Fly fishing is rapidly gaining in popularity due to its relatively low cost of participation coupled with the tremendous rewards associated with the sport. A few of us are lucky enough to live near some of the premiere trout waters in the country, but for most people, the thought of getting away from it all while wetting a line in a crisp, mountain stream is merely a fantasy. To fully appreciate fly fishing and its subtle pleasures, it is a good idea to seek out destinations that offer beautiful landscapes and lots of eager trout. There are bargains to be had with respect to lodging, airfares and guide services. A devoted fly fishing trip is the perfect way to create priceless memories without breaking the bank, and the advice below will help make sense out of planning your next – or first – fly fishing adventure. The biggest dilemma is figuring out just where to go.
Because this article is meant to appeal to a large geographic area, it is difficult to generalize on how accessible a certain destination is for everyone. The ideal situation for anglers in search of the most bang for their buck is to either visit a fishery within driving distance of their home, or to find a spot that is easy to fly into and where rental car options are plentiful. There are several destinations that come to mind as being centrally-located or near respectable airports.
Arkansas’ White River and its tributaries offer up a one-of-a-kind trout fishing experience. These rivers originate below dams, and water levels are extremely unpredictable. This makes it difficult to plan on the type of fishing you will be doing. The best White River Basin fisheries are located below Bull Shoal Dam (the White River), Norfork Dam (the Norfork) and Table Rock Dam (Lake Taneycomo). During periods when the dams are not generating electricity, wading conditions are ideal, as the rivers are characterized by slow pools and quiet riffles. When the water rises, the most productive fishing is done from either a motorized “Jon” boat or from a traditional drift boat. Because it is nearly impossible to predict releases on these rivers, it is important to have a guide who can safely keep you on the fish no matter what the water conditions look like. Between the three fisheries mentioned, there are countless riverside lodges that offer more than adequate amenities, and you will be surprised by how low their prices are. The Ozarks are centrally located and within a ten-hour drive of a good chunk of the country. Anglers can also access these rivers by flying into the airports at Little Rock or Springfield, Missouri, and driving a couple hours to the river.
There are decent-sized cities within a short drive of some amazing trout fishing. Reno, Nevada has several nearby options that offer a unique fly fishing experience. Pyramid Lake north of the city should be on every fly fisherman’s “bucket list” because of the massive Lahotan cutthroat trout. The Truckee River is within a couple of hours drive from the center of Reno, and this river is considered a world-class trout fishery. Because of Reno’s gambling economy, there are many great deals to be found on hotel rooms.
Boise, Idaho is another under-appreciated fly fishing destination. This city has an easy airport to get in and out of, and there is respectable trout fishing right in the heart of the city. The Lower Boise River meanders through the downtown area, and the flows are ripe for wading from mid-summer through the early spring. Although the Lower Boise River is a convenient spot, there are two fantastic tail water fisheries just over an hour outside of Boise. To the northwest, the Owyhee River is quickly becoming a destination worth consideration because of its healthy population of big and eager brown trout. This river is technically in Oregon, but it is primarily fished by Idaho residents, and it is just 70 miles from the center of town. The South Fork of the Boise River is southeast of downtown Boise, and this gorgeous stretch of water below Anderson Ranch Dam is full of intelligent rainbow trout that average 17-inches in length. Taking a fly fishing trip to Boise, Idaho is the perfect way for somewhat experienced fly fishermen to get a lot of time on high-quality waters – at a very reasonable price.
If you are looking for more of a solitude type of experience, consider Idaho, Montana and Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. The trout fishing in this area is world-famous and reputed to be some of the best around. Gaining access to the plethora of productive rivers near and in Yellowstone will cost a little more than flying into a medium-sized airport will, but it can still be done on a budget. The trick to this type of trip is to save money on accommodations. There are many lower-priced motel rooms and cabins in the area, and self-sufficient fly anglers should consider hiring a guide for a day or to in an effort to better understand the area before going out on their own. A trip to this magical part of the world is worth the added effort and money that is involved.
There are many other great fisheries that were not mentioned, and with a little research, you will discover amazing fly fishing opportunities that do not cost a fortune to experience. Going cheap does not have to mean compromising on productive fishing. This is why it pays to fully understand the inner-workings of a trout fishing destination before laying out any money. Saving on lodging and travel means there are more funds to be spent on guides and at the local fly shop.