Backcountry Fishing

Backcountry Fishing

ISBN: 0897326504

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Book Excerpt Below

Book Overview

Backcountry fishing separates you from the crowds, from those anglers literally unwilling to take the extra step, to leave the pavement or the powerboat to go head-to-head with swimming creatures lurking under the fluid waters that reflect the lands around them. And when fishing fever strikes, there is only one cure. If you are in such a state, why not go in a superlative setting? Why not go backcountry fishing?

For many of us, the lure of fishing is not always the fish, but the places where the fish are. Tossing a rod is just the excuse for heading into the back of beyond, to enjoy nature on nature’s terms, to get past the parking lot to enter the backcountry… to follow a foot trail tracing an Appalachian trout stream beneath a shady forest canopy,

Fishing Wyoming's Cloud Peak Wilderness

 or cast for bass along a sun splashed Ozark river, where inviting gravel bars offer campsites below magnificent bluffs … to trace a Rocky Mountain watercourse as it winds through a meadow flanked by majestic snow capped peaks … to see what lies under the froth of a Sierra tributary flowing along granite banks … to paddle through a winding mangrove maze in the Everglades, casting for salty species inhabiting that unique slice of America.

            This guide covers backcountry fishing, whether day tripping in a canoe, day hiking along a remote river, going for a multi-day excursion in Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario or a weeklong backpack fish fest in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. Whether fly fishing, spin fishing, or saltwater fishing, with this book in hand you will be prepared not only for how to catch fish in the outback but how to be best prepared for backcountry fishing excursions.


Whether going by foot or by self-propelled craft, such as a canoe or kayak, backcountry travel leads anglers from an auto accessible trailhead or put-in to a fishing destination they must reach on their own, without a car or motorboat. This is backcountry fishing. The simplest way is to get there by foot. No means other than you are required. Walking or hiking to the destination requires merely a trail and a body of water, whether it be a lake or stream. You may choose to go on a day trip or backpack for several days. Outback travel by boat is a little more complicated. A canoe or kayak is needed. In this situation backcountry anglers start at a put-in and if by river, travel downstream, maybe camping, maybe not, then ending at a take-out. Other times, anglers will start and end in the same place, especially when traveling lakes, or a series of lakes connected by portages. Many kayaking destinations will be in saltwater.

Weight and Space

Weight and space separates backcountry fishing from the ordinary fishing excursion. If taking a bass boat on the local reservoir for the day, you will likely take the kitchen sink along. Or if bait fishing from a river bank accessible by car, you can take whatever you want, including the jar of picked pig’s feet upon which to dine. However, if backcountry bass fishing the Virginia’s New River, you can only bring what’ll fit in a canoe, or if backpack fly fishing Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton Wilderness you want to most efficiently use weight and space.

Backcountry Decision Making

The first determination is what kind of fish I will seek. This will determine the equipment to use. Say I am going for cutthroat trout on Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park. I will be hiking a mostly open path to reach a stream that meanders through open meadows. This tells me I can use a longer rod and won’t have to worry as much about storing and transporting it before reaching the creek. Once on the creek, I’ll be able to walk along the meadows, and fish from gravel bars that lie on the inside of the stream bends. It is summer. So, I’ll wear hiking shoes that’ll double as fishing shoes, and bring a light jacket in case a thunderstorm blows up. In my daypack I’ll carry a lunch and my camera for the many scenic shots available, with the lesser probability of losing it in brush or dropping it in the water.

I am going to catch and release fish, so won’t be carrying a creel or other means of keeping fish. Slough Creek has many pools and slack areas between faster sections. It is primarily populated with cutthroat trout, which are a lesser fighting cold-water fish. This is a good fly-fishing venue. It has a good insect population, and I will use a dry fly with a grasshopper pattern, to watch the spectacle of a cutthroat rising to strike. I’ll have plenty of casting room, with no overhead obstructions, and will be able to run the fly for relatively long distances down the stream.          

Now say I am going trout fishing on a small and overgrown stream of the Cohutta Wilderness in the North Georgia Mountains. I will be hiking a lesser maintained, thickly vegetated trail to access the stream. This tells me to use a shorter, two-piece rod (under five feet) and to carry it in my hand while walking or keep it well stowed while trekking between the trailhead and the stream access. It is spring. The weather is variable, so I will keep a fleece jacket and a rain jacket in my daypack. Since the stream is overgrown I will likely have to wade nearly the whole time, so will bring lightweight felt soled fishing shoes for on the water, and wear some sturdy hiking boots with ankle support to reach the stream access. I will cast ultra light, ¼ to 1/8 ounce spinners. Since the keepers of legal size on this tiny stream are rare I will not carry any fish holding gear.

Such are the type of decisions to make while backcountry fishing, and where you will be able to find answers in this book. We will go through the whats – what rod, what tackle, what lures, what techniques, and the hows – proven techniques for locating and catching fish in the outback, and the where’s – a complete suggestion list of destinations are in Appendix X of this book.

Backcountry Fishing: What It's Like


It's acrobatically stepping up a rocky stream under dark green tunnels with shafts of sunlight illuminating trout pools

 It's throwing your lure from the beach and a watching a snook hit it with a vengeance then burst upward toward the sky, landing on its side with the crash.

 It is having your line snap at precisely the wrong moment on Maine’s Allagash River

 It's dropping a floating Rapala over a spawning bed and watching two smallmouth bass get hooked at once

 It's walking up the canyons of the Middle Fork Gila River with stone spires rising on their edges as you fish translucent waters for Gila trout and smallmouth bass

 It's reaching the gravel bar campsite with bragging rights for the biggest fish of the day

 It's quickly reeling in your fish as the boat turns sideways before hitting a partially submerged tree

 It's drifting a fly down Panther Creek in June and catching a fish in front of the other anglers who have been shut out

 It's planning on eating fish that night and returning to camp empty-handed only to find everyone else got shut out too