Want to avoid bumping elbows with ten million new trout-chasers this summer? Then consider a guided day on some warmwater. You’ll surely face a less-pressured fishery, and if the trip includes kicking around in a float-tube, you get the added benefit of pretending it’s exercise.
RED’S FLY SHOP—ELLENSBURG, WASHINGTON
Sitting beside Washington’s Yakima River (a great trout fishery in its own right), Red’s offers both largemouth and smallmouth options, including access to one of the best largemouth fisheries in the state: Hilltop Lake. Known for great structure and low angling pressure (due to its private and flyfishing-only status), Hilltop’s cattails and weed beds offer legit shots at five-pounders. Plus, Hilltop is close to the Gorge Amphitheater, so if country’s your thang, plan ahead for next year and catch Chris Stapleton at the Gorge in June 2022. (Hippies don’t have to wait as long—pull off the coveted Phish/Fish two-fer in mid-July 2021.) REDSFLYSHOP.COM
DESCHUTES ANGLER—MAUPIN, OREGON
If you’ve chased steelhead or redsides anywhere near Maupin, you’ve likely visited John and Amy Hazel’s shop (located on the strip, downtown). Try something new this summer and head an hour east for smallies. These are one-day, ten-mile floats on the remote and gorgeous John Day, flowing through a rugged desert canyon reminiscent of Chilean Patagonia. Big bass are not common, but big numbers are. DESCHUTESANGLER.COM
MOSSY CREEK FLY FISHING—HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA
Warmwater fishing with Mossy Creek, explained: Shenandoah River or the James River, typically smallmouth, April through October, from a raft. If you like numbers, then the Shenandoah may be the better choice. But if fewer smallies feels like a fair trade-off for a shot at a 20-incher, then opt for the James. With either river, if topwater action is the goal, then aim for the latter half of the summer. And if you’re a muskie hunter, think early (May/June) or late (September—March). MOSSYCREEKFLYFISHING.COM
KERN RIVER FLY FISHING—KERNVILLE, CALIFORNIA
Kern River shop owner Guy Jeans offers one of the most original guided experiences in the country with his three-day, $1,500 Heritage Trout Challenge (golden trout, Little Kern Golden, and the Kern River Rainbow). And while no flyfisher should travel to Kernville without spending at least a day or two chasing goldens, catching smallmouth and largemouth on the Lower Kern is a blast. If you want to make it a warmwater weekend, add a day of carp wrangling on nearby Lake Isabella. KERNRIVERFLYFISHING.COM
DALLY’S OZARK FLY FISHER—COTTER, ARKANSAS
The waters surrounding Dally’s are justifiably famous for producing monster browns, especially the White, especially on streamers. Lesser known is that nearby Crooked Creek offers some of the finest smallmouth fishing in Arkansas—and these smallies are wild and native. Access can be tough on Crooked, though, as can finding the best hidey-holes. Hiring a guide at Dally’s can help solve both problems. THEOZARKFLYFISHER.COM
SCHULTZ OUTFITTERS—YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN
Shultz Outfitters has one of the more notable warmwater programs in the country, having created a nearly year-round smallmouth fishery out of the entire 125-mile-long Huron River—just a few decades removed from the Huron being one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Streamers are typically the smallmouth ticket on the Huron, but Mike Shultz and his crew of talented guides also head up to Northeastern Wisconsin each June and August for some topwater action with Tim Landwehr and the gang at Tight Lines Fly Shop in De Pere.