Alone with the river: the world’s best places for fly fishing

by Phil Buckley

Imagine solitude. The only sounds are of the natural environment: a river, the wind in the trees, your breath, and the birds chirping to one another. The only unnatural sound is the line careening out of your reel and cast to the precision of your placement.

Few activities besides fly fishing offer such quiet moments – that is, until the fish strikes. Here are some of the best places to hook into the solitude.

Alagnak River, Alaska

The Alagnak is one of the few rivers where the entire food chain can be seen with a fly rod in hand. Sitting on the edge of Katmai National Park and its healthy grizzly bear population, all five species of salmon and mice-eating rainbow trout make for an incredible trip.
When to go: Summer is what it’s all about. Go in early summer for the salmon runs and go back from July through September for the aggressive trout bite.

Zhupanova River, Russia

With a true wilderness setting on one of the largest peninsulas in the world, the Zhupanova River will get any angler excited to cast a fly for some of the largest rainbow trout on the planet. Much like a saltwater game fish, these trout will attack a mouse pattern and offer the chance to land a fish rivaling the size of a salmon.
When to go: June through September is optimal for the large mice-eating rainbow trout. Bring everything from a parka to a rain jacket, as winter can happen any month of the year.

Madison River, Montana

In the heart of Montana’s, ‘Trout Mecca,’ the Madison has a fish count higher than the number of feet in the mile of river where they live. With the average trout size exceeding 12 inches, it is no wonder the fly fish industry in the state generates nearly a billion dollars a year.
When to go: Summer is the best for weather and fishing. Bring a rain jacket and sunscreen – you’ll want both.

Agua Boa River, Brazil

If sight-casting to one of the largest cichlids in the world sounds alluring, the Agua Boa will excite you for how strong a peacock bass will bend your rod. Located in northern Brazil within the Amazon rainforest, there’s nowhere else you can catch a 15-pound bass with a jaguar cruising the shoreline.
When to go: October through March offers the best chance for water clarity and good fishing. Bring a rain jacket and sunscreen as both can be used within an hour of each other.

Skeena River, British Columbia

The Al-Can highway transports people up and down British Columbia, and the Skeena does the same for salmon and steelhead. The second largest river in the province features not only quantity, but quality: world-record-sized salmon and steelhead make the Skeena a bucket-list location for anglers worldwide.
When to go: Midsummer into early fall brings the salmon run first. That’s followed by the intense steelhead bite. Pack your waders and a rain jacket for the moist climate.

Limay River, Argentina

The Limay starts its journey high in the Andes, flowing through the wilds of Patagonia, unbothered and unmolested. Wide-eyed anglers with dreams of landing the brown trout of their lives come from all over the world to stand on the banks or float this river.
When to go: November through April brings the best chance to land a large brown trout, with wonderful summer weather. Bring everything from layers to shorts. You never know in Patagonia.

Owen River, New Zealand

Nestled on the south island of New Zealand, the Owen River flows down from Nelson Lakes National Park and runs clear. So clear, in fact, the river is famous for sight fishing. When you see one of the large brown trout the river attracts, the world-class fishing begins.
When to go: December through March is peak summer fishing weather for the river. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and a good camera to document just how pretty the water is.

Eg River, Mongolia

Does hooking into the world’s largest salmonid sound adventurous? Look no further than the remoteness of Mongolia to test your strength for the ‘River Wolf.’ Known to eat mice, muskrat, and unfortunate ducklings, it’s every fly fisher’s dream to add a Taimen to their photo album.
When to go: June through October. Bring layers and optimism as you’ll need both to land a Taimen, the world’s largest salmonid.

Byske River, Sweden

For any angler with a love for Baltic salmon, the Byske in central Sweden begs for a swung fly. This river showcases how hard it can be to hook a wily salmon. But that’s why it’s called fishing and not catching, as the Byske happily reminds you. It’s still one of the best experiences in the world.
When to go: Go from June to the end of August, when the season closes to fishing. The salmon take advantage of the snowmelt and so should you. Bring a rain jacket, layers, and patience.

Ponoi River, Russia

For the fly fisher, salmon are notoriously difficult to catch – but not on this river. With landed-fish numbers in the thousands on any given week during peak season, the Ponoi should be on every angler’s list for Atlantic salmon fishing.
When to go: Any time but winter. Salmon run in healthy numbers 8 months of the year. The region is just above the Arctic Circle, so there are different needs for different times of the year.


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