The word “Alaska” conjures visions of jagged icy peaks, smoking volcanoes, vast crimson tundra, sweeping blue rivers and lakes, shaggy brown bears, bush airplanes and pilots, remote Native villages, flashing rainbow trout, and rivers teeming with crimson salmon. These visions are realized, on a stupendous scale, in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. Each year 60 million or more wild salmon pour into the Bay to fight their way upstream past nets, anglers, bears, swirling rapids, and cascading waterfalls in lake and river systems with magical names—Iliamna, Kvichak, Naknek, Alagnak, Becharof, Egegik, Nushagak, Togiak, and Ugashik.
Sport anglers travel to the region to pursue all five species of Pacific salmon, dolly varden and arctic char, grayling and giant rainbow trout that provide unmatched thrills on the end of a line with their explosive runs and twisting leaps. This unparalleled fishing—driven by the salmon—makes Bristol Bay the place of fly fisher’s dreams.
In this book, author Bill Horn provides a detailed and compelling account of the natural history and life cycle of these fish as well as a glimpse into the culture, management, and politics that are part of the sockeye salmon story. It also offers essential information for anglers planning a trip to the region, including best times of the year for fishing, strategies and fly choices, and planning your trip.
Bill Horn has had a fifty-year connection—professional and personal—with Alaska. He was part of a 1972 Trout Unlimited team making recommendations to the U.S. Department of the Interior for salmon and trout conservation in the Bristol Bay region. He then worked for the Alaska Congressional delegation on the major Alaska Lands Bill enacted in 1980. From 1981–84 he was Deputy Under Secretary of the Interior overseeing implementation of the 1980 Act and continued that role as “Mr. Alaska” within the agency when he was nominated and confirmed in 1985 as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Following government service, Horn joined an Alaska law firm and represented an array of clients in the state including sport fishing lodges, bush pilots, Native corporations, hunting guides, the State of Alaska, and Trout Unlimited-Alaska.
Throughout these decades, he always found time to pursue char, grayling, salmon, and trout in the Bristol Bay region. His on-the-ground angling experience includes all of the major river and lake systems of Bristol Bay and all of the angling seasons there. He has written two previous books, Seasons on the Flats (Headwater Books/Stackpole, 2012) and On the Bow (Stackpole, 2021). Horn lives in the Florida Keys (Marathon) and Teton Valley, Idaho.
Crimson Wave captures the rich natural and human history of Bristol Bay’s fisheries, from the lifecycles of the sockeye salmon that form the region’s ecological backbone, to the land use and management plans that have allowed these fish—and the communities that rely on them—to persevere through difficult times. Bill adds enough fishing anecdotes to have you Googling airline tickets to Dillingham or King Salmon! Not all anglers will be lucky enough to make the bucket-list trip to fish the storied rivers that flow into Bristol Bay, but curling up with Crimson Wave is the next best thing to stepping off a Beaver float plane to begin your own adventure.
Bill Horn's Alaska book is a triumph. As a professional fly-fishing traveler for over fifty years, I've always explored my destinations through the magic of books to obtain success. Crimson Wave is the ultimate guide to fly fishing in southwestern Alaska, and it should be a state requirement to read this book before fishing these hallowed waters. Bill's stories of fishing culture and environmental history keep the reader glued to the book.