The Best Fly Fishing Apps
by Ben Team
Fly fishing may be one of the more organic ways to enjoy the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you can't leverage the power of technology to catch more fish. In fact, there are a number of high-quality fly fishing apps that’ll help you take your fly fishing to entirely new levels.
But not all fly fishing apps are created equal, and you’ll want to stick to the best options while avoiding those that aren’t worth the time and effort to download. We’ll help you do exactly that, as we review the five best fly fishing apps around.
The best fly fishing apps for 2018 are:
See Table of Contents
Fly Fishing App Quick Comparison
Orvis Fly Fishing
FlyWise Mobile App
Stillwater Fly Fishing App
DIY Fly Fishing App
Fly Fishing Simulator HD
The Orvis Company, Inc
Measuring Fly Fishing App Value
No matter what you want from a new fly fishing app, you’ll want to keep a few key factors in mind while making your choice. Start by considering the following features and characteristics:
Provides Valuable Information
Ultimately, all fly fishing apps do one primary thing: They provide fly fishers with the information they want to know. Accordingly, you’ll want to start your search by looking for apps that provide the type of data in which you are most interested.
Some of the things you may want to know while you’re sitting streamside:
- Map data, including the local topography and the roads leading to and from a given river or stream
- Information about the local species, including seasonal patterns and food preferences
- Helpful knots that you may need to tie while fishing (the best apps include animated lessons)
- Fly recommendations for various situations and circumstances
- Weather information so that you can plan out your trip and avoid (or prepare for) inclement weather
- But you may also want to play with your new fly fishing app while waiting in line (or goofing off at work). In these scenarios, you may be more interested in these types of information:
- In depth-articles about gear, techniques or strategies so you can catch more fish
- Magazine-type articles about famous people, fish or locations which many anglers will simply find interesting
- Any type of content that takes a long time to download, load or use
Unfortunately, some apps are only designed to work with one of the two major operating systems (Android and iOS). There’s not much you can do about this, but fortunately, the problem is becoming less common.
Nevertheless, you’ll want to verify that the app you have your eye on is compatible with your phone before getting yourself excited about it.
No one wants to use an app that hogs all of their phone’s resources and takes 15 minutes to load. It can be hard to know how a given app will perform until you try it, so try to read user reviews to give you an idea.
Note that your own device will have a lot to do with the performance of the app – don’t get mad at an app that would normally work quite well, were it not for your 10-year-old phone filled with other resource-hogging apps and files.
Different fly fishing apps incorporate different features into their products, so it can be difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult. Just be sure that you consider the types of features a given app provides, note the number of different features that are included, and make a judgment call.
Some apps may only have one or two primary features and still be quite valuable to some anglers, while others may prefer feature-packed apps that can do a number of different things.
No Unexpected Paywalls
You can find free versions of most popular fishing apps, but often, these free versions will have limitations built into the system. To access the full slate of features or capabilities provided by the app, you’ll have to purchase an upgrade of some type (they’ll often have pop-ups with messages like: “Go Pro for $4.99”).
We can’t find fault with this: App developers have to make a living, which may mean adopting these types of pricing models. However, the developer must be upfront and clear about these types of limitations or premium features.
All but one of the apps reviewed below are available for free.
Ease of Use
You want a fly-fishing app to help you catch more fish, not to frustrate you and force you to spend all of your time trying to navigate different screens and hunt around for the information you seek. So, you’ll want to make sure that you download an app that is easy to use and has an intuitive interface. This is especially important for those who aren’t especially tech-savvy.
If you are selecting a fly-fishing app that provides information about recent catches or weather data, you’ll want to be sure to select one that updates regularly. After all, it won’t help you to learn what flies were working three weeks ago – you want to know what the trout were biting yesterday. And obviously, dated weather data is of little use at all.
Note that relatively few apps (if any) will provide all of these features, so you’ll generally have to compare similar apps and choose the one that provides the most value for you.
Individual Fly Fishing App Reviews
Fly fishing apps often provide a lot of the same features, and there’s quite a bit of overlap between the most popular ones on the market. Accordingly, we’ve tried to focus on apps that serve the widest variety of fly anglers as possible.
Orvis Fly Fishing - The Ultimate Fly-Fishing Guide
Orvis has been one of the world’s leading high-end fishing gear retailers for over 160 years, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve created one of the best fly-fishing apps around. Packed with features, the Orvis Fly Fishing App provides anglers with a ton of helpful information right at their fingertips.
Among other things, this app provides an animated guide to tying more than 20 different knots and several videos that will teach you basic fly-fishing techniques, ranging from the proper way to hold the rod to the best way to cast a fly. There’s even a video about the top 10 mistakes fly fishers make. It also includes a fly field guide, which contains photos, usage tips and other information about 100 freshwater and 50 saltwater flies. You can even search for flies by season, hook size, geographic region or several other parameters.
But that’s just the beginning. The Orvis Fly Fishing App also provides fishing reports, which provide everything from river flow to tide charts to hatch dates for more than 300 fly fishing destinations in North America, Central America and the UK. It also gives you convenient access to the Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast, and a helpful glossary is included on each page so that new fly fishers won’t get confused by the vocabulary used. It even gives you the ability to purchase a fishing license quickly and easily.
The Orvis Fly-Fishing App is free and available for both iOS- and Android-based devices.
Where to Buy
FlyBox’s FlyWise Mobile App is designed to provide fly fishers with the kind of information they need to catch more fish (and have more fun while doing so). A reference-oriented app, FlyWise provides the kind of information anglers may need while on the water or planning their next trip.
For example, it includes detailed topographic maps and stream information, so that you can find the perfect fishing spot. It also provides information about local fishing regulations, creel limits and license requirements, so that you can be sure to stay on the right side of the law. And just to make sure that you don’t get out on the water minutes before it starts pouring rain, FlyWise also displays current and forecasted weather conditions.
This app does have a bit of a geographic bias, as it is primarily designed for anglers living in the western half of the United States. Currently, it provides information on the major streams and rivers in 10 states, including California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. However, they will be adding information about the major waterways in Arkansas and Tennessee soon. The app even provides information about things like boat ramps, local campgrounds and other things that may prove useful to anglers.
FlyWise is free to download. It is currently only available for iOS devices, but they are planning to release an Android-compatible version in the near future (sign up on their website and you’ll be notified when this happens).
Fly fishing often takes you far from the beaten path. But while this can certainly be fun, it also creates a challenge for anglers, as many of these spots suffer from poor cell phone coverage. This limits the value of many apps, as they only function properly when capable of establishing an active internet connection. However, the Stillwater Fly Fishing App completely eliminates this problem.
The Stillwater Fly Fishing App is designed to work anywhere -- even the most remote trout streams you can find. It does so by updating automatically once a week. This way, the app already has the most recent content available, meaning that it does not need an active internet connection to function. You can just launch the app and start benefiting from the incredible content provided, no matter where you are.
Fly fishing experts Brian Chan and Phil Rowley provide all of the content -- which includes photos, articles and how-to videos. This way, you can rest assured that you are getting the best info possible and that you’ll be catching more fish in no time. There is also an entire chapter devoted to fly-tying, and there are also chapters that provide information about your local fishing regulations, insect biology, leaders, knots and more. You can even check out the current weather forecast so you know what kind of conditions to expect.
Some of the content provided with the Stillwater Fly Fishing App is free (the app itself is also free), but you’ll need to purchase a subscription to access the entire content library. It is available for both Android and iOS devices.
The DIY Fly Fishing App is loaded with information to help fly fishers find more fish, catch more fish and remain better informed about places they like to fish. It is primarily designed to provide information about different fishing locations so that you can expand your horizons and find new places to fish.
The DIY Fly Fishing App provides information about more than 27,000 fishing locations (including rivers and streams in each of the 50 states), and new locations are added every week. Each location includes basic information about the river or stream in question, the species found in the water and what types of techniques and equipment have proven successful for other anglers in the recent days and weeks.
An interactive app, the information provided is collected from state agencies and from other users. So, you can enter information about your own catches and help other anglers capitalize on your successes. When you open the app up, you’ll immediately see a map of your area (with a 50-mile radius). It will display icons for all of the local waters for which information has been collected. Click on one of the icons, and a new screen will open up with the information you seek.
DIY Fly Fishing App is available for either iOS- or Android-based devices. It does cost $2.99 to download, but most reviewers found that it was easily worth the cost and that it outperformed many other apps that are available for free.
The final app we wanted to discuss is a bit different than the other fly fishing apps we’ve covered above. While the previously mentioned apps are all designed to provide you with information that’ll help you catch more fish, this app is actually designed to help you keep your sanity when you can’t make it to the water. That’s right, the last app we’re reviewing is a fly-fishing simulator.
But this is no run-of-the-mill fishing simulator, this is a supremely realistic simulator, which features real photographs of real lakes and rivers. In total, you can “fish” from any of 150 different locations scattered around 27 different bodies of water. While doing so, you’ll have to battle real water conditions and realistic fish-fighting physics to land your fish.
You can choose from more than 160 fly patterns to tempt the fish, but be sure to look at the “Hatch Check” feature first, so you’ll know what insects the fish are currently eating. You’ll also be able to choose from a wide variety of rods and leaders, and you can even use split-shot or strike indicators if the conditions warrant them. And although this app primarily features trout, there are also steelhead, bass and panfish lurking in many of the lakes and rivers included.
The app is available for free, but the free version only provides a few locations and a limited selection of gear and tackle. To access all of the locations and equipment available, you’ll need to purchase the premium version. Fly Fishing Simulator is available for Android or iOS devices.
The Bottom Line
If you like (and have the space available), you could certainly download all five of these apps. We’ve rarely met an angler that didn’t like a tackle box full of gear, and we’re guessing most treat fishing apps the same way. Just be sure to think carefully before you start paying for premium features and make sure that you’re likely to be happy with your purchase.
However, if you force us to pick a favorite, we’d probably go with the Orvis Fly Fishing App. This probably isn't a surprise to any fly fishers -- the app provides more information than any of the other apps we examined, and because it’s made by Orvis, you know it will be of the finest quality. It works with either Android or iOS devices, it provides the kind of information you may need while sitting streamside, and you can download it for free.
Where to Buy