With more than 200 rainy days a year, plus battering Pacific winds and a cloud ceiling that rarely lifts higher than a person’s nose, Seattle, Washington serves as the ultimate test kitchen for cold-weather gear companies. This includes some—R.E.I., Outdoor Research, Ex Officio, Filson and Eddie Bauer—that are located just a few miles from the house I grew up in during the 1970s. Theoretically, if there was a place to be well outfitted for winter weather, western Washington was it.
When a young friend, Cody Cantwell, ate a baby green drake (Ephemerella drunella flavilinea) while we were fishing the Railroad Ranch stretch of the Henry’s Fork in Idaho last June, I asked him, “Why?”
“I just wanted to see what it tasted like,” he replied, a bit sheepishly. “These big rainbows love Flavs, and I was curious to see what the big deal is.”
- Photography by: Barry Beck
- and Cathy Beck
This makes no sort of sense. In fact, referring to it as fishing is a terrible joke, responsible only for the mistaken idea that you’ll actually touch one (a fish) at some indeterminate point in the future. Angling masochism is a bit closer to the mark.
- Photography by: Greg Thomas
That’s the mantra of the fly-fishing industry, which has admittedly been flat since the A River Runs Through It electricity died sometime in the 1990s.
Fly-fishing growth would provide multiple benefits, and not just to a manufacturer’s, retailer’s or guide’s bottom line. More fly fishers, in fact, could increase fish-habitat and fisheries-resource stewardship, and that means more quality water and desirable fishing for all of us. Unfortunately, growing fly-fishing may be the single most difficult task the industry has, and nobody seems to have a clear answer on how to get newbie anglers onto the water and enjoying rewarding outings.
- Photography by: Tom Rosenbauer
There’s a certain spark in great artwork that’s difficult to define, and hard to ignore. The photography of Steve Laurent has that fire.
Laurent works in black and white with a wide-angle lens to record the everyday lives of bush pilots and fishing guides at Bristol Bay Lodge, in southwest Alaska. His images are honest, stark and gritty, reminiscent of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans’ photographs of the Great Depression.
- Photography by: Steve Laurent
John D. Voelker AND Ernest Hemingway painted the waters of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula onto this country’s literary maps—forever, unless secessionist “Yoopers” harboring pre-Civil-War grudges triumph someday. Faint chance . . . but no revolution will steal names like Frenchman’s Pond and rivers Escanaba, Two-Hearted and Fox from a country of mind American fly-fishing readers consider our own.
It’s a tradition for good reason: reviews of new John Gierach collections begin by acknowledging his terrific popularity—a truly iconic status built by fans from scratch, even if Gierach might remind us it was Nick Lyons who first made his scratchings available to us. These tributes are a pleasure to write partly because it’s obvious that “iconic status” isn’t what Gierach is after. If you’re bold enough, or a little deluded, you may try to craft a phrase of praise as clean as those Gierach applies to a Bob White painting, some diner’s excellent blueberry pancake blue-plate breakfast, or an 11-inch cutthroat he seduces from some tricky small stream lie in a moment of golden light. (And if, by chance, such a preamble appears in this magazine, the man at the keys will admit, again, that Gierach has been one of FR&R’s own for decades—an obligatory FYI fair warning that, issued by a person of low morals, might also serve as a boast.)
Recently i delved online, then perused my substantial fly-tying library, trying to find some sort of attractor-emerger fly pattern. I failed, and that surprised me—there are thousands of attractors and emergers in existence, but those are all nymphs, streamers or dries. Never a combination of the two.
- Photography by: Skip Morris
September 17, 2011 was a day of wild celebration in northwest Washington state for what is billed as the most ambitious salmonid recovery project ever undertaken on a single river. After nearly half a century of lobbying, negotiations, legal wrangling, legislation, environmental review, and a federal outlay of $325 million, the continent’s biggest dam removal project was underway.
- Photography by: Tom Okeefe
- and Greg Thomas
The standard advice for trout fishing in nippy winter weather is TO rig with a sinking line and a big streamer (to coax idle fish into action), or with a pair of weighted nymphs (to roll along the bottom and right into open mouths). Both formulas have their appropriate places, when temperatures fall and also when water levels rise. But rigging takes second seat, in winter, to something far more important: Reading water to find the trout. If you cast those sunk streamers and tumbling nymphs in water that holds few fish, or just as often no fish at all, you’ll have system failure, even if you do everything else precisely right.
- Photography by: Dave Hughes
The florida everglades provide all sorts of unique angling opportunities, but fly fishers must target specific areas depending on the season or they’ll miss out on the best that the Glades has to offer.
For some anglers fishing the Glades means working the outside keys during summer and fall for a variety of species, such as snook, redfish, tarpon, seatrout, triple tail, mangrove snapper, and even sharks that range to 400 pounds.
- Photography by: Chico Fernandez
Being cooped up during winter does strange things to people, especially in the northern Rockies, where snow may hit the ground in September and remain through May. There’s sanity to be had if you strap sticks to your feet and chase powder days, or can escape to sandy beaches in southern climes, but the rest of us rot until spring brings assurance that we haven’t entered another ice age.
- Photography by: Greg Thomas
Miami Herald columnist and novelist Carl Hiaasen casts all hues of the writing spectrum as well as, if not better than, any American author. From “beach-read” novels and stinging political commentary to wildly popular books for young readers, Hiaasen shows an innate ability to command attention from, inform and entertain the broadest audiences.
- Photography by: Brian Smith
Sink your toes in the sand or in the snow?
Risk sunburn or frostbite?
Cast for half-frozen trout or full-bore saltwater speedsters?
Our crack angling team makes a case for each.
- By: Will Rice
- , Bruce Smithhammer
- , MIles Nolte
- and Greg Keeler
- Photography by: Will Rice
- , Lucas Carroll
- , Brian Grossenbacher
- and Louis Cahill
In my opinion, the late Jack Charlton’s legacy is that he designed and built the two best fly reels ever made. Ever. We could debate that over a single malt, and I acknowledge there are exceptional fly reels other than the Mako—and its predecessor, the namesake Charlton reels—but I don’t know anyone who thinks he can trade up from a Charlton.
- By: Darrel Martin
- , Greg Thomas
- , Buzz Bryson
- and Zach Matthews
You naturally think of bears first. Whether they’re seen from a safe distance or they’re uncomfortably close, you have a visceral response. “That thing could kill me,” is how you’d verbalize it, although the emotion itself predates language.
- Photography by: Jeff Edvalds
- , Jim Klug
- , Cathy Beck
- and Barry Beck
Time has a way of muddling cause and effect. It’s difficult to know if the fly-fishing vest evolved because anglers needed something to hold all their gear, or if fly anglers carry so much stuff simply because someone invented a place to put it. Either way, it was love at first sight, and the vest now stands as the iconic representation of fly-fishing even among non-anglers. Although chest packs and fanny packs have emerged as alternatives, they seem most popular for less gear-intensive forms of angling—steelheading or the flats, for instance—where such packs are enormously useful. But for day-in/day-out trout fishing, far fewer anglers seem to have made the change. For them, a vest remains the most congenial approach.
I preach that less is more when it comes to tying saltwater streamers. My theory on this comes from doing a lot of snorkeling in Caribbean waters. One year my wife and I were snorkeling in a small bay on St. Thomas Island, looking for the beautiful colored fish that live near that area’s lava rocks. Alas, there were none there. Instead, there were thousands of three- to four-inch baitfish huddled near the rocks. We turned our view toward the center of the bay and saw literally hundreds of tarpon waiting for their meal. The tarpon obviously drove the nearly invisible baitfish to perceived safety near the rocks. The first thing we noticed about the baitfish were their eyes, then a very thin, dark dorsal stripe and a nearly translucent body that only flashed when they turned away from us. So I’ve been tying my striped bass and tarpon flies to match what we saw.
There can be dead spells in the sporting life. Sometimes they seem TO build from an innocent catastrophe that, in hindsight, looks like a precipitating event. For instance, I’ve just finished writing a book and am getting ready for a late-winter steelhead trip to the West Coast. I’m a little burned out and this is just what I need: a long stretch of time away from the desk, stepping and casting with a Spey rod. This isn’t mindless fishing as some claim (a friend who says it could be done just as well by a zombie is wrong), but it’s true that it doesn’t demand a lot of deep thinking.
- Photography by: Bob White