Book review: 25 Best National Parks To Fish

25 Best National Parks To Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn, Stonefly Press, ISBN:978-1-63496-904-8, $32.95.

Stonefly Press continues their “Best” (Tailwaters to Fish, etc.) series with this new offering from Terry and Wendy Gunn. Best, of course, is always relative, but you need to make a stand somewhere, right? The authors do a fine job of choosing 25 national parks to fly fish, from the warm salt of the Florida Keys to the bracing salmon runs of Alaska, and from down east Maine to California dreamin’.

Since the authors can’t possibly have an intimate working knowledge of all these wondrous places, they don’t pretend to. Instead, they rely on the first-hand experience of local guides and outfitters. It’s a good strategy, and it lends an agreeable credibility to each chapter.

You will like this book if you are planning on making a pilgrimage to fly fish a national park — or you like to dream about doing so, and maybe this will be the impetus you need to set the wheels in motion. For example, my wife and I have been talking about making a family trip to Grand Canyon. Well, lookee here. Chapter 12, Grand Canyon National Park.

I get an overview map with trail access; general information on the location; specifics about the Colorado River and its tributaries; notes on fisheries management; notable nearby water; and a general list of tackle, gear, and flies to bring. Each chapter includes a detailed short-list sidebar with essentials like logistics information, local fly shops, guides/outfitters, places to stay, where to eat, and even if you’ll find bars on your cell phone. Of course, there are the obligatory scenic view photos and local specimen fish porn. Each chapter is unique in its informational offerings. For example, you might also find details on hatches; resident animal life; and seasonal conditions.

Maybe I’ll start up in Maine with those Acadia salters. Ay-uh.

Have Santa put 25 Best National Parks To Fly Fish on your list.

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Book Review: My Life In Fishing by Stu Apte

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My Life In Fishing by Stu Apte, Stonefly Press, ISBN: 9781939226709, $29.95

There are giants who walk among us. Technically, they are human. But upon further examination, they reveal themselves to be of a different order.

For proof, I submit Stu Apte. Stu has done things that you and I never will. He was a fighter jet pilot in the Korean War, and then a pilot for the legendary Pan Am airline. He drank mojitos with Hemingway, guided U.S. Presidents, was fishing buddies with the last player to hit .400, fished with luminaries in the world of angling like Joe Brooks and Curt Gowdy, and became the sharpie’s sharpie of big game saltwater fly fishing. Oh. He also held, or still holds, over six dozen IGFA world records.

My Life in Fishing is subtitled “Favorite Long Stories Told Short,” and the resulting format shines under the author’s charming, often humble recollection of his experiences. Apte is a simple writer, yet his stories held me captive over several evenings. This is the kind of book that I love: it’s really an expansive how-to manual (among my favorites: when fighting a big fish, to play him long is to play him wrong) disguised as a collection of personal anecdotes.

Apte cut his angling teeth in south Florida, so the book is saltwater-heavy, especially snook, tarpon, bonefish, sailfish, and permit. But there are chapters on stripers, trout, Atlantic salmon, and many more species.

The cover photo is representative of the book’s photography: simple, evocative shots on both color and black & white film that transport you back to an era when the tarpon were in thick and anglers didn’t look like they dressed out of a catalog. There is a homeyness and an honesty to the shots that is lacking in so much modern angling imagery, and the keen observer will note the absence of photos of anglers with elbows locked straight out, thrusting their catch into the camera lens.

Quibbles? Only one. The exclamation point is overused in this book! Some passages read like a text!

Thanks for writing this, Stu. My Life in Fishing makes me wish it was fifty years ago, and I could call you up and book a tarpon trip. But if you’re ever up in Connecticut, give me a ring. The guide trip’s on me.