Where to Go: Fishing Road Trips

These five routes will take you to lots of fish.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Here's the scenario: You have a week or so to take a road trip with your best fishing buddy this summer. In this nation of roads, rivers, and reservoirs, what are the routes that offer the most and best fishing for the distance traveled? We've done the research for you. This list of the five best fishing routes across America is as diverse as the country. There's a trip for those who fancy a little history with their brown trout and smallmouths, and another that's an SPF-30 bass dash through the humid heart of the Deep South. You can head north for an adventure in the wilds of Michigan, or go west and fish some of the best trout rivers in the world. There's even a journey that might just land you a record-book bass.

The Rocky Road****510 MILES
Fish what may be the West's most famous rivers on a road trip framed by the snowy peaks and cowboy towns of the Rockies. The names alone make you drool: The Henry's Fork, the Madison, the Big Hole, the Yellowstone, and the Bighorn offer an ideal blend of Western freestone and tailwater rivers. Every trout fisherman should make this trip at least once in his life.

The Route
Start in Idaho Falls and hit the Henry's Fork. Then head north to the Madison in Ennis and west to the Big Hole near Twin Bridges. Hit Interstate 90 and move east to the Yellowstone near Livingston, then down to Fort Smith and the Bighorn.

The Fishing
The Henry's Fork is difficult, but its energetic rainbows-especially in the Harriman Ranch section-are worth it. Hit the salmonfly hatch on the shallow riffles of the Madison in late June. You'll find one of the best populations of grayling left in the country at the Big Hole. The majestic Yellowstone River is eaten up with browns, rainbows, and cutthroats. And with some 8,000 trout per mile, the Bighorn may be the most productive trout river in the world. Get up early and launch a driftboat or a canoe near Yellowtail Dam.

Local Color
Be sure to pick up some of Ren¿¿ Harrop's exquisitely tied flies at Trouthunter on the Henry's Fork (208-558-9900; www.trouthunt.com). Tour the Winston Rod Co. in Twin Bridges (406-684-5674; www.winstonrods.com). Check out the whoppers of yesteryear on the wall-of-fame at Dan Bailey's in Livingston (800-356-4052; www.dan-bailey.com). On the way to Fort Smith, stop at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield (406-638-2621; www.nps.gov/libi).

Insider Tips
Wade the Madison for a more intimate experience, but get a guide on the Yellowstone (Yellowstone Angler, 406-222-7130; www.yellowstoneangler.com) and float the Bighorn. Stay flexible: Water levels, thus fishing, can change quickly on the freestone streams (Madison, Big Hole, and Yellowstone).

Where to Stay and Eat
Trouthunter has a new lodge and a bar and grill. Camp and cook on the Madison near Ennis, or get a steak at Chatham's Livingston Bar and Grill (406-222-7909).

Trout, Bass, and Battlefields****400 MILES
The Civil War country of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania is the ideal destination for those who are both history buffs and fishing freaks. Spend the mornings and evenings catching brown trout and smallmouth bass on rivers and creeks both famous and obscure. Tour battlefields during the day as you drive through the gorgeous green cleavage of the Shenandoah and Cumberland valleys.

**The Route **
Start in Washington, D.C., and drive west and south to Harrisonburg, Virginia. From there, march north following Gen. Robert E. Lee's approximate route, stopping in Edinburg, Virginia; Sharpsburg, Maryland; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; then Carlisle. Then do something Lee never could: Go back to D.C.

**The Fishing **
Mossy Creek, near Harrisonburg, has 3 miles of chalky spring water that holds large, wary browns. Call the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (54048-9360) for a free permit.

Wade wet at Chapman's Landing near Edinburg and catch smallies all day on the gentle North Fork of the Shenandoah. Near Sharpsburg, hike the old C&O; Canal and cast behind rocks for smallmouths on the Potomac. In Carlisle, fish for trout on the Yellow Breeches during the day, then hit the sulfur hatch on the Letort Spring Run in the evening, your best chance to catch a big brown on this petite, air-clear creek.

Local Color
Mossy Creek Flyshop (800-646-2168; www.mossycreek.com) will fill you in on the hatch. Murray's Fly Shop (540-984-4212; www.murraysflyshop.com) in Edinburg is also a pharmacy, where fly rods are stacked next to pink bottles of Pepto-Bismol. Yellow Breeches Outfitters (717-258-6752; www.yellowbreeches.com) near Carlisle carries excellent local patterns. At the Antietam National Battlefield (301-432-5124; www.nps.gov/anti) in Sharpsburg, 23,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or reported missing in one bloody day. This July marks the 140th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg (717-334-2100; www.gettysburg.com). At the reenactment, keep an eye on the poor soul who plays George Pickett.

Insider Tips
The trout fishing is technical (small flies, long leaders), but big browns will occasionally fall for a size 12 Letort Hopper. Stock up on small silver Rapalas and white grubs for the smallies.

**Where to Stay and Eat **
Camp on Todd Lake in Virginia's George Washington National Forest (540-828-2591); stop in for pizza and bluegrass at Chappalino's (540-459-7332) in Woodstock, Virginia; stay at the Allenberry Resort (717-258-3211; www.allenberry.com) on the banks of the Yellow Breeches Creek.

The Southern Bass Trail****715 MILES
The Robert Trent Jones trail in Alabama is famous for its golf, but leave the clubs at home and trailer a boat in search of largemouth bass and barbecue. These Alabama lakes (Eufaula, Logan Martin, and Guntersville) make up the heart of the Bassmaster circuit. Make the pilgrimage to Lake Montgomery in Georgia, where George Perry landed his world-record largemouth 71 years ago.

**The Route **
Start in Atlanta and head south to Helena. Then go west to Alabama's Lake Eufaula, and north through Birmingham to Guntersville. Drive south to Logan Martin, and back to Atlanta.

**The Fishing **
Though Lake Montgomery, an oxbow lake off the Ocmulgee River in Telfair County, has problems with siltation, make a cast anyway. You never know. Lake Eufaula has been a consistent producer of big bass for 20 years-a BASS Master Classic there was won with 15 bass that averaged 5 pounds apiece. With its weedbeds maturing, Guntersville Lake is one of the best up-and-coming bass lakes in the country. On Logan Martin, look for largemouths lurking under boat docks.

Local Color
Visit the plaque on Georgia Route 117 that commemorates Perry's bass. Stop by Tom Mann's Fish World in Eufaula (334-687-7045) and pay your respects at the carved tombstone to legendary bass Leroy Brown, the fish so famous that over 800 people attended his funeral.

Insider Tips
After the spawn, the bass will stay shallow until the water warms, when you'll find them with crankbaits near river ledges. Try topwater lures early and late.

Where to Stay and Eat
Lakepoint Resort State Park has campsites on Lake Eufaula (334-687-6676); stop in at Demetri's (205-871-1581) in Birmingham for arguably the best barbecue in the nation; camp at Lake Guntersville State Park (256-571-5455).

UP in Michigan****632 MILES
This great Midwestern mixed-bag trip moves from the legendary trout streams of northern Michigan to the smallmouth, walleye, pike, and muskie waters of the Upper Peninsula, the rugged, hermetic land that so attracted a young Ernest Hemingway.

**The Route **
Start in Traverse City, go east to Grayling, then north to the U.P. Head west to Curtis, Seney, and Escanaba, then loop back.

The Fishing
Long-line for steelhead, three species of salmon, and burly brown trout in Grand Traverse Bay. Fish sulfurs in the evenings for trout on the Boardman (where the indispensable Adams fly was invented), Manistee, Au Sable, and Pigeon Rivers. In the U.P., South Manistique Lake near Curtis has muskies up to 40 pounds and keeper walleyes. In Seney, hit the Fox River, the supposed setting for Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" stories. The Little Bay de Noc near Escanaba has great walleye fishing near the creek mouths and rock piles.

Local Color
Hartwick Pines State Park (989-348-7068) near Grayling has the last remaining virgin stands of the white pines that once covered northern Michigan. In the U.P., hit Whitefish Point on Lake Superior to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (877-SHIPWRECK; www.shipwreckmuseum.com), which houses the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. Take a drive through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge (906-586-9851; midwest.fws.gov/seney).

Insider Tips
Make sure you stop by the Bayshore Tackle Shop (906-428-9687) near Escanaba for their excellent selection of crankbaits. Shortly after walleye season opens (May 15) in the U.P., try minnow jigs near the mouth of the Rapid River in Little Bay de Noc.

**Where to Stay and Eat **
Treat yourself at the Grand Traverse Resort (800-236-1577; www.grandtraverseresort.com). After crossing the impressive Mackinaw Bridge into the U.P., stop and get a Pasty (pass-tee), a football-shaped meat pie that was once the staple of Cornish miners in the area. Have a burger and beer at Andy's Seney Bar & Grill (906-499-3382).

** The World-Record Bass Chase****250 MILES**
Join the modern-day gold rush. Fish biologists say that the next world-record largemouth bass-and all that endorsement money-is likely to come from one of these reservoirs in southern California. Nos. 2¿¿¿9 on the list of the top 10 bass of all time have come from this area.

The Route
Move from an urban setting to the idyllic. Start in San Diego and fish Lake Murray and Lake Dixon. Head north to Riverside to fish Lake Perris. Interstate 5 will take you to Castaic Lake. Then head west toward Ojai and the coastal mountains that surround Lake Casitas.

The Fishing
Although you won't catch boatloads of fish in urban Lakes Murray and Dixon, there's a chance for the trophy of a lifetime. Lake Perris was once the best spotted bass fishery in California, but largemouths have since taken over. Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 7 on the biggest bass list have come from Castaic Lake, where you'll land a lot of 2- to 6-pound largemouths and maybe a good striper or two. Conventional >
Start in Traverse City, go east to Grayling, then north to the U.P. Head west to Curtis, Seney, and Escanaba, then loop back.

The Fishing
Long-line for steelhead, three species of salmon, and burly brown trout in Grand Traverse Bay. Fish sulfurs in the evenings for trout on the Boardman (where the indispensable Adams fly was invented), Manistee, Au Sable, and Pigeon Rivers. In the U.P., South Manistique Lake near Curtis has muskies up to 40 pounds and keeper walleyes. In Seney, hit the Fox River, the supposed setting for Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" stories. The Little Bay de Noc near Escanaba has great walleye fishing near the creek mouths and rock piles.

Local Color
Hartwick Pines State Park (989-348-7068) near Grayling has the last remaining virgin stands of the white pines that once covered northern Michigan. In the U.P., hit Whitefish Point on Lake Superior to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (877-SHIPWRECK; www.shipwreckmuseum.com), which houses the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. Take a drive through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge (906-586-9851; midwest.fws.gov/seney).

Insider Tips
Make sure you stop by the Bayshore Tackle Shop (906-428-9687) near Escanaba for their excellent selection of crankbaits. Shortly after walleye season opens (May 15) in the U.P., try minnow jigs near the mouth of the Rapid River in Little Bay de Noc.

**Where to Stay and Eat **
Treat yourself at the Grand Traverse Resort (800-236-1577; www.grandtraverseresort.com). After crossing the impressive Mackinaw Bridge into the U.P., stop and get a Pasty (pass-tee), a football-shaped meat pie that was once the staple of Cornish miners in the area. Have a burger and beer at Andy's Seney Bar & Grill (906-499-3382).

** The World-Record Bass Chase****250 MILES**
Join the modern-day gold rush. Fish biologists say that the next world-record largemouth bass-and all that endorsement money-is likely to come from one of these reservoirs in southern California. Nos. 2¿¿¿9 on the list of the top 10 bass of all time have come from this area.

The Route
Move from an urban setting to the idyllic. Start in San Diego and fish Lake Murray and Lake Dixon. Head north to Riverside to fish Lake Perris. Interstate 5 will take you to Castaic Lake. Then head west toward Ojai and the coastal mountains that surround Lake Casitas.

The Fishing
Although you won't catch boatloads of fish in urban Lakes Murray and Dixon, there's a chance for the trophy of a lifetime. Lake Perris was once the best spotted bass fishery in California, but largemouths have since taken over. Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 7 on the biggest bass list have come from Castaic Lake, where you'll land a lot of 2- to 6-pound largemouths and maybe a good striper or two. Conventional