Millions of Acres to Fish

Five red-hot fishing spots in America's national parks.

Field & Stream Online Editors

There are only so many places on this planet where you can release a 15-pound rainbow, then step aside to let a 1,000-pound bear snorkel downstream. Or wrestle a 10-pound walleye to the tunes of loons and timber wolves. Or hook a snook and have it stolen by an alligator. But if you pay taxes to Uncle Sam, you can do all of this and more on 84 million acres of land and water owned by you and administered by the National Park Service. Below is your guide to our parks' very best angling (and hiking, camping, paddling, wildlife-watching). From Katmai to the Everglades, this land is your land. Go fish it.

**Yellowstone National Park **
Wyoming/Idaho/Montana

Unfurl a cast on the Yellowstone River and look around: Overhead is the spine of the Rockies. Beneath your feet is a subterranean cauldron of magma that fuels boiling geysers. To your left and right are grazing bison. And around your knees flows one of the finest native cutthroat fisheries left in the West (not to mention the half a dozen other famous trout streams nearby). If you call yourself a red-blooded American, and a trout angler, you have to visit the nation's-and the world's-first national park.

The Fishing: You almost can't go wrong picking water in Yellowstone. Hit the Yellowstone River above Upper Falls for abundant native cuts averaging 16 inches. Bring plenty of size 16 X-Caddis flies. Then downsize your tippet and present small PMDs, olives, and midges to selective browns and rainbows in the smoldering Firehole. (Action can slow here in midsummer, but trout have acclimated to this geothermally heated river and can be found sipping the surface of water approaching 80 degrees.) You can cast Callibaetis imitations to cutthroats cruising the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake. Work soft-hackle streamers on the Madison for fall-spawning browns up to 30 inches. Ply the Gallatin's pocket water with a stonefly nymph or the Gibbon's difficult meadow stretches with a small grasshopper pattern.

Prime fishing on most waters is from July 1 to August 15. There's also fabulous fall fishing, although it's somewhat more technical. Yellowstone River fishing doesn't open until July 15.

**Top spots: **"It's all good," says Jackie Mathews, co-owner of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, Montana (406-646-7642; www.blueribbonflies.com). That said-along with the aforementioned waters-she points to Slough Creek, the Lamar River, and Soda Butte Creek. If you're in good shape, hike into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for great trout fishing, solitude, and stunning scenery. On Yellowstone Lake, Gull Point offers good access and steady action.

To See and Do: You can't come to Yellowstone without watching Old Faithful shoot 1,000 gallons of water and steam 150 feet in the air, but the park's most reliable geyser is only the front room of a geothermal funhouse. Hit the geyser basins to see simmering mud pots, multihued hot springs, fumaroles, and more geysers. Don't miss Mammoth Hot Springs. You might see grizzlies anywhere in the park, but three of the best places to spot them are Lamar and Heyden Valleys and Dunraven Pass. Bring binoculars, a long-lensed camera, and your common sense.

Camping: There are 12 campgrounds, most with tent and RV sites at $10 to $15 per night ($27 per night at Fishing Bridge RV Park). For more details, call Xanterra Parks & Resorts at 307-344-7311. Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit.

**Katmai National Park and Preserve **
Alaska

Touch down in a land of volcanoes and glaciers, giant brown bears, and trophy rainbow trout. Fish the rivers that every trout and salmon angler dreams of: the Brooks, the Naknek, the Alagnak. Far flung, and no doubt expensive, Katmai is still a true fishing trip of a lifetime.

**The Fishing: **Just after the early June opener, some of Katmai's biggest inbows remain in the rivers and the lake inlets and outlets after spawning. Cast Vibrax spinners or swing big dark-colored bunny flies. In July, spawning sockeyes hit the rivers, and trout stack up behind them. Dead-drift Glo-Bugs or bead eggs under an indicator for fast fishing through summer. Or add flesh flies to your egg arsenal and wait until September (and into October) when big rainbows feed frenetically on decaying salmon. The "sideshows" include king and sockeye salmon in July, silver salmon in August, Dolly Varden alongside the rainbows, and dry-fly fishing for grayling.

**Top spots: **According to park fisheries biologist Joe Miller, the outlet of Naknek Lake offers some of the best and most accessible trout fishing in the park via a gravel road from King Salmon. For about $150, fly to the Brooks River for prime fishing and renowned bear-watching. Or float from the outlet of Nonvianuk Lake to the Alagnak and down, camping on gravel bars along the way. (Just know bear safety tactics, Miller warns.) Other hotspots include the Bay of Islands on Naknek Lake and Moraine, Margot, and American Creeks.

To See and Do: If you don't relish having the world's largest land carnivore as a fishing partner, come before the sockeye runs in July, when Alaska brown bears hit the rivers en masse. Otherwise, carefully watch the park's most popular show. For a postcard view, visit Brooks Falls, where brownies catch leaping salmon midair in their mouths. There is spectacular hiking in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where an eruption 10 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens left a Dali-esque landscape of volcanic ash unlike anything else on earth.

Camping: The famous Brooks Camp offers the only public campground at $8 per night. Call well in advance for reservations (800-365-CAMP). Backcountry camping permits are recommended, though not required. Much of the park is accessible only by floatplane or boat.

Voyageurs National Park
Minnesota

You will find some of the best pike and walleye fishing on the continent in this giant jigsaw puzzle of lakes, rivers, and islands where the voyageurs rendezvoused a century ago. This is one of the very few places where you won't be thought a weirdo for wearing a fur hat and singing a raucous song.

**The Fishing: **During summer, target walleyes with leeches and crawlers over rock reefs in 25 to 50 feet of water. The walleye fishing gets hotter come fall, when most of the bugs and visitors are gone. Just after Labor Day, troll slowly or jig vertically with minnow-tipped leadheads over deeper holes. In the early season, walleyes and pike stack up in shallow bays to feed. Cast leadhead jigs tipped with minnows to rock points in less than 20 feet of water for walleyes that can reach up to 10 pounds. For pike to 20 pounds, cast or troll Dardevle spoons to shallow weedbeds-or bust out a 9-weight fly rod and some big streamer flies.

**Top Spots: **According to aquatic biologist Larry Kallemeyn, on Rainy Lake, hit Black Bay, Cranberry Bay, and the area below Kettle Falls on the northeastern end. For fall walleyes, try eastern Kabetogama, where the Ash River enters the lake's narrows.

**To See and Do: **A motorboat will bring you to the best fishing faster, but to see this watery stretch of the North Woods through the eyes of the French-Canadian fur traders for whom the park is named, spend some time gliding silently in one of the many cached canoes available free of charge in the park. And look up now and then: There is perhaps no better place in the contiguous United States to see bald eagles.

**Camping: **At any of the 215 boat-in sites, camping becomes part of the adventure. These are first come, first served; a free permit is required for overnight visits. There are also two public campgrounds near Ash River and Woodenfrog (218-753-2245).

**Great Smoky Mountains National Park **
Tennessee/North Carolina

In the country's most popular park, there's a world of quiet backcountry angling to be had if you'll just do what most visitors don't: Get out of your car. Hike to any of the 330 trout streams in these ancient mountains and find wonderful fishing in what the Cherokees called "the place of the blue smoke."

The Fishing: Trout fishing peaks from March through May and remains good through early summer. There's some fine water just beyond the road, but generally, the farther you hike the better. Fish carefully and you'll catch eager trout in swift clear currents. Ply single-hook Mepps or Panther Martin spinners or any of the standby mountain-stream patterns: Royal Wulff, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, beadhead nymphs. For more technical flyfishing, hit Abrams Creek for uncharacteristically prolific hatches.

You'll catch rainbows and browns at lower elevations and more native brookies as you climb. Most trout will go 7 to 12 inches, but there are 18- to 28-inch bruiser browns to be caught, especially on the larger streams.

Top spots: Park fisheries biologist Steve Moore names the Little River, Oconaluftee River, Hazel Creek, Deep Creek, and Noland Creek for the best action. He also suggests stopping at the visitor's center for a list of newly opened native brook trout waters.

To See and Do: With 384 miles of scenic roads and 800 miles of wilderness trails, the Smokies are at once a hiker's paradise and a Sunday-driver's dream. Drive Newfound Gap Road to Clingman's Dome for sweeping views of the misted mountains. Grab a slice of pioneer life at Cades Cove, a historic settlement reanimated by period-dressed interpreters. And keep your eyes open for whitetail deer, black bears, and other abundant wildlife.

**Camping: **There are 10 campgrounds, costing from $12 to $17 per night. Reservations are required for Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont (800-365-CAMP). Backcountry camping is free with a permit, available at the park headquarters.

**Everglades National Park **
Florida

Diversity defines the Everglades and its fishing. Here you'll find more than 350 species of birds; 60 species of amphibians and reptiles; endangered crocodiles, panthers, and manatees-and a variety of glamorous saltwater gamefish. You'd be hard pressed to name a place that has better mixed-bag light-tackle angling for snook, tarpon, redfish, seatrout, bonefish, and permit.

**The Fishing: **This month through fall, target outer islands and points from Ten Thousand Islands to Flamingo for 6- to 10-pound snook and 3- to 6-pound redfish. Action can border on berserk when the sun is coming up and the tide is coming in. Cast High Roller topwater plugs on incoming tides, black-and-purple E.P. flie **Great Smoky Mountains National Park **
Tennessee/North Carolina

In the country's most popular park, there's a world of quiet backcountry angling to be had if you'll just do what most visitors don't: Get out of your car. Hike to any of the 330 trout streams in these ancient mountains and find wonderful fishing in what the Cherokees called "the place of the blue smoke."

The Fishing: Trout fishing peaks from March through May and remains good through early summer. There's some fine water just beyond the road, but generally, the farther you hike the better. Fish carefully and you'll catch eager trout in swift clear currents. Ply single-hook Mepps or Panther Martin spinners or any of the standby mountain-stream patterns: Royal Wulff, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, beadhead nymphs. For more technical flyfishing, hit Abrams Creek for uncharacteristically prolific hatches.

You'll catch rainbows and browns at lower elevations and more native brookies as you climb. Most trout will go 7 to 12 inches, but there are 18- to 28-inch bruiser browns to be caught, especially on the larger streams.

Top spots: Park fisheries biologist Steve Moore names the Little River, Oconaluftee River, Hazel Creek, Deep Creek, and Noland Creek for the best action. He also suggests stopping at the visitor's center for a list of newly opened native brook trout waters.

To See and Do: With 384 miles of scenic roads and 800 miles of wilderness trails, the Smokies are at once a hiker's paradise and a Sunday-driver's dream. Drive Newfound Gap Road to Clingman's Dome for sweeping views of the misted mountains. Grab a slice of pioneer life at Cades Cove, a historic settlement reanimated by period-dressed interpreters. And keep your eyes open for whitetail deer, black bears, and other abundant wildlife.

**Camping: **There are 10 campgrounds, costing from $12 to $17 per night. Reservations are required for Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont (800-365-CAMP). Backcountry camping is free with a permit, available at the park headquarters.

**Everglades National Park **
Florida

Diversity defines the Everglades and its fishing. Here you'll find more than 350 species of birds; 60 species of amphibians and reptiles; endangered crocodiles, panthers, and manatees-and a variety of glamorous saltwater gamefish. You'd be hard pressed to name a place that has better mixed-bag light-tackle angling for snook, tarpon, redfish, seatrout, bonefish, and permit.

**The Fishing: **This month through fall, target outer islands and points from Ten Thousand Islands to Flamingo for 6- to 10-pound snook and 3- to 6-pound redfish. Action can border on berserk when the sun is coming up and the tide is coming in. Cast High Roller topwater plugs on incoming tides, black-and-purple E.P. flie