Here at Mountain House, we know a lot of you out there enjoy our delicious just-add-water meals on fishing trips, and surely more than a few of you dream year-round of monster trout. To inspire some future angling adventures—or remind you of some of your favorite casting memories—here’s a roundup of 18 of the very best trout streams in America.
Now, before you flood us with passionate constructive criticism, keep in mind this is very much a non-exhaustive list—there are plenty of other destinations that could be included. But we’ll stand by our claim that any of the following are worthy exemplars of just how good trout fishing in America can be!
1. Upper Connecticut River (New Hampshire/Vermont)
Brown, brook, and rainbow trout (not to mention landlocked salmon) make the Upper Connecticut above and below Lake Francis one of the top angling destinations in New England.
2. Nesowadnehunk Stream (Maine)
The Nesowadnehunk (and Nesowadnehunk Lake) is a major brookie hotspot edging Baxter State Park, delivering trout and scenery in equal measure.
3. Beaver Kill (New York)
Few trout streams in America have been celebrated as long as the Beaver Kill in the Catskills, which supports wild brookies, as well as both wild and stocked brown and rainbow trout. Roscoe (aka “Trout Town, USA”) lies at the confluence of the Beaver Kill and Willowemoc Creek.
4. Nantahala River (North Carolina)
North Carolina’s record brown trout - a 24-pound, 10-ouncer - was pulled from the Nantahala, which offers fine angling for rainbow trout. This beautiful Southern Appalachian stream is a popular destination for both fly-fishing classes and competitions.
5. Au Sable River (Michigan)
Long ago declared a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream by the State of Michigan, the Au Sable - a great place to cast for brownies, brookies, and rainbows - is cemented in the annals of American angling: it was along its banks that Trout Unlimited was first conceived of back in 1950.
6. Bois Brule River (Wisconsin)
This legendary stream, draining boreal-flavored conifer and hardwood forest on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shore (which is fully contained within the Brule River State Forest) offers outstanding fishing for lake-run brook and brown trout as well as steelhead.
7. White River (Arkansas/Missouri)
Heading in the Boston Mountains, the White is synonymous with outstanding trout fishing, with multiple outstanding stretches. In the words of John Ross in Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, the White “is perhaps the longest and arguably the best series of tailwater trout fisheries in the United States.” The reach below Bull Shoals Dam is especially well-known for big browns.
8. Fryingpan River (Colorado)
World-class opportunities for browns and rainbows give the lower reach of the Fryingpan between the Ruedi Dam and the river’s mouth in the Roaring Fork Gold Medal status: one of no fewer than 14 such streams designated by the Colorado Wildlife Commission for their trout caliber.
9. South Platte River (Colorado)
Easily reached from Denver and Colorado Springs, the South Platte (another Gold Medal drainage) serves up some of the most sought-after trout tailwaters in the West, host to such iconic stretches as the Dream Stream below Spinney Reservoir and the photogenic flow through Cheesman Canyon.
10. North Platte River (Wyoming)
Rising in North Park in the Southern Rockies and flowing 700-odd miles to meet the South Platte in the Great Plains of Nebraska, the north fork of the Platte’s just as prized a trout fishery, with a Gold Medal reach in Northgate Canyon and other angler heavens downstream in Wyoming, as along the tailwaters between Seminole and Pathfinder reservoirs.
11. Madison River (Montana)
Born where the Firehole and Gibbon rivers merge on the Yellowstone Plateau, the Madison is a world-famous trout-fishing mecca from here to where it joins with the Jefferson and Gallatin at Three Forks to make the Missouri. The warm-water influence of the Firehole, which drains several major Yellowstone geyser basins and is its own prized fly-fishing stream, is a unique feature of the Upper Madison.
12. Gallatin River (Montana)
The Gallatin, where many of the fly-fishing scenes in A River Runs Through It were filmed, is another Greater Yellowstone river esteemed for its rainbow and brown trout. Most of it is closed to fishing from boats.
13. Yellowstone River (Montana)
The longest undammed river in the Lower 48, the Yellowstone offers some of the best trout fishing not only in America but on the planet. It’s a ridiculously beautiful place to cast, whether you’re wading or floating. While the most all-around celebrated stretch may be the Yellowstone’s magical meandering through the Paradise Valley between Yellowstone National Park and Livingston, Montana, the whole river has potential. That includes the far headwater reaches above Yellowstone Lake in the Thorofare region, which offers some of the most remote high-quality angling in the contiguous U.S.
14. South Fork Flathead River (Montana)
Speaking of remoteness, more of it awaits you along the South Fork Flathead, which rises in the huge (and grizzly-fied) backcountry of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Those willing to make the journey by foot or horseback find some of the finest angling for wild cutthroat in the country (and one of the few drainages in Montana where you can legally cast for bull trout).
15. Clearwater River (Idaho)
Draining another great complex of Northern Rockies wildlands, the Clearwater (which enters the Snake River at Lewiston) is another topnotch place for cutthroat (especially up the North Fork, one of the best wild trout streams in America) and also famous for its steelhead.
16. Deschutes River (Oregon)
From its upper reaches in the Cascades to its legendary lower flow through rimrock canyons to the Columbia, the Deschutes is another near-mythic trout stream, host to some of the best casting in the Northwest for brook and rainbow (including redband) trout and steelhead.
17. North Umpqua River (Oregon)
The North Umpqua, which cuts a rugged and ravishingly beautiful course through southwestern Oregon’s Cascades, is easily one of the most celebrated steelhead streams in the Northwest and without question among the best fly-fishing destinations in the world.
18. Kern River (California)
A mighty, canyon-carving river draining the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, the Kern is a trout obsessive’s dream, with grand scenery backdropping opportunities to catch not only brown and non-native rainbow trout but also endemic Kern River rainbow trout, Little Kern golden trout, and California golden trout.
The next time you’re headed out to fish the great outdoors, be sure to stop and appreciate the beauty around you, and plan ahead with our tasty, easy to prepare meals for fishing trips!