraven wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I agree completely that Oregon should NOT be on the list...and I have lived in Oregon for 33 years. I go to Idaho and Nevada (the two next closest states for me) for great fishing. I blame it on management of the Oregon fisheries. Both Idaho and Nevada have AWEsome trophy fisheries, managed exactly for that, and the results are impressive. Oregon seems to fail over and over in that area.

Central Oregon used to have MANY excellent fisheries 10 years ago, but don't know what even that part of Oregon is like now. I presume it has gone downhill. Can't resist the "good old days" thinking, for that area.

If I don't mind traveling a bit, I go to B.C. InCREDIBLE!

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from sobemanhoss wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Finally Michigan is #1 for a good thing(unlike forclosures, and obesity). I agree with this choice. It is the great lakes state. Inland there are some great rivers and stream to fish, lakes everywhere you go. Great variaties, and great salmon, trout, stealhead galore. Great article! I look forward to testing out the other states i havnet hit yet.

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from buckhunter wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I am a small stream/small fish lover where casting accuracy, stealth and delicate presentations are a premium. My favorite streams are in California and West Virginia.

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from All Seasons Angler wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I'd move Montana up the list a couple slots.

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from Happy Myles wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Hmm, number four is not all that bad, but have a hunch if Alaska was not so far away it would rank higher.

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from MNflyfisher wrote 3 years 1 week ago

hey if michigan is number one, minnesota or wisconsin should be at least in the top twelve and alaska should be higher, just sayin

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from outdoorsman29 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

It's great to see my home state be on the top of this. We have the great lakes and that adds greatly to the diversity of Michigan's lakes and rivers. It makes me proud to see this.

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from MLH wrote 3 years 1 week ago

It's just a rumor - there is no flyfishing in Michigan. Try Ohio.

But, honestly, got to love to be a flyfisher here. Anglers recently managed to get some waters opened longer and new catch and release areas implemented, which translates into more and better fishing to compete with hunting season ... oh, joy ... choices, choices.

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from Micropterus24 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I would agree that if Michigan is numero uno Wisconsin and Minnesota should be somewhere on the list, I would say they are very similar overall. I thought Alaska would be number 1 simply because it is the dream of most fly anglers to just get there.

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from rdorman wrote 3 years 1 week ago

how can you leave PA out...central PA spring creeks...brook trout streams in the mountains...steelhead fishing in erie(and pink salmon)...smallmouth fishing(bob clouser)...susquehanna river...and how many largemouth lakes...penns creek(trout and smallmouth heaven)...don't forget PA for muskie, pike, and pickeral

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from deanlikes2fish wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Being from Ohio, i guess i can agree with mi being # 1 in fishing. But thats about all i will agree on. I do miss the small mouth fishing in the shiawassee though.

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from deanlikes2fish wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Being from Ohio, i guess i can agree with mi being # 1 in fishing. But thats about all i will agree on. I do miss the small mouth fishing in the shiawassee though.

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from Wags wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Well, I've hit 8,5,2, and 1. Would love to try Colorado. I agree on #1, there is just so much to go after in Michigan. I also agree that Wyoming may be #2, that was pretty fantastic. As much as I have enjoyed East Tennessee and Western NC, I just don't think there is enough range and diversity. Pennsylvania might have a case for #12, but I think they have a lot of issues with depleted stream quality and lesser access. Not been there, just what I've heard.

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from backcast wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I know the name of the state is unwieldy, Deeter, but that's no reason to shy away from it. It's spelled P-e-n-n-s-y-l-v-a-n-i-a... or Pennsyltucky, if you prefer. As rdorman said, the diversity is incredible, and historically, PA ranks right up there with NY in terms of significance(the Cumberland Valley spring creeks, the Brodhead and Poconos, etc.). The list of flyfishers native to the state is long and venerable. Just a few: Gary Borger, Joe Humphries, George Harvey, Charles Meck, Vince Marinaro, Charlie Fox, Ed Shenk, James Leisenring, Bob Clouser, Theodore Gordon(born in Pittsburgh), and young talent too, like Eric Stroup, Paul Weamer, and George Daniels. All the major eastern hatches can be found here, and we've got tailwaters, spring creeks, and freestoners. Access is not really that much of a problem, as someone suggested. You will always be able to find somewhere to fish in the Keystone State. Granted , there are lots of stream clean-ups needed from years of unregulated coal mining activity, and habitat improvement projects underway, but what state with a trout stream doesn't face similar issues? Tell ya what KD, let me know when you wanna come to PA and I'll show ya around, and maybe there will room for us in that list of twelve after sampling some of our piscatorial delights.

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from Charley wrote 3 years 1 week ago

You forgot to mention that the first recorded fly fishing west of the Mississippi happened in Wyoming and the man settled in Utah.

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from peconic wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I know it is never going to make anyone's list but i have to say square mile for square mile (and considering how densly populated it is) Connecticut is vastly underrated...
Trout bigger rivers like the Housy and Farmington as well as wild small stream Brookie populations, Pike, Smallies, Carp, Striped Bass and even Albys in the summer CT isn't on anyone's "destination list" but certainly has the diversity and quality to keep a local Fly Fisherman happy for years!

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from William Romeis wrote 3 years 6 days ago

HMMMM Lets see... no one has obviously thought that the biggest state in the Union besides Alaska, which is on the other side of the world from most of us, Texas, rates even a mention? OOPs Deeter did mention it.. but what Texas lacks in scenery it makes for variety. Salt water, freshwater, rivers, lakes, ponds, more square miles of each than most states. Reds, sea trout, flounder, tarpon, white bass, black bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass, innumerable other species and yes we do have rainbows and browns... Check out the Guadalupe River.... So Texas has to at least rate.

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from Mysticfish wrote 3 years 6 days ago

I've got it covered. I was born in Michigan, live for seven months of the year in Montana and guide in Alaska.
I'll say Alaska is number 1 for wild native fish and wild surroundings. Montana is number 2 for space and river variety and there are plenty of warm water options as well. Michigan falls to number 3, but the top three aint bad.

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from QDMGuy wrote 3 years 6 days ago

What!?!?! If you want diversity, how can you not even mention Georgia? You won't find more diversity in fisheries in one state. From the mountain trout streams with rainbows, browns and brookies to mountain lakes filled with walleye and muskies. Farther south in the Piedmont you have great striper fishing on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River and hundreds more of lakes, ponds and rivers full of brim, spotted bass, largemouth, smallmouth, carp and catfish. Not to mention in Southwest GA you have the majority of the shoal bass' entire range in only 4 rivers! Deeper into the coastal plain, I travel to the Okefenokee Swamp every year just to fly fish for warmouth, shellcrackers (red ear sunfish), mudfish (bowfin) and jacks (chain pickerel). Then you have the coast. With all saltwater species given, I believe that it is also one of the best Redfish fisheries in the country with more linear coastline and intracoastal waterways than any other state on the east coast in it's range. I believe that Georgia is a very fly friendly environment and even launched a huge "Go Fish" initiative a few years ago. I know I am incredibly biased, but you can't dispute the diversity of fly fishing opportunities available in this great state!

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from Jimbeauxtexas wrote 3 years 6 days ago

Granted, those are all good places to fly fish. Think I'll just stay here in Texas and catch huge bass, red fish and rainbow trout. Will sneak occasionally into Louisiana for the same thing without the rainbows. Guess I'm not a purist as I don't want to spend the afternoon to get a pan full of brookies, matchin the hatch. Gary Yamamoto's 2"- 4" senkos please.

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from Reba wrote 3 years 6 days ago

Michigan has many beautiful rivers to fish. And the best thing is that all navigable rivers in Michigan are open to everyone. In Michigan we do not block river access like many states. The land on either or both sides of the river may be privately owned, but if you can find a public access you can fish anywhere you would like to on that river . . . unlike many other states.

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from reelfly wrote 3 years 5 days ago

Im really confused as to why North Carolina was left out?! Its great to see my home state as #1, but seriously, if your going to create a top 10, let a lone a top 12 North Carolina is in the mix with no questions asked! Honestly man, check yourself before you wreck yourself! Fishing is as diverse as it gets from the mountains to the coast! Kinda lame that you would forget this one buddy!

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from ajg wrote 3 years 5 days ago

New Hampshire.....anyone? The state in New England that is known for wicked 'bows on dries, untouched brookie water, and days full of brownies. NH makes NY look like a joke in re: to freshwater. (actually I take this back, NH fishing blows. Go to Vermont.)

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from Sayfu wrote 3 years 4 days ago

Get the sentiment out of it, and the best flyfishing for Salmonids, anyway, is out WEST. More scenic environment to pursue them in, bigger fish, etc., etc.

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from goin2themountains wrote 3 years 4 days ago

I've fished 9, 6, 5, and 2. I have got to agree on the Wyoming sentiment regarding lack of warm bodies crowding your stream area. While I love my home waters of the San Juan quality water below Navajo Dam in NM, I do believe this is where the phrase "combat fly fishing" was coined.

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from dmitch wrote 3 years 4 days ago

I feel very blessed to have fished 7 of the top 12( and that number will be 9 of 12 after this summer) and I'm only 18 years old! I like the list but my one comment is that when you think of fly fishing to think trout of course. And then you can throw in some flats saltwater flyfishing but to give some of these states a bump because of bass fishing just isn't right.

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from Joe Demalderis wrote 3 years 4 days ago

It's all good!

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from kirkdeeter wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Sayfu... I agree with you, to an extent. I live west for a reason, for sure. Was fishing today (in a T-shirt) and it rocked. But for the sake of further argument, I'm going to say that (sentiment aside) anyone can catch a mondo brown on a western river... but it takes a skilled angler to do that in Michigan, or Pennsylvania... Oh, they're there. The skill is the thrill. I think the challenge is as much of the appeal as the reward.

And dmitch... 7 of 12 at 18 years old? You rock, young friend. Tag 'em all, you won't be disappointed.

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from rossleeann wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Perfect, we don't want anymore folks in Oregon anyway.

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from jloutdoors wrote 3 years 3 days ago

I totally agree with Michigan being your number 1 because you really have all the best types and terrain to fish in. If you wanted a outback river or a mountainous river fishing you can go to the many good and unexplored rivers of the upper peninsula. Or you can go to the major steelhead and salmon rivers like the Pere Marquette and Manistee river. And finally the great warm water rivers for multi species fun, like the Grand, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, St. Joe rivers

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from LI Flyrodder wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Thanks for including New York on your list, which in my humble opinion is one of the most underrated fishing destinations in the USA. Don't forget the Lake Erie and Ontario tributaries for trophy steelhead, salmon and browns. The Finger Lakes are a smorgasbord of warm and cold water species. St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers. Adirondacks. NY is the only state in the union with shoreline on both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

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from fr0g wrote 3 years 2 days ago

WHAT!!! PA. has 45,000 streams, native bookies and the largest TU membership of any state.

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from Sayfu wrote 3 years 2 days ago

Natural spawning brookies in the state of Idaho are targeted by TU, and the state for elimination in most streams. Why, I haven't pursued the answer.

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from rdorman wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I agree Deeter i met some "westoners" and they had trouble mending these eastern streams...the challenge is beautiful and miserable all at the same time

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from WR-FlyGal wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Not sure where in AR you are referring to but seeing pictures and hearing reports daily from fly fishers you'd change your list if you paid this area a visit. with record browns and beautiful bows not to mention the small mouths up the natural buffalo river.within an hour you can go from trout on the white to bass or crappie fishing. We are blessed with so many options for the fly fishing sport. Type in your search box (trout capital usa) and see what comes up......just sayin

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from backcast wrote 3 years 1 day ago

You can find some sort of fly fishing opportunities in every state in the union, I imagine. Let's just call it the United States of Fly Fishing...but let me paraphrase Paul McLean in "A River Runs Through It", "Oh, I'll never leave Pennsylvania, brother."

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from matokuwapi wrote 3 years 20 hours ago

I'm often asked by my fly fishing friends why I spend do much time fly fishing in Michigan. Some places offer more in the way of eye candy. Like Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and I've fished a lot a of those waters... BUT Michigan offers way more opportunity. It possesses more than 36,500 miles of rivers and streams, 12,500 miles of which are classified as cold water trout streams. It has more than 11,000 inland lakes.

Let's face it. It possesses more then 20% of the worlds fresh water. When traveling Michigan an angler is at no point more than 6 miles (10 km) from an inland lake or river, and no more than 85 miles (137 km).

It has is 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline (for the lakes and connecting rivers).

Michigan is also way more affordable, compared to the "pretty" states. It's probably the most economical place to spend a fly fishing holiday.

You have to remember....Michigan is not just Detroit. Far from it.

Why did Michigan win first place? Simply for the sheer magnitude of the Blue Ribbon and other fishing opportunities available.

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from matokuwapi wrote 3 years 20 hours ago

That should have read "and no more than 85 miles (137 km)from any Great Lake."

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from Dances with Deer wrote 3 years 1 hour ago

Wisconsin is a major oversight. More inland lakes than Minnesota or Michigan, two Great Lakes and the mighty Mississippi, Wisconsin, Wolf and Fox rivers plus dozens of amazing Great Lakes tributaries and many top-quality trout streams and lakes, gigantic Great Lakes strain muskies and walleyes in Green Bay and world-class smallmouth bass in Door County, among many, many others. You can even fly fish for whitefish in the Menominee River (while also getting bites from trout, salmon, splake, walleyes, bass, pike, muskies and more). Almost forgot, Wisconsin is second only to Florida in the number of paid non-resident fishing licenses sold each year and last year had a new world record brown trout caught. Put that in your pipe, Michigan (lol, I love the U.P., Traverse City area and more of the Great Lakes shoreline there; just taking a friendly shot across from Lake Michigan's west coast).

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from MJAinKY wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

Kirk ... I'm not surprised to not find Kentucky in your list as a lot of folks here don't flyfish. But there are a lot who do and for more species than just trout. My two favorites are smallmouth bass and muskie but I won't shy away from white bass, stripers, wipers (WB&S hybrid), carp (several varieties), gar, black drum, bluegill, red ear (shellcrackers) and other bream (that's "brim"). I really don't care much for flyfishing for largemouth bass but we have them too. Mix all those types of fish into our 48,000 miles of streams (2nd only to Alaska) and a couple of hundred thousand acres of warmwater lakes and we have quite a fishery. But don't tell anybody ... we wouldn't want the word to get out. Just kidding .. Y'all come to Kentucky and fish

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from dgyoung wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

As a photographer who routinely travels the backroads of Michigan, I'm lucky to pack a rod or two behind the seat of the truck all year long. The hardest choice of the year is in the fall: "Fly Rod, or Shotgun???" I choose both. Cast and Blast!

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from delp wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

I hope anyone who reads this list goes to Maine.

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from ajb81586 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Don't forget, the Adams fly was invented on Michigan's Boardman River.

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from ajb81586 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

To Dances With Deer, your record brown trout only TIED the record that was caught in Michigan...according to the IGFA.
But, being from Traverse City, thanks for the compliment...I was just taking a friendly shot back across the lake. Both of those trout were from Lake Michigan, so I think it's safe to say that Lake Michigan is probably the best brown trout water around.

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from fishyjake wrote 2 years 48 weeks ago

Fished 5 of 12 and want to finish off the list. Every state, except a few perhaps, have some good fly fishing. Having fished there, I can't believe CA is on the list. The saltwater fishing is sub-par at best and the trout fishing leaves a ton to be desired. Every Rocky Mountain state has better trout fishing. I'm biased of course but can't believe Utah didn't get in there above New York. The Green River cicada hatch is epically insane and Utah has better small stream fishing for big fish than any other state.

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from daghow wrote 2 years 47 weeks ago

Joseph Sherer Lighten up John. (from my Facebook pg) If you only fished in MI. once then you know nothing as you must fish it extensively to know what you speak of. In my case I would agree that there are other states that deserve to be on this list, (WISC.), however I have only fished in 7 of the named states extensively. (for more than 2 yrs. & more than 10 times per yr.) So while I have a difference in opinion than the writer(s), I don't begrudge them for having experience in states that I am not familiar with. It's indeed there opinion, and I like how and why they chose the states that they chose. The title said Flyfishing not trout fishing, and the diverse fisheries must indeed count for something.

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from upacreek333 wrote 2 years 47 weeks ago

Whatever you do, don't move Idaho up the list. And you're right ... the Henry's Fork and Silver Creek are our ONLY fly fishing rivers. ;)

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from BambooFlyRods wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

Arkansas is tough this year, but still, for quality of fish and sheer numbers, it's hard to beat. I've fished every state listed and a few more, and I enjoy most of them immensely, but when I had a chance a few years ago to move my shop to anywhere in the country I wanted to go, I chose the White River area in Arkansas, because of the fly fishing quality.

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from skeenaspey wrote 2 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you for posting your list of best states for fly fishing. But there are also hot spots for fly fishing in Canada. They operate out of Terrace BC, and to make it more relaxing for you, they provide lodge for you to stay in. They claim themselves as the home to the largest Steelhead and Salmon in the world.

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from Happy Myles wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Hmm, number four is not all that bad, but have a hunch if Alaska was not so far away it would rank higher.

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from sobemanhoss wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Finally Michigan is #1 for a good thing(unlike forclosures, and obesity). I agree with this choice. It is the great lakes state. Inland there are some great rivers and stream to fish, lakes everywhere you go. Great variaties, and great salmon, trout, stealhead galore. Great article! I look forward to testing out the other states i havnet hit yet.

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from MNflyfisher wrote 3 years 1 week ago

hey if michigan is number one, minnesota or wisconsin should be at least in the top twelve and alaska should be higher, just sayin

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from rdorman wrote 3 years 1 week ago

how can you leave PA out...central PA spring creeks...brook trout streams in the mountains...steelhead fishing in erie(and pink salmon)...smallmouth fishing(bob clouser)...susquehanna river...and how many largemouth lakes...penns creek(trout and smallmouth heaven)...don't forget PA for muskie, pike, and pickeral

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from rdorman wrote 3 years 1 day ago

I agree Deeter i met some "westoners" and they had trouble mending these eastern streams...the challenge is beautiful and miserable all at the same time

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from WR-FlyGal wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Not sure where in AR you are referring to but seeing pictures and hearing reports daily from fly fishers you'd change your list if you paid this area a visit. with record browns and beautiful bows not to mention the small mouths up the natural buffalo river.within an hour you can go from trout on the white to bass or crappie fishing. We are blessed with so many options for the fly fishing sport. Type in your search box (trout capital usa) and see what comes up......just sayin

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from cunninghamww wrote 3 years 1 week ago

How is NM not in the top ten? Stop anywhere on the enchanted circle (taos, eagles nest, angel fire, red river, questa) and you have world class fishing and scenery that, in my opinion, bests more of the traditionally beloved spots in colorado and wyoming. Not to mention the tailwater beneath the Navajo dam on the San Juan...some of the strongest fighting fish in America. Go anywhere south of Albuquerque and you have great warm-water carp fishing. Got to be in the top ten!

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from steensraven wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I agree completely that Oregon should NOT be on the list...and I have lived in Oregon for 33 years. I go to Idaho and Nevada (the two next closest states for me) for great fishing. I blame it on management of the Oregon fisheries. Both Idaho and Nevada have AWEsome trophy fisheries, managed exactly for that, and the results are impressive. Oregon seems to fail over and over in that area.

Central Oregon used to have MANY excellent fisheries 10 years ago, but don't know what even that part of Oregon is like now. I presume it has gone downhill. Can't resist the "good old days" thinking, for that area.

If I don't mind traveling a bit, I go to B.C. InCREDIBLE!

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from outdoorsman29 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

It's great to see my home state be on the top of this. We have the great lakes and that adds greatly to the diversity of Michigan's lakes and rivers. It makes me proud to see this.

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from backcast wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I know the name of the state is unwieldy, Deeter, but that's no reason to shy away from it. It's spelled P-e-n-n-s-y-l-v-a-n-i-a... or Pennsyltucky, if you prefer. As rdorman said, the diversity is incredible, and historically, PA ranks right up there with NY in terms of significance(the Cumberland Valley spring creeks, the Brodhead and Poconos, etc.). The list of flyfishers native to the state is long and venerable. Just a few: Gary Borger, Joe Humphries, George Harvey, Charles Meck, Vince Marinaro, Charlie Fox, Ed Shenk, James Leisenring, Bob Clouser, Theodore Gordon(born in Pittsburgh), and young talent too, like Eric Stroup, Paul Weamer, and George Daniels. All the major eastern hatches can be found here, and we've got tailwaters, spring creeks, and freestoners. Access is not really that much of a problem, as someone suggested. You will always be able to find somewhere to fish in the Keystone State. Granted , there are lots of stream clean-ups needed from years of unregulated coal mining activity, and habitat improvement projects underway, but what state with a trout stream doesn't face similar issues? Tell ya what KD, let me know when you wanna come to PA and I'll show ya around, and maybe there will room for us in that list of twelve after sampling some of our piscatorial delights.

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from Jimbeauxtexas wrote 3 years 6 days ago

Granted, those are all good places to fly fish. Think I'll just stay here in Texas and catch huge bass, red fish and rainbow trout. Will sneak occasionally into Louisiana for the same thing without the rainbows. Guess I'm not a purist as I don't want to spend the afternoon to get a pan full of brookies, matchin the hatch. Gary Yamamoto's 2"- 4" senkos please.

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from Reba wrote 3 years 6 days ago

Michigan has many beautiful rivers to fish. And the best thing is that all navigable rivers in Michigan are open to everyone. In Michigan we do not block river access like many states. The land on either or both sides of the river may be privately owned, but if you can find a public access you can fish anywhere you would like to on that river . . . unlike many other states.

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from reelfly wrote 3 years 5 days ago

Im really confused as to why North Carolina was left out?! Its great to see my home state as #1, but seriously, if your going to create a top 10, let a lone a top 12 North Carolina is in the mix with no questions asked! Honestly man, check yourself before you wreck yourself! Fishing is as diverse as it gets from the mountains to the coast! Kinda lame that you would forget this one buddy!

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from ajg wrote 3 years 5 days ago

New Hampshire.....anyone? The state in New England that is known for wicked 'bows on dries, untouched brookie water, and days full of brownies. NH makes NY look like a joke in re: to freshwater. (actually I take this back, NH fishing blows. Go to Vermont.)

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from Sayfu wrote 3 years 4 days ago

Get the sentiment out of it, and the best flyfishing for Salmonids, anyway, is out WEST. More scenic environment to pursue them in, bigger fish, etc., etc.

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from kirkdeeter wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Sayfu... I agree with you, to an extent. I live west for a reason, for sure. Was fishing today (in a T-shirt) and it rocked. But for the sake of further argument, I'm going to say that (sentiment aside) anyone can catch a mondo brown on a western river... but it takes a skilled angler to do that in Michigan, or Pennsylvania... Oh, they're there. The skill is the thrill. I think the challenge is as much of the appeal as the reward.

And dmitch... 7 of 12 at 18 years old? You rock, young friend. Tag 'em all, you won't be disappointed.

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from rossleeann wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Perfect, we don't want anymore folks in Oregon anyway.

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from jloutdoors wrote 3 years 3 days ago

I totally agree with Michigan being your number 1 because you really have all the best types and terrain to fish in. If you wanted a outback river or a mountainous river fishing you can go to the many good and unexplored rivers of the upper peninsula. Or you can go to the major steelhead and salmon rivers like the Pere Marquette and Manistee river. And finally the great warm water rivers for multi species fun, like the Grand, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, St. Joe rivers

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from fr0g wrote 3 years 2 days ago

WHAT!!! PA. has 45,000 streams, native bookies and the largest TU membership of any state.

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from Dances with Deer wrote 3 years 1 hour ago

Wisconsin is a major oversight. More inland lakes than Minnesota or Michigan, two Great Lakes and the mighty Mississippi, Wisconsin, Wolf and Fox rivers plus dozens of amazing Great Lakes tributaries and many top-quality trout streams and lakes, gigantic Great Lakes strain muskies and walleyes in Green Bay and world-class smallmouth bass in Door County, among many, many others. You can even fly fish for whitefish in the Menominee River (while also getting bites from trout, salmon, splake, walleyes, bass, pike, muskies and more). Almost forgot, Wisconsin is second only to Florida in the number of paid non-resident fishing licenses sold each year and last year had a new world record brown trout caught. Put that in your pipe, Michigan (lol, I love the U.P., Traverse City area and more of the Great Lakes shoreline there; just taking a friendly shot across from Lake Michigan's west coast).

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from Koldkut wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Shoot, I've only fly fished one of your top 12.....I'd put Maine on the bench and send PA out to hit though.

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from dneaster3 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I don't see anything to object to in this list, except maybe a few changes in the order.

Regarding the "also rans", Arkansas and Tennessee have GREAT fishing, but most of the fly-fishing you see is done on stocked streams below dams. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but a 200' wall of concrete just doesn't compete well against the Tetons, for example.

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from buckhunter wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I am a small stream/small fish lover where casting accuracy, stealth and delicate presentations are a premium. My favorite streams are in California and West Virginia.

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from All Seasons Angler wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I'd move Montana up the list a couple slots.

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from MLH wrote 3 years 1 week ago

It's just a rumor - there is no flyfishing in Michigan. Try Ohio.

But, honestly, got to love to be a flyfisher here. Anglers recently managed to get some waters opened longer and new catch and release areas implemented, which translates into more and better fishing to compete with hunting season ... oh, joy ... choices, choices.

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from Micropterus24 wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I would agree that if Michigan is numero uno Wisconsin and Minnesota should be somewhere on the list, I would say they are very similar overall. I thought Alaska would be number 1 simply because it is the dream of most fly anglers to just get there.

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from deanlikes2fish wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Being from Ohio, i guess i can agree with mi being # 1 in fishing. But thats about all i will agree on. I do miss the small mouth fishing in the shiawassee though.

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from deanlikes2fish wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Being from Ohio, i guess i can agree with mi being # 1 in fishing. But thats about all i will agree on. I do miss the small mouth fishing in the shiawassee though.

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from Wags wrote 3 years 1 week ago

Well, I've hit 8,5,2, and 1. Would love to try Colorado. I agree on #1, there is just so much to go after in Michigan. I also agree that Wyoming may be #2, that was pretty fantastic. As much as I have enjoyed East Tennessee and Western NC, I just don't think there is enough range and diversity. Pennsylvania might have a case for #12, but I think they have a lot of issues with depleted stream quality and lesser access. Not been there, just what I've heard.

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from Charley wrote 3 years 1 week ago

You forgot to mention that the first recorded fly fishing west of the Mississippi happened in Wyoming and the man settled in Utah.

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from peconic wrote 3 years 1 week ago

I know it is never going to make anyone's list but i have to say square mile for square mile (and considering how densly populated it is) Connecticut is vastly underrated...
Trout bigger rivers like the Housy and Farmington as well as wild small stream Brookie populations, Pike, Smallies, Carp, Striped Bass and even Albys in the summer CT isn't on anyone's "destination list" but certainly has the diversity and quality to keep a local Fly Fisherman happy for years!

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from William Romeis wrote 3 years 6 days ago

HMMMM Lets see... no one has obviously thought that the biggest state in the Union besides Alaska, which is on the other side of the world from most of us, Texas, rates even a mention? OOPs Deeter did mention it.. but what Texas lacks in scenery it makes for variety. Salt water, freshwater, rivers, lakes, ponds, more square miles of each than most states. Reds, sea trout, flounder, tarpon, white bass, black bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass, innumerable other species and yes we do have rainbows and browns... Check out the Guadalupe River.... So Texas has to at least rate.

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from Mysticfish wrote 3 years 6 days ago

I've got it covered. I was born in Michigan, live for seven months of the year in Montana and guide in Alaska.
I'll say Alaska is number 1 for wild native fish and wild surroundings. Montana is number 2 for space and river variety and there are plenty of warm water options as well. Michigan falls to number 3, but the top three aint bad.

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from QDMGuy wrote 3 years 6 days ago

What!?!?! If you want diversity, how can you not even mention Georgia? You won't find more diversity in fisheries in one state. From the mountain trout streams with rainbows, browns and brookies to mountain lakes filled with walleye and muskies. Farther south in the Piedmont you have great striper fishing on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River and hundreds more of lakes, ponds and rivers full of brim, spotted bass, largemouth, smallmouth, carp and catfish. Not to mention in Southwest GA you have the majority of the shoal bass' entire range in only 4 rivers! Deeper into the coastal plain, I travel to the Okefenokee Swamp every year just to fly fish for warmouth, shellcrackers (red ear sunfish), mudfish (bowfin) and jacks (chain pickerel). Then you have the coast. With all saltwater species given, I believe that it is also one of the best Redfish fisheries in the country with more linear coastline and intracoastal waterways than any other state on the east coast in it's range. I believe that Georgia is a very fly friendly environment and even launched a huge "Go Fish" initiative a few years ago. I know I am incredibly biased, but you can't dispute the diversity of fly fishing opportunities available in this great state!

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from goin2themountains wrote 3 years 4 days ago

I've fished 9, 6, 5, and 2. I have got to agree on the Wyoming sentiment regarding lack of warm bodies crowding your stream area. While I love my home waters of the San Juan quality water below Navajo Dam in NM, I do believe this is where the phrase "combat fly fishing" was coined.

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from dmitch wrote 3 years 4 days ago

I feel very blessed to have fished 7 of the top 12( and that number will be 9 of 12 after this summer) and I'm only 18 years old! I like the list but my one comment is that when you think of fly fishing to think trout of course. And then you can throw in some flats saltwater flyfishing but to give some of these states a bump because of bass fishing just isn't right.

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from Joe Demalderis wrote 3 years 4 days ago

It's all good!

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from LI Flyrodder wrote 3 years 3 days ago

Thanks for including New York on your list, which in my humble opinion is one of the most underrated fishing destinations in the USA. Don't forget the Lake Erie and Ontario tributaries for trophy steelhead, salmon and browns. The Finger Lakes are a smorgasbord of warm and cold water species. St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers. Adirondacks. NY is the only state in the union with shoreline on both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

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from Sayfu wrote 3 years 2 days ago

Natural spawning brookies in the state of Idaho are targeted by TU, and the state for elimination in most streams. Why, I haven't pursued the answer.

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from backcast wrote 3 years 1 day ago

You can find some sort of fly fishing opportunities in every state in the union, I imagine. Let's just call it the United States of Fly Fishing...but let me paraphrase Paul McLean in "A River Runs Through It", "Oh, I'll never leave Pennsylvania, brother."

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from matokuwapi wrote 3 years 20 hours ago

I'm often asked by my fly fishing friends why I spend do much time fly fishing in Michigan. Some places offer more in the way of eye candy. Like Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and I've fished a lot a of those waters... BUT Michigan offers way more opportunity. It possesses more than 36,500 miles of rivers and streams, 12,500 miles of which are classified as cold water trout streams. It has more than 11,000 inland lakes.

Let's face it. It possesses more then 20% of the worlds fresh water. When traveling Michigan an angler is at no point more than 6 miles (10 km) from an inland lake or river, and no more than 85 miles (137 km).

It has is 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline (for the lakes and connecting rivers).

Michigan is also way more affordable, compared to the "pretty" states. It's probably the most economical place to spend a fly fishing holiday.

You have to remember....Michigan is not just Detroit. Far from it.

Why did Michigan win first place? Simply for the sheer magnitude of the Blue Ribbon and other fishing opportunities available.

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from matokuwapi wrote 3 years 20 hours ago

That should have read "and no more than 85 miles (137 km)from any Great Lake."

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from MJAinKY wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

Kirk ... I'm not surprised to not find Kentucky in your list as a lot of folks here don't flyfish. But there are a lot who do and for more species than just trout. My two favorites are smallmouth bass and muskie but I won't shy away from white bass, stripers, wipers (WB&S hybrid), carp (several varieties), gar, black drum, bluegill, red ear (shellcrackers) and other bream (that's "brim"). I really don't care much for flyfishing for largemouth bass but we have them too. Mix all those types of fish into our 48,000 miles of streams (2nd only to Alaska) and a couple of hundred thousand acres of warmwater lakes and we have quite a fishery. But don't tell anybody ... we wouldn't want the word to get out. Just kidding .. Y'all come to Kentucky and fish

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from dgyoung wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

As a photographer who routinely travels the backroads of Michigan, I'm lucky to pack a rod or two behind the seat of the truck all year long. The hardest choice of the year is in the fall: "Fly Rod, or Shotgun???" I choose both. Cast and Blast!

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from delp wrote 2 years 52 weeks ago

I hope anyone who reads this list goes to Maine.

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from ajb81586 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Don't forget, the Adams fly was invented on Michigan's Boardman River.

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from ajb81586 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

To Dances With Deer, your record brown trout only TIED the record that was caught in Michigan...according to the IGFA.
But, being from Traverse City, thanks for the compliment...I was just taking a friendly shot back across the lake. Both of those trout were from Lake Michigan, so I think it's safe to say that Lake Michigan is probably the best brown trout water around.

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from fishyjake wrote 2 years 48 weeks ago

Fished 5 of 12 and want to finish off the list. Every state, except a few perhaps, have some good fly fishing. Having fished there, I can't believe CA is on the list. The saltwater fishing is sub-par at best and the trout fishing leaves a ton to be desired. Every Rocky Mountain state has better trout fishing. I'm biased of course but can't believe Utah didn't get in there above New York. The Green River cicada hatch is epically insane and Utah has better small stream fishing for big fish than any other state.

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from daghow wrote 2 years 47 weeks ago

Joseph Sherer Lighten up John. (from my Facebook pg) If you only fished in MI. once then you know nothing as you must fish it extensively to know what you speak of. In my case I would agree that there are other states that deserve to be on this list, (WISC.), however I have only fished in 7 of the named states extensively. (for more than 2 yrs. & more than 10 times per yr.) So while I have a difference in opinion than the writer(s), I don't begrudge them for having experience in states that I am not familiar with. It's indeed there opinion, and I like how and why they chose the states that they chose. The title said Flyfishing not trout fishing, and the diverse fisheries must indeed count for something.

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from upacreek333 wrote 2 years 47 weeks ago

Whatever you do, don't move Idaho up the list. And you're right ... the Henry's Fork and Silver Creek are our ONLY fly fishing rivers. ;)

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from BambooFlyRods wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

Arkansas is tough this year, but still, for quality of fish and sheer numbers, it's hard to beat. I've fished every state listed and a few more, and I enjoy most of them immensely, but when I had a chance a few years ago to move my shop to anywhere in the country I wanted to go, I chose the White River area in Arkansas, because of the fly fishing quality.

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from skeenaspey wrote 2 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you for posting your list of best states for fly fishing. But there are also hot spots for fly fishing in Canada. They operate out of Terrace BC, and to make it more relaxing for you, they provide lodge for you to stay in. They claim themselves as the home to the largest Steelhead and Salmon in the world.

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