This story comes to us courtesy of Bennett J. Mintz, and it’s a real feel-good tale that I reckon we could all use right about now. The story is below.
As a birthday present on September 28, 2015, when Bill Cash’s wife gifted him with an Amazon card for the book 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish, he had no idea what was ahead.
But it was then that Cash, a retired high school music teacher and band director from Catskill, New York – a village probably best known as being the legendary home of Rip Van Winkle – decided to follow the trail and fish all 50 tailwaters that were featured in Terry and Wendy Gunn’s angling directory. To date, he’s half way home with 25 under his belt.
In pursuit of his 50 tailwaters goal, he also fished other storied waters – most of those in and around Yellowstone, for example – for what surely must be some sort of Freshwater Grand Slam of trout, driving distances, fishing waters and endurance.
Coincidentally, in 2015, Cash’s best friend moved to Colorado. “While my buddy Marty and I had fished some of the eastern tailwaters, his ‘open door policy’ and love of fishing gave me a chance to expand my fishing opportunities well beyond the east. The yearly tailwater trips began. I also wanted to re-establish connection with my late dad’s family in North Dakota. “Yearly three week road trips to that state plus Colorado and beyond have provided wonderful opportunities to see the country and, of course, fish. The book has been my guide … in fact, any time our family members need rides anywhere, I grab the book and find the nearest tailwater,” he noted.
Cash’s wife and daughters are in on the nationwide adventure. “Both my girls are avid hikers and completed the Appalachian Trail as well as Pacific Crest and Colorado Trails. I
dropped them off at various locations and fished my way back. More recently, my wife Dianne has been participating in exercise training in North Carolina. True to form, I quickly volunteered to drive and of course fish the Southern tailwaters.”
The retiree’s log book of photos and narrative is filled with adventures from a near breathing disaster caused by a newly-tarred roof on a wilderness cabin beside the North Branch of the Potomac to a trail and access closure. “I arrived at Glacier National Park KOA for several days, planning on fishing the Kootenai River for bull trout. When I checked in, all trails and the area around the Kootenai River were closed. A grizzly had mauled a ranger that afternoon and was still on the loose. No fishing at that time.”
Virtually all of Cash’s tailwaters catches were in the 12- to 19-inch slot until he arrived at Tennessee’s Clinch River, about a half-hour drive north of Knoxville. The Clinch tailwater begins below Norris hydroelectric dam. Built by the Tennessee Valley Authority and completed in 1933, Norris was the first dam constructed in the vast TVA water management system. To Cash’s delight, he landed a 27+ inch brown trout.
It was his first fish of the day and he took it on a size 18 midge with 6x tippet. No small accomplishment!
For other tailwater trout memories, Cash counts the heft of a San Juan River (northern New Mexico) rainbow; a Rapid River (western Maine), brook trout; a golden rainbow on the Farmington (northwestern Connecticut); the sulpher hatch on the South Holston (eastern Tennessee); being spooled on the “Dream Stream” (the South Platte, about an hour northwest of Colorado Springs); and fishing large stimulators for Cheesman Canyon (an hour southwest of Denver) rainbows.
Year 2020 was pretty much wiped out by the pandemic, but he hopes to soon get back on the road. “I need to finish the book,” he explained.