Thursday, April 17, 2014

Secret Waters

I had hoped that one of the “secrets” my friend Chris Hunt reveals in Fly Fishing Idaho's Secret Waters 
is that they are, in fact, not in Idaho at all, but surreptitiously hidden in some out-of-the-way corner of North Carolina. I was disappointed, of course. But, short of that one minor geographical issue, the book stood up to my every expectation. And I expected a lot.

But before we get started, let’s address one pressing issue. Giving away secrets, especially secret fishin’ holes, is frowned upon in many circles. We, fly fishermen, are as tight-lipped a lot as you’ll find and don’t cotton much to having our honey-holes exposed. Early on, Chris takes faces the music:

… our backcountry and backcountry trout deserve the appreciation of anglers who, without a bit of encouragement, might not venture very far from the blacktop to chase fish. The more anglers who experience the backcountry, the more allies our wild fish have when it comes time to beat back a bad idea or stand up to those who don’t share our conservation values. Anglers – and hunters – are more and more important in the conservation discussion all across America… If it gives one angler the motivation to write a letter to Congress or craft a letter to the editor of his local paper when that action is needed to protect the backcountry and our Idaho way of life, it’s worth it.

That being said, Chris doesn’t really give away the keys to the kingdom. There’s no maps with Xs where the trout are or detailed descriptions of trailheads or highlighted pathways into the backcountry. Instead, he gives the reader a starting point; or, as he describes it, a short head start on their own journey to discover backcountry treasures filled with wild fish and experiences we all thrive to uncover. At the end of each chapter (the book being divided primarily by region) Chris gets as close to “giving it away” as he will by providing a page reference in the Delorme’s Idaho Atlas & Gazetteer and an invitation to explore the small blue lines found therein. But, paired with the vivid descriptions and stories surrounding each of the Idaho gems, it’s a hell of a start for those with a true desire.

It’s appropriate that Secret Waters is published by History Press because it’s the history that the book contains that makes it so fascinating. The first two chapters put Idaho and its storied fishery in perspective. Papa Hemmingway, his son Jack, the incredible conservative contributions of Ted Trueblood, Carter H. Harrison. The stories Henry’s Fork, Salmon, Silver Creek, South Fork of the Snake. The Ranch.

But it’s the smaller waters, and smaller histories that make this book special. Each tiny creek and hidden tributary that Chris describes has its own stories to be told. And Chris tells them well. From geological origins to native American inhabitants to Louis and Clark’s explorations; Western outlaws to local politics to more recent legislative battles. Chris gives you the background. A trout is a trout, if you’ll pardon the generality, but it’s the places that sing to the seasoned fisherman. Knowing the past gives perspective - a look into the soul of a waterway that connects a man with his surroundings in a way that sticks forever.

And the history that’s the most comfortably relayed is Chris’s own, his personal memories of each blue line. The folks that he fished with, the color of the sky that particular day, the things that made each splash special to him. Family and friends brought together by a fly rod. This book is personal, not just a dry how-to; appreciated, here, for I feel the most boring part of fishing literature is usually the fishing itself.

And the book's far from boring, especially visually. It’s lovely to page through; full of colorful and inspiring photography. Grand vistas and tiny plunge pools. Wildlife and streamsides. Idaho in its glory. You can easily see the pull of the place.

Okay. A confession, I suppose, is in order. The realization that these streams are not in North Carolina was not my only disappointment upon opening these pages. There was another. After the first few pages of Fly Fishing Idaho's Secret WatersI found myself disappointed that I was unable to jump a westbound jet, right then and there, to explore some of these hidden gems for myself.

Someday, Mr. Hunt. Someday.


Chris said...

*blushing* Thank you, my friend...

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to get my hands on Chris' book. I admire Chris look forward to the day I can shake hands with him. Hopefully when we do, he'll have a cold one to hand me.

Mel said...

Funny now as I look back upon my time in Idaho, Chris and I lived in the same community and never wet a line together. Without reading his book, I can attest to everything here that you have written about what Idaho has to offer and the "Secrets" she holds. I am sure I would love reading this book.

Mike Sepelak said...

Blushing!? And here I thought that you simply could not be embarrassed, Chris. Not from what I've seen.

Pretty good odds on that, Howard.

Yes, Mel, you would appreciate it. And you missed a real treat, let me tell you.

Unknown said...

Great stuff Mike, When I used to live in Lake Tahoe, Had a few good friends that used to fish up in the panhandle area, Cuts an Steelhead were their game, The past year Ive been contacting folks and researching ID, for a trip soon, BUT bother we got some good fishen right here at home, What a year its been for the White shad, and now in the Roanoke, The Stripa's are on fire, but my honey spot this spring has been wading the Tar, LOL shhhhhhhhhh welcome to join in anytime ole buddy,

Ken G said...

What you quote from Chris is somewhere on my site or my forum or my guiding service page. I can no longer remember. The same attitude for the Fox River and the creeks that feed it and I tried to get like minded individuals interested for 15 years.

Then I ran into the attitude of the average bass angler, chasin' hawgs and bigguns. They really don't care about conservation issues at all and were actually an impediment to trying to make improvements to the river system.

Now I keep details more to myself, at least publicly.

The bass world will never have the trout world mentality of doing what you can to preserve and protect the waters where the fish live that you pursue. I personally find that sad.

The plan at one time was to do a book like that only for the pursuit of smallies on some of the most beautiful rivers and creeks you'll ever want to see in northern Illinois. Now, not so sure I want to do that.

But, if asked privately, be prepared for an encyclopedia of information on where to go. Like minded individuals are out there somewhere, maybe if I show one person these places I've been and go to, maybe they'll step up with the stamina needed to make a difference. I think I'll just keep documenting them, hopefully if I ever do a book I won't have to name it "See what you Missed!"

Unknown said...

I hear ya Ken G,
After fishing for over 50 years, way before GPS and Street Atlas, I spent many hours/days hunting for fishing holes, used to keep em to myself, or Id share em with close friends, Fishing is an adventure for me now, from research to hooking up, once I have caught fish in a spot, it gets old after a few trips, The hunt is more rewarding an fun now.
Seems every spot I fish these days takes alitte different technique an offering. Knowing how to fish is more important then knowing someones honey hole, I bow hunted for 30 years, sharping those Bear broadhead, and finding good deer runs before the kill, was 10x more fun, lol after the kill the work starts,
Good Fishing

Mike Sepelak said...

You're both spot on it, Ken and Steve. Thanks for adding some great insight into the discussion!

Fishing Tips said...

Your review of the book has compelled me to add it to my collection. I am sure it would live up to my expectations. Thanks for sharing your views.