Dialing in your final list of schools to apply to? Currently trout-bumming your way through college? Recent grad or washed-up alumni? We’ve all got our opinions when it comes to talking college rankings, so we thought we’d complicate it even more by adding fly fishing to the mix. After considering the overall cultures both on and off the water, we think these 25 schools deserve a place in the trophy case – after all, what would college football season be without a little competition of our own? 

1. University of Colorado – Boulder, Colorado

Photo: University of Colorado – Boulder

Fly fishing in Boulder, Colorado, offers a captivating blend of awe-inspiring natural scenery, a wealth of angling possibilities, easy accessibility, and a welcoming community of anglers united under the Trout Unlimited X Costa 5 Rivers Program. At CU Boulder, aspiring anglers can explore a wide spectrum of fishing experiences, from chasing warm-water species to pursuing cold-water trout in the pristine alpine lakes. Additionally, the opportunity to float fish some of Colorado’s renowned gold-medal trout waters is a remarkable aspect of the Boulder fly fishing scene. If you’re contemplating joining the University of Colorado, make sure to check out the incredible CU Fly Fishing Club at @cuflyfish. #PRIMEtime

Photo from CU Fly Fishing Club @mattreincke.

2. Montana State University – Bozeman, Montana

Photo: Montana State University.

It isn’t much of a surprise that MSU takes second place place as the best fly fishing school in the U.S. Enroll at MSU to fish the Gallatin, Beaverhead, Henry’s Fork, Jefferson, Yellowstone, Big Hole, and countless other beloved rivers and creeks. With world renowned water a stone’s throw from campus, and Bozeman’s intoxicating fly fishing culture, Montana State University’s number one power ranking is surely well deserved. Check out the MSU club @bozotroutbums. 

Madi (@madog_king) with a nice rainbow on the Upper Madison River. Photo from Flylords Content Team Member Gloria.

3. University of Miami – Miami, Florida  

For all the saltwater fanatics out there, going to school at the U means having some of the best flats fishing in the world right near campus. For less technical angling, fish a local canal or pond in or around Miami and find aggressive Peacock Bass and other warm-water species.

Or take the short trip down to the Everglades’ marshes to chase those snook, redfish, baby tarpon, and occasional bonefish. Once you’ve found your groove in the salt, the adventures of chasing legendary Florida Keys permit might just make you a permanent resident. This is all to say nothing of the nightlife and Floridian college culture – you’ve just gotta see it for yourself. Check out the club at @fishtheu.

Right out the backdoor of UM’s campus, Peacock Bass thrive in the canals and ponds.

4. University of Montana – Missoula, MT

Photo: University of Montana.

While MSU claims the title, UM in Missoula might just be the people’s choice. Located in western Montana, Missoula plays host to waters teeming with native bull and westslope cutthroat trout eager to crush bushy dries and meaty streamers. Plus, UM students have the climate advantage – fishing starts to heat up a lot quicker on this side of the state thanks to the Bitterroot Valley’s more temperate climate compared to that of Bozeman’s. #OhI’llNeverLeaveMontanaBrother.

A pristine Bitterroot River specimen.

5. Penn State University – State College, Pennsylvania

Photo: Penn State University

Happy Valley really does have it all. From a rich football tradition to one of the nation’s most robust wild brown trout populations in the nearby Spring Creek, Nittany Lions enjoy the very best of the all around college experience. Penn State also offers a number of fly fishing classes… hell, they might be the only classes you actually attend when the famed slate drakes and BWOs start hatching. 

Photo: Austin Dando

6. University of Texas – Austin, Texas

Photo: University of Texas

For all you fine folks in the heart of Texas, fly fishing in the Austin area offers some remarkable opportunities. The abundant freshwater fisheries in this region provide ample chances to reel in various warm-water species, including bass, sunfish, carp, and more. Notable rivers in close proximity to Austin include the Guadalupe, San Marcos, and Llano River.

Bass fishing some of Texas’ finest waters

7. Oregon State University – Corvallis, Oregon 

Photo: Oregon State University

If you’re interested in pursuing fly fishing while attending Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, Oregon, you’re in luck. The region offers a fantastic environment for young fly fishing enthusiasts, with numerous opportunities to hone your skills and enjoy the sport.

Fly fishing in Corvallis, Oregon, provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy this outdoor activity in a stunning natural setting. The region boasts numerous rivers and streams, including the Willamette River, Santiam River, and McKenzie River, teeming with trout and other species. If you love Oregon, and want a great place to catch an abundance of fish, be sure to keep Oregon State University on your mind.

Swinging for Oregon steel.

8. University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia

Photo: University of Georgia

Fly fishing in Athens, Georgia, presents an enticing blend of angling diversity and natural beauty. The area boasts a variety of waterways, allowing fly anglers to pursue numerous fish species, including trout, bass, and catfish. The nearby North Georgia Mountains provide opportunities for cold water trout fishing, particularly along the Chattahoochee River.

Athens is also home to the University of Georgia, where the Trout Unlimited 5 Rivers Program thrives. This program offers students a chance to engage in fly fishing-related activities, learn from seasoned anglers, and participate in organized outings. It’s a valuable resource for those looking to immerse themselves in the world of fly fishing while pursuing their education.

Photo from @5riversfishing_uga.

9. University of Alaska Anchorage – Anchorage, AK

photo: University of Alaska Anchorage

The University of Alaska has to make the list out of mere principle. Alaska is a top destination in the world of fly fishing for good reason, so why not go to school there? The Anchorage campus is a short drive away from the legendary Kenai and Russian rivers, plus countless walk and wade streams, wild creeks, and the beloved Alaska Parks Highway river systems – all of which are teeming with monster ‘bows and magazine worthy salmon. Prior to matriculation, be sure to break out the vise to whip up some egg and flesh flies – chances are your box will need a refresh before heading up north. Not to mention Chester Creek flows right through the campus!

Flylords Content Team member Tia Kelliher shared this photo of a rainbow trout that was caught on Chester Creek on the UAA Campus!

10. Sewanee: The University of the South – Sewanee, TN

The University of the South – Sewanee

While we may have a soft spot for this location, Sewanee is where the Flylords journey began. Our founder, Jared Zissu, spent his time at the University of the South in Sewanee, where the fishing adventures were countless. Sewanee, with its moonlit river outings and sun-soaked bass fishing adventures, served as the birthplace of Zissu’s inspiration to create Flylords right from the confines of his dorm room. The University of the South boasts fantastic fly fishing opportunities, with access to the Tennessee River, the tranquil Onteagle and Sewanee Creeks, and the alluring Nickajack Lake. Be sure to explore Sewanee’s vibrant fly fishing community by checking out the Sewanee Fly Fishing Club at @sewaneeflyfishingclub.

Photo from @sewaneeflyfishingclub

11. Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant, MI

Photo: Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University provides a unique and accessible platform for young college anglers through its proximity to the Chippewa River. This river, meandering near the campus, offers opportunities to target species like smallmouth bass, northern pike, carp, and panfish. The university supports this passion through its active Fly Fishing Club, which welcomes both students and community members. Additionally, fly tying and casting workshops may be available, enhancing skills and knowledge. Local fly shops and adherence to Michigan’s fishing regulations ensure a well-rounded fly fishing experience in the Mount Pleasant area, making it an appealing choice for those looking to combine academics with their love for fly fishing.

Flylords Digital Ad Ops Monica Auger.

12. Tulane University – New Orleans, Louisiana

Photo: Tulane University

Fly fishing in New Orleans offers a unique and captivating experience for young college anglers. While the city is better known for its jazz, cuisine, and vibrant culture, its surrounding waters present a hidden gem for fly fishing enthusiasts. The marshes, bayous, and estuaries of the Louisiana coast provide a diverse ecosystem that’s home to a wide variety of fish species, including redfish, speckled trout, and more.

The combination of brackish and saltwater environments creates exciting opportunities for fly anglers to target these prized game fish. Moreover, the lush and picturesque scenery of the Louisiana wetlands adds an extra layer of charm to the fly fishing experience.

13. Colorado State University – Ft. Collins, CO 

Photo: Colorado State University.

Of course, a Colorado school has to make the list, and while there are many worthy contenders, CSU shines through for a few reasons. Fort Collins, just south of the Wyoming line, means central access to everything from the North Platte and Arkansas to the Cache la Poudre and Rocky Mountain National Park. The sheer diversity of water could keep a CSU Ram from fishing the same stretch twice during their college career, and the same could be said for drinking the same beer twice with all of Fort Collins’ breweries.

Photo: Carter Abramson

14. University of Washington – Seattle, WA 

Photo: University of Washington.

An excellent school, in a major city, with phenomenal fishing – what’s not to love? No matter if you love chasing steelhead on the swing or throwing terrestrials to hungry cutthroats, Washington water can scratch your fish itch during every month of the year. Some of the most popular destinations near the city include the Cle Elum, Yakima, and Skagit rivers, the Puget Sound, and miles of high mountain streams chock full of natives. In addition to world-class angling, foodies and urbanities will thrive in this bustling metropolis.

15. Boise State – Boise, Idaho

Photo: Boise State University.

It’s hard to beat Boise State when it comes to fishing and football. Home to the venerable Broncos football program and the Boise River, Idaho’s state capital should make the shortlist for anyone who wants high-quality water only a short walk away. After all, who doesn’t? The river flows through the heart of town and supports an impressive population of wild browns and native redband rainbows, plus the annual steelhead run. Boise is a place where college gameday can conclude with netting a pig, and that’s a beautiful thing. 

While these are our picks for the country’s top college towns for wetting a line, the below schools all have a place in our Top 25 Bracket. The truth is that there are so many amazing schools close to killer water – just try not to fail out. Or do… fishing is more fun than studying after all. 

Ever seen the “Video of the Week?” Here’s the man behind the words @landen_bailey with a nice Idaho brown.

16. Brigham Young University – Rexburg, Idaho

17. Arkansas State University, Mountain Home – Mountain Home, Arkansas

18. College of Charleston – Charleston, South Carolina

19. Western Colorado University – Gunnison, Colorado

20. University of Wyoming – Laramie, Wyoming

21. University of Vermont – Burlington, Vermont

22. San Diego State University – San Diego, California

23. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, North Carolina

24. University of Massachusetts Amherst – Amherst, Massachusetts

25. University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon

26. Bonus: University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee

27. Bonus: Bates College – Lewiston, Maine

Which schools did we miss? Feel free to comment below!

Article by Team Flylords, based in Basalt, Colorado.

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  1. All the central New York schools – Colgate, Cornell, Hamilton, Ithaca, Syracuse – all of the Catskills and Adirondack rivers are in short driving distance, plus all the lakes in the area, and steelhead and salmon too. And don’t forget NYC and LI schools with their saltwater access. But mostly, GO ‘GATE!!!!

  2. Why on earth is UNC on this list instead of one of the many schools in western NC? There is exactly zero decent fishing within at least 100 miles of UNC. Come on guys…

    Unc-Asheville, APP state, Western Carolina university are the logical choices here.

  3. Black Hills State University, located in Spearfish, South Dakota!
    This is a incredible fishery that few people travel to specifically for the fishing, however if you decide too, it is 100% worth it. As a local, I have a hard time traveling anywhere else for a fishing trip because most places are a downgrade.
    I completely understand why it didn’t make the list because it isn’t exactly well known, but if you’re looking for backcountry spring-fed creeks with brook trout, brown trout well over 16 inches, or wild rainbow trout the Black Hills have got your back! An added benefit of the fact it isn’t a well known place, is that it’s possible to find water where you can fish all day and never see another angler.
    There is excellent fishing within a 5 minute walk of campus, and if you’re willing to drive more than 30 minutes you can find some insane fisheries. I would recommend calling the fly shop in Rapid City for more information on where to fish!

  4. Missoula is a no brainer. I hate to be the guy that says that is because I go to school there but it’s true. From the Blackfoot to the Bitterroot to the Clark Fork and Flathead. Rock creek and other creeks have ample fish and no people. I have never fished in Colorado but I can’t imagine going to any river and being alone. Just because everyone goes to bozman to fish the Madison and the Yellowstone does not mean its a fly fishing mecca for College kids. In Bozman you need to drive out of town to get to good fishing. You can float anywhere in Missoula after class and that is the true fly fishing college town.

  5. Do you guys know where Idaho State University is? Henry’s Fork, South Fork, Silver Creek. Oh wait, never mind, let’s keep it quiet.

  6. Goodness! You include Chapel Hill and ignore both Asheville and Western Carolina. From Asheville, you have not only quick access to the best trout fishing east of the Mississippi (Davidson, South Holston, Green, North and South Mills, etc. etc. ) but you also have great small mouth fishing and even Muskie fishing on the French Broad. Yikes, you really missed the boat.

  7. You forgot to mention the University of Maine in Orono, ME. Nearby, I fly fish for smallmouth/largemouth/striped bass and American shad in the Penobscot river (that surrounds the school), and brook/brown/rainbow trout, salmon, and a whole host of various fish species throughout the state.

  8. University of Minnesota Duluth. You have Great Lakes Steelhead, Brown Trout, Coaster Brook Trout, Killer Smallmouth Fishing, Workd Class Musky Fiahing all within an hour of campus!


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