Do Not Read “50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish” Unless…

Warning: 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn may induce wander lust. Do not read this book unless you are prepared to leave it all behind and hit the road. If you have recently graduated from college and can’t find a job, are going through a mid-life crisis, or are recently retired then this book may be for you. Continue reading at your own risk.

Tailwaters: Salvation of Fly Fishing for Trout

Lefty Kreh says is best in the foreward to this book, “Tailwaters are the salvation of fly fishing for trout.” As Lefty soberly points out free-flowing streams are in peril and will increasingly be depleted to provide life-giving water as our country’s population continues to grow.

Tailwater fisheries stemming from drinking water reservoirs will, however, survive and continue to benefit trout. More and more fly fishers will have to depend on tailwater fisheries to get their trout fishing fix.

First Comprehensive Book of Best Tailwaters

When publisher Robb Clouse of Stonefly Press contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish I thought for sure that this book had already been written. Come to find out it hasn’t – till now.

Renowned author, photographer and public speaker Terry Gunn and his wife Wendy Gunn do a phenomenal job penning this true where-to guide of North Americas best tailwaters. Recognizing that no one person can know it all, Gunn teams up with the who’s who of North American tailwaters who share their in-depth knowledge of each river covered in the book.

Contributors include Lefty Kreh, Pat Dorsey, Craig Mathews, Mike Lawson, and a host of other seminal names in fly fishing.

What’s Inside

50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish is a classic where-to, how-to text. Each chapter is dedicated to a river and includes:

  • Geographic location
  • Map with turnouts and access points
  • A general description and a bit of background of the tailwater
  • Hatches
  • Fishing regulations (or where to get them)
  • Recommended tackle
  • Closest fly shops
  • Closest outfitters
  • Hospital or emergency medical help
  • Lodges, hotels and motels
  • Campgrounds
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Availability of cell phone service

I particularly like all the ancillary information Gunn provides for each river, such as the closest fly shop or outfitter. This information comes in handy when planning a trip. I think my favorite is ‘the best place to get a cold, stiff drink’ – now that’s valuable information!

Here’s Terry Gunn to tell us a bit more about the book.

So What Are the 50 Best Tailwaters in North America?

Well there are actually 56 tailwaters covered in the book because as Gunn notes, “…we ended up with a few extras that warranted inclusion.” The list could be longer but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere.

Here are the tailwaters that made the cut (listed geographically by region) and the contributing authors:

The West

  • Lees Ferry (Colorado River, Northern Arizona) – Terry Gunn, Lees Ferry Anglers
  • San Juan River (Northwest New Mexico) – Raymond Johnston, Float ’N Fish Fly Shop and Guide Service
  • Provo River (Northern Utah) – Steve Schmidt, Western Rivers Flyfisher
  • Feather River (Northern California) – Michael M. “Mac” Noble, Fish First!
  • Lower Sacramento River (Northern California) – Mike Mercer, The Fly Shop
  • Trinity River (Northern California) – Jeff Parker, J.F. Parker Flyfishing
  • Upper Rogue River (Southern Oregon) – Todd Ostenson, Trophy Waters
  • Deschutes River (Central Oregon) – John Hazel, Deschutes
    Angler Fly Shop
  • Owyhee River (Southeast Oregon) – John Wolter, Anglers Fly
  • The Henry’s Fork of the Snake (Southeast Idaho) – Mike Lawson, Henry’s Fork Anglers
  • South Fork Snake River (Southeast Idaho) – Mike Dawes, WorldCast Anglers
  • Upper Columbia River (British Columbia, Canada) – Rod Zavaduk, Castlegar Sports Centre and Fly Shop

The Rockies

The South

  • Guadalupe River (Central Texas) – Mark Dillow
  • Chattahoochee River (Georgia) – Chris Scalley, River Through Atlanta
  • Toccoa River (Georgia) – Jimmy Harris, Unicoi
  • Little Red River (Central Arkansas) – Tom Hawthorne, The Ozark Angler
  • Norfork River (North-Central Arkansas) – Ben Levin, Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher
  • White River (North-Central Arkansas) – Steve Dally, Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher
  • Lake Taneycomo (Southern Missouri)- Carolyn Parker, River Run Outfitters
  • South Holston River (Tennessee–Virginia) – Mike Adams, Mike Adams Fly Fishing Outfitters
  • Caney Fork River (Central Tennessee) – Jim Mauries, Fly South
  • Cumberland River (Kentucky–Tennessee) – Gene Slusher, The Lexington Angler
  • Mountain Fork River (Southeast Oklahoma) – Jesse King, Three Rivers Fly Shop
  • Hiwassee River (Southeast Tennessee) – Dane Law, Southeastern Anglers
  • Clinch River (Eastern Tennessee) – Mike Bone, Clinch River Outfitters
  • Watauga River (Northeast Tennessee) – Kevin Howell, Davidson River Outfitters

The East

Many Contributors, Single Voice

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book is the single voice of the author. Although there were more than 50 contributors to the book, you’d never know. The chapters just flow one to another as if one all-knowing fisherman wrote them all. My hat goes off to Gunn and editor Robb Clouse for pulling together such a tremendous amount of information into such a cohesive text.

So Many Rivers, So Little Time

As you make your way through the book and across the country from the West, to the Rockies, to the South and finally the East it’s hard to not be dumbstruck by the shear volume of amazing tailwaters there are here in North America. The realization that I will probably never fish them all is sobering.


I thoroughly enjoyed 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish and think you will to. If you are at a stage in life where you can set out and do some exploring with a fly rod in hand, 50 Best Tailwaters would make a great guide. The maps alone are worth the price of the book. Add to that the detailed information about how to fish each river and tips on the best places to eat, drink, sleep and get help – you’ve got a winner!

You can pick up a copy of 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish on Amazon here.


About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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