Where Is Fly Fishing Popular?
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Where is fly fishing popular? What is the fly fishing capital of the world? Columbus, Ohio. 102% of the city’s population fly fishes, it is staggering how fanatical fly fishing is in Columbus. Clearly, I am joking...somewhat.
If you were to map it out, I would wager that the most popular fly fishing areas are in the Rockies, the Appalachian Mountains, and the Caribbean. But, as off-the-cuff and inaccurate as that might be it really does not matter. Over the last couple decades, fly fishing has been diffusing out to so many places and new popular fish species to target on the fly can be found in every U.S. state.
When I first got into fly fishing, I only went after trout because I thought that was the game. Eventually, my local fly shop told me some convincing stories and I caved in and started fly fishing for smallmouth bass, and then carp. Yet, what really expanded my fly fishing interest (and helped me to discover its popularity) was when I started traveling with my fly rod:
Standing in a lake I never fished before, holding a fish species I never caught until just now, I was glad I decided to bring my fly rod with me on the trip. Wading through the cool water on a warm spring day, I was out stalking and fishing the "flats" catching white bass. I was clueless on how to go about catching white bass, hell I didn't even know I was fishing for them until they started getting hooked. All I knew was that I had a couple hours to myself during a family visit in Texas and I wanted to explore some water to see if I could catch anything. A fly rod, reel, three flies, and a pair of shorts was all I had and needed.
I was back in Texas visiting my family and although I lived there for several years I had only fished a handful of times. It wasn't until my passion for fly fishing took off that I was back in Texas finally fishing a lake that was just twenty minutes from where I once lived. As a teenager, I jumped off cliffs to swim in the lake and drank beer around shoreline campfires with friends, but never fished its waters. Fly fishing brought a new experience and gave me a new way to enjoy a lake that I was once so familiar with. It also made me think about my own home, and what I might have been missing out on.
Since that trip, I will now bring the fly rod with me on walks around the city. Especially during the pandemic, going out with my fly rod has helped me to appreciate the nearby nature I have as well as close-at-hand opportunities to catch species like grass carp, catfish, bass, sauger and panfish. Some of my favorite water that I have come to really enjoy fishing is just ten minutes from my apartment.
Traveling with my fly rod convinced me to explore more of my own local area, and it has shown me that the art of fly fishing is growing in popularity in so many places. It has been a blast meeting the growing fly fishing community in Columbus, Ohio. I never would have guessed it was as vibrant as it is. Anglers get amped about our local waters and the fish that swim in them. Spending time at the fly shop, going to the Fly Fishing Film Tour screening, or just wading and boating around the rivers and lakes has shown me fly fishing’s growing popularity.
Sure, fly fishing for trout in the mountains and or casting to bonefish in the saltwater takes up much of the spotlight. But, do a little digging around and I bet you will find a spirited fly fishing community near you. They may be targeting panfish, smallmouth bass, gar, carp, walleye or some other fishy thing, because that is one reason why fly fishing is popular, being able to tie a fly on and go after a slew of fish species.
Websites and magazines have their “most popular fly fishing destinations” and Forbes even lists its top ten fly fishing states. Cool, if you have the money then go for it and start checking the list off. However, until I have that kind of money the bulk of my fishing time will be exploring the local waters because there is so much more out there than what is on those lists. It is funny that it took me traveling with my fly rod to appreciate the accessible fishing I have nearby.
If you haven't already, consider looking around where you live at the ponds, lakes and streams that maybe you have not explored yet, you might just end up discovering a favorite new species or place to fish. It just might be a hidden hotspot that is popular only with the local angling community, and that is great.
When you do travel for business, to visit family and friends, or just to take a quick trip think about bringing your fly rod. That weekend trip to visit family in some Midwest city could surprise you with the fly fishing opportunities it has. When I do travel, I will pack my fly rod, reel, and a handful of flies into my backpack and board the plane. It is a ticket to traverse a city, town or local area and run into some unique fish species. Also, fly fishing is a fun way to spend an afternoon showing friends and family something different about where they live. I just buy a single-day license for around $10, call a local fishing store to ask about regulations, and head out to fish.
So, where is fly fishing popular? Well, if I haven’t convinced you yet then go to Montana. Just go to Montana, you have my permission. And when you get back and are sitting around craving to cast a fly again then you can finally go explore your local waters.