Monday, May 26, 2008

Streamside Reading: Eddy Country Part Two

Part two of this Memorial Day Weekend Edition of Streamside Reading focuses on the regional guide books for Eddy country (roughly defined as eastern Idaho and western Montana). The books generally fall into three categories: Idaho, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park.

There are several books that attempt to cover all the fishing in Idaho, which seems to me a fool's errand. Still, I won't complain since I have gleened some little gems of information from such works. The book I am most familiar with is the Fly Fisher's Guide to Idaho. This book is one of an absolute plethora of similar books like The Fly Fisher's Guide to Oregon, the Fly Fisher's Guide to Maine, The Fly Fisher's Guide to the Southeast Corner of the Northwest Territories, and on and on and on. These books tend to succumb to the obvious hardship of such an endeavor: there is just too much to cover, especially in a state as fertile with fly rod water as Idaho. Ken Retaillic and Rocky Barker are the authors and they do as good a job as could be expected; they cover all the major fisheries and a few of the minor ones as well. Things are especially thorough for eastern Idaho where I believe one of the two (or both) of them lived for awhile (Barker now writes a pretty cool blog for a paper in Boise). The "New and Expanded" edition was published in 2002, but much of the info appears to be the same as the edition I once checked out from the Logan Library in the mid 1990s. As such, plenty of it is out of date. Still the hatch charts, maps, and river descriptions are valuable if you have never been here before. Having lived in eastern Idaho for 5 1/2 years, I rarely find myself pulling it out anymore.

There several other guide books out there focusing on Idaho, most notably the No-Nonsense guide, which is pretty recent. However, any book that uses the words 'quick' and 'concise' in the title sort of turns me off. I mean, its a book, man. If its quick and concise, what's the point? I want the Extremley Long, More Information than You Could Ever Digest Guide to Fly Fishing Idaho.

As noted, there is a Fly Fisher's Guide to Montana as well. But Montana's angling reputation is such that the depth of literature is pretty significant. Amazon has an absolute boatload of books dedicated to the subject. I don't know which ones contain the best information on which streams, but I do know this: if you're interested in great writing about Montana, you can't beat John Holt. His work (especially Knee Deep in Montana Trout Streams and the other books in the series) isn't your traditional guidebook type of stuff, but it is entertaining and it makes you want to go fishing. It also reminds you that it is cooler to catch a trout learning a few things on the water rather than using the fly pimped in the book in every hole the guidebook specifies. Holt's stuff reminds me of why I love to fly fish. I wish someone would pay me to write the kind of stuff he churns out, it seems like fun. Of course, that would mean I could write as well as he can, which would be a problem for me.

Anyway, Holt's most complete books on fly fishing Montana are probably the Fly Fishing Guides, which he intelligently split into two books: Montana Fly Fishing Guide: East of the Continental Divide and Montana Fly Fishing Guide: West of the Continental Divide. My only complaint is that if you don't spend some serious time in Montana it can be confsing which book is for you. For instance, the Beaverhead is in the East book, but the Bitterroot is the West book, sort of inconvenient because one trip could easily encompass both waters. Still, that is a minor issue in the overall scheme of things and I can't think of a better way to split Montana in two. Also, note that these book are more than ten year's old, even though they were reprinted in 2002. As noted in the Amazon customer reviews, none of the info was updated.

There is probably no fly fishing region in the West that gets more ink per square mile than Yellowstone. Is it warranted? Well, that's debatable, I guess. The park is certainly not the greatest destination in the world for catching a swaggle of big trout (especially with the recent decline of the Yellowstone river system). But where else can you share a Flav hatch with a bison? I'll let you decide the intrinsic value. As for guide books, I recommend two: Craig Matthews and Clayton Molinero's The Yellowstone Fly Fishing Guide and Falcon's Fishing Yellowstone National Park. The first is full of great info about tackling many of the park's well known waters with a fly rod. For my money, Matthews and his crew at Blue Ribbon Flies are the premeire fly tying innovators in the region, busting out several new patterns each year and reinventing their own classics. So its no surprise that these guys have done their homework. If you plan to make a pilgrimage to YNP this summer, I suggest you get this book (although I have heard a new edition is on the way). The Falcon book is valuable in a different way. It covers more than 100 bodies of water. If you spend a lot of time in the area, this is a good book to have with nice maps and access information for those obscure little veins of blue you've noticed on the map and have an itch to explore.

Okay, I'm going to bed. Hope you caught some fish for the opener, or managed to get your lawn mowwed between rainstorms.

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