When it comes time to pick your next fly fishing destination the options are literally endless. While no one can truly come up with a definitive list, we have some favorite locations we would like to share from our personal 2018 Fly Fishing Destinations Bucket List. Without further ado…
Our Top 10 Fly Fishing Destinations for 2018
- Boca Grande, Florida
- The Louisiana Marsh
- Everglades National Park, Florida
- Key West, Florida
- Branson, Missouri
- Pensacola, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- Palm Beach, Florida
- Cocoa Beach, Florida
- Naples, Florida
Details by Location
Here is the nitty gritty for each of our destination choices. See why we chose them, what to expect, and even some unlikely alternatives if you truly want to escape from the crowds.
1. Boca Grande, Florida
Boca Grande, Florida is the home of the Silver King. Just about everyone knows that Boca Grande is the epitome of Tarpon fishing destinations, but it is also home to epic flats and backcountry fishing. For fly fisherman, Boca Grande offers you the opportunity to scratch a Tarpon on fly off your bucket list.
Aside from Tarpon, Boca Grande is also home to some of the most diverse redfish, snook, black drum, sheepshead, and sea trout fishing in the state. In this, this area is the perfect spot to spend an entire day going for a slam on the long rod while enjoying one of Florida’s most famous tarpon fishing destinations.
| Some Alternatives to Boca Grande
Boca Grande can also get congested with boats and anglers during the peak of Tarpon season. In this, your day exploring the calm inshore fishery may not be so relaxing. As an alternative in the area, you can easily explore the backcountry and flats available in the neighboring Charlotte Harbor.
Away from Boca Grande, to the north, much further up the state is a little-known Tarpon fishing location that may very well have been created by the almighty just for fly fisherman. This is Homosassa.
Homosassa fishing offers you shots at all the same species as Boca Grande, including a Tarpon fishery that holds its own, but you will truly be immersed in the “Old Florida” along the states Nature Coast. This is also a great location for seasonal scalloping.
2. The Louisiana Marsh
The Louisianna marsh is one of the most famous destinations for big bull redfish. This area is home to a never-ending network of marsh grass filled backwaters and some of the biggest redfish you will come across. For fly fisherman, fishing the Louisiana marsh is probably one of the “must do’s” on every bucket list in terms of fly fishing for redfish.
Aside from redfish, this area is home to sea trout, black drum, cobia, and many more species that will make for an amazing day on the water.
| A Louisiana Marsh Alternative
One of the best alternatives to Louisiana marsh fishing that offers the same stellar red-fishing, but also mixes in a more diverse set of inshore species, is in Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi, Mississippi fishing offers you shots at monster redfish and blackdrum, tripletail, flounder, jack’s, cobia, and even the occasional Florida pompano.
3. Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park, aka “ENP” of just “the park” as known by locals, is hands down my favorite place to fish on the planet. Fly fishing the Everglades is simply food for the soul. This area draws in more fly fisherman (even creates more fly fisherman) than most any other south Florida location.
You have the options to fish the “back side” for a completely immersive backcountry fishing experience, or fish “the front” for some of the most diverse and pristine flats fishing available in the state. In both cases, this place is home to some of the most amazing fly fishing opportunities on the plant.
| An Alternative to ENP
Traveling a bit north of the park on the gulf coast will land you in the 10,000 Islands fishery. Fishing the 10,000 Islands or even the neighboring Marco Island is much akin to the experience available in Everglades National Park, the main difference being that the “back side” and the “front side” are the same side.
You can fish the never-ending backcountry mazes of the 10,000 Islands themselves while poking out occasionally to sight fish these pristine flats on the fly rod.
4. Key West, Florida
The Florida Keys is one of the most pristine locations in the world for sight fishing the flats on a fly rod. Taking a Key West fishing trip will get you in front of opportunities for bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, barracuda, snapper, and even shark. This area of the lower Keys is made up of mangrove islands, gin clear sandbars, and grass flats that are teeming with life.
While taking a fly fishing trip to the Keys you may want to time your vaca’ with lobster season. Florida Keys lobstering is a seasonal activity but when its time to pull out your tickle stick and start filling bags with your limits, nothing beats this location.
|A Key West Alternative
Though I’m not sure if you would consider this a true alternative, you still depart from the lower Keys, but fishing the Marquesas is an absolute must do on the fly rod. Considered the “wild west” of the lower keys, Marquesas is home to both pristine flats and reef lines that receive little pressure and is home to all of the best species to target out of Key West.
5. Branson, Missouri
How does Branson, Missouri make our list? Because of this:
Branson, Missouri is your gateway to a few world-class lakes that offer awesome fishing for several species of trout (and there are some big ones out there), largemouth, smallmouth, and Kentucky or also called spotted bass, white bass, crappie, striped bass and other panfish.
These Branson fly fishing trips generally take place in the following three bodies of water:
- Table Rock Lake
- Lake Taneycomo
- Bull Shoals Lake
6. Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida is mainly known for awesome offshore fishing trips. This includes wreck fishing for grouper and snapper, battling huge kingfish, and some of the best seasonal red snapper fishing on the planet.
For fly fisherman, this area is also home to a very active backcountry and flats fishery where sight fishing is king. These Pensacola inshore fishing trips will get you in front of redfish, sea trout, flounder, sheepshead, spanish mackerel, pompano, cobia, and much more. The redfish here can also get huge, much like what you would expect to find in Louisiana.
7. Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida is undoubtedly one of the busiest year-round Florida fisheries. Tampa Bay is the states largest open water estuary that boasts backcountry, flats, and deep channel fishing all within the same location.
One of the seasonal favorites is Tampa tarpon fishing. Though home to a year-round population, Tampa also succumbs to the frantic seasonal tarpon fishing that follows the yearly migration. In either case, this is a great place to scratch the Silver King off your list.
For regular inshore fly fishing, Tampa offers anglers a plethora of opportunities for one of the widest range of fish species in the state. The main players here are redfish, snook, and trout. But that’s not all- regularly caught are also cobia, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, jacks, spanish mackerel, pompano, and plenty more.
There are plenty of Tampa fly fishing guides to choose from and whether you are looking to target something specifically, or just spend the day going for a slam – you do not want to miss a day on the water in Tampa.
| An Alternative to Tampa Bay
Clearwater, Florida makes an excellent alternative destination to Tampa Bay. Situated nearby, this fishery is a hopping spot for all of the coveted inshore species on this side of the state. Clearwater fishing consists of both backcountry and beachfront sides that provide you with different target opportunities.
Along the beach, you may target the seasonal tarpon migration, nearshore palegics, and even snook in the surf.
The backcountry side of Clearwater is actually part of Old Tampa Bay and offers the same stellar fishing as Tampa Bay itself without all of the boat traffic (well, less of it anyway).
8. Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida is an awesome fishing destination. It isn’t just because it holds some of the best fishing in the state, but it also has some of the most diverse fly fishing opportunities that can all be covered in a single weekend – in both fresh and saltwater.
Freshwater fly fishing in Palm Beach will give you shots at the regular freshwater species that you would expect to find in Florida, namely largemouth bass and a plethora of panfish. But the real cream of the bucket list crop in Palm Beach is the exotics. If you have peacock bass and clown knifefish on your bucket list, then you’re in luck. Palm Beach is home to some of the best fly fishing for these exotics and many more.
Palm Beach is also home to great saltwater fishing, but I do have a favorite to catch on the fly and this is the place to do it. Palm Beach snook fishing is excellent and if you haven’t battled an aggressive linesider on the fly yet, I suggest you wait no more.
9. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Cocoa Beach, Florida is another location synonymous with stellar offshore fishing, but this area also has some great opportunities for you on the fly rod. Backed by the Banan River and Merritt Island fisheries, Cocoa Beach inshore fishing is among the best in its class.
Fly fisherman who venture into this location can expect monster drums (red and black), tarpon, sea trout, and many others. There are expansive grass flats that are a true biodiverse masterpiece located on the east coast of central Florida. In this, you can also find yourself presented with an opportunity to target snook, cobia, tripletail, and sheepshead.
| A Cocoa Beach Alternative
Located just nearby is the Mosquito Lagoon. This is one of Florida’s most famous inshore estuaries and is home to some of the best redfishing in the state.
Visitors from Orlando would do well to book a charter here as well. Located right nearby a fly fisherman can take the fam to the attractions, and disappear for a morning to put tippet to lips in one of the most amazing ecosystems in the world.
10. Naples, Florida
Yet another Florida offshore fishing mecca, Naples is also one of the top inshore fishing destinations on the planet. Along the southwest Florida coastline, Naples is centrally located to some of the best fly fishing north of the Everglades in the form of grass flats, backcountry, and beachfront systems.
Naples fly fishing will give you opportunities at redfish, snook, sea trout, black drum, tripletail, cobia, tarpon, barracuda, and many others.
Another aspect is the ability to night fish on the fly!
Whether working topwater flies or using a bait pattern under the dock lights, a Naples night fishing trip is something to consider adding to your fly fishing bucket list if you haven’t done so already.
That’s it for our 2018 fly fishing destination list, drop us some more ideas for next year in the comments below!