New species to catch, new spots to find, and action closer to home – these are just a few of the reasons why urban fly fishing deserves the hype. From landing lunker carp to hooking hard-fighting smallmouth, urban fly fishing is hot right now, and for good reason. How and where you choose to urban fish is up to you, but these are our thoughts on why this type of fly fishing is well worth your time. Plus, we provide our top-nine picks for the world’s best urban fly fishing cities.
What Is Urban Fishing?
Exactly what you make it! Depending on where you live and what you’re after, everything from lakes, ponds, and streams to canals and rivers all offer the opportunity to land fish on the fly. Sure, it takes a little know-how to pick the rights spots and find fish, but that’s all a part of what makes urban fishing so enjoyable. Urban fishing is all about resourcefulness and a little flexibility, and once you’re open to having an urban adventure the possibilities are endless.
Why Is Urban Fishing So Cool?
For so many of us a day on the water means waiting for the weekend and spending serious time in the car. But you can change all that with some urban fishing fun. After all, it doesn’t take much to slip into that fishing induced meditative tranquility, and casting a rod closer to home makes it that much easier.
Urban fly fishing, until relatively recently, has flown beneath the radar. But more and more people are now discovering fish in their own backyards, and are fishing more because of it. One of the best parts of urban fishing is the adventure associated with it. So many cities have more bodies of water than you’d ever imagine, and most are filled with fish. Finding those gems is the name of the game, and chances are the fishing pressure is nonexistent. Only the bravest and most committed anglers (like you and I) have the steely will required to walk past picnickers, Sunday joggers, and bustling construction sites with a rigged fly rod.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to urban angling is watching your skills improve. By targeting new-to-you species on diverse bodies of water, your casting techniques, fly selection, and presentation will all benefit from the challenges you pursue. The better you get at creeping up on cruising carp, the more trout you’ll catch on those gin-clear water days.
How Do I Find Urban Fishing Spots?
Be creative, be resourceful, and be patient. Chances are you drive past fishable water on your work commute, or walk your dog around a local lake teeming with bass and panfish. The only way to know how good the fishing is, or isn’t, is by actually wetting a fly. Urban fly fishing is a game of exploration and adventure, so don’t get discouraged if your first few outings don’t produce much.
When it comes to locating water, I’ve always been a big fan of taking the aerial approach. Fire up that laptop, grab a beer, and let the scouting begin. Using Google Maps or any other satellite mapping program is an excellent way to find local water, figure out your access points, and get stoked on the unknown of a new urban fishing mission. When determining your next destination, be sure to consider public access and private property. Yeah, it might look like a gold mine, but trespassing to hit that bass pond is never a good idea.
Where Should I go to Urban Fish?
Nearly every major city has some urban fly fishing appeal, but here’s our take on the world’s 10 best cities for catching fish right in town.
Streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and ponds – Austin is an urban angler’s paradise. With the Colorado River running right through town, and countless others streams and tributaries scattered throughout the city, largemouth and Guadalupe bass are never too far away. Not to mention the catfish, panfish, and carp, and alligator gar scattered throughout the city’s lakes and ponds.
New York City, New York
Urban fishing abounds in the city that never sleeps. Fishing in the Big Apple means everything from brook trout on Long Island to stripers in the lower Hudson River, plus numerous city ponds and lakes stocked full of bass and panfish. If you’re looking for something a bit saltier, head over to Jamaica Bay for fluke and bluefish.
Besides being the gateway to the Rockies, Denver is home to some excellent urban fishing. Most notably, the South Platte River runs right through downtown and offers anglers a chance to hook into carp, smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, suckers, catfish, and walleye, with the occasional rainbow trout mixed in.
With the moniker “River City”, Sacramento has to make the list. The urban fly fishing in Sacramento is the real deal thanks to the Sacramento and American rivers, both of which meet in the heart of downtown. While the lower “Sac” is known for its healthy populations of salmon, striped and largemouth bass, and shad, the American River plays host to memorable steelhead and king salmon runs. Protected as a “Recreational River”, the American is easily accessible via the American River Parkway – one of California’s largest urban parks.
Miami, baby! The city of glitz and glam has it all. Wade into the flats for a chance to land any of the “big three” (tarpon, bonefish, permit), or hit the freshwater canals for a chance at a peacock bass. With incredible weather year-round, be sure to pack your gear the next time you find yourself in this fishing metropolis. Already live there? Lucky you, hopefully, your rod is already stringed up for your lunch break.
The Twin Cities, Minnesota
Ok fine, so this is technically two cities, but both offer killer opportunities for the urban angler. Lovingly known as “the City of Lakes”, Minneapolis is chock full of lakes teeming with fish, all within the city limits. Plus, you’ve got the Mississippi River, which divides the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Put it all together and you’ve got the chance to hook into bass, crappie, musky, walleye, and some pike.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Perhaps better known as the home of the world’s tallest building, Dubai is the next hot spot for urban fly fishing. Surrounded by impressive architecture and lavish attractions, Dubai’s urban angler can access some of the most sought-after fish on the planet: queenfish, golden trevally, kingfish, cobia, and bonito. For these reasons, it’s no surprise that guiding operations are adding this remarkable destination to their service menus.
New Zealand gets plenty of attention for its fly fishing, but Australia shouldn’t be overlooked. Melbourne, in particular, has some of the best urban fishing opportunities in the southern hemisphere due to its unbeatable combination of hungry trout and salt-water classics. Our suggestion? Start your urban adventure on the Yarra River before picking out a local lake for some afternoon still-water fun. Or head to the Sydney Harbour to try your hand at some saltwater fishing fun.
Who knew London was known for its urban fishing? Take a break from the hustle and bustle of England’s capital city and escape to one of the many stretches of water flowing past iconic destinations. With loads of streams and canals, all running into the famous River Thames, anglers can catch everything from titanic carp to dry-fly sipping brown trout – rumor has it that even sea trout and salmon make runs into town…
We get it, it can be hard to get past the allure of throwing hoppers to big browns lurking under shadowy banks. But it’s impossible not to fall in love with urban fly fishing once you realize you can fish closer to home. No longer must the weekend wait, and no longer is a skunked day reason for sleepless nights – that same pond will be there tomorrow, and you can fish it.
Article by Jake Lebsack, an angler based in Denver, Colorado.