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The Backstage Pass

The Best Flats Fly Fishing: A World-Wide Guide

May 03, 23

Writing “Best Of” lists can be dangerous—because what makes one fly fishing destination better than another? Or, who's place is it to say fly fishing for tailing bonefish is better than chasing after the gangster of the flats—the voracious Giant Trevally?

Pioneering anglers like Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Del Brown, and many others, fished because saltwater flats fly fishing serves up the essential two elements of our sport—it is challenging enough that most rewards are earned, yet fun enough that even when the catch eludes us, the landscapes, lodges, guides, and fellow anglers—all parts of the whole—come together and burn a desire in us to do it all again. 

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The Best Giant Trevally Fly Fishing Trips

A bucket list fish for many and a passion for several, the fight in these fish is reflective of the commitment to catch one—considerable travel to far-off destinations and investing in quality gear. Giant Trevally can be found in the Cook Islands, Christmas Island, Australia, Seychelles, and St. Brandon’s. The less expensive GT fishing options would be Christmas Island and the Cook Islands; however, if you're truly willing to hunt these fish, anglers will most likely receive the most legitimate and consistent shots in the Seychelles.

Fishing for GTs is not for the faint-hearted angler. These powerful fish will test every piece of gear as well as the angler. A Giant Trevally is a fierce, big, aggressive, and incredibly powerful fish and ardently earned their reputation as the “gangsters of the flats.”

The Best Bonefish Fly Fishing Trips

Most bonefish that are caught are seen first, making bonefish an exceptional saltwater gamefish. Plus, they are damn fast. As if a right-of-passage, catching a bonefish on a fly is a quintessential part of any saltwater fly angler’s journey. But it shouldn’t stop there, because large bonefish—those over five pounds—are strong, fast, and an accomplishment. Bonefish, also called “Ghosts of the Flats” can be targeted throughout the world in tropical climates with mangrove and flats systems from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Read more about what we believe are the finest bonefishing grounds in the world.

The Best Permit Fly Fishing Trips

As if one species of permit wasn’t a challenge enough, there are actually two types of permit to pursue. Permit is one of the most valued, sought after, and elusive saltwater fish that can be targeted with a fly rod. Sight fishing for these wary fish presents a rewarding challenge. While catching a permit on a fly does not come easy, there are a variety of productive locations to target them. Some of the finest destinations for permit are Mexico's Ascension, Espiritu, and Chetumal Bays, southern Belize, Poivre in the Seychelles, Oman, and the Bay Islands of Honduras. While The Bahamas may not be known as a permit-focused fishing destination, it quietly produces some of the largest permit in all of the Caribbean.

The Best Tarpon Fly Fishing Trips

Tarpon, like its Latin name—Megalopolis Atlanticus—possesses near-mythic status with many anglers. And for good reason, because it doesn’t get much better than fly fishing for tarpon. Tarpon is a strong and acrobatic fish often jumping several times throughout the fight. There are a variety of ways to fish for tarpon, from targeting smaller fish in the mangroves and backwater to chasing the large migratory fish in more open water.

For large, migratory fish, many anglers will go to Florida. The state of Florida is a fantastic fishery with some of the world's finest and most professional guides. From the Florida Panhandle to Key West, anglers can find world-class fly fishing opportunities for tarpon. As many guides will tell you, Florida flats can be a bit crowded, especially during tarpon season. If you're OK with that, then you won't have to travel far! If you're looking for a more intimate experience where you're not likely to see another boat while fishing for tarpon, then consider some of these options. For juvenile "baby" tarpon, look at Campeche and Tabasco, Mexico, or northern Belize. For larger, migratory fish, look at Isla Holbox, Mexico, the southern Yucatan, Jardines de la Reina, Cuba, northern Belize, and if you're feeling extra exploratory - Gabon in Africa. While not a flats fishery, anglers can also pursue trophy-sized tarpon in the rivers and bays of Costa Rica!

The Best Redfish Fly Fishing Trips

Despite a destination close to home to chase these unique fish, fly fishing for redfish is often overlooked by many. But, it shouldn’t be! Among many things, Louisiana is known for great food, great music...and being the redfish capital of the world! The Louisiana marsh offers outstanding opportunities for the shallow-water fly angler with countless shallow bays, ponds, canals, and expansive mud flats. These areas can be fished almost year-round and hold an amazingly large and healthy population of redfish.

The Best Roosterfish Fly Fishing Trips

A species found only in the Pacific Ocean, the roosterfish is a voracious predator serving up some exciting sight-fishing opportunities. Not your typical flats fly fishing experience, as these fish are often targeted while walking or cruising the beaches of Baja Mexico. Anglers will spot a single or school of these fish, then run into the crashing surf to get within casting range. If the fish are not found along the shoreline, anglers use small boats to target these one-of-a-kind-looking fish. Found in Mexico and Costa Rica, these fish are climbing angler’s wish lists…and climbing fast.

Honorable Mention: The Best Marlin and Sailfish Fly Fishing Trips

Even though these are not flats species, they do offer exciting sight-fishing opportunities. Bluewater fly fishing presents a one-of-a-kind experience to target trophy-sized fish offshore on the fly. Sailfish, with their iconic dorsal fin and incredible strength, is an outstanding gamefish to pursue. Marlin, with their speed and determination, were made for a fight. These two species inhabit various areas in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Most fly anglers target these saltwater brutes in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Sailfish and marlin present unique challenges for the experienced angler looking for something outside the typical realm of fly fishing.

Calling something “the best” should be used with caution. Ask a dozen anglers what makes a trip the best fly fishing trip, and there will be a dozen correct answers. The common currents running through each angler's idealized trip are destinations with worthy gamefish, hard-working and knowledgeable guides, lodges with a variety of amenities, and possess just enough adventure and intrigue to tell the right story at the right time with the right drink in hand.

Related Articles:
The 8 Best Bonefishing Destinations in the World
The Two Types of Permit: Atlantic and Pacific
How to Pick the Bahamas Fly Fishing Destination That's Right For You
The 12 Best Guided Fly Fishing Trips in the World