Pretend, for a moment, that money is no object. Cost is no constraint in this exercise. Instead, your only objective is to make your next fishing trip the best of your life. Where do you go?
I’ll be dead and gone in 60 or 70 quick years, so I actively pursue the most spectacular fishing destinations on the planet – places that provide an incredible all-around experience.
My ultimate bucket list destinations are guaranteed to blow you away, with this added caveat: Your travel partner will be equally amazed, regardless of whether he or she ever wets a line.
Consider these the 7 Wonders of the Fishing World.
Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, Manitoba, Canada
The Scoop: A deluxe fly-in lodge with first-rate service, gourmet dining and beautiful handcrafted cabins in the midst of a pristine boreal forest. Manitoba’s second-deepest lake is known for abundant, plus-size walleyes (20-25 inchers are common), though when I took my dad we also caught the biggest pike and lake trout of our lives.
What You Should Know: There’s a full bar onsite (with free happy hour), but if you crave a particular wine or whiskey after a day on the water, Aikens will have it flown in for you. No wonder guests are fanatically loyal.
Why You Have To Go: Guests call it a five-star lodge in the wilderness; In-Fisherman’s Doug Stange calls it “still the finest all-around experience I’ve ever had on a fly-in trip.”
Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland
The Scoop: One of Ireland’s most scenic castles sits on one of its best trout fisheries, Lough Corrib. The famous Cong River spills into the lake here and offers a legendary spring salmon run.
What You Should Know: Ashford was built in 1228 and was once home to the Guinness family. They don’t have Miller Lite on tap.
Why You Have To Go: To participate in the castle’s living history – Ashford exudes an incredible atmosphere with iconic activities such as falconry, archery and golf.
Letterfinlay Lodge, Fort William, Scotland
The Scoop: A quaint resort on the banks of Loch Lochy in the stunningly beautiful Scottish highlands. In addition to fishing, Letterfinlay also offers spot-and-stalk deer hunts.
What You Should Know: Letterfinlay is the least luxurious destination on my bucket list, but with tasty meals at the hotel’s Osprey Seafood Restaurant, you’re hardly roughing it.
Why You Have To Go: This is the remote Scottish highlands people dream about. My wife and I hiked the nearby, mystical Isle of Skye – it’s among the most gorgeous vistas we’ve ever seen.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, The Florida Keys
The Scoop: An indulgent tropical island resort several miles offshore from the Keys with thatched-roof bungalows. A world-class fishing experience – I caught tarpon, grouper and barracuda from shore – Little Palm also offers outstanding snorkeling, sailing and dinners on the beach.
What You Should Know: Little Palm provides all the fishing gear and shrimp you need, plus complementary usage of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and 20-foot catamarans.
Why You Have To Go: Hands-down the best saltwater fishing destination I’ve visited – it’s a luxurious “paradise island” . . . surrounded by fish.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada
The Scoop: This intimate resort clings to the side of a mountain with chalets built on stilts on a fjord-like bay in the Great Bear Rainforest, just south of Alaska’s Inside Passage. A 5,000-foot waterfall pours into a hot tub in the middle of the eco-friendly lodge, which offers outstanding fishing and gourmet dining.
What You Should Know: Nimmo Bay put heli-fishing on the map. I’ll never forget my day soaring into the mountains, hovering above waterfalls and hopping – via helicopter – from stream to stream in pursuit of wild salmon.
Why You Have To Go: Nimmo Bay is one of only two dozen resorts on the planet named part of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World.”
The Home Ranch, Clark, Colorado
The Scoop: Luxury, working dude ranch in the mountains of Colorado with fly-fishing, horseback riding and phenomenal food. Visits include barn dances, wine pairings, and live entertainment under the stars.
What You Should Know: The Home Ranch offers a great youth program during summer months with outstanding activities for kids while Mom and Dad spend the day on the river.
Why You Have To Go: Every fly-fisherman must come here once in his life; so, too, should those wanting to experience the quintessential Old West at its finest.
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, Miami, Florida
The Scoop: OK, so the Ritz-Carlton lies in the heart of glamorous South Beach and is hardly a fishing lodge, but hear me out. You walk out the door and you’re on the ocean. The Ritz arranges deep sea fishing for guests (and cooks your catch for you at its beach-side restaurant), there’s ample surf fishing opportunities, and you’re 30 minutes from the Everglades.
What You Should Know: Bring a rod and walk the beach down to South Pointe Pier, which combines shore fishing with South Beach people watching.
Why You Have To Go: Dude, it’s the Ritz-Carlton. You won’t find better accommodations, service or scenery at any hotel in the world.
Images by Jodie and Tony Capecchi