Fly-fishing is not immune to trends. Maybe more than most outdoor pursuits, there tend to be locations that earn favor in the general zeitgeist, while others remain overlooked for no good reason. Locations like Montana, Colorado, and Florida have earned their reputation for world-class fisheries, but for some reason, many anglers take that to mean that other locations are inferior or not worth their time.
As we’re going to point out in this article, it’s simply not the case. In our books, the best fly-fishing destinations are those that you can actually get to on a regular basis. These hidden gems are dotted across the country, offering great fly-fishing opportunities and potentially fewer crowds on the water as well.
This is not an end-all-be-all list—the beautiful part is that there are thousands of great places to fish in the U.S.—but here are a few locations that we think are underrated in the fly-fishing community.
When people think of Georgia, the word “south” probably comes to mind, which also means the word “hot” comes to mind. While this may be true in certain parts of the state, the northern section of Georgia offers some of the best fly fishing in the region. As the Blue Ridge Mountains begin to rise about 90 miles north of Atlanta, the trout opportunities do as well. There are dozens of cold water streams for anglers to explore in this pristine region, including Rock Creek, the Toccoa River, the Chattahoochee River, and the Chattooga River.
For people who love the outdoors, Nebraska is one of the most underrated states in general. It has beautiful rolling hills and plains, with a temperate climate that’s mild enough in most months but also cold enough to sustain trout populations. There are plenty of great rivers to wet a line in the Cornhusker State, including the Niobrara River, Long Pine Creek, and Verdigre Creek. Plus, with the state’s ample amount of WMAs and public land access, opportunities are plentiful for rainbows, browns, and pike on the fly, to name just a few.
Hill Country, Texas
Texas gets a bad rap from fly anglers because there aren’t many trout-fishing opportunities in the state. And while that may be true, the central part of the state offers some of the best non-trout angling opportunities around. The Hill Country of Texas is one of the most surprisingly beautiful areas in the south, and its rivers and creeks (the Llano River, Guadalupe River, Colorado River, Frio River, and dozens of others) are packed with bass, panfish, and carp in their crystal clear waters. Plus, you can target the Guadalupe bass, a fish that can only be caught in Texas.
Northern New Mexico
There are probably a lot of people reading this who are thinking we’re crazy for including Northern New Mexico on this list. Really, it’s a legendary fly-fishing location with a long history of big, wild fish. But, we thought it earned a spot on this list because of its neighbor to the north. Colorado has (rightfully) garnered a ton of attention from fly anglers in decades past, and many people in the Southwest pass right through New Mexico on their way there. But, we think New Mexico can stand toe-to-toe with any destination on the planet, bar none. So, before you plan a trip to Vail, consider a trip to the cheaper, more accessible, and potentially better fishing on the Rio Chama, San Juan, Pecos River, and countless more.
You don’t hear a whole lot about West Virginia, but we think that’s going to change in the near future. While iconic destinations in the Eastern U.S. welcome hoards of fly fishers, the Mountain State is a sleeping giant, filled with wild rainbows, browns, and brook trout, as well as palomino trout, smallmouth, and many, many more. It has wild trout streams dotted throughout the state, including Second Creek, Elk River, The North Fork of the Cherry River, and the South Branch of the Potomac. So much of West Virginia’s landscape is ripe with fishing opportunities, and we think more anglers need to give them a second look.
As we said, this is not a complete list. There are hundreds of incredible fishing areas across the U.S. that never make headlines, and maybe that’s a good thing. While anglers flock to the Dream Stream or Missouri River, we can head out our front door a start throwing a line in a blue-ribbon fishery. What are some of your favorite fishing areas that don’t get much love? Leave a comment below and maybe we’ll feature it in a future article!