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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Van Wie

Storied Waters: Adventuring on a Budget

40 days and 40 nights.

That is approximately how long my Storied Waters trip will be. Let's hope that I have better weather than Noah.

My itinerary is coming together nicely. I will be traveling through twelve states and one province. (Note to self: don’t forget your passport for crossing into Ontario). I expect to cast a line in at least nine different states and over two dozen different rivers, streams and ponds. That assumes that the weather cooperates- always a wild card.

I suppose I coouuuld just wait until May 12, hop in my car and start driving, but I am neither sufficiently spontaneous nor naïve enough to believe that things will just fall into place. So, I have been diligently planning my key stops and making arrangements to fish with and interview people at various locations.

Naturally I need to allow some flexibility to make this trip seem like an adventure and to go with the flow (pun intended), rather than a harried dash from place to place. But too much uncertainty could lead to wasted opportunities.

Put Away The Violins

Yeah, I know. I know! Stop! You can put away the tiny violins. I am well aware that this trip involves plenty of fishing which, by definition, will be relaxing and bucolic. But… there will also be tons of driving. And writing. And posting.

Believe it or not, this is work!

Based on years of experience, it is never a good idea to just show up at a place you have never seen before and expect to stumble on the right people and find the best places to fish without hours of flailing and frustration.

I’ve been trying to do my research to find some willing experts at various stops to introduce me to their favorite waters, share their passion for a favorite author, and, importantly, help me float a fly over some decent fish.

So far, I have been fortunate to find some very enthusiastic folks to join me along the way.

Adventuring on a Budget

As is my nature, I am also trying to be frugal. I wish I could stay in posh fishing resorts and hire experienced guides at every stop, but that’s just not in the cards. I am very lucky that my dear wife Cheryl is giving me the ‘all clear’ for this adventure, so I’ll do my best to avoid a credit card disaster. Very important to preserve domestic tranquility.

I thought about (for a minute) doing a GoFundMe campaign to ask for support for my trip and underwrite my effort to write a book about it. I promptly realized the reaction from friends would be more like GoFundYourself! Or something like that, using most of those letters.

Fortunately, I am a dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate on things like travel and hotel rooms. I don’t mind a Motel 6, or camping near a river. I am guessing I will be able to split the accommodations roughly into thirds – one third cheap hotels, one third camping, and one third mooching a room, a shower and a load of laundry from friends.

Get Ready, Get Set!

Already, my schedule is looking pretty aggressive, maybe too aggressive, but I am excited about the great people who are interested in helping me along the way.

My plans still need some firming up, but here is a quick rundown for the first half of the trip. (See the map above for the Maine to Wisconsin leg.)

On May 13, I will kick off the tour at Walden Pond, meeting with staff at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods and the State Reservation at Walden Pond. It is appropriate to launch my "excursion" (as Thoreau would call it) with a good day at the mecca of nature writing. Unlike Thoreau, I won't be going there for the solitude, as I understand Walden Pond gets 600,000 visitors per year. Still, it's a good place to start.

My next stop is Manchester, Vermont. I have a fishing partner from Orvis who will take me out on the Battenkill. I'll be visiting the Orvis Store and the American Museum of Fly Fishing. I even have a place to stay, thanks to my friend Bill and Martha McLaughlin!

Then, on to the Beaverkill and the West Branch of the Delaware. I grew up gazing at the Catskill Mountain skyline from my boyhood home in the Hudson Valley, but, incredibly, I have never set foot in the Catskills. I’ll drive a meandering route through the mountains and enjoy the scenery, perhaps stopping in small towns along the way.

I’ll be fishing with Craig Sutton, a long-time friend from our family summer vacation spot in the Adirondacks. We'll be staying in Hancock, NY at West Branch Anglers, an Orvis lodge, to float the big water on the West Branch and then wade fish the Beaverkill where Corey Ford’s ghost may be wandering about.

I tried to schedule I time to drop in on Joan Wulff at her fly fishing school on the Beaverkill, but the schedule didn’t work out.

Head West (Young?) Man

I have several stops planned in PA for the week of May 15-19. My first hosts will be my good friend and fellow co-author of The Confluence, Ed Baldrige, and his lovely wife Lydia Panas. Depending on conditions, Ed and I may fish the Little Lehigh, possibly a creek in the Poconos or the Letort River, before I head west to fish Spruce Creek near State College with Ed's friend, Chas Boinske. We should be there just in time for the sulfur hatch. I am really looking forward to my first time fishing the famous spring creeks in that area.

My next major destination is Aldo Leopold country in Wisconsin, which is quite a haul from western PA, so I plan to break it up with a stop at a tailwater fishery in Indiana – the Brookville Dam – which apparently supports trout fishing year-round. We’ll give that a try. Trout fishing in Indiana – why not?!

My plans for Wisconsin, Michigan and the Adirondacks are very exciting! I’ll discuss that leg of the journey in my next post, so stay tuned!

Reality Sinks In

Every now and then, I catch myself thinking, "Really? You're actually going to do this?" It’s one thing to talk about it, and another to load the car and go.

Well, I guess I am going to load the car and go.

I’ve had some whacky ideas before and have pulled some of them off, so I am going to give this all I’ve got.

The hook is set, and the fish is heading for the heavy water. Fish on!

Next post: The return leg.

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