Top Ten Fly-Fishing Destinations - Page 2
Montana is where many anglers go for their first fly-fishing vacation, and it's where they keep coming back even after visiting the more exotic places. It's a classic destination for good reason. The rugged western half of the state, particularly from Bozeman to Missoula, offers a seemingly endless number of streams and rivers teeming with hearty rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. The awe-inspiring scenery features a wild kingdom of four-legged animals, lush hilly valleys, and the majestic snowcapped Rockies that carve the horizon. There are plenty of fly shops, and guides are eager to help you find the best waters. Plus, comfortable lodges abound that will put you right in the middle of Trout Country. Fly-fishing is more than a pastime in Montana—it's part of the culture. After all, Montana was the setting for Norman Maclean's novella A River Runs Through It.
9. Florida Keys
Americans don't need to travel far to find some the world's best saltwater fly-fishing. The warm, turquoise waters off the Florida Keys are loaded with record-size bonefish, a plethora of permit, and, of course, monster tarpon. When a submarine fleet of hundred-plus-pound tarpon closes in on the skiff, some anglers get so excited they can't even manage to cast. If one of these so-called Silver Kings takes the fly into its bucket of a mouth, you'll need to resist the instinct to set the hook right away. But once the line goes tight, hang on. Tarpon are famous for their explosive leaps when hooked—and for their fight. "People have fought tarpon for eight hours," say Perry Coleman, a guide and captain who splits his time between Montana and Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada, Florida, a local fishing hot-spot. "It's so adrenaline filled, it's like a drug."
8. Skeena River Drainage, British Columbia, Canada
Most fly-fishermen are intrigued by steelhead, a silvery seagoing rainbow trout, but there's a particular breed up north that obsesses seasoned anglers. "Skeena River drainage, that's where I spend most of my free time," says Ryan Peterson, a guide at The Fly Shop in Redding, California, who's worked most of the world's fly-fishing hotspots. Even for pros, hooking these fall steelhead is terribly difficult, but the payoff is big—and fat. Normally, a ten-pound steelhead qualifies as a whopper; Skeena giants can exceed 30. The town of Smithers is the usual jumping-off point, and the journey from there takes you deep into the rugged natural beauty of backwoods British Columbia, where the headwaters are lined with birch and aspen exploding with autumn color before the towering Canadian Rockies. "Every time you touch a fish there," Peterson says, "it's just this magical moment."
7. New Zealand
When the snow starts to fall in the States, fly-fishermen in the know head south...way south. Our winter is New Zealand's summer, the prime season for trophy brown trout. "Once they get over 26 inches, they just get fatter...almost square," says Zane Mirfin, a renowned guide at Strike Adventure who leads trips on the South Island, in the Nelson Lakes National Park area. The South Island packs in every variety of climate, terrain, and water, but it's the gin-clear rivers that the initiated mention first. The browns are so visible, anglers can basically stalk their prey. But that means the fish can see you too, and Kiwi trout are smart and easily spooked. "People get off on testing themselves against something challenging," says Mirfin. "It's sort of the PhD lesson in fly-fishing."
6. Alaska Peninsula
Simply put, Alaska is the place to go salmon fishing. When the state's wild salmon return from the Pacific to spawn, they flood the rivers and push upstream in underwater swarms. Anglers aren't the only ones aware of the great fishing: grizzlies come out of the natural woodwork, ospreys and eagles swoop down for easy catches, and rainbow trout join the frenzy by gobbling up the fresh roe. The hard-fighting, acrobatic Silver (also called Coho) salmon probably ranks as the favorite species among fly-fishermen, and the Alaska Peninsula in late summer and early fall is the place to reel in a 30-incher. The peninsula is home to several national parks and wildlife refuges, including the Katmai National Park and Preserve and the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, and accommodations range from rustic campgrounds to deluxe lodges. But wherever you stay, book a floatplane trip for some backcountry fishing if you can afford to do Alaska right.