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](/photos/gallery/ kentucky/2006/06/americas-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
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