Getting Intimate with the Big Columbia

Upper Columbia Flyfisher – Book Review by Mark Hume

Notes, Stories & Secrets from the Shining Reach. Steven Bird. Frank Amato Publications, Inc. US $35.

This lovely little book came out last year and somehow got overlooked for a review. But perhaps that is appropriate given that the river reach it focuses on is also usually overlooked by many anglers. Not that anybody could actually overlook the Upper Columbia. I mean it is an astonishingly big river. But is stuck out there between things, with great trout lakes to the West and great cutthroat trout streams in the Rockies to the East. For many of us, it has long been a river to slow down and look at, wonderingly, on our way to fish somewhere else. A big part of the reason for passing it up of course is because it is so damn big. Where do you start on a river like this?

And that’s really where this book comes in. Steven Bird knows this river intimately and he offers the reassurance that, despite the big water, it is very fishable if you just break it down into components, and have faith that the rainbows are like rainbows anywhere – if you put the right fly, in the right place, at the right time, you will be into fish.

In this delightful book the author gives us some history of the river and then walks along it’s banks through the seasons. I don’t know if this was his intent, but the result is that you come to feel intimate with the mighty Columbia, to feel that the next time you see it, it won’t seem like such an unknowable giant. In the back section of the book he has a really practical and well described guide to fly patterns that are suited to the various seasons on the Columbia. These are familiar patterns for the most part, the Spotted Sedge, October Caddis and Hex Emerger, and once again that makes you aware that this is a river fishery that can be tackled.

Next time I head East from Vancouver, maybe I won’t be heading to the Interior trout lakes around Kamloops, or the cutthroat stream in the Rockies – maybe the destination will be the shining reach of the Upper Columbia, which Steven Bird has opened up to me with his fine book.