The Braided Wing

On the Making of 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

Posted November 25, 2013 Terry Gunn.

On the Making of 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

Being an expert on one's own tailwater is difficult enough; trying to be an expert on 50 other tailwaters is impossible. When we first began discussions on this book with Stonefly Press, Wendy I and both realized that even if we dedicated the time to do the ultimate road trip and fished all these waters, that we would be just seeing a snapshot of what each river had to offer. We decided that the only way to do this was to collaborate with the local experts on each river – the men and women with boots in the water on each of these tailwaters and get them to commit to working with us on contributing to this epic endeavor.


San Juan River San Juan River


Owyhee River Owyhee River


But first, we had to identify precisely what are the 50 best tailwaters in North America to fly fish; so a list was begun. Many of the rivers were no-brainers: the San Juan, Lees Ferry, Green River, Bighorn, and the Missouri were easy to come up with and they are all here in the west. However, we have not fished much in the south or east and there are lots of well-known tailwaters there. To help us figure out any that we might be missing or that needed inclusion, I turned to a different group of anglers who have their feet on the floor of every fly shop in America (and every river in the process)... regional fly-fishing reps, the ones who sell the products we all drool over: rods, reels, and waders. Their advice was priceless in helping us drill down our list of tailwaters and who the leading experts were that we needed to talk to. Some waters were scratched from our list for one reason or another; others that were new or under the radar (Farmington and Owyhee come to mind) were brought to our attention. The next step was to get on the phone and start making calls to potential contributors. Many of the people who I called were people who were old friends in the fly-fishing industry and it was a good excuse to reconnect and visit about family, friends, and business. However, a lot of my calls were cold to people we did not know personally and who perhaps did or did not know of Wendy and I. We were surprised at the level of enthusiasm that our project received with almost everyone that we spoke to. In a few weeks we had 56 tailwaters and 54 local experts (two people wrote on two different tailwaters) had signed up for the project... 56... 6 extra just in case. In case someone did not come through, or a natural disaster caused a river to dry up... we would still have at least 50 tailwaters. Then the work began, but so did an epic journey.


Missouri River Missouri River


Green River Green River


Frying Pan Frying Pan


After a year and a half and countless thousands of hours of combined collaboration between contributors, photographers, editors, publisher, cartographer, designer and printer, we have a book like no other. There will always be some argument as to which tailwaters were left out and we'll be hearing that some were included that perhaps did not merit inclusion. Maybe this will set us up for a sequel and at the very least a second edition. I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun this book was to bring together... 54 different experts, each with new ideas on techniques, rigging, and fishing. We came out of this with many new friends. We've certainly learned a lot by putting this book together and we're certain that you will enjoy this book and learn a great deal in the process.


Farmington River Farmington River


Bighorn River Bighorn River