So as a fishing guide people always assume I must have lost my passion for the sport along the way. While I don’t race out to fish the water I guide I still have major passion for the sport. I'm in no need to punch numbers off my bucketlist but in the event I'm well prepared!
#5- Prince of Wales, Alaska steelhead- As a guide in Haida Gwaii the thought of even more, remote, tea colored rivers where steelhead swarm in on giant tides has my attention. Lush rainforest, minimal access and an under-utilized fishery. Yah, this is kinda cheating because its so close to what I already love but a little nostalgia is nice thing.
#4- Jardines de la Reina, Cuba- The “Gardens of the Queen” are an archipelago of remote islands off the coast of the main Cuban island. Enveloped in mystery, it was off limits for ordinary Cubans and foreigners for a long time as Castro’s personal diving grounds. With virtually zero pressure the area still has blossoming populations of threatened species like the worlds largest concentration of endangered Goliath Grouper. It also is home to phenomenal sportfishing for permit, tarpon and bonefish reserved for a small number of closely regulated anglers each year.
#3- Eastern Litza, Russia- I’ve always dreamed about seeing the famous Russian salmon rivers. Famed rivers like the Ponoi, Varzuga and Kola have always been wrapped in lore. The Atlantic Salmon Reserve, home to greats like the Rynda and Kharlovka have long been at the top of my list but it’s the Eastern Litza that makes my blood boil. Running through dramatic ledgerock steppes and rugged sub arctic scenery the water here is among the best I’ve ever seen.
As a canyon dweller by trade, chunky high gradient water full of current and structure are what I get amped about. The Litza has heavy flows, deep troughs, challenging wading and hard pushing fish and just the kind of challenge spey-heads find themselves twitching about. I mean where’s the reward in easy!!??
#2- Faraway Keys, Honduras- I’m no salt water angler and days on the boat with me are likely ones my guide would like to forget. “Can’t I just switch cast a hobo spey at that tarpon?” The faraway keys of Honduras though sound incredible! Islands so small and remote they are seldom visited by anyone outside of passing garbage barges. They are even famously not visible on google earth.
I’ve been to Honduras my whole life, have family there and even spent my honeymoon there swimming in the Caribbean drinking mojitos. The thought that an unexplored archipelago could be floating out in the Atlantic ripe for the picking is the most enticing fishery in my world. Guess it’s time to practice my single hand cast again.
#1- The Thompson River- This ultimate bucket list fishery comes with disclaimer. I’ve fished this river… many times. This is where I learned to steelhead. It’s the hardest steelhead fishery in the world with heavy pressure, treacherous wading, big casts, nasty wind, blistering cold and few fish. Then when you’re lucky enough to get into one you are tussling with some of the biggest in the world, with tails built for orcas, shoulders like linebackers and teeth like tigers… okay maybe not teeth. There's a reason locals refer to it as the Steelhead Olympics.
So even though I’ve fished it my whole life my ultimate bucket list would be to fish again one day. These fish have the tremendous misfortune of swimming through the Johsntone and Juan de Fuca Straits and the Fraser River where nets are laying in wait for chum salmon they migrate with. Then for the few that still manage to make it to the spawning beds the tributaries are drained down to fatally warm trickles for irrigation.
The river needs a break. It needs a break from me, it needs a break from water extraction, it needs a break from nets, from industry, from everything. But I can’t think of a single fishery in the world I would rather fish in the future.