The Brooklanthead

To my knowledge, I have yet to catch a wild trout on the fly. Being only a season deep, this doesn't bother me just yet. But it has gotten me thinking about some goals; some "pinnacles" of flyfishing that I hope to achieve.

Perhaps the most commonly sought-after "purist" fly fishing experience is fooling a wary, wily, wild brown of trophy proportions. Fair enough. It's a goal I seek and one I intend to accomplish, but as far as an ultimate experience, it ranks pretty low for me. Other big ones on the list might be the blazing runs of a bonefish on the flats or the sheer power of a tarpon, perhaps taking a 50 lb king salmon in the PacNW or a similar sized musky from the northern continental lakes, maybe it's mountain cutthroats or amazon peacock bass. All very respectable, and to each his own. My top 3 are as follows:

3. Backwoods brook trout. I bought my setup (LLBean Streamlight 3wt, 6'6") with the intention of packing it into overgrown Adirondack streams for bejeweled char. It doesn't hurt that it is very well matched for the local streams (Poestenkill, Kinderhook), but for me, mountain brookies are a quintessential part of the Adirondack/Catskill/New England angling experience. They may be small and eager, but it is as much about the surroundings and the journey as it is the fish. This is by far the most solitary endeavor on my list...perhaps part of what makes it so appealing. While it may be my highest immediate priority, I numbered it at 3 because it will be the most achievable in the near-future.

2. Winter Steel. Talk about suffering for your sport. OK, the fish themselves are worth the trouble; they are absolutely gorgeous in all stages, they fight and fly like a jet-fighter on a tether, and (if the mood suits and they are fresh to the river, though I probably wouldn't keep) they are delicious. But once again, it's about the surroundings and sacrifice. I once saw a picture on the cover of a fly fishing magazine of a lone angler wading a river, with a grand total of about 8 square inches of flesh showing, watching his drift over bone-chilling water as snowflakes melted into the current and replenished the still-virgin snow on the banks. You could hear the silence that is winter all around. I saw this picture years ago, long before I put much thought into seriously taking up flyfishing, but I knew then that someday that would be me. Once again, it has a solitary quality to it, even if you go with friends (if you have any foolish enough). No crowds of salmon snaggers*, no chumming bait chuckers*, no drift-boat-riding plug-dragging charter-tourists*, no competing and fall-binge-stressed bears*. Just the angler, the water, the cold, and hope. There is opportunity here in the northeast with great-lakes steel, and perhaps a few other places, but I think to do it right might require a trip to the west coast...we'll see what my finances and life circumstance think if the time ever comes.

1. Salmo salar. I once caught a landlocked (Atlantic) salmon on a "fly rod" while trolling Lake George as a kid. At the time, it was the most beautiful fish I had ever seen. Nearly all silver and built like a torpedo, it was torturing when it turned out to be too small to keep and yet too stressed to successfully revive and release. There is only one Atlantic salmon (unlike the half dozen or so pacific species), and it's population has been decimated over the years by overfishing and irresponsible river management (read dams and pollution), among other impacts. Once again, there are some "local" opportunities for landlocks (LG, ADKs, Finger Lakes, even potentially the Great Lakes), but Eastern Canadia (thats right, Canadia) is where it's really at. Number One really is all about the fish. OK, the surroundings are likely to be stunning as well...let's call it 93% fish, 7% everything else.

These are lifetime goals. While mountain brookies shouldn't take long to bring to hand, communing with them will hopefully be a life-long endeavor. The logistics of pacific steelhead are intimidating by themselves at this point. And who knows what is to happen to the Atlantic salmon fishery as a whole.

Pat has already "committed" to the hunt for winter steelhead. I guess i shouldn't take that too lightly, he did join me on the lake once last year. Still, it makes images of Randy Parker standing in a river in full winter garb flash in my head...

*Note: I know not all salmon fishers are snaggers, nor are all bait fishers scum-sucking chummers (I do still bait fish on occasion), but the crowds are still objectionable to me. Additionally, I have nothing against drift-boat charters or dragging plugs for salmon, but I see how it could be annoying to a wader. Finally...hopefully the bears will be hibernating by then.


Keith said…
Welcome friend FoulHooked,

After fishing for many years my top three would be:

1) retaining the affection of my current spouse, merely because the other two priorities usually require fundage...
2) Avoid shortening the rod unintentionally, by imitating Elvis Presley, while standing on greased river rocks...
3) Ignore all responsibilities outside of fishing (except #1 above) - and devote myself to achieving #2) and #3)

Now #4 and below I may be able to do - as an optimist, I'll continue to struggle with the rest.
FoulHooked said…
Haha, thanks Keith. That's a very respectable top 3...although I might think the "current spouse" would be none too happy about your justification for #1...or the "current" label for that matter.

I'm still waiting for my first dunking (I'm more into crip-walking through muck and mud to be honest) and haven't placed any rods in too much peril just yet, but I have had close brushes with leaving gear (including a brand new rod and reel) behind.

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