Trout Quilt

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

I asked Maria to make me a quilt that evoked all of my favorite trout markings.  She delivered. I can now dream of next season’s catch into the dead of winter while wrapped in brookie, brown, and rainbow spots.  Perhaps she wants me to sleep right through May without complaint re: frozen waters….

Thanks, Maria, for a wonderful interpretation of my favorite river dwellers!

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Generations: Passing on the Rod (among other things)…

Fly Fish the Trophy Stretch: North of Northern New Hampshire, Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, The Connecticut River, Uncategorized


I had the honor and all around good fun of accompanying my friend Art and his grand daughter on her first fly wrangling river adventure. A coordinated, focused, and good-humored teenager, she has all of the prerequisite characteristics that translate to fun behind the fly. We incorporate a night camping underneath unsettled skies to up the adventure quotient and find ourselves fortunate to be enjoying our freeze dried meals sans raindrops. 


Once on the water, I am so distracted by the hope of Molly catching her first fish that I find it impossible to move down below them.  I am, in fact, lucky enough to see her reel in her first rainbow and provide netting and snapshot services.  We are off to a good start! 


So, I end up hanging around soaking up the precious scene of generations passing joy.  This is a special kind of teaching- one full of hope that the student will go on to find the friendships, the solitude, the beauty, the escape, and the acceptance that only comes with loving an activity that can never be mastered.  Despite our algorithm driven obsessions to prepare with the right leader, the correct line, 14 sizes of the same fly, the outcome of our day on the water depends on a multitude of factors that do not respond to human influence. It’s a drag…and a hoot!  And for a grandfather, it just might reason enough to sign up to sleep in a tent on a rainy night. This duality -loving the process despite your lack of ability to control the outcome is the cornerstone of resilience.  And resilient people?  Well, they tend to report high levels of happiness and meaningfulness.  And don’t we all want that for the people we love?  Truth be told, you know you’re extra special when someone with lots of years on their skeleton willingly, and gladly, sleeps on gravel studded ground under threat of thunder to find you a cooperative trout!

So, Molly, see you on the river… OR the field, the library, the mountain…wherever you find your  joy.  (Selfishly, your grandfather and I hope the river calls you back because we are usually hanging around there in waders anyway.)

Thanks for having me along! 

Flying Zebras: A magical hatch

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized


The Alder Hatch.  Wow.  There are few things this special that can be experienced without going to a whole lot of trouble.  Its cast, drift, and set a rhythmic fly fisher’s dream sequence…on a loop. 

Thanks for alerting me, Chris!

A Pheonix on the Andro

Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

Well it’s another early winter morning…wait, no. It’s not. It’s 39 degrees at 9:30 am, but it’s Late June?  With gusty winds and no sun, my day on the water requires full winter dressing  including hot hands in the wool lined hand warmer pockets of my waders.  As I pull into my launch area I find one other vehicle. Doors swung open resembling a majestic Phoenix with wings spread, its presence seems a foreshadowing of something epic.  The Phoenix, with its symbolism of renewal, cyclical rebirth, and strength is a relevant symbol for all of us who long for the outcome of a vibrant, self sustaining trout fishery.  But until then, at least in the New England, we have “the truck”.

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Phoenix

Of course, only fisherfolk have such a metaphorical/emotional response to a NH Fish and Game stocking truck.  To the average person, it might be mistaken for a septic truck with its ample tank.  We know better.  As I ready my boat and gear, I listen to the officers chatter as they dump nets of trout into the river.  Now, this is not the first time I have been in this scenario. The time previous, I was already in the lake when the trout truck pulled right up to the bank and commenced shooting fish out of a water cannon in a trajectory that seemed to be ridiculously close to my boat. It was like a feverish dream, or perhaps a nightmare.  I was literally sitting on top of hundreds of fish. I could see them, smell them, hear them. And do you know, I couldn’t catch a single trout!  I did, somehow, manage to catch a bass in all that trouty mess. Needless to say, I left that lake dejected and having a serious feeling that I should hang up the rod. I mean, who can’t get a trout to bite in those conditions?  So, long and short, while a was marveled by the perfection of timing this morning, I prepared myself for a potential total devastation of confidence.

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Pinky

Once on the water, I could see fish snacking in the slow current. An 88 revealed a couple of stocker sized rainbows within the first 15 minutes.  As the nibbles slowed, I moved downstream to a more shallow narrowing section of river with quicker currents and subtle elevation variation. Here is where the rodeo in earnest begins. Just about every cast, these newly re-homed fish are spunky and consistent taking a swinging 88 just about every other cast.

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Standard Fare

I’m simple.  The catching never bores me. No matter the size or variety.  However, I will admit that my focus heightened after hooking a larger rainbow who gave me lots of smile worthy trouble on his way to my net.

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Feisty Sprinter

The 88 doing all of the work today is one of the first I tied. My friend Art has provided me with a generous supply in the past, but he is a real fly tier and needs to focus on tying other inventories that, well, are too challenging to be fun in my opinion. So, I made a commitment to learn the 88 as a production tier for our season. This scene is essentially a quality control laboratory for my first production line and, to my disappointment, he loses his wing at around fish #30.  Don’t tell Art!  His 88’s last years.

An interesting aside, as these rainbows are feeding on my 88, there are 3 fishermen across the river cranking spinners. Only one trout is interested in their metal. I think this is the first time that I have been the “catching” fisherman in this equation.  I’m usually the fisherman trying to manage my rising frustration as I work my tail off to get some interest as smiling folks with spinning gear pull up handfuls of fish all around me.  I think that these gentlemen today might suspect that they are on Candid Camera. I mean it’s so ridiculous. Every time they glance over, there’s another fish on my line. Of course, they also don’t know the stocking truck came 2 hours earlier!  After an hour an a half, they retreated to their truck to have beers and conversation about “what the hell that lady is using”, I imagine.  Luck, gentlemen. She’s using the classic and under-recognized pattern of good fortune.  I, Phoenix-like, have risen from the ashes and will leave the river today with my fisherwoman self-esteem intact.

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Androscoggin Gauge

Because of the wintery feel, I decided to stay upriver of the quick water and wade/paddle back up to the launch. After all, I had the gift of certainty that there were fish here.  The rest of the lower river has been strangely quiet so far this season. I missed the sounds and motion of the float, but greatly enjoyed not walking the 2 miles back to the car when I finally came out of the water at 4:30.  After removal of my 2 insulating layers, winter hat, wool socks, and jacket, I reached over to escalate heat to full throttle as I settle into the seat.  I barely have the energy to raise my arm to wave to the Fish and Game officer who is turning in as I am turning onto the highway. Perhaps he is coming to see how his school is adjusting to their new habitat. They are safe and sound, Sir. Doing just fine.  I will return home to the warmth of the inside until summer returns.  It will give me time to address the poorly tied lot of 88’s that came off of my production line and, for god’s sake,  avoid supplying my teacher with a fly of marginal longevity!

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Does this look like Summer Fishing Apparel?

 

 

 

 

Tiny Crapshoots: Dead Diamond/Andro Doubleheader

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

Gauge Pool


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Tiny Brookie: Andro on an 88

I’m experiencing a tiny streak. No matter the body of water, I am hooking minute trout. Infinitesimal, these brookies are rather exciting in their possibility of being born and raised in the river. That said, if I am going to keep catching fish with these physiques, I will need to consider switching to my 3 weight rod to experience some resistance upon reel in.

This Memorial Day weekend I combined a solo day of fishing on the Androscoggin and a trip with Art to the Dead Diamond River in search of large brook trout. The plan is as follows: I will float the Andro on Friday, spend the night camping in Wilson Mills, and meet with Art the following morning to tackle the paddle upriver to the Dartmouth Land Grant to fish the Dead Diamond and its confluence with Magalloway.

Androscoggin River

My day on the Andro is unexpectedly warm and bright. Taking my time, I present a range caddis flies (and nymphs) with no interest. So, out comes the eighty-eight which reveals several little brookies hanging in small eddies behind the protection of rocks.  There is much time in between catches. This common scenario is why I have devoted one of my side pockets to coffee holding.  Coffee on the river is a treat like no other.

I do find one smallish (definition=a little bigger than tiny) rainbow trout on my ride down. All said, it was a bit of a confusing day. I found fish in sections I don’t usually find them and no fish to speak of in the sections that usually produce. It’s a long walk back to my car under relentless sun, so I am ecstatic when 2 friends pass me on the highway. Amazingly, they recognize me despite my dehydrated, wobbly amble and save me the last half mile.

At this point, there is a bit of an emergent situation unfolding. So, before I even remove my waders, I am already taking inventory of burger possibilities. I land a totally satisfying cheeseburger in Errol on my way up to Maine.


What began as a camping plan in Wilson Mills required adaptation due to the multitude of black flies. Scoot over Watermaster, I’m coming in! And you may wonder why bug spray was not effective. Ummm, forgot it. Yep. But remembered just about EVERYTHING else.

Rav 4: Anti-Bug pod, boat tower, changing station, food prep zone.

After sleeping through various waves of thunderstorms that evening, Art arrives in the morning with freshly baked cinnamon rolls from the Polish Princess in Lancaster. We split one. And then, split another. We make a little coffee on the camp stove and take off to launch onto the Magalloway River.

Lower Magalloway River

Once we arrive at the river, we experience a rather eventful “launch” which entailed attaching a rope to our loaded rafts and kicking them over a steep river bank. I think this may be the closest I will ever see my very composed friend, Art, come to having a “fit”. His raft requires 4-5 very serious karate moves before it makes its plunge into the river.  I have video of said event, but remember, this is a man who brought me hot cinnamon rolls just hours earlier.  So, I will refrain from posting his martial arts demonstration here.  Art does an excellent job containing his total dissatisfaction while reeling in a collage of other-than-trout. He is trout loyalist. I, however, am less picky and find myself totally willing to brag about my 3 pound other-than -trout. No congratulations from my counterpart on this catch, though.

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Carp/Sucker/Other-than-Trout


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transition to foot travel

Once we reach the main stem of the Dead Diamond River, we park our boats on a gravel bar and begin hiking upriver in search of large brook trout that swim up from Lake Umbagog in search of carp caviar.  The timing of this run is variable and brief.  While this is the right time of year, it’s a crapshoot in earnest. Not a huge deal for us, though. Art and I both find crapshoots to be extremely worthwhile activities; always allowing for discovery, adventure, and laughter. This crapshoot leads us to an epic pool. Unbelievably, there are no signs of trout here today. I suspect the timing of our visit is either too early or too late…such is the nature of a crapshoot.

Searching for Umbagog Trout

After lots of hiking, plenty of fishing, and many bugs, we depart the banks of the Dead to reclaim our boats – if, of course, they are still there. On our way back we notice one last pool. Art grabs a seat under a tree and explores the emerging caddis larvae, of which I avoid inspection as to curtail wormy nightmares. So I enter the river at the top of the pool with a woolly bugger and catch…yep, one tiny trout. I tell Art that this little brookie is dedicated to him, the trout loyalist. Now, we can officially finish our excursion with all of our boxes checked.

Art, retrieving his boat…it’s been a long day.

By the time we reach the shores of the Magalloway and heave our selves and our boats up the wall of a bank, we are both exhausted.  Having had two days one evening of crapshoots, I am ready for a little sitting in the comfort of shelter. This level of exhaustion is proof that, if you are willing to appreciate the adventures at the scale that is accessible to you, tiny trout and crapshoots can meet the test. Choose a lighter fishing set up, hike a little more, make room for a coffee holder on your boat, find a thoroughly entertaining fishing mate…you will need to be creative about the elements you use to design your crapshoot.  Of course, the other option is to fly out west every other weekend and try to grab a spot in line on “real” trout river. You’ll catch special and amazing un-tiny trout, to be sure. But, I dislike standing in lines at airport security just as much as I am not keen on standing in lines on rivers.  Scale, whether in pounds and inches or the “adventure” quotient, is like anything else…just a matter of perspective.

The Hidden Joy of an Empty Net

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing Multimedia, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brook Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Brown Trout, New Hampshire Fly Fishing: Rainbow Trout, Uncategorized

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September is behind us and the crisp October morning air has taken to painting leaves. For a fisherman, this is a somber and quiet time where memories of spring and summer intrude without warning leaving the fisher with a gratitude that will transform into longing when snow falls. Knowing this, it has become important for me to honor and punctuate the ending of a fishing season, a ceremony of thanks for the rivers, skies, herons, eagles, friendships, post fishing coffee outings, colorful fish, and moments of pure peace that found me in water.

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This Fall, I have convinced my friend Art to let me organize an overnight float on one of our favorite rivers. A forecasted overnight temp of 29 degrees required that we dress and pack accordingly;winter bags in 3 season tents did the trick. I added an additional comfort for my sleeping satisfaction which included Hot Hands stuck in my socks, pants, hat and wherever else I could get them to stick close to my body. Hot coffee in front of a fire after a chilly night in the bag is a pleasure hard to describe and Art and I quietly colluded to stretch this activity out late into the morning. We decided a hot breakfast would be the pinnacle of delight and drove to the nearest restaurant treating ourselves to a full plate of eggs and bacon, a hot water soapy rinse in the diner bathroom and MORE coffee resulting in a late start on the river.

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The river was high offering 4 sets of class 2/3 rapids consisting of waves that felt Hawaii “surfable” from the perspective of our tiny boats. The sound of this kind of water is a pulse raiser for both of us. We have a tendency to use caution when there is a potential for an injury consequence. So we both reel in for these sections and find our route through the waves avoiding the many boulders that can’t be seen until…well, when they are immediately in front of you. We learn that even 2 foot waves make it nearly impossible to see bad things that lurk behind them. We tackle the route together and meander our way through with nothing much to talk about other than the thrill of a little adrenaline.

The weather is 50 in the afternoon with a chilly breeze and a warming sun. Perfect for lunching. We take long pb&j breaks taking every opportunity to experience the combination of color, temperature, and light that are ever changing as the sun arches over the river throughout the day. Poking fun at each other and reliving memories of other trips this season are important past times that are slipped in between the currents.

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At this point you may be wondering how the fishing was, I mean this is a post about a fishing trip, right? Additionally, the above telling of events seems to indicate that our fly lines spent more time spooled up tight rather than unfurled in water.
Well, the fishing was “what it was” and to spend any effort reporting on it further would be a distraction. The most important lesson I have learned this year was highlighted on this outing: whether it be mile 21 in the marathon, a slow/no fish day, a tough life transition…the way to find lasting meaning within the variable momentum of life is to accept and appreciate what things are for the moment. “It is what it is for now” was my mantra at many difficult points along the 26.2 journey. Some people are smart. They can read and practice Eastern philosophy and integrate this way of being without resisting it. Not me. I had to run a marathon, get skunked on the river repeatedly , and waste lots of energy before getting good at patience. Enjoy the extra moments for sipping and conversing with a friend (even when the fish are biting). Take time for the simple sensations that remind us of our primal selves (i.e. a warm mini tubby in the diner bathroom). All together, these moments are the path to realizing an empty net… full of uncrushable hope.

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On a final note, if you are are a social scientist buff, you may be aware that there are markers that can sometimes indicate a pivotal shift toward a more “evolved” species, group, or society. In the fly fisherman niche, I think the following exchange would be a good marker of such a shift:
Fisherman #1: “Mornin’. Catch anything?”
Fisherman #2: “Yeah. Lots of fish, too many to count!”
Fisherman #1: “That stinks. Sorry to hear it…better luck next time”

 

Catch and Release: The oxygenating effects of relationship on youth.

Fly Fishing: Photography, Flyfishing Photography, New Hampshire Fly Fishing Multimedia

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

 It wasn’t until recently that I came to understand just how unfairly the decks are stacked against the trout that keep me out in waters beyond the point of reason; unyielding to hunger, discomfort, or lack of appropriate lighting. In fact, the specialness of water capable of supporting trout other than those raised and relocated by government entities is, sadly, an anomaly that is hard to truly comprehend unless you are in the business of science. For those of us who are not scientifically inclined, we may learn the value of healthy waters through our relationship with fish. Where are they? Why are they there? If they are there, then why aren’t they here? Learning to how find an audience for your fly is the obsessive (yet strangely soothing) mental troubleshooting that draws many of us to the past time of fly fishing. It is the fish that teach us… every failure, success, and unexplainable lucky happening.

And I wonder, what if I had never come to the water? How did I come to strike up a friendship with these trout? It was my Dad’s experience of fly fishing that brought me to the water. This is not a story of….”as a young girl, I remember long days on trouted ripples with my father, casting in seesaw like alternating rhythm. You, me, you, me”…nope. I just figured that if it was something my Dad spent his time doing, its probably something worth doing. So, on my own, I made my way to the water and began the process of figuring out how to get a fly somewhere it looked like it ought to be. And given modern culture, this is probably a common scenario. I mean, most of us don’t grow up with nightly fishing opportunities with our extended families at the trout stream down the road.  If you are fortunate enough to live close to a water body that can support trout, it’s likely you live rurally which translates to 60 hour weeks at low paying jobs.  So getting to the water in the company of a parent or influential adult is still an endeavor that requires planning and sacrifice. But, as my experience demonstrates, the absence of being engaged in the actual activity with that influential adult does not negate the influence of relationship.  The simple act of dedicating attention to any given idea, activity, or belief has a legitimizing effect that can have profound influence on young people when conveyed in the context of a safe, predictable relationship, no matter how brief the exposure.  It’s a sort of human version of “catch and release”.

This month, I was invited to attend a summer camp experience provided by the “Clean Water Healthy Trout Initiative”.   This endeavor is an example of resources collaborating to capture and leverage the power of relationship in the lives of young people who may face socioeconomic challenges. Each organization brings a critical component to the project ultimately creating a pristine learning environment. The Copper Cannon Camp provides the habitat that is conducive to growth, understanding the unique needs and strengths of its population.  Folks from the Ammonoosuc Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Plymouth State University, New Hampshire Fish and Game, and the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust are providing the relational context for instruction and introduction to all of the “goings-on” of rivers . All of these folks are providing the brief relational experiences that have the power to bring these campers to water’s edge at some point in their lives. Whether to cast with their first fly rod, to peer deep into a pool for a glimpse of a swimming fish, or to pause and conduct an amateur assessment of the water quality…these interactions have planted seeds that have the potential to influence future attention and behavior.   And for some of the kids at camp this session, a seed may be the equivalent of a tree itself.

As a clinical mental health counselor, it is shown to me time and time again that it is often the most unexpected relationships that later reveal themselves to be catalysts for resilience in the lives of challenged youth. Next time you are compelled to inquire of a high achieving adult who faced serious challenges as a young person “How did you do it?  How did you overcome the challenges of abuse, poverty, and neglect?” Don’t be surprised to hear them reply, “It was the lady who ran the cash register in the cafeteria…she winked at me every single day of 3rd grade and gave me double dessert on my birthday.”