In his essay on fly fishing titled The Happy Idiot author John Gierach notes, “There are times when fly fishing seems to be suffering from the same malady that afflicts the rest of society: too many so-called facts and not enough real experience.”
When the Quechee Times editor approached me about writing an article on my favorite places to fly fish in the area I thought, “What? This woman knows nothing about the culture of fly fishing. You never tell where you caught the fish!” Writing such an article would be much like writing a book concerning all of one’s mistresses and then giving it to one’s wife to proof read.
My reputation is that of an “avid” angler, which is far and away a different animal than that of an “accomplished” angler. My enthusiasm more than compensates for my lack of ability. Many golfers will understand the subtle distinction. The fact that I’d rather be standing in the river waving a stick than being on a golf course doing the same thing does not mean I’ll catch anything or for that matter that a golfer will shoot par. Each to one’s own, as long as you have a nice day and don’t take any of it too seriously.
What can I pass on after 50 years of fishing? Primarily to find the fish, just as in life, you must leave the beaten path. Oftentimes, you need a rope for safe access. Take that advice anywhere you will.
Hire a guide service. I’m giving the best and most sane advice first. I’ve fished from Alaska through Colorado and in Florida and, when in unfamiliar water, I’ve always followed my own advice. Call Wilderness Trails over by Marshland Farm Inn (802-295-7620) and ask for Pete Meijer. He’ll supply you with all the necessary equipment, instruction and fun for your initial introduction to the wonderful sport of fly fishing. A full-day adventure will set you back about $350. Then, if you don’t really like it, well you still had a nice lunch.
Fly fishing tends to be an activity which finds its beauty in the isolation of man with nature. Oftentimes I find myself simply staring down the river, my mind empty but my heart overflowing with a feeling of “God, isn’t that beautiful?” If you’re uncomfortable being in your own head for long quiet periods of time, and you can’t stand the thought of no winners, no losers, no competition and no medal, then you might want to stick with a team sport. Your friends will be few and far between on the river – preferably at a good distance from you.
Fly fishing is about the details; don’t be intimidated. Hidden within secret pockets of my fly-fishing vest are boxes of flies separated into the categories of dry, nymph, bead head, streamers and terrestrials. I don’t tie flies. While I admire the beauty of some of my associates’ labor, I would rather buy from a local fly shop. Most of my flies actually look like insects that you might want to eat, presuming you were a fish or a bird.
“Match the hatch” is the common advice given by anglers. Find whatever bug just painfully bit you on the neck, kill it and then see if something resembles it within your fly boxes. And I do have the some flies that remind you of nothing more than clowns in a circus: with green feathers shot with purple and yellow marabou, maybe a couple of plastic eyes glued on, but no red nose. I use these gaudy streamers to entertain the fish. Simply drift one past a large brown trout hiding under a rock and you can almost hear him yelling to his trout friends, “Hey look! A parade!” I imagine that must be boring lying on the bottom of a stream all year long, and I gain inner peace by providing a diversion for the fish. Any fly will catch a fish and often the fun is found in exploring the riverbanks, watching for critters hoping to stumble across that one fish which might be hopelessly jaded.
Carry a net. They are useful for packing beer in, trash out and remain and inspiring symbol of hope. “Yes, I will put a big fish in this net,” it says to the world. But oftentimes our dreams are all we have. It’s enough, and I leave the river a cleaner place.
How well do you need to cast to catch a fish? First, you need to get it out of your head that you are in the movie a River Runs Through It, and like the actor Brad Pitt, you will loft two-hundred feet of fly line in gravity defying swirling arcs while egotistically etching your name in the clear blue sky for God to see and admire. Second, no fish was every caught in the air. Third, you are not Brad Pitt; that was a stunt double. Instead, you’ll cast up the stream about 15 to 20 feet, let the fly drift down and that is where you’ll find your fish waiting. I apologize for it being anticlimactic, but any greater aerial displays than that will have you climbing pine trees to retrieve your gear.
Death, taxes ad leaky waders are inevitable. I have four separate pairs of expensive waders for different water temperatures and conditions. They all leak. By the end of the day it doesn’t matter which one I choose. I get wet. When I was younger it always bothered me. That’s when I bought the waders. Now it simply falls into the Tao of fishing.
Make sure to pack a nice lunch. Some of my the finest moments on the river never involved catching any fish. They were the times spent with a friend, or my dog, watching the stream flow pass while enjoying our lunch in the warming sunshine. It’s all fishing and that is what is most important to remember. n
Editor’s Note: In my defense, I do understand sacred fishing spots. I grew up fishing with my dad, grandfather and uncle on lakes in Michigan. I love to fish, and I know that many of you do as well, that’s why I asked Cap’n Ron to share some of his fishing tips, even if he didn’t give up any of his favorite spots.