I shouldn’t have to explain those days, weeks, even months, when we’re mired in work or family and there seems to be no way out. If it’s raining outside, or the dog just slid its itchy butt across the living room carpet, so much more piercing the ordeal.
The quickest way to escape that funk is to pack a bag and head out for anywhere. I escaped with a recent trip to San Francisco, where I met representatives from Canada, all of them eager to share their fishing opportunities. That freed my mind and allowed the brain to envision appealing options, from northern pike in Saskatchewan, the Yukon and even the Arctic, to dryfly-scarfing rainbows and steelhead in British Columbia, and Atlantic salmon in Québec and New Brunswick.
Specs: Canon A2 body; 28-200mm lens; Fuji Provia 100 film; f8; 1/100
- Photography by: Gabe Rogel
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.
- Photography by: Scott Sadil
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.
- Photography by: Thomas R. Pero
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.”
- By: Len Waldren
- , Jeff Currier
- , Brian O'Keefe
- and Travis Lowe
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?
All of us dream of adventure—the three-day float deep into a map where the only pathways are rivers and game trails. But to pull it off, you have to be properly equipped. A few years back, I spent the most uncomfortable night of my life camped on a solid sheet of ice in sub-freezing temperatures next to a trout stream in Arkansas. It was February, and yet I had only a thin-wall tent, no stove, and a cheap sleeping bag that in no way deserved its 20-degree rating. That trip illustrated just how important quality gear can be—especially when you’re miles from the car, in places where the weather can be a touch unpredictable.
You can chase bonefish in lots of killer locations, but the Bahamas say “bonefish” more than any other place in the world, because of both the size and numbers of fish there, and because they are found throughout a network of flats that weaves around more than 700 productive islands.
In addition, Bahamians understand that the resource is much more valuable swimming the flats than being sold for pennies at a fish market, and they protect those bones accordingly. To put it in clear perspective, here in the U.S. we put pictures of dead presidents on our currency; in the Bahamas it’s bonefish.
- By: Ian Davis
- and Jim Klug
I first learned about something called the exotic grand slam years ago in an old British sporting journal. The British have a history of concocting new ways to entertain themselves, including those mammoth expeditions to Everest and the South Pole. They also invented the sport of lion hunting from horseback, the trick being to dismount before actually shooting the charging lion. That game never appealed to me, but the exotic grand slam did. To take the slam you have to catch three challenging species that live on different continents:
1African tigerfish, in either the Okavango Delta or the Zambezi River and its tributaries, which are full of crocodiles and hippos, and venomous snakes like the puff adder and the black-necked spitting cobra.
- Photography by: Val Atkinson
Taimen are fish of legend, murderous, malevolent beasts armed with a nightmarish dental array and a cold-blooded, primeval killing instinct. These malicious assassins possess catholic tastes, and anything from lenok and grayling to rats, ducks, bats and even fellow taimen regularly fall prey to their swift, savage attacks. Taimen often hunt in packs, a habit that has earned them the soubriquet “river wolf” and conjures a frightening image to anyone who wades waist-deep into a taimen river.
Taimen broadly resemble long, lean brown trout, but unlike their smaller cousins, grow to truly enormous size. They populate a huge catchment that stretches across Asia, from the Volga and Pechora Basin in the West, to the Pacific seaboard and Sakhalin Island in the East, and their prodigious bulk and nerve-shattering strikes spawn countless stories, some little more than fanciful myths, others incontrovertibly based in fact.
- Photography by: Matt Harris
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.
- Photography by: Val Atkinson
I came to know about Michigan’s upper peninsula through the writing of Ernest Hemingway, John Voelker (a.k.a. Robert Traver) and, later, Jim Harrison and others. It may be a coincidence that many of the writers I like have a connection to this northernmost landmass of Michigan that, until the completion of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957, was so isolated it could only be reached from the rest of the state by boat.
Or maybe it’s just that the region naturally produces stories filled with tea-colored trout streams, beaver ponds hidden in swamps, and small towns where rules are gracefully bent by those with the right intentions. Whatever the reason, the UP is enshrined alongside the Serengeti, the Yukon Territory and Paris as a place made romantic by virtue of appearing in books. Which is to say, I am an innocent victim of literature.
- Photography by: Bob White