Everybody is aware of not less than a kind of fly anglers who simply appears to get it. Those who at all times catch probably the most fish, the most important fish, probably the most difficult fish, they usually at all times appear to make it look simple. This particular person could also be a neighborhood legend who sits on the finish of your favourite riverside bar each evening, or they might be some quiet cashier parked on a stool at your native fly store.

The largest query about these grasp anglers is: what made them so good? Had been they taught to fish by somebody even higher than they had been? Have they got some kind of inherent understanding of fish conduct? Had been they maybe bitten by a radioactive trout or blessed by some unknown angling god and subsequently given superpowers? The probabilities are countless, however it’s my perception that, simply as the perfect athletes are pushed via a plethora of Division 1 applications, really good fly anglers are a product of their surroundings and are influenced and molded by their house waters.

What Makes a Good Fly Angler?

Whereas there are a ton of anglers who can exit and power-slam a ton of trout on closely stocked rivers, really good fly anglers are above such tomfoolery. To not begrudge anglers who do this kind of stuff, as a result of all of us wish to catch fish, however the reality is that it’s laborious to develop any kind of ability with out some kind of problem. Good fly anglers are those that push themselves on the water by pursuing probably the most difficult fish species in probably the most tough of locations, adapting and studying from their errors, and creating their expertise till they turn out to be masters of the artwork.

Now, whereas professional fly fishermen and girls exist in nearly each state within the union, some locations simply appear to have extra. Perhaps it’s as a result of there’s one thing within the water (or the beer for that matter) or maybe it’s as a result of a state’s explicit fly fishing tradition or distinctly difficult waterways and fish species simply forge anglers from lumps of uncooked iron into well-tempered and razor-sharp metal swords of the fly fishing world. Regardless of the cause behind it, it’s in these states that we will discover a number of the finest fly anglers within the nation.

Vermont and New York

Not solely do the 2 states share a whole lot of waterways, however Vermont and New York additionally share an analogous storied historical past of fly fishing. Within the late 19th century, aristocratic anglers from Europe descended upon the waters of the Catskill Mountains of New York and Inexperienced Mountains of Vermont and planted the flag of dry fly-obsessed trout tradition within the Northeast and helped develop the artwork of fly fishing into what it’s at the moment.

Nevertheless, what continues to trigger these two states to supply professional anglers goes effectively past simply their ample trout streams and into the biggest physique of water the 2 states share—Lake Champlain. Over the previous couple of a long time, this huge physique of water has turn out to be a mecca for fly anglers all for each the nice and cozy water and chilly water species that the lake affords and the challenges that may be present in fishing it.

“So, the factor about Lake Champlain to start out is that it’s an extremely dynamic system,” Captain Drew Worth mentioned, proprietor and operator of Grasp Class Angling information service on Champlain’s consecrated waters. “It’s commonplace to see six toes of fixing water stage over a season. That’s simply loopy! That fluctuating surroundings is one thing you must cope with and adapt to on a river however if you’re coping with it on a 120-mile lake, it provides a complete new facet of problem to the sport.”

Lake Champlain is house to a large number of fish species, from trout and salmon to bass and pike, to oddballs like bowfin, gar, tench, and even channel catfish, all of which will be caught on the fly. Whereas this may increasingly not sound uncommon as there are numerous such lakes that host a various assortment of fish species, what makes Champlain distinctive is that it’s one of many few locations within the nation the place such a group of fish will be caught in a single day!

“One factor about profitable Lake Champlain anglers is that they should adapt each day, with water fluctuations, water, wind, and so on.” Worth mentioned. “Nevertheless, what makes nice anglers round right here, is that they study to adapt to all these completely different conditions and to all these completely different species. Fly anglers right here will be fishing in 12 inches of water for bowfin with floating strains after which 30 minutes later be 40 toes down with full sink gear making an attempt to get a lake trout. No different place has such a various system that provides you alternatives at so many various species inside a pair miles of one another. That’s what makes such nice anglers round right here, their adaptability.”

Vermont and New York have produced and or helped to form and affect their very own plethora of legendary fly anglers, together with Worth himself in addition to Theodore Gordon, Lee and Joan Wulff, Leigh Perkins, and Tom Rosenbauer.


There may be maybe no different state that has had a much bigger affect over fly fishing tradition as we all know it at the moment than Pennsylvania. Inside the state’s quite a few rippling creeks, effervescent freestones, and fast strewn rivers, anglers have developed expertise which have made them greater than able to fishing anyplace within the nation. Whereas Pennsylvania sits within the middle of the hallowed “steelhead alley,” and has a number of the finest smallmouth bass fishing within the nation, it’s within the central and jap a part of the state the place the small trout-filled rivers have helped make Pennsylvania a real conveyor belt for expert and legendary anglers.

“Fly fishing has a sure the Aristocracy in central Pennsylvania,” mentioned Eric Richard who has been guiding the waters round southern and central Pennsylvania for over 19 years. “It has a deep historical past right here, the place presidents have come to fish and anglers the world over have come to find out about wild trout, but it surely all goes a lot deeper than that. Locally of hunters and fishermen round this space, there is a sure notoriety for open air people that comes with being good at what you do. The measure of a person right here is discovered of their capacity to hunt and fish, and it kind of creates a little bit of competitors amongst these small teams and subcultures that simply drives fly anglers to turn out to be higher.”

A number of the most revolutionary fly patterns and trout fishing methods have come from the Keystone State and it has additionally produced a number of the most notorious fly anglers within the nation—together with Ed Shank, Bob Clouser, George Harvey, and dwelling legend Joe Humphreys. Richard believes that it’s the state’s tradition of affection for the game of fly fishing and a want to share it and never a want to turn out to be well-known that has made them so.

“The very best angler in Pennsylvania might be somebody nobody has ever heard of or will ever hear of who has no want to be identified,” Richard informed MeatEater. “And that form of makes it cool, there’s simply so many nice anglers right here that you simply’ve by no means heard of, they usually’re not pushed to be identified. What drives them to be good is a private relationship to the artwork of fly fishing and to the trout themselves.”


Michigan has tens of hundreds of miles of high quality trout waters with substantial insect hatches and possesses a number of the finest Nice Lake’s steelhead and salmon rivers within the nation. It additionally has top-quality heat water fisheries for bass, pike, and particularly muskie, a spread that makes anglers from the state a number of the finest fly fishermen on the planet.

“In Michigan, we don’t have the variety of trout that western states do, however what we do have is dimension,” mentioned longtime Michigan information Tommy Lynch of The Fish Whisperer information service in Baldwin, Michigan. “We now have greater fish, so that you don’t should type via as many small trout to catch a real monster. On the east facet of the state, there’s the fabled hatches on the Au Sable and the Higher Manistee, and we have now a brook trout fishery within the UP that’s 100% wild and native. Plus, we have now a year-round trout and steelhead fishery and only a huge warmwater scene as we’re surrounded by 4 freshwater oceans. The place is only a target-rich surroundings.”

Lynch believes that the explanation so many nice fly anglers come from Michigan is due to the problem that the completely different waterways current.

“It’s important to have some expertise and a few spunk to get on the fish right here as a result of nobody goes that can assist you,” Lynch informed MeatEater. “We now have a whole lot of woods which makes for lots of construction within the water and never a whole lot of room to solid and which means the whole lot’s tight right here and the fish are much more reclusive. We now have to attend for our home windows, and we have now to note these home windows. It forges higher anglers from having to know and take openings. It makes for higher casters and line-workers, all with that hunt-and-seek mentality and understanding of how and the place to focus on the fish. In an effort to capitalize right here, you must be excellent.”

Over time, this want to be excellent has helped Michigan produce a number of the finest fly anglers within the fishing world, together with Charles F. Adams, Arnold Gingrich, Bob Linsenman, and Kelly Galloup.


Whereas there are a whole lot of fly fishing locations within the southern US, no different state has had extra affect on the game of fly fishing nor has produced extra expert anglers than Florida. The Sunshine State has turn out to be the true hub of saltwater fly fishing providing fly anglers possibilities at nearly each saltwater species on the market from bonefish and tarpon to redfish, snook, and barracuda. Whereas this selection has helped Florida turn out to be a number of the most various and standard fly fishing locations within the nation, the fly anglers there nonetheless should earn their fish.

“Fly fishing in Florida takes some severe expertise,” mentioned Captain Brian Jill, proprietor of Misplaced Coast Anglers information service in Tampa Bay.

“To sight fish and catch spooky fish on the flats, fly anglers right here have to beat a large number of variables which has developed some extremely gifted anglers who’re in a position to adapt to quite a lot of circumstances. A few of these variables that may complicate issues are pure and a few are artifical. Robust winds will oftentimes blow out your favourite spots or alter the tides drastically within the bays and backcountry, whereas cloudy skies and glare can kill your visibility. Realizing the place to go when and learn how to nonetheless have an opportunity with tough circumstances generally is a day saver.”

Except for the saltwater alternatives, Florida can be house to all kinds of freshwater alternatives as effectively. Throughout the state, there are dozens of various trophy bass lakes together with Lake Okeechobee, which is taken into account to be the premier huge lake within the US. Except for the bass, Florida additionally has launched unique species similar to peacock bass, snakehead, and even arapaima, the biggest freshwater fish on the planet. But even when pursuing these fish anglers nonetheless encounter issues that should be overcome.

“There are artifical elements we’re confronted with, similar to, poor water high quality inflicting extreme algae blooms and fish kills, coastal growth, heavy fishing stress, boat and jet ski visitors, and dangerous etiquette from different fishermen,” Jill informed MeatEater. “All of this limits the areas we will fish and finally ends up compounding the issues. There’s little doubt in my thoughts that navigating our manner via all of those obstacles has made us all higher fly anglers.”

Florida has a veritable who’s who lineup of notorious and legendary fly anglers who’ve both grown up in or developed their ability within the state. Most notable amongst these embody Lefty Kreh, Steve Huff, Jose Wejebe, and Flip Pallot.


The Treasure State has created a whole fly fishing business across the improbable wild trout fishing discovered within the almost 170,000 miles of rivers, streams, and spring creeks, throughout the state. This has helped Montana evolve from a seemingly barren but stunning wasteland match just for cattle and cowboys to absolutely the hub of fly fishing tradition that it’s at the moment.

Whereas the flyfishing in Montana is actually improbable, the state additionally presents its personal set of challenges. The plethora of waterways fluctuate from tiny freestone streams to huge tailwater rivers, all have their very own particular trout with their very own particular habits. What’s extra, is that the fisheries of Montana are open all 12 months spherical and when that is mixed with their reputation it signifies that the trout inside these waters are closely pressured, making them extraordinarily tough to catch. But it’s these challenges which have helped formed the fly anglers of Montana into a number of the most prolifically expert fishermen and girls within the nation.

“Nothing has tempered my fly fishing expertise personally and professionally as shifting again to Montana,” mentioned Kara Journey, proprietor and head information of Damsel Fly Fishing in Belgrade, Montana. “I’ve been lucky sufficient to both information or host journeys in all of the “Disney Land” fishing locations all over the world. Kamchatka, Patagonia, Alaska, however no different place “will hone your hook” fairly like making an attempt to grasp the various fisheries of Southwest Montana.”

Anglers fishing Montana repeatedly have to have the ability to adapt their methods on an nearly hourly foundation. The rivers are filled with hatches that may out of the blue dissipate and vanish in a couple of moments solely giving anglers small home windows of alternative for dry fly fishing earlier than having to modify to nymphs and streamers. Moreover, all of Montana is underneath the thumb of the mountain climate which might change and fluctuate enormously, 40-degree temperature modifications should not uncommon for the area, and rain and snow showers can come out of completely nowhere.

“To fish Montana effectively, an angler must arrive humble and be keen to place in some work,” mentioned Tripp. “Whereas there are some occasional improbable days the place you are able to do no fallacious, for probably the most half, fishing Montana means making excellent casts, being fast at tying knots, and being keen to nearly always change your technique all through the day. No different place develops an angler’s expertise fairly like Montana as a result of no different place forces anglers into studying learn how to turn out to be each well-rounded and technical anglers. Different fly fishing locations all over the world will spoil you. Montana will make you right into a fly angler.”

Over time, Montana has produced or assist to develop a number of the most expert and influential anglers in historical past. It continues to take action at the moment, with anglers like Norman Maclean, Bud Lilly, Dan Bailey, Joe Brooks, and Thomas McGuane all making Montana their house.

California, Oregon, and Washington

Although these states all have some glorious trout fishing and ocean fishing alternatives, the true cause that California, Oregon, and Washington have developed and produced such expert anglers comes down to at least one factor—winter steelhead. These three states on the Pacific coast are a number of the final bastions of steelhead which many think about probably the most difficult species of fish to catch on a fly in North America.

Steelhead are ocean-dwelling rainbow trout that return to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest to spawn. After they do return, they reside off of their physique fats accrued throughout their time within the ocean and they also haven’t any must feed. The winter run fish are infamous for completely refusing any fly that is available in their path, which is why catching one on the fly is taken into account to be the final word testomony to a fly angler’s persistence and ability.

“Winter steelhead are an intrinsically tough fish to catch as a result of they’re not usually consuming, so we have now to determine methods to make them eat our flies,” mentioned Oregon fly fishing information Chris Gerono. “If the fish are hungry and consuming then they received’t depart the ocean. Moreover, the water is chilly, and their metabolisms are so gradual that they aren’t very keen to maneuver for a fly. Within the winter you may have a tough time getting them to maneuver two toes from their holding spot to take a fly. Steelhead rivers are additionally laborious to determine. The fish lay in other places, they usually’re unfold out, and therein lies the problem. You’ve solely acquired 4 months to fish to them and except you’re expert sufficient, you may draw a clean after which you will have one other 8 months of tying flies and planning your subsequent assault.”

But via dedication and an understanding of the game, there are numerous West Coast anglers that truly catch winter steelhead frequently. But this usually takes lengthy years of observe and growth of expertise that few different fly anglers on earth can possess.

“The one constant success I’ve present in winter steelhead fishing has been found via time on the water,” fly fishing information David Power mentioned. Yearly Power spends his whole winter touring up and down the West Coast in quest of and studying about steelhead.

“It takes so many hours and days to find every secret a river holds and years to condense these bits into actionable info. Remembering the place you discovered a fish, and underneath what circumstances, offers you the chance to repeat that situation. Each change in water depth or readability calls for a unique fly or sink tip. It’s important to study to solid precisely and persistently from 100 positions, all whereas enduring tons of of hours of moist, chilly, and treacherous circumstances. It’s important to love being there and love fixing the puzzle and for my part, that love and dedication makes winter steelheaders a number of the most expert fly anglers on the planet.”

California, Oregon, and Washington all have their share of well-known fly anglers who lower their enamel within the winter steelhead realm together with Invoice Schaadt, Lani Waller, Ed Ward, and Dylan Tomine.

It’s All House Water

In the long run, it in all probability doesn’t actually matter which states have the perfect fly anglers. As beforehand talked about, there are nice fly anglers in almost each state, however what does matter is that we comply with the instance set by the nice fly anglers of the world. These people have a dedication and love for the game of fly fishing and do their finest to guard the waterways of their respective states and protect them for future generations to get pleasure from. As fly anglers, we have now a accountability to go on our information and expertise and to talk out about injustices and environmental hazards that threaten our lifestyle to assist be certain that each state continues to have nice fishing and nice fly anglers.

Characteristic picture through Tosh Brown.

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