Tag Archive 'fly fishing'

May 24 2017

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Gone Fishin’

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Yesterday morning, while I was trying to get some work done, I got an email message from Vermont Fish and Wildlife: SLOW DOWN – GO FISHING. That sounded like a good idea. So I purchased a fishing license, put my dog Matika in the car, and drove to a favorite trout stream.

The brook was running fast and high because of rain the day before, but I didn’t care. Any excuse to head for the hills is a good one. I took my time running line through the ferrules of my fly rod and put on a dry fly. I was happy enough just listening to the stream and grooving on the wild beauty all around me.

The first hour was a lot of practice casting and stream walking. My old dog was having a hard time negotiating the boulders, steep banks and downed trees, so we did more walking through the woods than I would have liked and missed a few choice holes. But when I stumbled into a patch of foam flower in full bloom, that hardly mattered. The woods are magnificent this time of year.

When finally I approached a deep hole with a relatively slow current in it, I crawled into position and carefully dropped my fly on the water. Still no rise, despite the fact that mayflies were hatching. Then I heard the voice of my ol’ buddy Walt Franklin, who does a lot more fishing than I do. “Go deep,” I heard him say. Then I exchanged my dry fly for one of the Bead Head Hare’s Ear nymphs in my box that I had tied several years ago.

First cast, nuthin’. Second cast, bam! I had a big one on the line and was not ready for it. I danced along the gravelly edge of the stream trying to figure out how to land it. Matika saw the fish once I drew it closer, then started dancing with me. I landed it long enough to snap a photo. Then back into the water it went. Matika wanted to go after it but the big brown trout moved so fast that she didn’t stand a chance. I laughed.

That was it. I walked the stream another hour, trying all kinds of flies, but not one more rise. It was a warm, sunny afternoon on the stream all the same. I went home quite satisfied.

 

 

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Jul 17 2016

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Before the Rain

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Preston Bk in JulyMy wife wants me out of the house while window shades are being installed. That’s all the excuse I need to drop everything. Never mind that thunderstorms are in the forecast for this afternoon. As soon as I finish doing the bare minimum work for my business, I grab my fly rod, load my dog Matika into the car, and head for the hills.

By midday I am bushwhacking downhill to a favorite brook. A tremendous sense of relief sweeps over me as I tramp through the woods. This is my first excursion into open country in months.

The stream is low, even for midsummer. We need rain. That said, I hope the dark clouds gathering overhead hold off long enough for me to make a few casts. After that, it doesn’t matter.

The stream is beautiful. Crystal clear water finds its way down a rocky streambed surrounded by lush green vegetation. I have walked this brook or ones like it a thousand times yet they never fail to charm me. The rush of flowing water, the cool shade, and that earthy smell – I’m a real sucker for this kind of wildness.

Matika sniffs around as I ply the water with nearly invisible line and tiny fly. When I pull an eight-inch brook trout from its hiding place, she dances around me, chomping at the creature flipping about desperately in my hands. I release it into nearby shallows so that Matika can give chase. She doesn’t stand a chance. The brookie torpedoes out of sight in seconds.

Dripping sweat and menaced by biting insects, I hobble over rocks and around fallen trees for another hour or two, maintaining a low profile to keep from spooking the fish. I catch and release a couple more brookies despite the less-than-ideal fishing conditions. When finally thunder rumbles in the distance, I splash cold water into my face then leave the brook.

The uphill scramble to a dirt track is hard. The amble down the road is easy. I reach my car right before the first raindrops fall. It’s raining by the time the wheels touch pavement. On the highway it’s a downpour. All the way home, I marvel at how lucky I’ve been.

 

 

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Sep 26 2015

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Walt Franklin’s New Book

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BLAM front coverI have just released Walt Franklin’s new book, Beautiful Like a Mayfly, under the Wood Thrush Books imprint. As most of you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of his, having published his work repeatedly in years past. In 2014, I reprinted his collection of fly-fishing essays, River’s Edge, thus assuring that it would stay in print. This newer work complements that older one.

Beautiful Like a Mayfly is both a travel narrative and a collection of nature essays. Even though it spans four decades, Franklin is reluctant to call it a memoir. Rightly so. It’s more a celebration of life lived simply: roaming through Greece and Germany, fly-fishing out west and here in the Northeast, and engaging the world as both a naturalist and a conservationist while always keeping a watchful eye for songbirds. And Franklin gives it all to us with generous helpings of humor, erudition and insight, per usual.

I couldn’t be happier about publishing this. While I’ve been busy cultivating an online bookselling business this past summer, I’ve pushed this project ahead, one step at a time. Now here it is, the finished product – a fine addition to the Wood Thrush Books list, and a welcome break from a long parade of self-publications.

You can get a copy from Amazon.com or by going to the WTB website, WoodThrushBooks.com. If you are new to Franklin’s work and want to sample it first, check out his blog, RivertopRambles. He posts there regularly.

 

 

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Jul 28 2015

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Cool Brook on a Hot Day

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Deep PoolAfter weeks of relatively cool, wet weather, temps are suddenly very summerlike here in the North Country. To beat the heat, I went trout fishing on a mountain brook yesterday – not so much to catch fish as to wet-wade a shady stream and keep my dog Matika chilled out.

I was not disappointed. The forest canopy blocked out most of the direct sunlight and the water was cold enough to keep the trout happy. Wearing old, worn out hiking boots, I didn’t hesitate stepping into the fast-moving water. Matika was a little reluctant to get wet so I intentionally crossed deep sections of the stream several times, urging her to follow. She complied.

Despite the heat of midday, the trout rose to my fly. I caught and released half a dozen brookies and browns, losing that many again. I’ve been working a lot and not fishing much. That’s my excuse for not landing the surprisingly large brown trout that darted out of a deep side pool. Truth is, the white flash of its torpedo-like body rising to my fly excited me to the point where I overcompensated while setting the hook.

Towards the end of my afternoon fishing, I came into a deep pool way out of proportion with the small stream. I knew there was a bunch of trout holed up there, but for some reason I decided to let them be. Or perhaps I’d taken my fill of angling joy. I chose instead to sit on a stretch of high, flat ground and eat a simple lunch with my dog.

Sometimes it’s enough just to sit quietly and look around. The wild re-creates us in a way that recreation cannot. Afterward, I hiked out as slowly as the biting insects would allow. It was another good day in the woods.

 

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Oct 05 2014

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River’s Edge Reprinted

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RE 2014 coverI am pleased to announce that Walt Franklin’s fine collection of fly-fishing essays, River’s Edge, has been reprinted. I first published this book under the Wood Thrush Books imprint back in 2008, but now it is available at Amazon.com as well as the WTB website. And it will stay that way indefinitely.

River’s Edge is primarily about the joy of fishing for trout on thirty streams, both large and small, in northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. But Franklin also does an excellent job seasoning detailed descriptions of his outings with cultural observations, natural history, and streamside ecology. There is plenty of fly-fishing lore thrown in for good measure.

Franklin and I have been friends ever since we encountered each other’s writing back in the early 90s and started corresponding. Through the years we’ve gotten together many times to hike, fish, drink beer, and talk literature. I’ve learned a lot about fly-fishing from Walt. In fact, it was he who taught me the mysterious ways of aquatic flies when I first took up the sport.

In addition to fishing narratives, Franklin also writes travel essays and nature-related verse. To promote these books, I have added a new section at the Wood Thrush Books website: Other Books by Walt Franklin. Check it out. I will soon have these books in stock. In the meantime, you can sample River’s Edge by going to Amazon.com and clicking on the “Look inside” button. Or you can visit his blog site, Rivertop Rambles.  If you’re the least bit interested in fly-fishing, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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Sep 10 2014

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Woods Retreat

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FrHillBkCampMonday morning I stuffed a few essentials into my rucksack and headed for the hills. I had plenty to do at home, but when the wild beckons the work can wait. I was overdue for a night alone in the woods.

I had my canine companion Matika with me, of course. Together we humped up the Long Trail two and a half miles from the trailhead parking lot to a small stream called French Hill Brook. From there we bushwhacked west, following the stream until I found a nice place to camp.

I didn’t set up camp right away. Instead I left my rucksack leaning against a tree and fished the brook for a while. In most places the overhanging vegetation made it difficult to cast, but I stumbled upon a few large holes where I could present my fly properly. There a couple wild trout rose to it, taking me by surprise. I didn’t expect to find 7 to 9-inch brookies this high up. I pulled them out of the water long enough to admire their beautiful markings then put them back.

I set up camp as late afternoon shadows overtook the forest. Matika lounged about, chewing on some of my firewood. Then I settled in for dinner and a little campfire meditation. The fire burned away all my concerns as I fed sticks into it. After the sun departed, a full moon rose into the cobalt sky. It’s light filtered through the trees. A cool September breeze kicked up. In the cusp between summer and fall… I reveled in it.

Up at daybreak, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before breaking camp. The hike out was easy: downhill all the way. Soon I was back home and getting ready for a half-day shift at the store. No matter. I got my fix of wildness so I’m all set for a while.

 

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Jul 30 2014

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Brook Walk

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BlackFallsBrookAfter helping a friend move some stuff, I weighed my options for the rest of the day: do some work, sit and read in the backyard, or go fishing? I asked my dog Matika for her input. She made it clear that heading for the hills was the best choice. So off we went.

I parked my car along a dirt road then slipped into the woods. It was a short hike to the stream. With cool temps and a clear sky overhead, I expected the fishing to be half decent. But the brook roiled with runoff from two days of steady rain. The first few casts yielded nothing. No matter. I walked the brook anyway, casting into promising pools along the way.

Matika was in her glory. She ran through the woods, sniffed around, and negotiated the rock-strewn stream with surprising agility. I stumbled along feeling every one of my 58 years, thinking how much easier it was to brook walk back when I was in my 30s. No rises to my fly but I didn’t care. While grumbling to myself that fishing this brook was a waste of time, I listened to the tumbling water and inhaled the dank smell of the wet forest. My eyes feasted on the green foliage all around me.

Philosophers make lousy fishermen, I kept thinking. If I was serious about catching fish, I would have come out later on when the aquatic flies were hatching. But all I really wanted to do was walk the brook on a late summer day and contemplate the intricacies of wild nature.

The hours passed quickly. As I made my way back to the car empty-handed, it occurred to me that this would have been a great outing had I not been carrying a rod. Then, for a moment, I was almost as happy as my dog.

 

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Aug 05 2013

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Late Summer on the Brook

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late summer brookA few days ago I went to a favorite brook to do a little fly fishing. Trout season had opened three and a half months earlier. I hadn’t been out yet. An outing was long overdue.

My dog Matika was with me, of course. When I grabbed her leash, she knew it was going to be a good day.

It mattered little whether or not I’d actually catch fish. Like Matika, I just wanted to sniff around. Yeah, the smell of the forest and the sound of cool, clear water tumbling through it is reason enough to be on a stream.

A mountain brook in late summer charms a guy like me in a way that is difficult to describe. My mind empties as I scramble from one promising riffle to another, stalking the wild trout, until suddenly I am face-to-face with unspeakable beauty: a flume, overhanging cliff, waterfall, or some deep, quiet pool that I must show my wife Judy someday. Then a hungry mouth splashes towards my fly, yanking me out of my reverie.

I’m not a very good fisherman. The rising trout usually catches me by surprise. I am easily distracted by the call of a thrush in the distance, the rustle of a forest creature in the nearby understory, or a wildflower blooming along the rocky bank where only moss should grow.

Two small trout landed in my lap despite my best efforts, not because of them. Then I meandered up the brook a while longer, rod in hand but no longer fishing, in search of god-only-knows-what. Deep within lies some vague desire to walk the brook for no reason at all. Sometimes I give into it.

I quit the stream around midday, hiking through the forest to the nearest road then daydreaming back towards the car. No doubt other motorists were cursing me as I slowly made my way home. Under the influence of the wild, I shouldn’t have been on the road.

 

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Jul 06 2012

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On the Stream

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Every once in a while, I get the urge to walk a mountain stream. I usually take a fly rod with me, hoping to get into a little trout action, but that’s not what it’s all about. I walk the stream to clear my head, to purge the negative energy from my system. Clear running water is good for that.

My tightly wound nerves start to unravel the moment I step into the woods and hear the rush of water nearby. By the time I’ve finished kneeling on the muddy bank and tying on a fly, I’m in a groove. The first cast separates my cluttered day-to-day life back in the developed places from the streamside here-and-now. From that point on, I’m home free.

After a few casts, I scramble over moss-covered rocks to the next promising hole. When large boulders or downed trees crop up, I step back into the woods, tramping through bracken, ferns and other understory vegetation. I often find a beautiful wildflower or some other delight along the way. My dog Matika often finds something interesting to sniff. Yeah, we’re both easily distracted.

Rock, forest and running water. Shadow and light. Keeping it simple. My tiny fly floats through the emerald pools, following the riffles, and I am ready to respond to the slightest splash. Sometimes it comes, most of the time it does not. The sights, sounds and smells of the mountain stream intoxicate me all the same.

A couple hours of stream walking and I’m ready to just sit and look around. That’s when I know I’m done fishing. I sit until I lose track of time. Then I tramp through the woods, daydreaming all the way back to the car. My boots and pants are sopping wet but I don’t care. The sun breaks through the forest. A thrush or other familiar songbird calls in the distance. I smile absently. I am in my element, and it feels good to be alive.

 

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Aug 04 2011

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Trout Hunting

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It’s been a year since I last fished this brook, yet I still remember this particular pool and where the trout are located in it.  Beneath the huge rock on the far side of the pool, there is ample cover for an aquatic predator to lie in wait for whatever the current carries downstream.

I crawl into position on the gravel bank, keeping my dog Matika behind me with a simple hand signal.  The stream is low and clear, as it usually is this time of year.  I draw closer than I would during springtime, confident that the August heat has driven the trout into the cool shadows.

Sure enough, I spot a tiny splash just beneath the huge rock.  I wait patiently and it happens again.  That has to be a trout sucking down flies just now breaking the surface, so I cast my trusty Ausable Wulff fly over there.  The first couple casts come up shy of the shadows, but I wait until my fly has floated to the shallows before lifting it out of the pool.  Try again.  A third cast puts the fly right on target and, sure enough, the trout gulps it down.  Seconds later I am landing a 9-inch brookie with all the delight that a trout hunter feels when a hunch pans out.

Matika dances around me as I remove the hook from the fish’s mouth.  She dashes into the shallows when my quarry swims free.  But the trout is lightning fast so it’s gone before my dog’s snout hits the water.  I can’t help but laugh.

I fish for another hour and catch a few more trout, but it’s all rather anticlimactic after such a perfect setup and resulting interplay.  On rare occasions, trout dreams are realized.  And the rest of the day is merely a long, lazy, summertime indulgence.  It doesn’t get any better than this for a brookwalker like me.

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