Best Trout Fishing in the U.S.—Top 10 Towns
These are the places to be if you're a diehard trout angler
If you’re a true trout nut looking for the best trout fishing in the country, then you need to pack your bags and visit—or even move to—one of these places. We selected these 10 locations for the quality of their local rivers, as well as your ability to access different types of trout fishing without traveling far from one central location. In all of these places, you can fish for trout year-round and purchase flies and lures at the many local fly and tackle shops in town. These are America’s top trout towns.
1. Durango, Colorado
Except for the eastern plains, the entire state of Colorado is a trout fisherman’s dream. Even so, it’s hard to top Durango. Located in the southwestern part of the state, the small city is filled with primo fishing opportunities. The Animas River, which runs through town, is a Gold Medal Water freestone river. Public access throughout the city is plentiful, and the river is home to big browns and rainbows. Durango is also within easy driving distance of one of the country’s best tailwater fisheries—the San Juan River, which is less than an hour from Durango. It used to be relatively untechnical for a tailwater—it’s where the San Juan worm got its name, after all—but the fishing has become more technical in recent years (think: small flies). If that’s not your thing, you’ve got hundreds of miles of alpine streams in the area, where you can target rainbow and cutthroat trout that will shock you by how big they are despite the small water they inhabit.
2. Carbondale, Colorado
It should come as no surprise that there’s more than one Centennial State destinations on this list. Carbondale is centrally located near some of the Colorado’s best trout fishing. The cow-town turned outdoors mecca is straddled by the Roaring Fork River, one of the area’s most productive trout fisheries hands-down, as well as the underrated Crystal River. The famed Fryingpan River is nearby, and if you want to get serious about targeting a massive brown trout, some of the best stretches of the Colorado River are a short jaunt from Carbondale as well.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman is one of America’s most well-known fly fishing destinations for a reason. It nearby some of southern Montana’s most famous rivers, and the Gallatin, the river featured in A River Runs Through It, skirts the edge of the city. Gallatin River trout aren’t known to be especially large, but they’re willing to take dries and streamers and fight hard. Other than the Gallatin, you have access to a number of good wading and float-fishing rivers—the Yellowstone, the Madison, and the Missouri, as well as several productive spring creeks. And if you want to target Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the drive to the famed national park—and its countless fishing opportunities—is less than 3 hours from town.
4. Missoula, Montana
You should be even less surpised that Montana get double billing. The western part of the state is a paradise for the fly-fishing fanatic—and Missoula is right in the heart of it. The Clark Fork runs right through town, and three other fantastic rivers are within spitting distance. Each one offers something slightly different. The Clark Fork is known for its long, wide riffles and slow runs. The Blackfoot has big boulders and steep ledges. The Bitterroot is one of the most consistently productive rivers in the region year-round. And Rock Creek offers primo pocket-water fishing, not to mention a world-renowned salmonfly hatch in June. It’s no surprise that the town has nearly as many drift boats and rafts as Toyota Tacomas.
5. Redding, California
Redding is the Golden State’s only real trout town—and it’s a good one, situated close to several high-quality fisheries. The Lower Sacramento River runs through town, offering great float trips all year long. The Pit River offers nymphing for big fish, despite challenging wading conditions. Hat Creek is a spring creek known for its technical dry-fly fishing. Then, to the north, you have the Fall River and the famed McCloud River, which has steep banks and a lot of brush to get hung up on—and some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the Lower 48. That’s not to mention some of the area’s high-quality stillwater fisheries or the backcountry streams and alpine lakes in the Trinity Alps.
6. Roscoe, New York
Roscoe, New York, has more fly shops than bars. It’s a small town but it’s the place to be if you want to regularly test your metal on the Catskill’s world-famous trout streams. The Beaverkill and Willowemoc both flow through town, and the East Branch, West Branch, and Main Stem of the Upper Delaware River are just a short drive away. The dry-fly fishing in the area is notoriously difficult—perfect down and away presentations are a must for fly anglers—but the fish are big and the hatches can be spectacular.
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7. Grayling, Michigan
Grayling is a small trout town in Northern Michigan, situated on a prime stretch of the Au Sable River. It’s where Trout Unlimited was founded. Today, the Au Sable offers anglers a chance to hook into a big brown trout either by wading or fishing from drift boats or canoes. Its most famous hatch is the Hexagenia in late June, which can make for an incredible night-fishing experience. If you tire of the Au Sable, you can hit the nearby Manistee River, which has trout, steelhead, and salmon fishing opportunities. If you’re willing to drive a couple of hours, you can even visit the same rivers where Ernest Hemingway learned to fish in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—the Two Hearted River and the Fox.
8. Mountain Home, Arkansas
Mountain Home, a town of just over 12,000 in the southern Ozarks, is on this list for one reason: the White River. There simply isn’t a better river today for catching a truly giant—and I mean giant—brown trout. Best part: The river fishes well through most of the year. From incredible mousing during the summer to epic winter fishing, you won’t find a river in America with more trophy potential than the White.
9. Reno, Nevada
Reno might not spring to mind when you think of trout fishing, but it should. The city is close to phenomenal trout fishing, and when most other trout towns die down during winter, Reno’s fly-fishing scene really explodes. That’s because it’s a short drive from Pyramid Lake, home to the biggest cutthroat trout in the world, and the best fly fishing for those monsters is during the coldest months of the year. In the spring and fall, the Truckee River offers superb river fishing in town and upstream toward the California boarder. And if you want to take a jaunt into the mountains to beat the summer heat, Reno is not too far from countless Sierra Nevada creeks and lakes.
10. Bend, Oregon
It’s hard to go wrong as a trout bum in Central Oregon—and Bend is the place to be. The outdoorsy town is located right on the renowned Deschutes River, where you can fight the crowds to fish the popular salmonfly hatch in June before targeting summer steelhead. But that’s not all the town has to offer. The Metolius is also a classic trout stream situated just outside of town. The large spring creek is infamous for its picky but hard-fighting native redband trout. For the serious angler, there’s no better—or more scenic—place to test your mettle.