Individual taste in books varies as much as the favorite rod or fly.  With that in mind, we hope to review books and videos from the ever-growing fly fishing world, and share them with you.  Books will be the best of all worlds, new and old.  Many of the old books are now available in reprint, and the wisdom contained is timely today.  Others can be found in second-hand book stores, or by mail order dealers. As we find videos we feel are outstanding they will be included. Be assured, reviews are based on what we have actually read, and due to that fact, may not appear weekly.

July 31st, 2000

The Waters of YELLOWSTONE with Rod and Fly
By Howard Back
Published by The Lyons Press

The Waters of 
Yellowstone with Rod and Fly
I had never heard of Howard Back, the author of The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly until this book arrived. Actually I'm sorry I didn't discover it many years ago when we fished Yellowstone on a rather regular basis. However, since only about 1,500 of the original books were printed back in 1938, it's not too surprising.

That said, this is a delightful book. I read it in two evening, and enjoyed the images the author draws as well as his insight. He does not cover all of Yellowstone National Park, and I find no fault with that. His experiences come from two separate trips, the first in 1936, returning for a longer stay in 1937. The publisher calls the book, "a classic memoir on westen fly fishing." In it Back describes what he found as the best places and seasons to fish, and the flies that worked for him. I'm sure the folks who read it when it was published were very well served with the information he provides. It was fun to mentally compare the places I know with his comments and descriptions. The added bonus was the type of flies used then. I can't help but wonder, even though we've gone through all sorts of 'modern' technology if just maybe in the hands of a presentationist they would work as well today.

The book has, I believe, one of the photos from the original book, one of Back and his dog. As I understand it, the rest of the photos are recent ones by Dan Callaghan. The photographs are not well defined, as to who took which ones.

I have one other picky bit about the book. It has many latin phrases, most I'm sure were familiar to Back's peers, but my old high school latin didn't save me on them. A footnote, or editors note would have been in order. I'm afraid I missed some of the nuiances by not having a proper translation.

The forward to The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly is nicely done by Craig Mathews, who himself has seen many changes in the Yellowstone region since he first showed up there some twenty-five years ago. When we first spent time in Yellowstone, (actually we lived in the various campgrounds for two months the summer in 1974) there were less fishermen. Bear jams were still frequent, and the head of fish seems to have been about the same as it was when we were last there two years ago. Certainly a marvel in fish management.

It is rare to find an "Afterword" in a book, but this one has a delightful biography of the author by Robert H. Berls. Howard Back certainly led a very interesting life. I suspect he was ahead of his time.

There is an added bonus. Howard Back made some astute observations on the management of the fish, and the future of fly fishing. Some of those are included in this week's LadyFisher article.

Obviously if you've been to Yellowstone National Park, you will enjoy the author's experiences, and comparing them with your own. If you have not yet made the pilgrimage to Yellowstone, get this one for your winter's reading. ~ DLB

The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly
156 pages, 8" x 10 1/4"; black and white photographs
Hard Cover: $24.95 US
ISBN 1-58574-040-3
Published by: The Lyons Press
123 West 18 Street
New York, NY 10011

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