Some winter reading: 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

As winter nears and trout fishing slows to a crawl in most places, anglers do one of a few things:

  1. Switch gears and prepare for winter steelhead fishing.
  2. Develop a case of the “shack nasties” and hope to maintain their sanity until the Spring thaw. 
  3. Reminisce about the glory days of the past and dream of troutier days ahead.
  4. Read about trout fishing.

Some may also hop a plane for Patagonia where it’s currently summer, but I’m trying to keep it real here, folks. Frankly I do a bit of all four. With regard to #1, admittedly I’m not a real avid steelhead fisherman because the older I get the less tolerant I become of the foul Pacific Northwest weather that must be endured in pursuit of these ever-increasingly imaginary fish. With regard to #2, cabin fever cannot be avoided—it just comes with the territory, although #3 and #4 help in dealing with #2.  Let’s focus for a moment on #4: reading about trout fishing.

I don’t know how many tailwaters there are in the US and Canada, or whether they’re all worthy of fishing. But thanks to 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish (Terry and Wendy Gunn) I do know there are fifty tailwaters that should be on every angler’s bucket list. The publisher offered me a copy in exchange for my thoughts. I’ve no doubt I got the better end of the deal, but here are my thoughts as promised…

This book is a very comprehensive reference for the angler planning to travel to distant rivers, and if you live in a state without any of the listed tailwaters, you’ll be doing some research before you embark on your trip. But is the book necessary?  With the internet, anglers can research most any water they wish to fish. Guides, local fly shops, recommended gear, lodging, maps, launch points, seasonal hatches and a score of other helpful information can likely all be found in cyberspace if you put in the time. The internet is, after all, an endless abyss of reference material, among other things. And because of that vastness it’s not always easy to navigate the internet in quest of all the information you may need for a trip. Fortunately the authors have done that for you and it’s all packaged neatly in one volume, divided into 4 sections: The West, Rockies, South, and East. Another thing you don’t get with the internet—something I love—is the smell of a new book when you crack open the cover. And books get better with age. Imagine the condition of this book after it’s traveled with you across the country several times as you check each river off your list. A road-weary book develops a personality all its own: bent cover, torn pages stained from early morning coffee spills—just try to dog-ear a web page…

Detailed maps, great photos, comprehensive content.

Lest one should think that no single author (or in this case, two authors) can possibly be experts on 50 different rivers spanning the continent, don’t fret—each river in the book is covered by a chapter author. These folks are the local experts on the rivers listed so you get firsthand knowledge and information from people who have an intimate familiarity with the waters. It’s a very authentic way to cover so many locations. Each chapter includes photos of the river and the fish that beg the reader to come hither. Full-page, detailed maps showing roads, launch points, wading areas and campgrounds in the immediate vicinity are included. The chapter descriptions of each river are very comprehensive and supplemental information at the end of each chapter provides valuable information such as the closest fly shops, outfitters/guides, lodging, closest emergency medical help, eateries and perhaps most importantly, the best place to get a cold, stiff drink. Also provided is the quality of cell phone service in the areas you may be fishing. This is all great information to have. In one place. Try THAT on the internet.

Local information to help plan your trip.

Here is a list of the tailwaters covered:

West: Lees Ferry, San Juan, Provo, Feather, Lower Sacramento, Trinity, Upper Rogue, Deschutes, Owyhee, Henry’s Fork, South Fork (Snake), Upper Columbia (BC, Canada).

Rockies: Dolores, Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream, Elevenmile Canyon, Arkansas, Taylor, Fryingpan, Gunnison, Blue, Yampa, Green, Grey Reef, Miracle Mile, Wind River Canyon, Madison, Beaverhead, Missouri, Kootenai, Bow.

South: Guadalupe, Chattahoochee, Toccoa, Little Red, Norfolk, White, Lake Taneycomo, South Holston, Caney Fork, Cumberland, Mountain Fork, Hiwassee, Clinch, Watauga.

East: Big Gunpowder, North Branch Potomac, Upper Delaware, Neversink, Farmington, Deerfield, Upper Connecticut, Rapid, Muskegon, Grand

I don’t know about you, but I’ve only got 46 more tailwaters to go before I’ve fished all 50 listed in this wonderful book. I better get busy. If you need more compelling reasons to pick up a copy of this book, the authors look like real nice folks—I’m sure they’d appreciate your patronage.

Authors Terry and Wendy Gunn

50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish is published by Stonefly Press and retails for $34.95

7 thoughts on “Some winter reading: 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish”

  1. It’s just me, showing my appreciate for the hard work you do.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Nothing hard about it, nor is it work. Works pays the bills (sigh). Thanks for the support Howard—just knowing you’re there makes it all worthwhile.

  2. Brian Koz says:

    Awesome Job!! You nailed it!! I envy your talent and snarky & witty approach to everything you do. Keep up the phenomenal work~
    tight Lines,

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Thanks, Koz—I appreciate the good words of support! I wish my boss shared your same thoughts 😉

  3. Fred Telleen says:

    I have managed 11 of the 50 best according to the Gunns. There are at least 6 more on this list that I really should fish. These books are great to browse during the inclement weather we are experiencing right now. Trying my best to avoid the “Shack Nasties” by shivering at hockey rinks this month.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Your list of waters to fish is far shorter than mine, Fred. This books made me realize I need to get out more—I knew that already, but now it’s painfully clear. BTW, do they open the doors and turn off the coolant at hockey rinks in Montana this time of year?

      1. Fred Telleen says:

        Nope, the coolant for the ice helps to warm things up.

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