Given this week is National Park’s Week it only made sense to highlight the Top Five National Parks for Fly Fishing. The National Park Service mission is to preserve the natural resources and provide for people to enjoy them. We are fortunate to have these sacred lands protected and also managed for recreation like angling.
1.Yellowstone National Park—Idaho, Wyoming, Montana
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about this place? Here, you can spend the morning checking out the innumerable geological features that you learned about in school, then spend the afternoon casting hoppers to hungry trout. Schools of the Park’s namesake strain of cutthroat trout are ubiquitously dispersed amongst the miles and miles of secluded rivers and streams.
Don’t miss the Lamar Valley, where you’re able to fish among herds of buffalo. Definitely, don’t forget the bear spray as grizzly sightings are frequent across the park’s 2.2 million acres.
2. Olympic National Park—Washington State
Ribbons of emerald green and glacial blue cut through dense, coastal rainforests on their way to the wild Pacific Ocean. Incredible rivers like the Hoh and Queets are highways for steelhead and salmon as they journey inland, sometimes hundreds of miles, on their annual spawning pilgrimage.
There are few species quite as revered as the wild steelhead, and when anglers can chase them in this incredible setting, it’s not too difficult to understand why. The rainy season occurs during the early winter months and often renders the rivers unfishable for weeks at a time. Visit during late winter and early spring when the flows are generally more manageable, and the fishing becomes more consistent.
3. Rocky Mountain National Park—Colorado
Home to one of the most impressive elk herds on the planet, RMNP is an excellent place to get your fill of wildlife watching while simultaneously chasing trout amongst some of the most idyllic scenery on the planet. While the headwaters of the mighty Colorado and the Big Thompson flow in opposite directions from the Continental Divide, it’s the high-alpine lakes that are the real gems for anglers.
A short, easy hike delivers anglers to the appropriately named Dream Lake where beautiful cutthroat trout maraud the shallows and make for easy targets. For those seeking more solitude, RMNP is home to hundreds of other lakes lie a little further from the beaten path. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that one could spend a lifetime exploring this place.
4. Everglades National Park—Florida
Far away from the cold, western rivers and the mountains from which they flow lies a place unlike anything else on this list. At the southern tip of Florida, Everglades National Park’s footprint covers over one-and-a-half million acres of marshland, estuaries and coastal saltwater flats and reefs. Fishing opportunities here are as diverse as the ecosystem, with quarry including backcountry largemouth bass, migratory tarpon and everything in between. DIY adventurers should rent kayaks, pack an 8-weight rod and paddle into the non-motorized wilderness areas where redfish, snook and baby tarpon are all readily available.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park—Tennessee and North Carolina
Appalachia is often omitted when anglers are compiling trout-fishing travel lists. Anyone who’s fished here will all agree, however, that overlooking Great Smoky Mountains National Park is most definitely a mistake. Miles and miles of streams flow cold and clear, providing the perfect habitat for rainbow, brown and brook trout.
No, you probably won’t have the opportunity to catch the biggest fish of your life like you may out west on the Madison or the Big Horn. Instead, you’ll enjoy hours of solitude fishing in a setting that is positively serene. Pro tip: the deciduous forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are on their autumnal veil during the months of October and November. Trust us, it’s not to be missed.
Photos and writing from Mark Rauschenberger, a talented content creator based in Colorado. When he’s not hunched over his laptop with a cup of espresso, you’ll likely find Mark with his wife, Claudia, exploring new water throughout Colorado and Wyoming on their never-ending pursuit of the next greatest destination.
Cover shot by talented photographer Mike McDade @mikemc290