Check out some of the best saltwater fly-fishing destinations in the world. Not all the destinations are exotic and hard to reach; in fact, a couple spots are within a short drive of major population centers. There are other great ones, of course, and which are best could be the source of long debate — but few would debate the merits of these spots. The locations are listed in alphabetical order below.
At the northern end of the Bahamas, the Abacos boast vast swaths of very productive bonefish flats, including the convoluted marls complex of flats, mangroves and creeks on the western side of Great Abaco. There are many other areas of skinny water as well, all great tailing waters for bones, and some excellent fishing lodges. The Bahamas has some of the best fly fishing in the world for bonefish.
Alphonse Island, The Seychelles
If traveling halfway around the globe to fish in a totally remote, uninhabited Indian Ocean atoll for bonefish, permit and a host of exotic game fish such as milkfish and giant trevally is your cup of tea (and money is not a major object), start planning now to visit Alphonse Island in the Seychelles. This is one of those fly fishing destinations you’ll never forget. Alphonse Island Resort is a luxury, wilderness operation situated about 1,000 miles off Africa’s eastern coast, catering to small groups of fly-fishing enthusiasts.
Amazing milkfish are sleek, powerful plankton eaters found in most warm oceans of the world and seldom caught, but guides at Alphonse have managed to figure out how to get them to suck in a fly. Then hold on!
Sherman tanks of the reefs, giant trevally also wander onto Alphonse flats at times, presenting fly-rodders with a pretty formidable target.
Ascension Bay, Mexico
Known for its flats-slam potential, Mexico’s Ascension Bay (about one hundred miles south of Cancun) offers anglers flats loaded with bones and permit, and mangrove estuaries laden with snook and tarpon. Make that a grand slam! Of the numerous operations that fish these waters, all serve fly fishermen predominantly. Most fishing resorts, such as Pesca Maya operate year-round. This part of Mexico might offer the best bonefishing in the world and you’ve never realized it.
Exmouth, Western Australia
Extensive, pristine flats, including Ningaloo Lagoon, around this central-western Australia community is one of Down Under’s best bets for fly fishers. In fact, it’s one of the world’s best saltwater fly fishing destinations. Brett Wolf of True Blue Bonefishing specializes in putting long-rodders on Pacific permit, bonefish, trevallies, queenfish, milkfish, giant parrotfish and more inshore gamesters, but also on yellowfin tuna, sailfish and black marlin offshore.
Pacific permit seem particularly elusive and spooky, and provide something of an ultimate target for fly-fishers.
Take your choice of targets, here: sailfish, sailfish or sailfish. Yes, there are some hefty marlin around and at times other pelagic predators such as dorado and tuna. But there is arguably no place in the world that reliably offers fly-rodders the number of shots at sails (sometimes dozens in a day per boat) that characterizes the fishery off Ixtapa, Guatemala. This is one of the best fly fishing trips in the world for offshore anglers. Some days are decidedly slower, of course, but when it’s on (which is often), Guatemala is really on. Veteran skippers like Capt. Chris Sheeder at Casa Vieja Lodge tally their total releases in the thousands.
Jupiter Inlet, Florida
A variety of game fish offer sight targets for fly fishers along Atlantic beaches just off this southeast Florida inlet. According to Capt. Mike Holliday, options include spinner sharks (winter/spring); jumbo jack crevalle (spring); cobia (spring); little tunny plus, in as little as 100 feet of water, sails, wahoo, AJ, mahi, blackfin (summer). In closer (still summer), look for tarpon and snook. Fall and winter can be outstanding but cold fronts often make conditions outside too tricky. Of course, there are also opportunities for fly-rodders in inside waters here, such as Spanish mackerel, bluefish and pompano. Holliday suggests that whenever a fly-fisherman visits, he bring a wide-ranging arsenal to be ready for the variety of Jupiter.
Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Deep blue Gulf of California waters and rocky, current-swept islands and reefs offer a wealth of opportunity to the fly fisherman. It’s easy to get here — a short hop (to Loreto’s airport) from L.A. — and easy on the wallet to fish here. Put up with the heat of summer (fish mornings, siesta afternoons) and you’ll find some amazing calm-water dorado action (while always keep an eye out for sails). Reefs much the year promise action on fly from yellowtail, white seabass, snappers, roosters, amberjack and more. The Baja Big Fish Company has considerable experience connecting fly anglers up with success.
Louisiana’s Coastal Marshes
The amazing productivity of this vast complex of creeks, channels, bayous and ponds is no secret, and any serious fly-fishing enthusiast has either sampled this fishery or needs to. While other players, such as seatrout, may get into the act, it’s mostly about red drum — especially those of the bull persuasion. They might be found here anytime but certainly fall and spring are prime for some of the best redfishing on the planet. A number of excellent southeastern Louisiana guides are set up to take anglers to the fish on bay boats or skiffs, and there are multi-day options on motherships and floating resorts.
Montauk, New York
One needn’t jet into tropical climes to find world-class fly-rod action. In fact, one only barely has to leave the Big Apple. Montauk, on Long Island, offers some phenomenal action. From about the middle of spring through the middle of summer, guides and anglers stalk the clear shallow flats around Gardiner’s Island and in Peconic Bay for stripers and bluefish.
In September and October, the real Montauk craziness gets underway when great schools of baitfish bring in hordes of striped bass, bluefish and false albacore churning the surface near Montauk in their world-famous “blitzes.” It’s truly a sight to see and an experience to false-cast into. There are many excellent fly guides fishing these waters.
Another spot for grand-slam opportunists, bones, permit and tarpon are the Turneffe fly-fisher’s holy triumvirate though of course other game fish are caught here, particularly on the shallow reefs around the expansive flats area. It’s a year-round fishery, primarily via wade fishing. Although the bones aren’t always huge, they’re often in huge schools. Small tarpon lurk in channels and lagoons, and much larger fish come through during the summer. Outfitters such as Angler Adventures can get fly fishers set up with Belize trips. This is another one of those destinations that can lay claim to the best fly fishing in the world.