Who Fly-Fishes? C.J. Box

  • By: Stephen Camelio
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They say you should write what you know, and this advice has paid off handsomely for author C.J. Box. His best-selling novels, most of which feature crime-solving game warden Joe Pickett (who, like Box, is a Wyoming native, outdoorsman and dedicated family man), have sold millions of copies and won Box countless awards, including an Edgar Award in 2009, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Novel. Box and Pickett (who is once again the main character of Box’s newest work, Force of Nature, released this past March), share one other very important characteristic—both are avid fly fishermen. And while Pickett’s angling stories are fictitious, Box, in one of the few spare moments when he wasn’t either fishing or writing, agreed to share the truth behind his own fish tales.

Baby It's Cold Outside

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Ice-out fishing in Alaska is not for the easily chilled. In fact, if you choose to chase rainbow trout during March and April (or even May and June), the weather will range between cold and evil cold. Even so, a group of us—four from Anchorage plus me—have been hitting Alaska early for many years, the reward being some massive “bow-bows” ranging from 25 inches to just short of prehistoric dimensions. Last year, however, just like 2010, the weather tested everyone’s commitment. In the mornings and evenings we were warmed by meals and blazing fires at our cabin, but the days belonged to the wind.

Our routine was to roll out in the mornings when the temperature was, if not reasonable, at least prudent. We’d hoped for 30-degree days but 18 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit is what the week served up, usually with some savage, ass-kicking wind-chill factor to go with it. How cold is savage, you ask. How’s eight degrees work for you when trying to execute a snap-T?

Strange Hatches

  • By: Len Waldren
  • , Jeff Currier
  • , Brian O'Keefe
  • and Travis Lowe
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The Blackbird Hatch

Chico, california bass fanatic kevin price was 50 feet to my right as we waded 75 yards off the shore of Oregon’s Davis Lake. The reeds were so loaded with damselflies that there was a blueish hue to the horizon. We were casting poppers, searching for largemouth when the quiet morning was racked by an explosion—the kind of disturbance a big bass makes. Price stopped casting and glanced at me with a strange look. He asked, “Wasn’t a blackbird sitting there a moment ago?” There was no evidence other than concentric circles expanding across the water.

“I believe there was, and now there isn’t.”

Kiwi Crash-Course

  • By: Thierry Bombeke
  • Photography by: Val Atkinson
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The Ambien failed badly, giving me just 45 minutes of sleep during a 36-hour slog from coastal Maine to New Zealand, specifically the pastoral town of Murchison, where I started the first leg of a three-lodge, eight-day trout blitz.

Fortunately, fatigue was overridden by the adrenaline high that comes with visiting an exceedingly exotic new place that, amongst other wonders, harbors large brown and rainbow trout in good numbers. Within minutes of my arrival at Scott and Leya Murray’s beautiful River Haven Lodge, we were on the banks of a nearby freestoner, Scott rigging my 9-foot 5-weight with an 18-foot leader and a strike indicator, the mono tipped with a dark beadhead caddis.

Kola

  • By:
  • Photography by: Greg Thomas
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The young French martial-arts expert and gym teacher had saved up to accompany legendary salmon angler Pierre Affre to a river some contend represents the best chance for a truly big salmon: the bronze-tinted Kola, near Murmansk in Russia, and namesake of the remote peninsula east of Finland.

Bass in the West

  • By: Kirk Deeter
  • , Jeff Erickson
  • , Brian O'Keefe
  • and Ralph Bartholdt
  • Photography by: Jeff Erickson
  • , Brian O'Keefe
  • , Ralph Bartholdt
  • , Tim Romano
  • and John Sherman
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Sandpoint, idaho—calvin fuller has a pet bass that weighs a pound and a half and eats chicken burritos. He hooks it during lunch breaks less than a block from Sandpoint, Idaho’s main drag, under the watchful eyes of coffee-sippers at Starbucks.

Fuller, a local outfitter who operates the area’s only fly shop, cuts between storefronts and down an alley to reach the banks of Sand Creek, then casts a bug-eye streamer. I watch the fat line he’s throwing off a Sage Bass Series rod and it goes tight. He and his pet play again.

Spring Steel on Idaho's Upper Salmon River

  • By: Greg Thomas
  • Photography by: Greg Thomas
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I’ve created a problem for myself; I am a steelhead junkie who lives 500 miles from salt water, in a state where those big sea-run rainbows don’t even exist.

I like where I live—Missoula, Montana—and I’m quite sure this is where I will raise my daughters. But in the back of my mind there’s this idea to endear a Canadian scarlet, gain dual citizenship (plus healthcare, right), and move north, to Campbell River, Bella Coola or, even better, to Smithers or Terrace, British Columbia, where the greatest race of steelhead still pours into the Skeena, Babine, Kispiox, Kitimat and Sustut rivers. That’s the glory list, and I could see myself fishing those waters a couple hundred days a year while pretending that I care about hockey.

Swimming Hole

  • By: Scott Sadil
  • Photography by: Scott Sadil
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I used to think an old river channel had forced engineers to link a pair of spans, end to end, where in essence they were building only one long bridge. Yet the more I look at it, the more I wonder if that side channel wasn’t put there for the purpose of diverting the river while they built the main bridge. How else could they have constructed the forms and secured the rebar and poured the concrete for the piling that supports what now spans the river in all its restless glory?

Should you venture under the bridge, you’ll notice that the piling stands in the heart of the river—not quite in the middle of it, but in the deepest, heaviest part of the current. If you know anything about rivers—or surf, for that matter—you know that this is how currents usually operate. Anchor a big obstacle in moving water, you can be sure to generate all kinds of concentrated energy—just as if you were to raise a metal flagpole into a stormy summer sky. Swing a big dark fly toward the piling, it will sometimes find a fish that feels like those same potent forces funneled through the end of your line.

Bushwhacking along the Talkeetna River, Alaska

  • Photography by: Gabe Rogel
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Specs: Canon A2 body; 28-200mm lens; Fuji Provia 100 film; f8; 1/100

Smoke On (and off) The Water

  • By: Thomas R. Pero
  • Photography by: Thomas R. Pero
Cigars

Cigars and fly-fishing go together. Norman Rockwell may have portrayed a genial, grandfatherly angler serenely smoking his pipe, but the irascible Vincent Marinaro, wizard of the Letort, counted the rhythm between a brown trout’s rises while puffing on a Havana Punch-Punch. And Robert Traver, the wise old Michigan judge and novelist, offered this advice in Trout Madness (1960), one of my favorite fishing books of all time: “If you are hardy enough, smoke Italian cigars. They smell like a burning peat bog mixed with smoldering Bermuda onions but they’re the best damned unlabeled DDT on the market; all mosquitoes in the same township immediately shrivel and zoom to earth.”

Times have changed. Today’s fly fisher looking forward to adding a fine cigar or two to his or her next watery adventure is confronted with a confusing thicket of hundreds of brands in thousands of sizes. Which to choose? Let me make it easy. Here are my picks for six superb hand-rolled smokes in a range of taste, sizes and prices. These cigars draw beautifully and burn evenly. Each one is extraordinary.