Steve Zakur of Connectictut fishes the Mighty Mo out of Craig, Mont. Kirk Deeter says this would be his choice. Chris Hunt photo.
Kirk Deeter: The Missouri, because it’s really long, with a lot of different types of fish, and I still have a lot I want to figure out. I would do the Lewis and Clark expedition, back and forth, upstream and downstream, until I got bored, which would be never.
Sam Davidson: Since I fish as much, or more, for my enjoyment of the places where trout or steelhead can be found as for the activity of throwing a fly or a spinner, the waters to which I would choose to be utterly restricted must (a), be breathtakingly beautiful and (b), offer plenty of solitude. If I’m fishing just one stream for the rest of my days, let me not find another angler around the upstream bend — or the next, or the next. And let the interplay of sounds and colors and smells of that water allow me to surf waves of happiness at every hour of the day. So it’d be either a small backcountry creek in the Sierra or the Rockies (and no, I’m not giving up names), or the McCloud.
Kara Armano: Man, that’s a tough one. I immediately think of Rock Creek outside of Missoula, but that is just because it provided the goods through my formative years of fly fishing. I also think of the Snake because it is long and diverse, and I’d like to explore it more from its headwaters on down. Then I jump to small rivers like the one in my backyard, but I don’t think that would fulfill me for life. Next my mind goes to the Roaring Fork since I lived in that valley for 12 years. It’s spectacularly beautiful and harbors lots of fish. Plus it runs into the Colorado River, and since they’re connected, that still counts, right? If that’s the case, then I’d go with the Roaring Fork.
Chris Hunt: One river? The rest of my life? I’m such a wanderer, and I think most fly fishers are wanderers, too. The question might be impossible to answer. And I live within a few hours’ drive of some great American rivers — I can be on the Henry’s Fork, the South Fork or the Madison by mid-morning if I leave at a reasonable hour. Throw in the Firehole, the Yellowstone, Silver Creek, the Big Wood and the Beaverhead, each within a few hours, and you can see why I live where I live. But I have to pick one? That’s torture, given the choices I have. Maybe the question should be reworded … Perhaps it should be, “If you were going to scatter your ashes on the banks of one river, what river is it?” That’s an eternity question. Like … a message to God that the river you pick is the river you hope to be fishing in the hereafter, right? And if that’s the case, it’s a lonely river on Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island where steelhead greet winter-weary anglers in April, the Dollies fight like hell all summer long, and the silvers run in late August. And no. I’m not giving up the name.
Shauna Stephenson: The beauty of the past year is it has taught many of us how to be at ease with intimacy – to slow down and appreciate the detail of verse and not just the melody of the refrain. If I had to pick one river, it would probably be the Big Hole in Montana. There’s something about that place that makes my heart tick. The detail of the puzzle goes on forever, beckoning you on to the next bend. Maybe it’s the water. Maybe it’s the history. Maybe it’s the culture. I don’t know. Could also be the little cafe on the way. If you only get one river after all, there might as well be pie.
Mark Taylor: While I have gone through plenty of focused fishing phases in my life, I am morphing back into a generalist, both in terms of targets and techniques. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the idea of being stuck with one type of water or species, even if that idea is just a fantasy. I also have always been nostalgic. Based on that I would choose the river that I grew up on — the South Umpqua in Oregon. Though nowhere near as famous as the North Umpqua for steelhead, the South Fork has a nice winter run. Many of those fish start in a hatchery but there are plenty of wild fish, too. In fact, the last two I caught were natives. In the summer the river transforms into a great smallmouth bass fishery. In its far upper reaches, where the river is more of a creek and where I’ve yet to explore, I suspect there are some native cutthroats. The combination of the diversity of fish and water, and of familiarity with the unknown, would be enough to keep me interested for the rest of my days.