I thought I was still buzzed from the night before when I first saw what appeared to be a person lounging in a yellow pool-floatie on the water. “Only in Vegas,” I thought. Some drunk idiot ends up using Lake Bellagio as his personal swimming pool. But looking closer, I could see that the person was a man moving his arm back and forth a few times before bringing it to rest. “Is he casting?”
Summer – Stranded on Socotra, Stranded on Socotra, The Quarantine and John Prine, Tarpon, A Mexican Introduction
Fall – Iowa brook trout, Tennessee smallies, ranch cats, love and albie fishing, night-mousing in Idaho, Jersey stripers, Mongolian taimen, Italian marble trout, AirBnB for flyfishers, Oregon’s wildfires, unexplored Argentina, ode to a permit guide, and an uncultured musky dude!
Winter – Bluewings, Iceland, beach tarpon, kayak redfish, Maine brook trout, flyfishing Vegas, Menominee win, backcountry Alaska, road-trip with Mom, Mike Simpson’s stones, moonshine dinner, and the last River Runs Through It thought piece!
None of us guessed what was coming. Within hours of our leaving the river, the county would close all boat ramps and Oregon’s governor would implement stay-at-home guidelines. We were fishing on the last days of winter steelhead season 2020 and we didn’t even know it.
Until January 4, I’d never even heard the term “float-n-fly.” It sounded like a kid’s ride at the fairground, or the street name for some illicit new drug. But I Googled it that day—the same day Oroville, California-based flyfishing guide Ryan Williams, and his partner, Logan McDaniel, won the Shasta Lake Wild West Bass Trail tournament.
In April 2019, Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, gave a somewhat stunning keynote address at an environmental conference hosted by Boise State’s Andrus Center for Public Policy. His comments were thoughtful, educated, and encouraging. But mostly, they were surprising, particularly his thoughts about what might be necessary to save Idaho salmon. Rep. Simpson and I discussed the topic in mid-December, and his quotes below come from his keynote and our conversation. Can Idaho salmon truly be saved? No one knows. But the Congressman has been down a similarly daunting path. In 2015, Mr. Simpson’s 15-year effort to broker a seemingly impossible deal resulted in the creation of Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness. (Which Mark Menlove covered in his 2014 feature, “A Fisherman’s Monument.”) If wild salmon and steelhead can indeed be saved, then Rep. Simpson is providing these essential fish the best shot they’ve had in decades.
I think that Ingrid would want you to know—as she stands in her waders, stands by her weir, looking down at a dark mass of grayling that were trapped in the night—that there was a time when no one would’ve thought fish would ever need to be counted. But she’d also want you to know that these don’t have to be the last wild days. She would want you to know that not everything has been lost, and that there is still the hope of unknown waters.
My first tarpon on a fly was a stout, laid-up fish that ate my worm and broke me off an hour later. I was a teenager at the time, and fortunate to have a father who took me on an annual spring trip to the Keys. But as I grew older and started achieving some success on the bow, my focus shifted to permit. Like many permit anglers, my trips often ended with a long flight home, followed by a long-winded explanation to my wife about how I could spend three days fishing, catch nothing, yet still feel the trip was “a step in the right direction.” At the height of my addiction, I was focusing more on the seconds ticking away on my watch than I was on scanning the water. I’d lost the mental game before even stepping on the skiff.
Before first light hit any of the famed pools along Oregon’s North Umpqua on the morning of September 8th, the Archie Creek fire had already begun.
The whole trip was Forrest’s dumb idea. But for Forrest, enthusiasm overcomes all obstacles. In his world, “Rad” is always capitalized. As in, “Dude! It’ll be so Rad to go fishing right now!” But Smithers over Thanksgiving? Not Canadian Thanksgiving, mind you—on October 12, a perfectly reasonable time to be fishing in northern British Columbia—but American Thanksgiving, a month and a half later.
Minnesota’s Mississippi shoreline bounds the “Southeast Blufflands” region, or what anglers know as the Minnesota Driftless. All five of us fish it: A magical world of pastoral valleys, each drained by a spring creek, mostly brimming with wild fish.
If you’re unfamiliar with flood-tide fishing, imagine your grassy front yard that your kid was supposed to cut three weeks ago but hasn’t. In the West this might attract crickets or hoppers, but in the coastal Southeast, when the right moons and weather combine, the grass floods, attracting snails. The snails attract fiddler crabs, the crabs attract redfish, and the redfish attract us.
For Brianna Proctor—a lead helicopter crewmember based in Swan Valley, Idaho—learning about and working near rivers all over the country has become a major benefit of her firefighting career. She’s been a wildland firefighter for 15 years, working primarily in the air attack and helicopter realm as a member of what’s called a “helitack” crew—a group that works alongside helicopters to facilitate water drops, fire recons, and the shuttling of crews into remote areas of the fire.
On March 13, 60-year-old retired schoolteacher Ray Montoya arrived on the Arabian Archipelago of Socotra, intent on landing what is thought to be the first permit on a fly from the war-torn country of Yemen. Three weeks later, the talented fly-tyer, photographer, artist, and angler was still there, grounded like the rest of us. But Montoya is not like the rest of us. A Navy veteran, he grew up in a third-generation military family, bouncing around the U.S. as a kid. He became a teacher after college, and in the late ’90s began teaching internationally with his wife, Kerry.
When Matthew Churchman woke up on a recent Sunday morning, at first the only thing growling was his stomach. Coffee and a cold breakfast took care of that. Camp, nestled in a 300-yard-long, cottonwood-and-willow stretch of river bottom, was in the process of being broken down. Skies…
Got the news today. The troubadour of my soul’s playlist, the gravel-voiced poet of so many of our flyfishing adventures, John Prine, was hooked up to a ventilator. He didn’t survive. I keep waiting for one of the dearly departed to claw themselves…
Megalops atlanticus. The name belongs more to a creature in an ’80s horror film than a fish out roaming the flats. They are so big and powerful it is hard to imagine them existing in real life. I saw Flip Pallot and Jose Wejebe cross paths with these monsters…