BEST TROUT FISHING RIVERS BY STATE
Alaska Arkansas Arizona California Colorado Connecticut Georgia Idaho Iowa Kentucky Maine Maryland Massachussetts Michigan Minnesota Missouri Montana Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania South Carolina Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming
This article is sure to stir up some controversy, because calling one trout stream "better" than another is essentially an exercise in futility. There is nothing in this world more subject to the whims of each person than what one looks for when they're trout fishing. Still, I have an annoying tendency to rank things, even when it's not really applicable, so bear with me. Here follows a list of what I believe to be the best trout streams in each state (it should go without saying that states like Florida, Illinois, and Louisiana aren't going to be included. If there's any state with legitimately good trout water that goes unmentioned, be sure to let us know.)
I know. It's a cop-out. The Kenai is possibly the most famous rainbow trout fishery in the world, not to mention one of the best salmon streams as well. But this article is about the rainbows, and there are truly some goliaths in the Kenai. They grow ridiculously fat on the eggs produced by the salmon during the runs, and afterwards on their carcasses. It isn't pretty, classy stuff, but it creates some of the planet's biggest and toughest rainbows. Get there when the salmon are in and the action should be crazy. This is no secret obviously, and the crowds are going to be reminiscent of a famous Lower 48 stream like the White. But the scenery is sure a lot better, and so is the fishing.
Arkansas- Spring River
Yes, I had to go with the one trout stream in the state of Arkansas that seemingly no one outside of the Ozark region has heard of. I'm sure that if you are headed to Arkansas to go trout fishing, you're going to one of the tailwaters like the White or the Little Red, with stars in your eyes and dreams of ten pound browns. You're not going to listen to me and go to the Spring River to fish for much smaller rainbows, but you should. That's because tailwaters are fickle and frustrating unless you hire a guide. Let me lay this out for you. You call the dam generation hotline, and it says that it is running zero units. You get to the river, and are just getting dialed in, tossing dry flies to imitate one of the many midge hatches that occur here throughout the year. There's that 10 pound brown you've been dreaming about, and you are just sure that with a few more good drifts you'll finally fool him. Then you hear the dreaded siren, see the water begin to rise, and you're headed for shore. Game over.
But if you're on the Spring, you don't have to worry about any of that. And by any of that, of course I also mean that you won't have to be concerned about finding any 10 pound browns. That's easily made up for though, because you can relax as you wade-fish or float one of the river's beautiful spring-fed runs, tossing nymphs or streamers to the plentiful rainbow trout that populate the stream. The Spring lives up to its name. Its headwaters are at Mammoth Spring, one of the largest in the region, and it's a river that never lacks in the awe-inspiring beauty that is inherent in all Ozark streams. Plus the fishing is pretty darn good too. The best trout fishing is in the first five miles of the river. Smallmouth and walleye abound further downstream.
The White River and its forks (particularly the North Fork) are home to one of the rarest strains of trout: the Apache. The river's North Fork (which has most of the best trout water in the system) is as beautiful and productive a mountain stream as you could hope to find anywhere. Access is plentiful, and the backdrop of the White Mountains of Northern Arizona will be as good as any, as you fish for brilliantly colored Apache and brown trout. What more could you ask for?
The McCloud River is the classic West Coast trout stream, a brawling, blue-green river that is home to a fine population of rainbows. The upper part of the river has wonderful, easily accessible fishing for smaller rainbows, but that is not what puts the McCloud on this list. The lower part of this river flows through one of the west's more beautiful gorges, and offers fishing for some of the strongest, wildest rainbow trout found in the Lower 48 states. This is one you won't want to miss if you plan a trout fishing trip to the state of California.
Colorado may have been the single most difficult state to pick one river from. Colorado has so many truly wonderful trout streams, but it doesn't have one that just jumps off the page like the Yellowstone in Montana or the Kenai in Alaska. You could reasonably say that the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, Animas, Yampa, South Platte or a few others should be in this spot. But in the end I went with the state's namesake stream, because of the incredible variety it boasts. The river starts high in the mountains as a meadow stream, full of small brook and brown trout. It then gradually morphs into a good-sized western trout river, then to a brawling canyon stream, and finally to a massive high desert artery. All of these water types hold trout, at least until it gets down to around the town of Rifle, a desert town far in the state's western region. It is true that no one ten-mile stretch is as excellent as the Fryingpan or the South Platte. That said, while it might be a case of quantity over quality, in my mind there are just too many miles of really good water for it to be left off the list.
Connecticut-West Branch Farmington River
The West Branch of the Farmington in north-central Connecticut is a very nice eastern tailwater, and is almost without question the best that the state has to offer. This is a beautiful pocket water stream with excellent hatches, full of brown and rainbow trout both wild and stocked. Unlike many eastern streams, water temperatures are kept cool the year-round due to the influence of Hogback Dam. This allows fish to holdover consistently from year to year, which is what helps produce this river's big trout. This is simply a fine New England trout stream with plenty of tradition surrounding it and some good fishing too.
Georgia- Chattahoochee River
This is a southern tailwater that is similar in many ways to the White and the Norfork of Arkansas. The biggest disadvantage (or advantage, depending on your viewpoint) of the Chattahoochee is its proximity to Atlanta (it's pretty much right in town.) This isn't going to be a good choice if you're looking for solitude, obviously. But what other Georgia trout stream am I going to write about? I realize there are some freestone streams in the mountainous northern part of the state, but they are mostly small, fragile affairs that don't need more publicity than they already receive. And don't get me wrong, the Chattahoochee is a very good fishery for both rainbow and brown trout.
Idaho-Henry's Fork of the Snake
The Henry's Fork is not the best trout stream in Idaho. That honor belongs squarely with the South Fork of the Snake, which has higher fish per mile counts and much less difficult angling. So why did I pick the Henry's Fork? Because it is a legend, maybe the single most mythical of all western trout streams. Located near the town of Last Chance, the famous Harriman Ranch section is flat and spring-fed. The rainbows feed on nearly constant hatches throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the most famous of which is most certainly the Green Drake hatch in early summer. The only problem is that the fish are nearly impossible to catch in the glassy, drag inducing currents. That doesn't sound like a good thing, but fly fisherman are masochistic creatures for the most part, and that's exactly what makes this river special: if you land a fish here you have really achieved something. Easier fishing is readily available in the Box Canyon section, where turbulent pocket makes the trout eager and opportunistic. But let's be honest; if you're coming to the Henry's Fork, it's probably to experience the insanely difficult spring-creek fishing in Harriman Ranch. By the way, the scenery isn't just good here. It's mind blowing. Mountain ranges are visible in all directions, and the area has an incredible variety of wildlife, which notably includes a healthy moose population.
I had a hard time choosing a trout stream for Iowa because there aren't really any good ones, right? Wrong. Actually it was very difficult because there are so many fine trout creeks in Northern Iowa's Driftless Region. French Creek, Bloody Run, and Bear Creek are all trout streams that most any state would be proud of. That said, Waterloo Creek is the pick, because it has better than average access and fish per mile counts. This stream has plenty of fishing for rainbow and brown trout in a classic spring creek environment, with good hatches and dry fly fishing that is often excellent. This is a very good trout stream in a region that the vast majority of anglers ignore.
Kentucky's Cumberland River tailwater below Lake Cumberland doesn't get much press, but it actually compares favorably to the more famous Arkansas tailwaters. This is a big brown factory, with a few trout weighing in at fifteen pounds or larger. The size of this river almost dictates float fishing, but that's just about its only downside. Of course anglers interested in numbers of fish as opposed to size can do very well here too, with an abundant rainbow population. This is one of the more underrated of the southern tailwaters, and is very much worth a visit.
With apologies to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, Maine is the best trout fishing state in New England. And in our opinion, the best trout stream in Maine is the Rapid River. The Rapid is only seven miles long, but the fishing is absolutely insane for native brookies and landlocked salmon. This is North Woods fishing at its finest, in a brawling, wild river for strong and acrobatic trout. The Rapid used to be famous for its ten-pound brookies, but those are gone now. But the fish numbers are still incredible and this remains one of the blue-chip eastern trout rivers.
Maryland-Big Gunpowder Falls River
Overall, Maryland isn't one of the eastern seaboard's better trout fishing states, but that doesn't mean the Big Gunpowder isn't a special stream. This tailwater below Prettyboy Dam holds an incredible 3000 trout per mile, one of the highest fish counts anywhere in the East. The fish are known for being very selective, but it's difficult to go wrong when there are that many fish available. Browns and rainbows are in the majority, but native brookies are also a real possibility for the angler. The Gunpowder is a classic eastern trout stream, with fast runs, and many deep, luxurious pools. This one is definitely worth fishing.
The Deerfield is yet another lovely New England trout stream. This stream in northwestern Massachusetts is heavily stocked with rainbows, browns, and brookies, and also has healthy populations of wild trout. The Deerfield is one of those eastern streams where the fishing is better in the early season, and again in the fall. April, May, and early June are the prime months, and the month of September can at times offer some fine fishing as well. The Deerfield has a wide variety of water types, ranging from deep, slow pools to raging pocket water. This is a beautiful stream that will not disappoint.
With the possible exception of Maine, you'd have to say Michigan is the best trout fishing state not located in the Rocky Mountain west. There is such an incredible number and variety of blue ribbon trout streams in this state that it does not blush even in comparison to western states like Montana or Idaho. But there is one stream that stands out above all the others, both for its excellent fishing for wild trout and the history that surrounds it. That river is the Ausable. Located in the the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula, it was along the banks of this stream that Trout Unlimited was founded. That in itself would be enough to put it on this list, but when you factor in that this remains one of the best trout streams in the country, you have something pretty special. The upper forks (particularly the South Branch) have fine fishing for native brook trout in lovely small stream environs. But the real fun starts on the main stem, near the town of Grayling. Starting at Burton Landing, you will find the eight-mile stretch known as the "Holy Water". This catch and release, fly-fishing only area is possibly the most famous anywhere in the country. The current is slow and glassy, the trout hiding among the many fallen trees in the river, rising to almost constant hatches in the warm months. The brookies and browns are 100% wild, always providing a challenge but also usually there with a reward if you are fishing attentively. Simply put, you have to fish here before your time in this world is past. It really is that good.
This Driftless area creek in southern Minnesota is very similar to Iowa's Waterloo. This is a glassy spring creek, with excellent hatches, and a ridiculous population of rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Access is also very good, as a large portion of it runs right through Whitewater State Park. This is hilly, borderline mountainous country, not at all the kind of flat, North Woods country that you probably envision when you think of Minnesota. Whitewater State Park also provides access to Trout Run Creek, which as its name suggests is another stream very much worth checking out.
Welcome to the state with the most underrated trout fishing in the country. Missouri doesn't even get recognition in the Ozark region, as Arkansas and its famous tailwaters steal all the press. But southern Missouri is quietly full of excellent trout water. Missouri has streams like the North Fork of the White, Eleven Point, and the Table Rock tailwater, all of which have fish counts and scenery that compare favorably with some blue-ribbon western trout streams. But in the end, I think the best Missouri has to offer is the Current River. The Current River begins in Montauk State Park as a "trout park" where fish are stocked daily through the warm months. While this make for some fun and easy fishing, its certainly not why this stream is on the list. No, the reason lies in the 17 miles of water below Montauk State Park. The Current flows through Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and the lack of development combined with rugged mountain country makes for some stunning scenery. But the fishing really steals the show, because the Current has some of the Midwest's best fishing for trophy rainbows and browns. The first eight miles below Montauk State Park are the best, but the next nine miles to Akers Ferry fish well too. This is a spring creek, but most often it's not a particularly difficult one to fish. While Missourians have known how good the Current is for decades, this stream doesn't bring people in from out of state like the Arkansas tailwaters. It probably should.
Current River at Baptist Camp Access-Winter
With all due respect to every other state in the union, Montana is the trout fishing capital of the United States, and the Yellowstone is its finest trout stream. The Yellowstone has 200+ miles of trout water. Yes, you read that correctly. The Yellowstone is the overall best trout stream in the country (possibly in the world), and it's one that has to be on your bucket list if you want to call yourself a fly fisherman. The fishing doesn'
t usually get started in earnest until early to mid-July, when spring snowmelt ends. But as soon as the river clears up, Stonefly and Caddis hatches have the trout boiling on the surface, attacking dry flies. But what is it that makes me call the Yellowstone the single best trout stream on the North American continent? It's the hopper fishing in August and September. The grassy banks along the Yellowstone produce insane numbers of grasshoppers, and when the weather dries up in late summer and early fall, they make their way into the river. The result is carnage, with the rivers massive browns and rainbows in full attack mode. You want to be there for that. Oh, and the scenery? Paradise Valley lives up to its name, and will keep you looking up from the river even when the trout are rising.
So I'm breaking my rule and going with a lake instead of a river here. But there is a good reason. Namely, while Nevada has some decent trout rivers, it doesn't have any that really stand out as blue-ribbon streams. But Pyramid Lake, on the other hand, is one of the best trout fisheries in the West. Anglers fish for Lahontan Cutthroat, and they mostly do it in a really weird way. And in the end, that was what got Pyramid Lake listed here: the way people fish it.
New Hampshire-Connecticut River
The upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire is a western river that somehow made its way into New England. This North Woods river starts as a small pocket water stream, connecting a series of large lakes in the northern part of the state. These upper reaches are home to native brookies that while usually fairly small, are almost always eager to take a dry fly. But as the Connecticut moves down from its headwaters, it turns into a floatable stream, and many fisherman prefer to ply its waters using drift boats. The river is home to some very large brown trout, as well as brookies particularly around the mouth of tributaries. This is a New England stream you've got to check out.
New Jersey-South Branch of the Raritan
Overall, most of New Jersey is too urban to be a premier trout fishing state. But the South Branch of the Raritan is one major exception. This beautiful pocket water stream is home to a bountiful population of brown trout, and there are also some small, but jewel-like native brookies. This mountain stream is definitely not what you'd expect in New Jersey, and is well worth a trip for anyone in the New York City area. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
New Mexico-San Juan River
Don't get me wrong; New Mexico is one trout-rich state. But when it came down to choosing the best stream, it wasn't even remotely close. The San Juan tailwater runs away with this honor. This stream is very popular, even crowded at times, but that's because it is one of the five or ten best trout streams in the Lower-48. Trout densities are insane, and the rainbows and browns here grow to ridiculous sizes. This desert stream doesn't have the usual western mountain scenery (although it is beautiful in its own way.) This stream is all about big trout and lots of them.
New York-West Branch Ausable
New York is a state with a ton of really good trout streams, but none that really rises above all the rest. You could make a case for the Beaverkill based on tradition, the Delaware based on big browns and rainbows, and Salmon based on its massive steelhead runs. But instead, I'm going with an old favorite of mine, deep in the Adirondack High Peaks: the West Branch of the Ausable. This river just looks like a trout stream in every imaginable. In some (or rather most) areas, it's a raging pocket water stream, littered with huge boulders, where the browns and brookies are eager and relatively easy to fool. Other areas feature deep, slow bend pools with under-cut banks, where the hook-jawed browns sit waiting for a well-versed fisherman to cast a streamer their way. All the while, you're fishing under the shadow of Whiteface Mountain, and the ski-slopes where the Olympics occurred back in 1980. Hatches are prolific, and it seems like every evening when the sun is setting behind the mountains, the trout will be rising. This is just one of those special places.
North Carolina-Davidson River
The Davidson River is the pick here, not so because it has the highest trout densities or the most big fish in the Tar Heel State, but because it is so conducive to fly fishing. The Davidson River is catch and release, fly fishing only for most of its best water, and a large percentage of the trout are wild. The fact that the river is simply gorgeous also helps. The river is a nice combination of fast pocket water, and deep, inviting pools. The surrounding mountains are stunning. This is one of the better wild trout streams in the southern Appalachians, especially when you consider the scenery.
North Dakota-Turtle River
I almost left North Dakota off this list, because who thinks about trout fishing right in the middle of the Great Plains? Certainly, North Dakota has much better fishing for walleye and pike than rainbows and browns. But North Dakota does have one good trout stream, and that is the Turtle River in the northeastern part of the state near Grand Forks. The best fishing is in Turtle River State Park, where the state maintains a good population through heavy stocking. This isn't quite a year-round fishery, as the water tends to warm up in the summer. But in the spring and fall, you might give it a look.
Ohio doesn't have much in the way of trout fishing, in the sense that most of us use the word. Sure, there are a couple of spring-fed streams that hold browns or rainbows, but nothing to write home about. But the steelhead streams that flow into Lake Erie are a different matter entirely. These are mostly small creeks and rivers, but they hold mammoth lake-run rainbows that can take you for one heck of a ride. There are several steelhead streams including the Vermillion, Chagrin, and Grand, and they are all very good. But I more or less arbitrarily chose the Rocky River. The steelhead are usually in the river from October to April, but like all migratory fish, this can be unpredictable, and depends on water levels more than anything else. Generally, the more rain, the earlier a run will start and the longer it will last. This stream is near Cleveland, which makes it a convenient option if you are in this area. If the fish are running, expect crowds, even in cold, nasty weather. Steelhead fishermen tend to be a hardcore lot.
Oklahoma-Mountain Fork River
Oklahoma doesn't have a lot of trout streams, but it does have a couple of very good ones. The Mountain Fork and Lower Illinois tailwaters are the most productive. That said, the Lower Illinois has been dealing with high water temperatures due to the mismanagement of water releases on Tenkiller Dam. So in our opinion, the Lower Mountain Fork is now the better trout stream in the state. And it is a beautiful river, with an excellent stock of both browns and rainbows. This is a mountainous region as the name of the river indicates, and the stream is a mix of deep pools and fast, in some cases dangerous pocket water. The Presbyterian Falls area is probably the most beautiful section of the Mountain Fork, and also offers some fine fishing for brown trout. Be careful-the water can rise frighteningly quick on this tailwater. The Lower Illinois continues to receive stocking of trout, so don't cross it off your list just yet.
The Deschutes River is a classic Western trout stream, more reminiscent of one you'd expect to find in Montana and Wyoming than Oregon. But what makes this river special is its population of rare redband rainbow trout. These fish are unique to this system, and that just adds to the charm of the Deschutes. The scenery ranges from rugged mountain canyons to desolate high-desert country.
Pennsylvania-Little Juniata River
Besides being a wonderful brown trout stream, the Little Juniata has been something of a battleground as of late. When a private, highly exclusive fishing club made attempts to close off a navigable reach of this river, it brought these types of issues to the attentions of anglers who do not like having their rights trampled on. But this article is about fishing, and the Little Juniata has plenty of that to offer. This spring-fed stream offers excellent fishing for both stocked and wild brown trout. One thing that sets this stream apart from others in Pennsylvania is that it tends to stay a little bit cooler than most area streams during summertime, especially near the mouths of its many cold feeder streams. And after the outcome of recent court cases, you can now enjoy fishing all the navigable portions of this excellent trout stream.
South Carolina-Chattooga River
If you think South Carolina's trout fishing can't really compare to its northern brother you'd be right for the most part. But there are several excellent trout streams in the Palmetto State, and I think the Chattooga is the best of the lot. This well-shaded pocket water streams offers everything an angler could hope for, including wild country, stream-bred rainbows, and good hatches. You'll think you're in the Smokies or the Blue Ridge. One final note that isn't related to fishing; this stream happens to be where Deliverance was filmed. So if you think you hear banjos, run.
South Dakota-Spearfish Creek
"South Dakota has trout?" you ask. Yes it does, and plenty of them. The Black Hills Region in the western part of the state is chock full of wild trout streams that hold rainbows, browns, and brookies. There a lot of good ones to choose from, but I think the best is Spearfish Creek. This is a mountain stream, like one you'd expect to find in Colorado or Montana. The principal species present are wild rainbows, and during the summer months they are usually willing to rise to a well-presented attractor dry. The river sees some good hatches, but because of the fast water, the trout can't be too picky. This is a relatively small stream like all of the Black Hills trout waters, but you're very unlikely to leave disappointed.
Ask ten people, and nine of them will tell you that the South Holston Tailwater is the best trout stream in Tennessee. It's true that this is one of the better big brown trout streams in the south. That said, if you are going trout fishing in Tennessee, you probably want to do it in the beautiful setting of Smoky Mountain National Park. This leads us to Abrams Creek. Abrams has the highest trout densities in the park, and is one of the best freestone rainbow trout streams in the east. Needless to say, the scenery here is second to none, and at times youâ€™ll have a hard time focusing on the river's bountiful wild trout population. This is an excellent dry fly stream throughout most of the warm months, but nymph and streamers will also fool trout. Move downstream away from the highlands, and the fishing stays world-class, only the quarry becomes smallmouth bass instead of trout. The Smoky Mountains (in our opinion) are the premier fly fishing destination in the south, and Abrams Creek is the park's most productive water.
Now it's time to introduce you to Texas's one and only year-round trout stream, the Guadalupe River. The Hill Country tailwater has a chalky blue color, and may be the oddest looking trout stream to make this list. This is not to even mention that this region can get dreadfully hot in the summer months. This is hardly conducive to trout fishing, right? Well, believe it or not, the Guadalupe is actually a worthwhile destination. The cold water extends from 5-10 miles below Canyon Dam depending on the weather and water releases, and there is more publicly accessible water than many other Texas streams. This stream is best fished from October to early June, but does hold some trout through the summer months if you know where to find them. If you want to try a totally different sort of trout stream where cypress trees line the banks instead of blue spruce, this might just be the place for you.
Utah is full of good trout water, but the Green River is almost undeniably its best stream. This canyon tailwater flows an emerald green color below Flaming Gorge Dam, and holds one of the world's heaviest fish populations. This is a destination stream in every sense of the word. Anglers travel from across the continent to fish it, and with good reason. The Green holds trout populations than range from a few thousand per mile in the Browns Park water to an insane 10-20 thousand per mile in the first stretch below the dam. Wild rainbows, cutthroats and browns all populate this river, and they feed heavily on abundant hatches throughout the year. This is as close to a must-fish river as you can get. Wade fishing can produce excellent catches for "do it yourself" anglers, though the majority of out of staters hire a guide with a drift boat to navigate the tricky rapids and show them the good holes.
This is one of the best trout streams in the east, and it holds brookies, rainbows, and browns throughout its entire length. The White starts high in the mountains as a number of feeder streams add to its flow. This upper water offers prime brook trout fishing that will suit the adventuresome wading angler. As you move further downstream to the middle reaches, browns and rainbows start to mix in with the natives, and add variety and some larger fish. The lower reaches of the river not far above its junction with the Connecticut hold an exciting mixture of trout and smallmouth bass, which lay in wait for the floating and wading angler. The scenery which the White River flows through is worthy of the trip itself, even before you mention the excellent dry fly fishing for three species of trout and smallmouth bass.
Virginia-Whitetop Laurel Creek
When you have a wonderful wild rainbow trout stream flowing just a few miles from the highest point in Virginia, you probably have a worthwhile destination for fly-fisherman. And Whitetop Laurel will not disappoint. Despite being one of the smaller streams to make the list, this pocket-water stream offers some of the best dry-fly fishing for wild trout east of the Rockies and south of New England. Because of the usually moderate climate, you can usually get into trout from the heat of summer to the doldrums of winter-which is not something you can say about too many freestone streams. Despite being in remote country, there are well-maintained trails along the stream, providing excellent access to the best water.
The trout fishing in Washington doesn't measure up to bordering states such as Oregon or Idaho, but the Yakima is one eye-popping exception. This high-desert tailwater in the eastern region of the state is on par with the Madison in Montana or the Fryingpan in Colorado. This stream is a float-fisher's dream, with excellent fishing for wild rainbow trout that often crack the 20" mark. The scenery is stark, but extraordinarily beautiful in its own way. Just don't expect temperate rainforests or Seattle weather out in this part of the state.
West Virginia-Cranberry River
The Cranberry has suffered badly at times from acid rain pollution. It even got to the point where it could not support a viable trout population, but it's on its way back as the best trout stream in the Mountain State. A process called "liming" has brought the PH back into a range where the trout can again thrive, and now anglers are again catching plenty of wild and stocked trout. The river holds rainbows, browns, and native brookies. Like other trout streams in the Appalachian region, the Cranberry offers fishing the year-round, with the best angling in the spring, early summer, and fall. Mid-summer and winter are the slower seasons, but the skilled angler can usually catch trout even then. It's good to see this stream back on the rise, and the fishing only looks to keep improving.
Wisconsin-Bois Brule River
The Bois Brule is the classic north-woods trout and salmon stream. The upper reaches of this beautiful river are home to native brookies that haunt the shady pools. As the angler moves downstream, the browns, rainbows, steelhead, and salmon take over, boasting the bounty that the Great Lakes region is so well known for. The brookies and browns respond well to dry flies during the warm months, while the steelhead and salmon require large nymphs, streamers, and egg patterns to fool. This is a famous river that several heads of states have enjoyed fishing, and we think you'd like it too. Whether you are after small brookies or large anadromous species, this river is worth checking out.
Though it's the last state on our list, Wyoming has some of the best trout fishing in the United States. While the Wind River Range, Tetons, Bighorn Mountains, and several other regions all offer world-class trout angling, we think the best of it is centered right in Yellowstone Park. And the Lamar Valley now has the best native cutthroat fishing in that legendary region. Cutthroat anglers used to flock to the section of the Yellowstone River around Buffalo Ford for native cutthroat, but due to the introduction of non-native lake trout, that fishery is in a real tailspin. As sad as that is, the Lamar Basin is picking up the slack nicely for those in pursuit of natives. The Lamar River itself has miles of excellent trout water, but its two major tributaries, Soda Butte and Slough Creek, really steal the show. These two streams have spring-creek like fishing for cutthroat that often top the 15 inch mark, and sometimes grow as large as three or four pounds. These streams are no secret, but the angling remains very good for those who are adept at sight-casting to rising trout, and making delicate presentations. The best time to visit is usually from late July until early September, although you might get an extra week or two of good fishing on either end of that. That said, run-off can last late into the summer at these altitudes, and snow can come early, so the fishable season is generally quite short. That is just the price you pay for a month or two of excellent dry-fly fishing for large native trout in mind-blowingly beautiful country.