Anglers will have to pay close attention to water temperatures and flows.
Anglers will have to pay close attention to water temperatures and flows. (Bob Wick, BLM California)

What’s the best spot for backcountry fly fishing?

Where are the best places in the Lower 48 to do a backcountry hike and camp with remote trout streams to dry-fly fish?

The Golden Trout Wilderness falls atop any list.
Greg Melville

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The good thing about backpack fly fishing is that I can openly divulge my favorite areas without worrying that huge crowds will show up, because few people are ambitious enough to give it a try. When you carry the weight of your outdoor world on your shoulders, you can hike into areas where you won’t see a soul and the hungry fish have often never seen a dry fly before. Here are my spots:

Wind River Range, Wyoming
The deeper you walk into the woods in the Wind River Mountain Range, the more prehistorically huge the brook trout become. Located inside the Bridger Wilderness Area, within the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, there are more than 1,000 lakes speckling its 400,000 acres of rugged, stream-filled lands accessed by more than 600 miles of trails.The area was empty of trout until it was stocked in the early 20th century. The population is now self-sustaining. You’ll also find the rare golden trout in relative abundance.

Local resource: The High Country Flies shop and guide service in Jackson, Wyoming.

Golden Trout Wilderness, California
The original habitat of the endangered and magnificent golden trout lies in the meadows of the Kern Plateau, high in the Sierras south of Mount Whitney. It’s now largely encompassed by the Golden Trout Wilderness, a 300,000-acre preserve within the Inyo and Sequoia National Forests that intersects with the North and South forks of the Kern River. The area is so remote and rugged that its nearly 400 miles of backcountry footpaths, including a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, are hardly trodden upon.

Local resource: Kern River Fly Shop in Kernville.

Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
I had to throw Easterners a bone here. Although you’ll find fantastic backcountry fly fishing in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the Adirondacks of New York, my choice is Arkansas. The 1,200,000-acre Ozark National Forest in the northwestern part of the state is crisscrossed by crystal streams and rivers that are filled with rainbow and brown trout and accessed by hundreds of miles of footpaths.

Local resource: Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in Mountain Home.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Bob Wick, BLM California

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