Fly fishing through a western drought

Navigating yet another devastating drought year on tap for the American west
Lake Powell, seen half full in this 2014 Landsat satellite image. Today, Lake Powell is considerably lower, hitting its lowest recorded levels (photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / cc2.0).

We’ve all watched and read about the record low water levels for iconic western reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Mead on the Colorado River, but the ongoing drought isn’t unique to the American Southwest. From New Mexico to southwest Montana and west across the Rockies to the Sierra-Nevada of California, some of America’s most-storied trout waters are in real trouble.


I don’t tie flies, but when the situation calls for it, I have no hesitation in untying
Photo: David N. McIlvaney

As I wrote in “Little Black Shit”, I don’t tie flies. I need it said up here again for the end of this to make sense.

I was back in California and heading north from San Francisco to fish Hat Creek and/or the Fall River as I wanted to do some dry fly fishing. On the way, I reached out to my friend, Max Fink, and told him of my plans. He paused for a moment then said, “Dude, don’t be an idiot. Go to the Pit. And get a wading staff if you don’t have one.”

Review: FENIX HM65R rechargeable headlamp

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The Fenix HM65R rechargeable headlamp (photo: Johnny Carrol Sain).

Wars and rumors of wars. Pandemic. Supply line failure. Shifting climate.

The Four Horseman of the current apocalypse (how many have we had now?) vary a bit from their Biblical forerunners, but uncertainty is certainly in the air nowadays. And though fear is the mind-killer, uncertainty is fear’s dark and unfathomable mother. You’d think we’d be more comfortable in her presence nowadays. She’s only been here since the beginning.

How to make your own killer fly

You don’t need to be a fly designer to come up with your next great pattern
Photo: Spencer Durrant

The wind howled from the West and snow fell sideways, which made trout fishing rather pointless. It was the kind of spring weather that you just can’t fish through; you have to wait it out. So I stayed home for the better part of a week, tying flies and filling boxes full of patterns I’ll need when summer rolls around. I kept looking out the window, hoping for a break in the weather and warm enough temps to coax a blue-wing hatch into existence.

Living with hunting dogs

The unique bond between working dogs and their owners
'A Pheasant in a Plum Thicket' — watercolor by Eldridge Hardie, 1989 (courtesy:

The guy’s name was Charlie, I think. The one time I met him, at the now long-defunct Gustav Pabst Invitational Hungarian Partridge Shoot (a.k.a. the One Box Hun Hunt), he showed up in a Jaguar sedan with his German shorthaired pointer riding shotgun. That was pretty cool, but what made an even deeper impression—and permanently endeared Charlie to me—was that after a full day of bird hunting in the fencerows and stubblefields of east-central Wisconsin, he opened the door of the Jag and let his wet, muddy, stinky dog jump right in.