It's a little chilly in the Midwest right now. At least, that's what I'm hearing from the folks back home. I decided to follow the ducks south - Way south, to a place where the beer flows like wine, and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Down here, the forecast du jour is 80 and sunny, and the chromers prefer the slow strip over the steady swing. You can leave the waders, and the boots, and the hat/gloves/jacket/shirt/shoes/pack/pliers and nippers at home. Just don't forget the shades and the sunscreen. Or the cervezas.
But as the reality of a long, cold winter draws ominously near, my mind can't help but wander to the fleeting opportunities for winter fishing that will see me through to spring. The best of those opportunities will no doubt require some travel, and given my current circumstance, this week seemed a fine time to do some preliminary research.
I got the opportunity for an early look at the newest release from The Stonefly Press, The 50 Best Tailwaters To Fly Fish, by Terry and Wendy Gunn. Like most anglers, I've thumbed through countless fly fishers guides and "Umpteen Best" books in my day - they're always useful additions to the home library and great trip planning resources but they can be a little dry, to say the least. I can never help but wonder how intimate one author's knowledge of 500 different rivers, creeks and lakes could be. Those that are done well, though, are not only informative but enjoyable reads as well. Greg Thomas' collections of this ilk were always some of my favorites; his prose is colorful and steeped with insight that any hardcore angler would seek, focusing primarily on two critical questions - "Is this place worth my time," and "how's the local nightlife?"
Thankfully, Terry and Wendy didn't just set out to boost their egos or pad their travel resumes with this one. Instead, they sought out the people with the most intimate knowledge of and unique perspectives on these amazing fisheries and had them write the entries. Among these personalities are a number of my friends, mentors and acquaintances from the industry describing rivers that hold some of my most cherished fishing memories. In the end, it makes for a much more dynamic, personal and entertaining literary resource. Most of these folks owe their livelihoods to the rivers they write about, and their passionate perspectives serve more than to educate - they inspire anglers to experience these places for themselves with honest expectations, which is exactly what a good "Guide to"should do.
The book is organized by region, rather than arbitrary rankings, which makes sense to me; if you're going to plan a trip to one of these rivers, you might as well cross more than one of them off the list. Anyone who's ever floated a tailwater before can appreciate the importance of knowing release schedules and how they effect different sections of river (particularly on the TVA tailwaters of the Southeast), and most of the authors do a fine job of advising the reader which flows to look for depending on their angling preferences and watercraft options.
The foreword, penned by the ubiquitous Lefty Kreh, makes some foreboding predictions about the future of tailwaters in this country and the world over, encouraging us to embrace them for better or worse as "the salvation of fly fishing for trout." Frankly, I'm not sure I completely agree with that perspective, but there's no arguing that tailwaters provide exceptional fly fishing in some of the places you would least expect them. Detailed maps, notes, and pictures conspire to tempt the imagination. Even as I look out at the beach before me, the thought of dry-fly caught steelhead on the Deschutes, sippers on the Mo', or big run-up browns on the Madison has me thinking about greener grass on the other side of the fence and hashing out plans for summer 2014....
Get the skinny here or call your local fly shop to get your mitts on this one in time for the Christmas holiday.