Best Fly Fishing Areas in the Mountainous West
Best Fly Fishing Areas in the Mountainous West

It’s no secret that the mountains of the western U.S. hold limitless opportunities to fish stellar waters.

I’ve often dreamed of what it would be like to continually travel and fish new places. You could spend days sorting through options on the map and still overlook the best locations. While that dream may never materialize, I will always spend as much time as possible seeking out great new locations and returning to favorite haunts.

I am not a professional fishing guide by any stretch…I prefer wet wading when it’s not too cold, carry a simple four-weight rig, will often bypass well-known spots to fish less trafficked areas, and have thoroughly enjoyed every day spent on the water regardless of whether or not I landed the big one.

Having spent the last 15 years traipsing around the Western Mountains, I have few favorites you might enjoy exploring yourself.

West Fork of Rock Creek, Philipsburg, MT

Rock Creek is one of the best known and highly rated small waters around. It also sees a lot of fishing pressure. What most people don’t know, however, is that the fishing is often more fun, the water is always easily waded, and the crowds non-existent once you pass the 30 mile marker. The fish are so hungry after the cold Montana winters that you get away with throwing almost any fly in your arsenal. Hint: Throw a Royal Coachman or Purple Dun in the 18-22 range.

Blackfoot River, Ovando, MT

The Blackfoot has endless access options, stays relatively free of crowds, can be fished while wading most of the time, and has perfect structure to maintain a healthy fishery. There is a little bit of everything mixed in here, if you prefer fishing boulders and logjams, they’re there. Like the challenge of deep pools with big fish hiding in them? Got you covered.

West Fork of the San Juan, Pagosa Springs, CO

If you are looking for amazing scenery when you hit the river, then this is the right choice. It is mostly hiking access so it takes a little bit of work and you need to pay attention to private land postings. The payoff of long riffles, deep pools, and awesome fishing is well worth it.
This area brings back a lot of memories for me. Way back when, it’s where I learned to throw a fly courtesy of a fine old gentleman who summered in the area and had fished there for close to 50 years. That lesson came with a fly box and flies I still carry with me.

Boulder Mountain, Boulder, UT

Looking for high mountain lakes and cool temperatures while overlooking the Utah desert? This high-elevation plateau is covered in a number of small lakes with good populations of brook trout. On a recent outing to the area, my brother and myself landed no fewer than 12 brookies in about an hour. Hint: Stick to dries, the weed beds in some of the lakes are quite thick. But the fish can’t resist striking at almost any stimulator.