My first fly-caught trout came to a Royal Coachman streamer fly that was sloppily cast and dragged across a stretch of the Saugatuck River just upstream of a parking lot in Westport, Connecticut. That stretch of river flowed through the middle of a corporate park. It was a rather a sickly hatchery brown trout that was as foreign to its environs as the angler on the other end of the line.
Needless to say, I was quite thrilled to have caught that trout. But having already feasted on back issues of Fly Fisherman, Field & Stream and the like, I had more than a premonition that something better might be waiting: Trout that had never seen the concrete walls of a hatchery. Rivers that offered vistas beyond the receiving dock. A species of fish called ‘steelhead’. Other species I hadn’t even read about yet.
I suppose this curiosity — this wanderlust to explore the many possibilities the wide world of fly fishing offered – prompted me to begin thinking of some of the places I’d like to visit before my fishing days are finished. Thinking that there might be others out there with the same curiosity, I decided to write Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die.
To compile the list of fifty places, I sought some professional advice: I interviewed master fly fishers about some of their favorite fly fishing experiences. These experts range from fishing writers and editors to fly shop owners, outfitters, booking agents, and professional fly tiers. Some anglers, like Ernie Schwiebert, Billy Pate and Larry Dahlberg, are household names…at least in fishing households! Others – like Paul Weamer, Bret Carlson and Bryce Tedford – may one day be famous. Some spoke of waters close to their homes, waters they are closely associated with; others spoke of places that they’ve only visited once, but that made a profound impression. These are folks that have been there and done that, and possess the perspective to evaluate some truly wonderful fishing experiences. To give a sense of the breadth of their angling experience, a bio of each individual is included after each essay.
What criteria, you might ask, define a place to ‘fly fish before you die’? Is it a place where you can catch the most fish? The biggest fish? The smartest fish? The most exotic fish? Sometimes. And sometimes, it’s a place where the sun or moon happened to shine a certain way through the hills or palm trees, where a fish took a fly with a certain reckless abandon – or refused a fly with a resolve that bordered on arrogance. Or a place where the fish were completely uncooperative, but the scenery was perfectly transcendent. Like a timeless piece of art, a treasured fly fishing experience often resists categorization, the essence of its ‘greatness’ remaining open to interpretation.
While this book collects fifty great fishing experiences, it by no means attempts to rank the waters discussed, or the quality of the experiences these fisheries afford. Such ranking is entirely subjective as one angler’s nirvana might well be another’s purgatory…or worse. To dispel any notions of ranking, the fifty venues are listed alphabetically.
In the hope that a few readers might decide to embark on adventures of their own, I have provided some “If You Go” information at the end of each chapter. It is by no means exhaustive, but will give would-be travelers a starting point for planning their trip. I’ve also included some tackle tips, to give you a sense of what the local fly shops and outfitters recommend.
I hope that this little book helps you to launch a few adventures of your own.
Available at a bookstore near you. Autographed personalized copies available — contact firstname.lastname@example.org.