You’ve likely heard the saying, “life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” The same can be said for fly fishing, biking, and camping. So, the next time you get the itch to fish, consider one of the many extensive bike trails that accompany great fly fishing.
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By Deni Sharp
Deni loves spending as much time as she can outdoors fishing, hiking, and going to the lake. She is a freelance writer, living in AZ where she grew up, passionate about helping readers find the information they need. You can learn more Deni on our About Page.
Luckily, these bike trails are present throughout the country, and accompany fly fishing in urban, rural, and remote environments. One of the awesome things about these trails is that they give you access to stretches of river that aren’t pressured as much, opening up more pristine and productive fishing.
Moreover, bike-fishing is a safe activity for individuals or families during this time when social distancing recommendations are in place. Best of all, even if you have a bad day fishing, you can still enjoy a great day biking!
Described below are some of the top spots for biking trails and fly fishing. Keep in mind that each state has its own regulations for licensing, catch and release, and catch size. It is important to become familiar with the regulations in each area before heading out.
1. Deschutes River Trail, Oregon
The Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon is scenic and serene. The trail covers 12 miles through the heart of the city. As its name suggests, the trail follows the Deschutes River meandering through canyons and is lined with pine and juniper trees. This trail is sure to provide beautiful views and a chance to spot wildlife such as geese, herons, deer, otters, and even snakes (so keep your eyes open). Luckily, the trail is easy to access since it links to a number of local parks including Sawyer Park, Pioneer Park, and Riverbend Park. The trail is rough gavel on most parts and paved on others. Because of the gravel, it is best to ride a mountain bike or bikes with wider tires. Trail goers have had issues with traditional road bikes, especially on some of the inclines and have had to resort to walking their bikes.
Fishing throughout the Deschutes River is fantastic. This trail encompasses the middle portion of the river and provides access to rainbow trout, brown trout, and whitefish. Consider packing a light-weight fly fishing pole and even overnight supplies, such as a light-weight tent and sleeping bag, if you are interested in camping. There is parking, restrooms, and water available at many sites throughout the trail. Because there is a portion of the south end that is off limit to bikes, the north end of the trail is best for biking. Make sure to consult a map before heading out so that you can stay on the most ideal parts of the trail.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail, which spans from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania to Jersey Shore Pennsylvania, is an outdoor lovers dream. In fact, it was voted one of the top 10 places to take a bike tour by USA today. The trail is 62 miles long and is made up of a hard packed, finely crushed limestone, which makes it suitable for many different bike types. Although, most trail goers opt for mountain bikes or multi-speed cruiser bikes. You might struggle on a road bike with narrow tires. There are many different entry points throughout the 62 mile trail, but there are some sections where the distance is as much as 16 miles between entry and exit points. It will be important to plan your intended path before heading out.
Fishing on the river can be a challenge at certain times of the year when water temperatures reach above 70 degrees. However, there are many tributaries off of the main river where the water stays cooler and maintains perfect fishing conditions for much of the year. You can expect to find stream-bed brook trout, brown trout, small mouth bass, and a variety of panfish. A standard fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing the Pine Creek river. When the water is low enough, the river can also accommodate wade fishermen if you feel up to carrying your waders on your bike.
Just be prepared, you may have to share the space with canoers and kayakers. The river also has great insect diversity, you can expect the Little Black Early Stonefly hatch in March and Hendricksons, Green Drakes, and Sulphurs throughout April and May. Don’t forget to pack bug spray as mosquitos are quite common and can get thick in the warmer months.
3. Trout Run Trail, Decorah Iowa
Another great biking trail with fly-fishing options is Trout Run Trail is Decorah, Iowa. This is a shorter trail at only 11 miles, but it has plenty of exciting features. First and foremost, the trail runs next to the Decorah Trout Hatchery, which is the second largest trout hatchery in Iowa. The trail crosses 5 different streams, providing plenty of opportunities to find the perfect spot to fish. The trail also follows the Upper Iowa River for the first two miles. The path is paved, making it easily accessible for all types of bicycles. Even though the trail is paved, it still provides a thrill for the rider with switchbacks that weave back and forth along the Iowa countryside.
While on the trail, be on the lookout for wildlife, specifically bald eagles. There is a famous pair of bald eagles and their eaglets who live in a six-foot wide nest that weighs over 750 pounds. It might be surprising, due to the variety in wildlife and scenery, that Trout Run Trail is only 1.5 miles from the city center. This means you can easily bike to the path with your gear, enjoy a full day of fishing, then head back to the city for restaurants, hotels, and bike shops. Or, if you want even more of the great outdoors, opt for one of two campsites available along the trail.
Trout Run is stocked weekly April through October with 10-12 inch brook and rainbow trout. There are also low numbers of brown trout. This trail is the perfect option for convenient and easy to reach fly fishing that can accommodate individuals and families.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a whopping 34.3 miles long and spans from Abingdon, Virginia to almost the Virginia – Carolina border. This trail has a lot of offer and is able to attract tourists and locals alike. In fact, in 2014 it was inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame. The trail is best known for biking, but is also used for walking, running, fishing (of course), horseback riding, geocaching, and more.
One of the best parts about the trail is the diversity in scenery. At the peak of the trail at Whitetop station, the elevation clocks in at 3600 feet. This is an elevation change of about 1600 feet to the lowest part of the trail in Damascus. Throughout the 34 mile trip you can see Christmas tree farms, fields, open farmland, thick forest, and cool flowing streams and creeks. Because the trail is so well maintained there is easy access to restrooms, shops, and restaurants. The trail ranges from dirt, to gravel, pavement, and even wooden planks on certain portions. You are able to rent bikes in the nearby towns, however if you are brining your own stick to mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, or cruisers. Skinny road bikes will likely have a tough time in some of the dirt and gravel.
Likely, the largest draw for anglers is that the trail crosses paths with Whitetop Laurel Creek, which is a beautiful and well-known Virginian stream full of trout. The creek is just steps away from the bike path making it convenient and easy to hop off of your bike and get your line in the water. Fishing on the creek is available all year long. You can expect to see brown, rainbow, and brook trout. The creek has a good population of wild fish, but is also hatchery supported. Traditional fly fishing gear will work great, however you might consider a more compact or collapsible rod if you are planning on sneaking in some fly fishing while making the full 34 mile ride.
5. Additional Locations To Consider
The following trails may be closer or more accessible to you – if so check them out. While we couldn’t cover every great trail in detail, there are many more and of course getting out is the most important thing!
Colorado Trail & Arkansas River- Salida, Colorado
John Wayne Pioneer Trail – Washington
Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail – Washington
Lakeview Hobart Loop – Carson City Nevada
Big Springs Trail- Eagle, Idaho
Valles Caldera- New Mexico
South Mills River Trail – Mills, North Carolina
6. Gear You’ll Need & Recommendations
Clearly there is no shortage of great options for the angler who also enjoys a nice bike ride. As we head into spring and summer, this is a great way to get outdoors in a safe and fun way. If you are interested in planning a trip filled will biking and fly fishing, but are unsure how to get started, check out some great gear recommendations below.
Hopefully the above has served as an introductory roadmap to the fish-rich locations located next to biking trails. As you can see, there are many incredible trails to bike, it is now up to you to choose where you want to go for your next (or first) trail bike and fly-fishing adventure!