Living in Eastern Idaho allows me to fish some of the finest trout water in the country, from the South Fork of the Snake to the Madison in Montana. But lately, nostalgia has drawn me south, to northern Utah’s Logan and Blacksmith Fork rivers, both of which flow through the fifty-mile-long Cache Valley where I grew up. Each of these rivers had healthy salmonfly hatches when my grandpa was a kid, but now only the Blacksmith Fork does, and few people seem to know why.
Clouds and rain threatened as I stepped from the single-prop onto the tarmac at the Alaskan village of Galena, home to a few hundred residents along the north bank of the Yukon River, 270 air miles west of my home in Fairbanks.
I knew Patrick had a wedding the night before, but I didn’t know he’d be coming straight from it. His wine-stained dress-shirt hung untucked over his pants. He had no bag; he walked up my driveway from our mom’s car just after 5 a.m. with a five weight in one hand, a pair of cowboy boots in the other, and a hip pack and a pair of jeans slung like saddlebags over each shoulder.
“Prob hooked 50.”
The words felt strange as I texted a quick report to my friend Dave. But it was true; I’d spent the better part of the afternoon Euro-nymphing, and the fishing was indeed ridiculous. Within the first hour, I had already hooked more than a dozen; by hour two, I lost count. Wild browns—nice fish up to 18 inches—with the occasional thick, foot-long brookie mixed in. In the evening I switched to twitching attractors in some fast runs and landed another ten or so until I finally quit at dark.
Hours into the float already, we’d chucked green and yellow, chartreuse and pink, and black and purple—some with big reflective eyes and others with barred feathers that enticingly slip and slide behind the body of the fly. Nothing was working. Brett, my musky copilot, and I weren’t moving fish like I thought we would, considering the cold mornings that fall had been delivering.
In the fall of 1993, then-President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12866, requiring all Federal regulatory agencies to publish a list of anticipated rulemaking actions for the upcoming twelve-month period. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is such an agency, and its rulemaking process requires four steps: Publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register; Inviting public comment; Considering the public comments received, and Publishing a final rule in the Federal Register.
If Hexagenia limbata isn’t the GOAT of all bugs, it’s at least squarely in the conversation, beginning with its sheer size and density. “Nothing in flyfishing even comes close to the spinner fall,” says the legendary Kelly Galloup in Chris Santella’s book, The Hatch is On! “I don’t care how big a salmonfly or Mother’s Day caddis or Hendrickson hatch you’ve seen, it doesn’t compare in pure biomass.”
I was caught between two worlds: human and piscine. I had been welcomed into the school. I moved with them, as they moved. I observed their feeding habits, their societal structures. I was like a salt-crusted, Ichthyological Jane Goodall, except that my silverbacks weren’t gorillas. They were bonefish. Scores of them. Possibly hundreds. All around me, glimmering tails flapped like the banners of their clan—a clan of which I was now an adopted son.
I wish I knew more about bourbon. All I really know is that I like the taste, and that there are some I enjoy more than others. This may be the result of growing up in Kentucky, where my friends and I were introduced to good bourbon at an early age. Had I grown up in Poland or Scotland or the Caribbean, perhaps I’d prefer vodka or Scotch or rum. But bourbon is my thing. The details don’t interest me, however. Percentages of various mashes, types of wood in the barrels, the aging process? I just don’t get it. From people with more discerning palettes, I’ll hear things like “vanilla overtones” or “notes of cherry and chocolate.” Here is part of an actual description I found on a website for one of my favorite Kentucky bourbons:
Clyde had been sitting in a barn outside of Gadsden, in West Etowah County, Alabama, for nearly six months, with a flat front tire and a massive gash in his gas tank. He wanted to rumble his Detroit muscles, but hadn’t done so for some time under my watch. I never developed any mechanical skills, but my friend Adam has worked on cars since his youth, tinkering with his grandfather in their garage in Decatur. He put on a new gas tank in a little more than an hour, performing what seemed to me a mannish miracle. Clyde was purring again, and my passion for flyfishing culture would be realized at the Fly Fishing Film Festival at Cahaba Brewing in Birmingham the following weekend.