Exploring a new city or just wanting to experience your backyard in a different way? Urban fly fishing is hot right now, and for good reason. There’s new species to catch, new spots to discover and plenty of room to be creative with it. You can land colossal carp or hook some burly bass probably not too far from where you call home. 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 USA’s best urban fly fishing cities.
What is Urban Fly Fishing?
Whatever you make it. Lakes, streams, canals, ponds – the world is your oyster when you live in or around a concrete jungle. The opportunities can be endless to land a fish on the fly if you know where to look. Brush up on your backyard smarts, talk to some people, look at google maps to pick the right spots to find fish – but that’s half the fun! All it takes to go on your Urban fishing adventure is a little flexibility, resourcefulness, patience and willingness.
Why Should I Bother?
A reality of fishing is spending a lot of time in the car heading to the water. Urban fly fishing can challenge that, though. Only the bravest and most committed anglers have the grit and determination that’s required to walk past picnickers, Sunday joggers, and bustling construction sites with a rigged fly rod. If you’re an urban angler, you’re cooler than most.
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.
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?
The perfect recipe is to be creative, resourceful, and patient. It’s likely you drive past fishable water on your work commute, or walk your dog around a local lake that’s teeming with bass and panfish. The only way to know how good the fishing is, or isn’t, is by 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, we’re fans of the aerial approach. Fire up that laptop, grab a beer, and let the scouting begin. Using Google Maps, OnWater or any 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. It’s important to remember that when choosing your 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 (trust us on that).
Where Should I go to Urban Fish?
We’re glad you asked.
Here are the top cities in the US that are making our top spots for urban fly fishing:
NOTE: It’s essential to be aware of local regulations and any specific rules or permits required for different fishing locations. Obtain any necessary permits and practice catch and release to help maintain the health of local fisheries.
1. Seattle, Washington
Puget Sound serves as the ultimate playground for anglers in this city. With a network of rivers flowing into its waters and a plethora of urban lakes and ponds scattered throughout Seattle, this place easily claims the title of the top US city for urban fly-fishing opportunities. Their rivers are home to a variety of trout and salmon species, from steelhead to cutthroats—you name it, they’re there. Seattles lakes and ponds are also stocked with trout, bass, and panfish, guaranteeing year-round opportunities for fly fishing. Depending on the season, it’s game time for Coho, Chinook, Pink Salmon, and more. With numerous public beaches at our disposal, you can catch Coho, Pink Salmon, Sea-run Cutthroat trout, and more, depending on the time of year.
2. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a no-brainer hot-spot for urban fly fishing. Sitting along the coast, it has a ton of saltwater fly fishing opportunities for species like redfish, as well as inshore gamefish in estuaries, tidal creeks and salt marshes. With the city’s mild climate, it makes it an idyllic place to always be on the move and on the lookout for your next best-kept secret fishing spot. Whether you prefer inshore saltwater fly fishing, freshwater angling in urban ponds, or exploring nearby rivers, this city has a diverse range of fly fishing opportunities to suit different angling interests.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman boasts a plethora of renowned fly fishing destinations that encircle the city. Here, you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of fly fishing opportunities waiting to be explored. The city is extremely close to the heavy hitters: the Madison, the Gallatin, and the Yellowstone River, along with a multitude of smaller streams and spring creeks. The region’s trout populations are diverse: Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, brook trout – you name it, it’s around Bozeman. Did we mention the coveted native Yellowstone cutthroat trout is around here too? Even within the city’s downtown, there are accessible spots abound. Whether you’re seeking world-class fly fishing within the city limits or just a short drive away, Bozeman has it all.
4. Denver, Colorado
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.
5. Austin, Texas
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.
6. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is a great meet-in-the-middle city for urban fly fishing in New England.The Piscataqua River and Great Bay are teeming with striped bass and bluefish. With easy access to the coast and a bunch of ponds and reservoirs close to the city, you can balance your urban adventures with thrilling fly fishing escapades.
7. New York City, NY
Ah, the Big Apple. On any given day, you could spend it going to a plethora of museums, bars, restaurants, plays, (cheering on marathoners as of yesterday) OR, better yet, take to the streets to indulge in something a little more… unique to the city that never sleeps. Urban fishing is abound in the concrete jungle. Fishing here means fishing for everything from brook trout on Long Island to stripers in the lower Hudson River. Plus, there are 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. If you’re already fishing here and feeling creative, tell us, do the rats also run the NYC waters, or do you? (Try this pattern and let us know!)
8. Grand Rapids, Michigan
The fly fishing community is strong here, making Grand Rapids is a great place to be an angler. The Grand River, after which the city is named, flows through downtown Grand Rapids and is home to smallmouth bass, walleye, and steelhead during their runs. There are several parks and access points along the Grand River make it easy to get on the water. You can also explore nearby lakes and ponds, or even venture to the Muskegon River or Lake Michigan for more fishing opportunities. Either way, you won’t be missing out if you keep your rod close and your maps out!
9. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is a vibrant city that boasts accessible waters, year round fishing and diverse fish species. The Cumberland River, which flows right through the city, is known for housing trout, bass, catfish and more. The access points and parks along the river make it super easy to get into the water without straying far from the city.
10. Reno, Nevada
The Truckee River flows right through downtown Reno and makes it a prime spot for fly fishing. It’s known for its trout populations, including rainbow and brown trout, and since Reno has a relatively mild climate, you can be pretty comfortable casting out there year-round. There’s also a lot of parks and access points along the river, making it easy to take a minute from the city and explore. Along with the Truckee, you can explore nearby lakes and ponds, as well as venture to other waters in the region for additional fishing opportunities.