When the time is right to pursue a family fly-fishing adventure, know you’ll soon wake up in some of the country’s most pristine places. You may catch and release the fish, but will savor the memories for a lifetime.
Here are five destinations to consider:
With plenty of wide-open space at the ready, this central Wyoming town is a vibrant hub for outdoor adventure. Home to the North Platte River, which provides year-round fly-fishing opportunities, Casper has become a bucket-list destination for avid and aspiring anglers. The river sits below five reservoirs, enabling consistent water flows and temperature, thus manifesting a stable fishing habitat. You’ll hear enthusiastic talk and big fish stories that originate on specific stretches of the river, including the Miracle Mile and Grey Reef. But for family travelers it’s good to know there is also Blue Ribbon water flowing right through the heart of town, with plenty of public access points available.
Appreciate the legendary waterway in a different way via the Platte River Trail system which threads through the community for eleven miles. The paved paths provide a good way to social distance as well as access to wildlife watching, mountain views and public art.
The Florida Keys
Chase big bonefish, tarpon and permit in the Florida Keys, one of the world’s top spots for saltwater fly-fishing. Practice your side casting and work on that double haul. Then prepare to be mesmerized by the reefs, flats and blue waters of these southern waters. Islamorada, comprised of six islands and billed as the “sportfishing capital of the world” , is a popular spot for eager anglers. It’s said backcountry and saltwater fly-fishing were launched in this Florida community. Key Largo, the longest island in the archipelago, is said to host more than 600 species of fish.
Steamboat Springs, Colo.
An outdoor-lover’s paradise, Steamboat offers family fly-fishing opportunities on the Yampa River. Spend the morning testing a few trout-rich holes before taking the remainder of the day to bike or explore the historic Western enclave.
Ask a local guide to lead the way for a multisport adventure, combining a short hike with the opportunity to cast a line into the pristine streams, lakes and reservoirs that dot the region.
Introduce your family to the joys of fly-fishing in the north woods of Michigan. The scenic and diverse Au Sable River originates north of Grayling and winds for more than 100 miles before meeting Lake Huron.
A fly-fishing only section of the river flows past Burton’s Landing and is known as the “Holy Water” for its productive riffles and trout-filled pools. Team up with a local outfitter for instruction designed for young anglers.
Jackson County, N.C.
With more than 3,000 miles of trout streams and 1,100 miles of hatchery-supported trout waters in the mountains alone, North Carolina is a fly-fishing haven. Home to the nation’s only designated fly-fishing trail, the Western North Carolina Fly-Fishing Trail takes anglers to 15 prime spots in the Great Smoky Mountains to cast a line. Expect a variety of options from wide-open rivers to small, secluded streams. The heart of the trail, the Tuckasegee River, or the “Tuck” as it’s known by locals, is the county’s largest body of water. Designed by two outdoorsmen and fly-fishing guides, the trail is an ideal way for fly-fishers of all skill levels and ages to learn the art of fly-fishing.
Contact: www.flyfishingtrail.com; www.discoverjacksonnc.com
Have you always wanted to catch the Salmonfly hatch?
The Salmonfly hatch on the Madison River in Montana is an absolute bonanza for trout, birds, bugs, and..... fishing. The pros from the Madison River Fishing Company and Troutstalkers went out on a rainy June day last summer and fished these big bugs.
Shop here to be prepared with Salmonfly Hatch Essentials:
Here are destinations to consider:
Westgate River Ranch, River Ranch, Fla.
You'll be just an hour from Orlando but feel a world away when you arrive at the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi. Situated on 1,700 acres of wilderness in Florida's cattle country, the ranch offers a menu of lodging options that include glamping-style tents, lodge rooms and two-bedroom cabins. Opt for horse and pony rides, airboat excursions, miniature golf, nature hikes and zip lining. You'll want to take in the Saturday night rodeo, campfires, cookouts, hayrides and a weekly street party.
Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colo.
Choose your season and relish the peace and tranquility you'll find at this historic ranch. With never-ending views along the Continental Divide, choose from snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing and fat biking in pristine winter conditions. The summer months offer top-notch horseback riding on over 200 miles of trail, cattle drives, hiking and mountain biking for the active members of your family. For those eager to relax, settle in on the porch for a card game, in a meadow or near a crackling fire with a book or puzzle at the ready.
Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Mont.
Just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park’s northwest border, in the shadow of Lone Peak, you’ll find a cluster of hand-built cabins. Authentic and luxurious, the historic accommodations, tucked creekside, in the pine trees or in meadows, help visitors conjure the days when the property was a working cattle ranch, operating in untamed country.
Then, like now, the region is home to stunning vistas, and abundant wildlife including grizzlies, black bears, bison and wolves. In the company of guides or on your own, adventurers have the chance to fish Blue Ribbon trout streams and explore the last best place via horseback, Nordic and downhill skis, snowshoes and on the many hiking trails in the area.
White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, Ariz.
Family-owned and -operated, this working cattle ranch is known for award-winning service, exceptional riding opportunities and a family-friendly atmosphere. Ride amid towering saguaros and enjoy moonlit bonfires, hay rides, fat tire biking, cowboy entertainment, astronomy shows, Western dance lessons and a weekly rodeo where family members can admire the roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling skills of local wranglers.
Great places and great experiences are best when shared with people you love.
That’s the philosophy of the pros at Troutstalkers, a fly fishing outfitter that specializes in Montana and Madison River Fly Fishing Trips. Their business is based on sharing a passion for the outdoors, their fly fishing knowledge, and a long history of meaningful experiences with friends and clients.
“We approach every day with a sense of exploration and discovery, and never stop learning,” explains owner Joe Dilschneider. “Often in this sport, just when you figure something out, everything changes. That’s what keeps it interesting.”
The Troutstalker pros can’t think of a better way to spend time with the grandkids than fly fishing.
“Fly fishing is life! The parallels to the important aspects of life are almost endless,” explains Dilschneider.
Troutstalkers believe that guiding is based around shared interests and curiosity, mutual respect and friendship. Their goal is to provide every client with the best leadership, coaching, companionship and knowledge possible. They commit to giving 110% to make your experience with your family members safe, enjoyable and educational.
Based in Ennis, MT., Troutstalkers offers guided day and overnight trips on the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Yellowstone, Missouri, and Gallatin rivers. They also can help families plan a trip to other world-class destinations including Montana's Smith and South Fork of Flathead Rivers, Florida Keys, Bristol Bay Alaska, Bahamas, and Argentina.
For more information: www.MontanaTrout.com
Troutstalkers is a member of the FamilyTravel.com Grandparents Travel Collection.
If you would like additonal assistance planning or booking a family trip, we can help.
During a recent outing I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.
And not “catching”.
First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn.
Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing:
Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.
Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.
Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com.
LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.
The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses. You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond. Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact: LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552.
For class registration: (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html
Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.
The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families. When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.
Contact: (800) 243-8652; www.Chetola.com.
Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.
Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation.
Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com
Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.
With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com.
For many families, summer is a time of transition. Family schedules and structures take on new shapes and sizes. When September rolls around, will there be more school supplies to buy? Or will the nest soon be emptying? This year, the warm summer breeze reminds me of an adventure we experienced years ago.
Not far down the sandy bank, I could see my 18-year-old son Alex rhythmically casting his fly into the Salmon River, intent on luring a trout. He was tanned and relaxed. His smile came easily as his angling efforts paid off.
I was looking for some uncomplicated time with my middle son before he went off to college. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted his full attention. Not those moments diluted by phone calls or text messages, the lure of the evening’s social activities or side glances to catch the latest on ESPN. So off to the wilderness we went.
Our backcountry choice was the Salmon River, referred to as the River of No Return by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. What we found in Central Idaho was a river corridor of exceptional beauty meandering through two million acres of wilderness, exciting whitewater, calm river pools, white sand beaches, and traces of American history not likely found in any other river valley in North America.
I was more than willing to share our time on the water with my youngest son Ted, who was about to miss his older brother as much as I would. From Boise, we climbed aboard a plane so small it felt like a bathtub toy. And we seemingly floated into Salmon, Idaho after enjoying up close and exhilarating views of the rugged mountain wilderness near Stanley and Sun Valley.
We were met by our charming host Wayne Johnson, owner of Salmon River Rafting, who would eventually impress us as a jack of all river trades. He informed, organized and otherwise herded us from our Salmon hotel to the water’s edge.
We were in the good company of a father, his son and two grandsons from Michigan, a couple from Minneapolis and our guides Wayne, Steve and Megan. Once afloat, our group of ten was dispersed among two kayaks, a rubber raft and the swift boat that carried our supplies down river.
Some of us were eager for the extra challenge (and exercise) provided by the kayaks. Others were just as content to relax in the boat, enjoying the near perfect weather and the surrounding Frank Church Wilderness. That is until we heard the rumble of rushing water ahead.
From the beginning, our guides carefully coached us to take the white water seriously and keep our feet first and down river should we end up in the drink. And it was a good thing!
Over the course of five days, rapid after rapid, we screamed, splashed, strategized and steered our way in and around giant boulders, swirling holes, and foamy waves that crashed over our heads.
My kayak partner Mark and I high-fived in pride for having stayed right side up more often than my two muscular teens traveling in tandem.
Evenings were spent enjoying hearty food prepared by Wayne and his capable crew, then stories and poems around the campfire, and the company of our fellow adventurers. The biggest decision of the day was whether to assemble the tent or enjoy a peaceful night under the stars.
Wayne Johnson is a veteran of the river, having spent most of his adult life guiding through this wilderness corridor. His love for the flowing water, the natural surroundings and the significant history provides tremendous added value to the trip. As travelers on the Main Salmon River we found ourselves immersed in an historical gold mine with Wayne as our guide, telling tales of hermits and homesteaders, while leading us past grave markers and abandoned log cabins. We saw Indian pictographs and happily immersed ourselves in hot springs considered medicinal by the early Indian settlers.
On our final afternoon, Alex and I headed up a small creek from our campsite and spent the afternoon gleefully catching the most colorful trout either of us had ever seen. It was one of those magical afternoons, suspended in time, only the wilderness can provide.
A Yellowstone Grizz ambles near Lake Yellowstone. ( Photo (C) Lynn O'Rourke Hayes )
Unspoiled natural places, authentic cultural experiences and distinctive communities draw travelers from around the world to America’s “last best place”; Montana.
Jump start your plan to visit Big Sky country here:
Visit your National Parks.
With Yellowstone to the south and Glacier National Park on the northern border, this Big Sky state offers the perfect launching point to explore two of our national treasures. Visit stops along the Lewis and Clark trail while you’re at it.
Take a stroll back in time as you observe remarkable living history demonstrations, dine in century-old structures, enjoy ice cream in an old-fashioned parlor, and ponder tales of ghosts said to drift along the boarded sidewalks in Virginia City and Nevada City. City tours via fire engine trolley, carriage rides and a follies stage show make for a vintage flavored getaway.
Helena, the state’s capital city with a rich mining history, is designated one of the country’s best small arts towns. The Montana Historical Society, founded in 1865, houses one of the country's most important collections of Charles M. Russell art as well as the work of noted frontier photographer F. Jay Haynes. Don’t miss the Archie Bray Foundation, established in 1951 on the site of a brick factory. Tour the studios and grounds of this unique endeavor in the ceramic arts that attracts artists from around the world. Ask about summer programs for adults and children.
Big Sky bonanza.
Nestled in meadows and surrounded by forestland, Big Sky is an outdoor lover’s paradise. A year round playground, this mountain town is home to Big Sky and Moonlight Basin ski resorts as well as fishing, mountain biking, golf, and rafting just to get the list started. Hiking is popular in the nearby Lee Metcalf Spanish Peaks Wilderness.
Attend a rodeo, stay at a guest ranch, participate in a round up. Ride horses into the hills, visit a stock yards. Throughout Montana, you’ll enjoy the chance to see real cowboys at work and learn about the rich culture that provides a time tested and colorful strand in our national tapestry.
Find out more: www.VisitMT.com.