With a history that dates back to the Middle Ages, fly fishing has been relaxing way to enjoy the great outdoors since well before the birth of the United States. As one of the most widely used and admired forms of the sport of fishing, fly fishing has surged in popularity over the past century and now can be found on most every stretch of the planet. Whether you’re an experienced angler or looking for a new adventure, you’ll be happy to know that many of the best locations for fly fishing offer everything from fly fishing rods and reels to personalized instruction, expertly guided tours and of course, extraordinary scenery. The following are just seven of the best fly fishing locations in the world.
With more than 450 notable rivers for salmon fishing, Norway ranks among the world’s best destinations for fly fishing. After all, the world’s largest Atlantic salmon ever caught either by conventional fishing or fly fishing were landed on Norwegian rivers. The most famous of all fishing rivers in Norway is the Alta River or Altaelva in the northeastern portion of the country, with Atlantic salmon weighing on average a hefty 10.8 lbs. However, fishing on the Alta is expensive and licenses are sold through a lottery system with one lottery for local residents and another for visitors outside of the Alta region. Still, if an experienced angler were to choose just one Norwegian destination, Altaelva would likely be the most favored spot. If the lottery poses too much of a challenge or expense, Norway has several other exceptional rivers for fly fishing, such as Tana, Gaula, Namsen, Orkla and Malselv.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Home to the world’s second largest barrier reef, Belize is on a very short list of the best fly-fishing locations on Earth. Once described as the “Fly-fishing capital of the 21st Century,” the shallow coastal waters of Belize known as the flats offers unparalleled fly-fishing opportunities for tarpon, permit and bonefish, particularly on the island of Ambergris Cay. Although San Pedro is the only town on the island, virtually all of the hotel properties on Ambergris Caye are fishing resorts, offering group or private fly-fishing tours, such as Matachica Resort & Spa, Las Terrazas Resort, X’tan Ha and El Pescador Resort, the oldest and best known Belizean resort for fly fishing. Another exceptional destination for the sport in Belize is Turneffe Atoll, 20 miles off the coast from Belize City.
Home to the world’s largest sockeye (red) salmon run in the world, Kvichak River is just one of many extraordinary fly fishing locations in Alaska. Situated along the Alaskan Peninsula in the southwestern portion of the state, the Kvichak River flows from Lake Iliamna, America’s largest lake, to Kvichak Bay, an arm of Bristol Bay, the home of the world’s most valuable salmon fisheries. As one of the state’s most productive rivers, the Kvichak features four other salmon species, in addition to Arctic grayling, northern pike, Arctic char and is the only designated area in the state for trophy rainbow trout. Some of Alaska’s best fishing lodges are located along the Kvichak, such as the award-winning Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, Igiugig Lodge and No-See-Um Lodge.
Chimehuin River, Argentina
Ambergris Caye may have been bestowed with a fly fishing title, but the Chimehuin River near the western border of Argentina is more broadly recognized as the “Cathedral of Patagonia Fly-fishing.” Extending 33 miles from the river mouth at Lake Huechulafquen, the river is home to two non-native fish species that are immensely popular for fly fishing: the brown trout and rainbow trout. The best way to access the river in Northern Patagonia for fly fishing is through one of the many fishing lodges perched along the banks with optimum lies, such as Patagonia River Ranch, Tipiliuke Lodge, Spring Creek Lodge and Chime Lodge. Each of the lodges offer fishing licenses, professional guides and fishing equipment like rods, reels, fishing line, leaders and sinking fly lines. Fly fishing in Southern Patagonia is also world acclaimed, particularly at places like Rio Manso and Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America.
The Taimen Sanctuaries are two of the only four Mongolian rivers where international anglers can legally fish for taimen, a vulnerable species but the largest member of the salmon family. Both rivers are available for fly angling for taimen, Siberian trout (lenok) and grayling from one operator known as Fish Mongolia, which maintains fly-fishing/campsite locations about 500 miles apart. Both sites operate under the names Fish Mongolia and Mongolia River Outfitters and are known for world-class fishing for taimen, which can reach nearly five feet in length and generally weigh between 33 and 66 pounds. Due to the conservation status of taimen, also known as Siberian taimen or Siberian salmon, the Taimen Sanctuaries are designed as catch and release for all anglers and fly-fishing only for international anglers.
River Test, England
Located in Hampshire, England, the River Test is arguably the world’s most famous fly fishing river. The upper portion of the famed 40-mile long river is a chalk stream and the historic fly fishing location for Frederic Halford, considered the Father of Modern Dry Fly Fishing and author of the 1921 landmark book “A History of Fly Fishing for Trout.” The River Test is most famous for its brown trout but also features rainbow trout, grayling, salmon and sea trout. Local operators like Go Fly Fishing UK and Fishing Breaks offer fly fishing lessons and guided tours. Of the approximately 210 chalk streams in the world, 85 percent are located in England.
The island nation of New Zealand is among the world’s most coveted destinations for fly-fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout. Of the numerous fly-fishing spots on both the North Island and South Island, the best known is the Tongariro River, a part of New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato, that extends to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in the country. Extending from the Central Plateau of the North Island to Lake Taupo, the river is exclusively for fly-fishing and has multiple access points and a number of fishing lodges, particularly in or around the village of Turangi and Lake Taupo. Recommended fishing lodges are the Fishing Lodge, River Birches and Tongariro Lodge and each offer fishing packages for one or more days of fishing.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. He may be contacted via Twitter or Linkedin .