Fish stories tend to get better with time. Such is the case for a Logan author’s second fishing book.
“It just gets more and more exaggerated as you go along,” Chadd VanZanten said of his new book, “On Fly-Fishing The Wind River Range: Essays and What Not to Bring,” that was released last week.
Prior to the release of VanZanten’s first book, a joint effort with Russ Beck, he wanted to write about the magic found in the Wind Rivers but didn’t quite have enough material to fill the pages.
In the solo followup to ”On Fly Fishing the Northern Rockies,” VanZanten wanted to take readers on a fact-based journey examining the history of Wyoming’s Wind River Range while enticing newbies to backpacking and fishing to venture from the trailhead signs to the backcountry lakes.
“It is a fantastic place. It is beautiful, and the fishing is spectacular, but the place is riddled with contradictions,” VanZanten said. “The fishing is great, but they are fish that don’t belong there. It is a wilderness area, but it isn’t the way it would be if man hadn’t been there.”
VanZanten’s obsession with the Winds is relatively fresh as his first journey there came nearly 10 years ago when a friend invited him along, launching a yearly journey and sometimes multiple trips to the land filled with nearly 2,000 lakes.
Having talked with numerous people about the range, VanZanten said the only experience many have are from Scouting trips. He hopes those who made the journey earlier in life will develop a newfound love and a yearning to return after reading the book.
“In the first chapter it sets up what it is like to have fish throwing themselves at you and to go up there and not see other people,” VanZanten said. “It is totally different. A lot of times on the Logan, Blacksmith Fork, Weber or Provo rivers you look up and down to make sure you have the stretch to yourself. Up there, you see people every now and then.”
VanZanten said fishing the Winds is refreshing and offers anglers a nearly “effortless, gauzy and rather dreamlike” fishing experience as the fish in the high-mountain lakes are not pressured by others looking to land a pig.
“You don’t have to worry about a lot of things you worry about down here like fly choice and perfect casting. You can work on that down here and then let it happen up there,” VanZanten said.
In the past decade, VanZanten said the best fish he landed was a 22-inch cutthroat in the Big Sandy Openings, which prompted him and the fishing party to work at finding anything under 18 inches during their adventure last year. They were nearly unsuccessful.
The time spent around a campfire, under the stars and maintaining tight lines led him to observe that when he left the Winds, there was an urgency to return.
“There was a time when I would drive away and could only think about how I can’t wait to get back. It was an urgency. The guy who first invited me up there had no urgency; he was placid and content all the time up there,” VanZanten said. “I just wanted to go up to get stuff. When I drive away now, the memories and fun and campfires help me be content when I’m down in the valley and have a problem. It is much more than taking something.”
With the launch last week, VanZanten rekindled the “Hooks and Books” event featuring live fly tying from Cache Valley resident Tim King at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City.
“It is interpretive fly tying, and it is an art form that we have created, and we are the sole performers of. It is like early jazz,” VanZanten joked. “Back in 2015 when the first book came out, we wanted to come up with something that was more than just a reading. It is really fun and hopefully keeps people from falling asleep.”
While a local reading isn’t currently scheduled, VanZanten said one will take place in December. The book is available in paperback or Kindle through Amazon.
“I hope this is a doorway into the backcountry fishing of the Wind River Range for anyone reading,” he said.