Fly Fishing Vacations: How To Plan The Perfect Fishing Trip

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Every fly angler looks forward to the evenings and lunch breaks when they can plan their next fly fishing vacation. Dreaming of where to go, checking out the best spots on Google Maps, and texting fishing friends about dates creates anticipation for the most exciting few days of the year. 

No matter how far you travel or how elaborate you want to make your trip, vacation days set aside only for fishing make every angler’s heart happy. 

In this article, I will cover: 

  • What to Look for When Planning a Fly Fishing Vacation
  • When to Go on a Fly Fishing Vacation
  • Ideal Fly Fishing Vacation Destinations in the United States of America 
  • What to Pack for a Fly Fishing Vacation

What To Consider When Planning A Fly Fishing Vacation 

When you begin the planning process for your fly fishing trip, you want to keep a couple of things in mind. There will always be things out of your control when you travel.

Planning the trip correctly before you set off will prevent you from losing crucial fishing time once you arrive. 

Quality Lodging Conditions

Every person has their own standard of living. Whatever that is, ensure you can accomplish it when traveling. Some anglers are content returning to a campsite every night, and others need a hot meal and resort conditions. If the location you want to fish at does not have decent lodging, consider going somewhere else. 

Book the campsite ahead of time, or at least ensure you have somewhere to sleep at night. Sleeping in the back of your 4×4 or Jeep sounds fun, but in reality, you are likely to feel tired the following day.

You want to be comfortable at the end of the day. A long day of fishing isn’t always easy. You’re tired and hungry and want to relax before you do it all over again the next day.

Take care of all the aspects of your lodging arrangements, and then you can start making day-to-day travel decisions. 

Glamping Fishing Locations

These days, fishing has expanded into the glam fishing arena! There are many great fly fishing glamping areas worldwide; check out my article on the best glamping fishing locations worldwide, which includes my top picks for the US and Europe.

Guides and Fly Shops

Fly Shop
Fly Shops – Buy your gear and hire a guide!

Next, you will want access to a fly shop or at least some local knowledge. You can go to all the work to plan and research, but there are times of the year when certain waters are extremely hard to fish.

You don’t have to hire a guide, but it’s not a bad idea to find a local shop or guide service to help you when you don’t know what to do next. 

Make a stop at a shop at the beginning of your trip to pick up some locally tied patterns or even some gear. Fly shops will happily provide the latest catch reports and information if you purchase something from them!

Local fly shops keep fly fishing relevant and enjoyable. Their experienced staff has spent hundreds of hours on the local water, so utilize that knowledge and know-how to your advantage. These staff also spend a lot of time keeping the waters clean, allowing us to have a memorable fishing trip to the most desirable waters in the world. 

Variety of Water 

One of the final and most important things you want is a variety of water to explore. You don’t want to stay at the same river or lake location whenever you venture out.

Too many anglers take long fishing trips in one river or lake, and something goes wrong. Rain may muddy the water and make it challenging to fish, or recent pressure has made it really tough to find fish. 

Either way, you want to ensure you have at least two target areas within a few miles of driving distance. This allows you to move on to the other if the first choice isn’t a success.

Also, various locations keep things interesting and provide some anticipation at the beginning of each day. This also adds to the learning experience, making you a better angler. 

Access to a Vehicle

Finally, you’ll want access to a vehicle. Whether it’s a shuttle or your own car, a fly fishing trip isn’t as easy if you can’t travel up and down the river or to somewhere completely new.

Also, if you need to restock on supplies or flies, you’ll need some mode of transportation. Get creative if you have to because a vehicle provides the mobility anglers often need. 

Best Time To Go For A Fly Fishing Vacation? 

Autumn fly fishing
Autumn is a spectacular time for fly fishing

Most water is fishable for about three-quarters of the year. However, there will be weeks when runoff is significant, or the water temperature is too high.

However, most fly fishing waters can be fished for most of the year. This doesn’t mean it will always be productive, but you can land some fish. 

The weather is another significant factor to consider when planning your fly fishing vacation. Pick your dates for the location you plan to fish close to the peak season. Check out my in-depth review of how barometric pressure affects your fishing and how to take advantage of rising and falling air pressures can improve your chances of catching.

Post Runoff 

One of the most productive times of the year on the water is right after runoff season has concluded. Runoff usually happens from April to June. Snow melts and spring rains can massively raise the level of the water, making fishing very challenging and detracting from the true fly fishing experience. 

Runoff usually subsides in June. Once it calms, do your best to get on the water as soon as possible. Fish are hungry and looking for food. Food isn’t moving as fast, and they feel a need to fatten up after a long winter.

You can target these fish with whatever flies you like. Do your best to identify where they’re feeding by understanding the fly hatch charts for that locality and then throw whatever flies are hatching during that period. 

Summer Months 

The majority of July, August, and September are the most productive. These are the warmest months of the year in Europe and the US, and they also have the longest fishing days. The water stays clear, and the fish are active in the mornings and evenings. The hatches will happen during these hours, so make sure you’re fishing during these parts of the day. 

Cloudy days are likely going to make it easiest for you. You are less visible and blend into the surroundings better, and the fish won’t be as spooky since shadows won’t be cast out over the water.

Take advantage of the warm weather and join the other anglers in pursuit of a trophy fish. The later you get in the summer, you’ll find that using natural baits, such as terrestrials (beetles, grasshoppers, etc.), often start to make their way out to be eaten. 

Fall is Prime

Fall fly fishing is outstanding! Although late September, October, and November can be challenging due to cold weather, the fish are still feeding. If you want to fish for one of the prime size salmon species, fall will be the best time of the year. Most salmon “runs” happen in the fall, so keep that in mind! 

Fly fishing lodges often offer good discounts in the fall season as long as they aren’t located in a salmon hotspot. The water will also be far less busy, giving more opportunities to visit locations that are extremely popular in the summer. 

Ideal Fly Fishing Locations In The United States of America

If you’re fly fishing in North America, you have dozens of fantastic fly fishing options. While there are thousands of miles of beautiful water, certain waters will be far busier than others. 

Montana and Wyoming 

If possible, you’ll want to make a trip to Montana and Wyoming. First of all, you’re going to find ample lodging opportunities. Whether you want a lodge or a campsite, you will have access to it.

Rivers like the Gallatin, Bighorn, Yellowstone, Madison, and Missouri are all worth your time. They have phenomenal trout populations and will help you create memories that will last a lifetime. 

Make a city like Big Sky, Montana, your home base, and you won’t be sorry. You’re within driving distance of various lakes and rivers in one of the country’s most scenic areas, which makes for a lovely vacation. It’s one of those trips you dream of while you’re searching on the internet. 

Check out my recommendations on the best fishing places in Montana and Wyoming, including the famous trout river, the Gallatin.


Colorado deserves its own description! There are dozens and dozens of rivers throughout the Rocky Mountains that will put a smile on your face.

A great place to make your home base is Crested Butte, Colorado. Crested Butte is close to the Taylor and the Gunnison Rivers. Both of these rivers are filled with massive fish and have quite a bit of public access, so you can spend multiple days fishing. 


You can’t ignore fly fishing on the East Coast of the United States. Saltwater fly fishing is an entirely new experience that people must try once in their lives! The fish are far more aggressive, and you can target dozens of species.

If possible, visit the Florida Keys and the Intracoastal Waterway (known as the ICW), which boasts plenty of natural bays and inlets, saltwater rivers, and man-made canals. Hiring a boat and traveling along the coastal regions is a great vacation for anglers and non-anglers alike.

Florida also is one of the best bass fishing states, and some of the most productive and accessible saltwater flats fly fishing in the US.

Oregon and Washington 

If you want a shot at salmon in the United States, then Oregon and Washington will give you as good a shot as any!

The Columbia and Deschutes Rivers are big and challenging fisheries, but they happen to hold some massive fish. Target these rivers during the salmon runs, and you’ll find yourself with a great chance of some specimen salmon. 

If possible, you should book a guide. I recommend using the Columbia River Fishing Guides Charter Service, which is the most experienced in the area. They cover fishing for the four main species of fish (salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, and kokanee) in the Columbia River, Lewis River, Cowlitz River, and Buoy 10 in Astoria. Their local knowledge is hard to beat! 

North Carolina

The Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina are home to some of the most healthy brook trout populations in the United States. Plus, North Carolina has the only designated fly fishing trail in the United States, and the state is making a massive effort to preserve (and promote) fly fishing. 

You can check out more of the best places to fish in North Carolina, including where to go for the country’s best “wild trout” fishing.


If you want some Midwest flavor, visit Michigan. Michigan has some of the best fishing locations in the United States.

The brown trout and rainbow trout populations are massive, and much of the water is publicly accessible. This is excellent DIY water if you want to learn. The fish counts are high, so you won’t have to work overly hard to land fish. 

What To Pack For A Fly Fishing Vacation

Fishing jeep
A jeep can help transport your gear during your trip

Packing for any vacation can get a little stressful. Packing for a fishing vacation can be even more of a challenge!

Having a simple checklist can be a godsend for feeling organized and ensuring that nothing important gets forgotten. A simple item such as your fishing license can be easy to leave behind, which can be a crucial mistake if you need to show a hard copy during the trip.

Where possible, plan ahead and get as much done as possible a few days before the trip. On the night before, just run through everything one last time to avoid a lot of frustration.

Fishing Gear

When creating your packing list, you want to start with your necessary fly fishing gear. If you don’t have what you need to fish, you’ll feel unprepared from the beginning.

Rods, reels, and fly lines should all be organized before you get the rest of your gear. Check your tackle box for all the accessories that you will need. Ensure that you take the right equipment for the location you are going to. 

Fishing Clothing

The next thing you need is your clothing! Ensure you have waders, boots, and all the necessary warm or cold-weather gear. It’s best to be over-prepared if at all possible.

Knowing the location you are planning to fish at is key. Review the weather forecast before you go, and pack accordingly.

Wet weather can also impact the enjoyment of your vacation; proper clothing for all scenarios helps make the trip a much smoother experience. 

Food and Provisions 

In most cases, taking food on should be less of a concern. Taking a few essentials with you can be a wise decision. If you plan on cooking during the trip, this involves even more extra planning steps.

Taking cookware, cutlery, gas stove, water, etc., can end up being a long list of bulky items. Plan things out beforehand, and you will have a seamless and fabulous vacation every time!  

Final Thoughts

Fly fishing vacations can be an absolute blast. With some simple planning ahead, they can be memorable for the angler and the whole family.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you can find more than 40 worldwide locations for taking a fishing vacation covering the Americas, and further afield.

Lastly, if you are new to the sport, check out my in-depth guide on fly fishing basics, which will explain all you need to get started.

Daniel Mooers