Only one Maine river makes it into outstanding guidebook 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish


Three things happened as soon as my hands touched 50 Best Tailwaters To Fly Fish by Terry & Wendy Gunn.

50 Best Tailwaters to Fly FishFirst, I looked in the table of contents for rivers I have fished, finding several, and proceeded right to page 113 and the Madison River. Immediately my head filled with images of my float trip on the Madison – so many wonderful images – a day never to be forgotten.

The author of that chapter, Craig Mathews, begins his detailed account of the Madison this way: “An old friend and veteran Madison River angler told me that one cannot own a river except in one’s heart. He knew the river and it was in his heart, he loved the Madison, and the same goes for me. I fish it one hundred days a year.”

Boy, am I envious! Montana outfitter Joe Sowerby who owns Montana Flyfishing Connection, a native of York County, Maine and the guy who has guided me on some amazing Montana river adventures, made all the difference for me. I’d been frustrated and fishless on a previous day of fishing the Madison by myself. Joe tossed aside my fly box, pulled out a container of about a thousand colorful hoppers, and I caught three trout from shore while Joe was launching the drift boat. It was nonstop catching all day.

335_Shelby_Pic_09_23_07_065The second thing I did was turn to page 233 where Bob Mallard writes about Maine’s Rapid River, described by Bob as “the finest native Eastern brook trout river in the United States.” Bob owns Kennebec River Outfitters, a fly shop in Madison, and is well known as a fishing activist. He is also a very good writer.

I have enjoyed some remarkable days on the Rapid, including a memorable stay in the camp once owned by one of my all-time favorite Maine writers, Louise Dickenson Rich – and now run as a sporting camp by Aldro French.

After reading Bob’s chapter on the Rapid, reality set in when I focused on the fact that this is the only Maine river to make it into the book. Even Bob had to go to Massachusetts for his second chapter.

“I’m a fly shop owner from Maine,” he writes, “but I’m writing about a river in Massachusetts. Why? Because the Deerfield River is one of the finest trout fisheries in the Northeast.” Good for the Deerfield. Not so good for Maine. But hey, I can get there to the Deerfield about 4 hours.

The third thing I did, after reading Bob’s glowing report about the Deerfield, was to turn back to the table of contents to see where the other rivers are located. And what I found surprised me.

Sure, there is an entire section on the Rockies. But there are three California rivers, three in Arkansas, and five in Tennessee! After reading the chapters on those rivers, I have to admit they belong in this book.

I was especially taken with the gorgeous photos of the rivers and the fish. I guess it’s not possible to put 50 rivers on your bucket list – but this book sure made it tempting!

If you are avid fly fishing angler you will know who Terry and Wendy Gunn are. You’ve probably got their two videos, perhaps have watched their television show, certainly have read the many columns and articles about their fly fishing adventures around the world.

Actually, Bob Mallard is in very good company here, with many well-known guides, outfitters, and writers who give us a ton of useful information about each river.

The book focuses on tailwaters, rivers or streams exiting from dams, “because they furnish a constant supply of clear, cold water necessary for trout and their food,” says Lefty Kreh, perhaps the country’s best known angler – and a guy who actually comes to Maine to fish for bass on the Androscoggin River. And no, the tailwaters for the Andro didn’t make the book!

This is the bible of tailwater fishing, providing everything you need to know from seasons, flows, tackle and fly patterns, sections to fish, access, maps, fly shops, and even local restaurants. As a guy who writes travel columns with my wife about Maine, I really appreciated those restaurant suggestions!

“Nothing like this volume has ever been published,” writes Lefty, “and serious trout fishers will find this one of the most useful books ever.”

I’ll go Lefty one better. For tailwaters, this is the best ever.

And it really wets my appetite for Bob Mallard’s book 50 Best Places – Flyfishing the Northeast. It’ll be available soon and I can’t wait to see how many Maine waters make that book!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.