Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Class Act- Fly Fishing MY Way

Phil M. with one of the biggest bowfin boated yet.
So last week I was fortunate enough to have guided Phil Monahan out on Lake Champlain for one of my favorite fish- bowfin. We had a blast. He caught 3 bowfin, some bass, perch and sunnies. We saw a few carp too. It was a great day on the water and he wrote a nice article for Orvis News about the fishing. I definitely appreciated the kudos. A number of folks thought it was pretty cool and left comments saying so.

But then there were these comments:

“jere Crosby” What ever happened to fly angling as a class act?...clear mountain streams, and beautiful environments? I think we are expanding our horizons way too's getting ugly! :) (his smiley face not mine)

“Ryan”- Still, I think the catching a snakehead trumps a bowfin. I have to agree with a previous posting that stated that fly fishing is supposed to be used to catch salmonids in streams. Not areas where your probably apt to find a noodler.
This ride is a class act gentlemen...

Now, first of all, apparently because I fly fish in wetlands along Lake Champlain for non-salmonids I am not a class act? Listen “Mr. Crosby”- I bust my ass doing what I do. I paddle a canoe through some of the most beautiful, diverse and abundant ecosystems that you could ever find. I provide a great lunch for my clients and all the other amenities that are required. I have a vessel that is perfectly suited for the fishing that I do and I have modified it to make it even better. I have taken years to figure out how to fish these areas successfully and I do it better than anyone else out there. As a matter of fact- I brought this style of fishing to Vermont and Lake Champlain Thank You Very Much! I do a damned good job at it and the suggestion that what I do is not “a class act” pisses me off. A great deal if you hadn’t guessed.
Ken Capsey seemed pleased with his first 'fin.

Now, let me say something about “clear mountain streams”. Yep, I have fished them before, will fish them again. I have had fun doing that too. But so have 10,000,000,000 other fly anglers. Sure, keep on fishing those clear mountain streams “Mr. Crosby” just like everyone else. I don’t want to do the same thing everyone else does. I want a challenge. Bowfin might not be the most challenging fish (although they can be at times- and remember that what you saw in the video is the result of 10 years of experience on my part with an experienced angler being guided- you go do that on your own without the right equipment and see what happens). I am not going to sit back like most fly fishing guides around here and fish trout. Why should I? I am leading the warm water fly fishing revolution in this area. Why follow the crowds when I can do something totally different and unique. Enjoy your streams “Mr. Crosby” and “Ryan”. I want a challenge.
Find that in a clear mountain stream... 18 lbs

A challenge- like carp. Ever have one of those little mountain trout get you into your backing or make you think your rod was going to break? Or take 25 minutes to land? Or how about get over 10 lbs?  Ever worry about making sure your fingers were intact after dealing with a fish you landed? Not with a brookie- I have caught many and the scariest thing was thinking I could be in a scene out of Deliverance. How about making an accurate cast 50 feet away to a visibly feeding fish using really light tippet, keeping in mind that you have to lead the fly in front of the fish and make sure it is below his eye level so he sees it. Then time your strip right so it is in the right spot at the right time so that fish MIGHT take it. Let’s face it, the majority of carp you cast at won’t take your fly. But when they do all hell breaks loose. Use that light tippet or they will spook. Try to keep them out of the weeds so they don’t break you off. Now try doing that alone, in a canoe, on a windy day on a big lake and net the fish yourself with a 12 foot leader when your arms are tired after paddling then playing a big ass fish. That ain’t gonna happen on a clear cold mountain stream fellas. Try something challenging. Do something different. Or stick with the crowd and make yet another variation on a Wulff or a Stimulator and call it your own special clear mountain stream fly.  But don’t go where very few (if any) other fly anglers go to chase fish that fly anglers rarely do. That might be a challenge.
cool colors on the males in the spring

Ugly huh?  Yea, bowfin aren’t pretty. Well, I think the males in their spawning colors are downright handsome. Turquoise fins, emerald green bellies. Colors you see on coral reef fish not typical freshwater fish(I know- I was a professional aquarist for 10 years). Carp do have a less than stellar looking face but the colors on their scales definitely make up for it. And how about the fight? Yea the fight is ugly. Bare knuckle bar brawl kind of fight. Thanks. I will take it. But where they live… downright gorgeous. Have either of these fellas ever been on a flooded wetland along Lake Champlain? Seen the sights, heard the noises, smelled the smells?  Looked down at what looks like a perfectly planted garden pond? Seen the diversity of fish and other life (last time I checked most Champlain wetlands will contain 20+ species of fish where a cool mountain brook will have 3-8 species or so, and will definitely not have the bird, reptile or invertebrate life that the wetland will have).

Wetlands- we need them! Don't you get that?

Oh yea, that is right. Wetlands. They are ugly. That is why we have only 50% of the wetlands that were originally in this country. You know, those diverse areas that help hold back floodwaters along the Mississippi and other big rivers? Oh wait, those are gone. That “ugly” mentality is one of the reasons we lost and are still losing these important, diverse, and incredibly fragile ecosystems around the country. Keep up that thinking. If you want perfectly manicured, man-made environments fly fishing isn’t the sport for you- go take up golf. As the bumper sticker says “I Love Golf- It Keeps the Assholes Off the Rivers”.
Another fish "Ryan" would not bother with... shithead.

“Ryan” I hope you make sure to post up that “fly fishing is supposed to be used to catch salmonids in streams” on every other Orvis News piece on tarpon, snook, bonefish, bass, stripers, bluefish, pike, musky, permit, billfish, false albacore, carp, and assorted other species that show up on there. I am sure that your limited mindset fits in will all those folks that are fly fishing for those and other species. Oh yea, let us not forget anyone who fishes still waters for trout too. That doesn’t fit your viewpoint either. Seriously? Don’t you get it? Fly fishing is for whatever you want it to be. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. As long as it is legal and fun, why not try it out? Unless of course you are so stuck in your ways that you are afraid to do something different. Does this offend you Ryan? I hope so.
Yea, I catch salmonids in clear mountain streams too.

 In case you think I am anti-trout- I am not. I fish trout. I am on the board of my local Trout Unlimited chapter. I live across the street from a great wild trout stream that I fish routinely. I catch some big browns and I love to do that at the right time of the year. Remember, it is JULY folks. The water is warm. Many trout streams in Vermont right now are over 70 degrees. Hmmmmm, maybe you shouldn’t fish them right now… or do you have any conservation minded bones in your body at all? In that situation there are a couple of options- hang up your fly rod or do something different. Obviously I fall into that second category.

Mr. Crosby and Ryan- keep those horizons of yours limited. I don’t need to see you out in places that I fish and guide. Your attitude is far too close minded. Stick with your 6” trout. Fine with me. I like doing something different.


  1. Wish I had written this ... well said Drew. Couldn't agree more.

  2. top class post drew about time that was said bloody snobs

  3. yessir...that about says it all...they just can't hang...I would love to see one of these small stream trout guys shoot a cast 80 feet, land it on a dinner plate with little to no splash and fool a carp into eating it...ha...right...peckers...well said Drew..on with the Warm Water Revolution

  4. Hell yeah, flyfishing is changing for the better; to bad theres still the snobs out there that have no imagination or drive of their own!