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
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
Published by: The Lyons Press
123 West 18 Street
New York, NY 10011