After a year spent in close quarters, it’s time to re-emerge into the world in pursuit of a grand dream. For the angler, what’s grander and dreamier than fly-fishing on storied water? The venerable pastime, one of the original outdoor sports, has many benefits: It’s pursued in solitude and, more often than not, in extraordinary settings. Here, terrific angling destinations both near and far that will connect you to the natural world—and, hopefully, to a memorable fish.
There are many ways to fish the Treasure State, from floating the Beaverhead River to wading the Spring Creeks in Paradise Valley. If you’re not in the mood to rough it, check into the five-star Ranch at Rock Creek and stay in one of its stylish canvas cabins. The ranch also has a terrific chef, so dinner will be something to look forward to, often prepared over a wood fire and served outside under the stars. Book a trip now for mid-June, when the famous salmonflies—enormous, pre-historic insects the size of spark plugs—are hatching. Trout love them, which makes for one of angling’s great equations.
The flats here are vast, wide-open and purely elemental: sand, water, salt air. In this paradise, time is spent wading in near-silence searching for bonefish, known as the silver phantom. When everything finally aligns and there’s a fish on the line, you find yourself connected to something truly wild: It sprints away from you at an explosive run, your reel fizzing, feeling as if it might burst into flame. Small groups chasing this thrill can book the Eleven Experience Mothership, a well-appointed 74-foot Hatteras yacht that anchors off the famous southwest coast of Andros. You’ll have easy access to some of the best flats in the Bahamas, plus cocktails waiting for you at the end of the day.
Are you patient? Can you wait, if it’s for a good cause? Then it might be time to pursue the Atlantic salmon, called “the fish of a thousand casts” because it’s so difficult to catch—which of course makes a triumph all the more cathartic. Improve your odds at the Rifflin’ Hitch Lodge, in Labrador, which takes pride in its ambitious, locally sourced cuisine (the menu changes daily). Your cabin is so close to the water that you can fall asleep at night dreaming of salmon while listening to the sounds of the Eagle River.
Feel free to wear tweed while fly-fishing from the banks of one of the storied chalk streams where the sport began. (The brown trout is the gentleman of fish, and one dresses properly to show respect.) In a perfect world your trip will coincide with the mayfly hatch, usually toward the end of May. The trout anticipate these large, green, joyous insects, so anglers do, too. But you don’t just stride up to such rarefied water: You pay for access and reserve a beat—a mile or so stretch of river— through one of the many outfitters, such as Fishing Breaks. You might pop into a little hut on each beat for a cup of tea or a wee dram before hitting the water again. It’s the most civilized fishing you’ll ever experience.
One place, three fish. Ascension Bay on the Yucatán Peninsula is where you can pursue the sport’s grand slam—bonefish; ancient, immense tarpon; and the mercurial and highly coveted permit—all in the same day. Book the sought-after Casa Blanca, the open-air main lodge set right on the water, where you can retire to one of the private, thatched-roof bungalows. With snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and nearby Mayan ruins, it’s an especially good option if you’re traveling with non-fishing civilians.
If you think you’re ready for the big one, all the way down to the Southern Hemisphere, shadowing the legends of Butch Cassidy and Bruce Chatwin, then head to Patagonia. It’s so vast it can be hard to decide a destination, but aficionados find their way to Patagonia River Guides Lodge, set in a mountain valley in Trevelin. This gorgeous accommodation allows access to an incredible array of fishing options—rivers, spring creeks, lakes—as well as amenities such as a new spa and the whiskey bar, the perfect place to celebrate your triumphs or toast the one that got away. David Coggins’s new book, The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life, is out May 4 from Scribner Books.