Four Places to Study Abroad and Fly Fish

As the school year hits the half-way mark, many of our college fly anglers are thinking of one very important question — where can I study abroad AND have an epic fishing experience? Oh, and how do I get good grades, I guess.

After talking to several friends and fellow college anglers about where they studied abroad and doing a little research of my own, I’ve come up with a diverse and exciting list of great places to have a unique study abroad experience and get into some great fly fishing.

Fly Fishing in New Zealand — Jack Condon

New Zealand:

Well, this one isn’t a surprise; college student or not, New Zealand is a destination that should be on any angler’s list. However, incredible fishing coupled with great options for direct enrollment in any number of the North or South Island’s universities should make New Zealand a top choice among college anglers.

With rivers that are described as clear as air, New Zealand is home to wild rainbow and brown trout that can vary from precious 10-inch fish to double-digit fish in the same skinny headwaters. The central region of the North Island is prime rainbow territory, while the South Island has built a reputation as a pristine brown trout fishery.

New Zealand brown trout — Photo Jack Condon

It is important to remember that fly fishing in NZ requires finely honed skills and an incredible amount of dedication. But, aside from having a new academic experience, there’s no higher pinnacle than fooling a finicky, wild 10-pound+ brown trout on a dry fly.

There is great fishing all around both just a hop in a car and multi-day trips. Here are some options on both the North and South Island:

  • North Island: Tongariro River (Flows out of Lake Taupo), Lake Rotorua area.
  • South Island: Haast River, Rai River, Kahurangi National Park (Karma and Crow Rivers), Nelson Lakes National Park (Travers and Sabine rivers).
Fishing in Panama — Photo Ben Weber

Costa Rica and Panama:

Popular destinations for marine and climate studies, Costa Rica and Panama offer rich opportunities to dive deeply into Central American culture and environmental studies. The countries also host plentiful potential for fishing.

While Costa Rica provides the chance to catch major saltwater game species in tarpon, snook, and bonefish, it also has a thriving freshwater fishery for wild rainbow trout in the Rio Savegre Valley.

A bonito caught in Panama — Photo Ben Weber

Ben Weber, a college angler at Messiah College, studied tropical biology in Costa Rica and Panama:

“We fished for jacks and bonito in the Mariato province and fished for snook and peacock bass in the Panama Canal. Catching exotic species in a beautiful place with some special people was a sweet experience. Besides the fishing, being able to work beside the people down there on certain service and research projects was an amazing experience.”

Josh Hutchins with a fine taimen


Have you ever wanted to catch a Taimen AND live in a yurt? Then, Mongolia is the place for you! Several study abroad programs offer semesters in Mongolia centering on geopolitics, nomadism and the environment.

Spending their entire lives in relatively small headwater streams strewn throughout the region’s remote northern mountains, Taimen are freshwater dragons that hammer flies. Be warned, you may have to take a horse to get to these rivers — helicopter rides aren’t really a viable option for college anglers on a budget.

Where Am I Going? Bhutan

A landlocked country in South Asia sandwiched in the middle of the Himalayas, Bhutan is one of the top biodiversity spots on the planet. With deep cultural, religious and historic ties to conservation, Bhutan is an excellent case study in a society in transition and their interaction with the environment.

Snow trout — Photo Darren McFadden

Fishing in Bhutan is restricted and the authorities issue fishing licenses as an approval-based luxurious sport. However, popular species include brown trout and the snow trout which are found in spots ranging from large rivers to crystal clear spring-fed streams. The Golden Mahseer is also a resident of Bhutan’s waters but is an endangered species worldwide.

Where are you going? Share your study abroad fishing excursions with us!

Cover photo by Ben Weber

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