Book of the Month January 2018

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Fly Fishing Alaska: Books by Anthony J. Route. I have been asked occasionally to recommend books on Alaskan fly fishing. As our collection is a bit dated, I have been reluctant to give recommendations. Lately, however, I have had to plan some Alaskan adventures of my own. Thus, taking a closer look at our library, I was pleasantly surprised to find Flyfishing ALASKA, by Anthony J. Route. Having been born there, and having experienced fishing in Alaska as a wee lad (yes, I was once wee!), Alaska fishing is near and dear to me. I return periodically to sample the fishing and visit old friends. I have fished the Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers in the South-Central Region, the Anchor and the Russian on the Kenai Peninsula, the Situk and other rivers near Yakutat, and lovely little streams in places as diverse as the creeks within the Anchorage city limits to the central Aleutians, where we caught big sea-run Dolly Varden and pink salmon on sand shrimp imitations — which is why I so thoroughly enjoyed reading Flyfishing ALASKA. With the exception of the small streams, Route covers nearly all the rivers of my Alaska memories.

Much has changed, of course. When I was growing up in Alaska, one didn’t fish for sockeye (“reds”) with any terminal gear meant to entice a strike. Reds, which feed on small organisms, were thought to quit feeding entirely when entering fresh water and also not to strike out of anger. So, our gear consisted of large treble hooks cuttyhunked to large willow staffs!

Today, informed fly fishers know that reds will strike small, metallic flies, such as brassies and comets — at times with abandon. Also changed is the numbers of anglers fishing such sockeye strongholds as the Russian, where combat fishing is similar to that in places in the lower 48. Route describes these changes in some detail.

Fascinating, too, is Route’s description of Alaskan cutthroat trout fishing. As a cutthroat lover I am glad to know I can go up there to find coastal cutthroat in abundant numbers, even while others pursue the larger salmon and steelhead. Route nicely describes this fishery from a fly fisher’s perspective, as well.

The author covers most of the better fly fishing streams in the state, including those mentioned above. This is done in the context of waters (mostly rivers) where the various species are found. Virtually all the species that can be targeted with a fly somewhere in the state, including char, grayling, pike, salmon, sheefish, and trout, are covered. Curiously, he provides little in the way of fly pattern recipes. Such are limited to eight pages in an appendix. However, the list of patterns for each species includes many the reader will recognize. If one wishes to explore Alaskan fly patterns in detail, check out Flies for Alaska, also available in or SFF Library, by the same author.

A third volume by Route is also held – River Journal: The Kenai River. If curious regarding this famous river and its mega-king and rainbow fishery, take a look at it. However, for me, today’s combat fishing on that river is repugnant. I recall, fondly yet sadly, the days when my father, his bush pilot friend, and I used to camp at the site of the old Russian River Rendezvous Lodge. The lodge, located at the river’s outlet from Lower Russian Lake, had burned, leaving just one cabin, and Mort and my father were among the very few who knew about it. So, we would go camp there and often have the Russian River, clear down to it’s confluence with the Kenai, to ourselves! We would even cook and eat the spruce grouse I shot on the way in! And that’s how I’ll remember the old Russian and Kenai Rivers.

I realize that I have perhaps violated journalistic rule in this review by bringing too much of myself into it and, maybe, detracting from the topic as a result. I hope the reader will indulge me this fault as I slid, at times, down memory lane while writing this review. Meanwhile, the overriding premise holds: For a very informative take on Alaskan fly fishing, have a long look at Flyfishing ALASKA. You will be entertained at the least and, if planning a visit, well assisted.

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