David A. Van Wie
Epilogue - The Storied Waters Chronicle
“Fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion… trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience…”
- John Voelker (Robert Traver), Testament of a Fisherman
As one would expect after getting home from such an unusual adventure, many friends have asked me:
“How was your trip?”
“How was the fishing? Did you catch many fish?”
“What was the best part?”
Obviously, not everyone has been faithfully reading my blog, haha, but I am sure even those who were keeping up would have similar questions about the overall experience.
Let’s take each separately.
How Was Your Trip?
Fabulous! Pretty mind-blowing, really.
First, on the practical side, I had no major mishaps – no flat tires, no speeding tickets, no barroom brawls. I didn’t fall in a river while wading, nor did I hook myself with a fly. No crossed-wires or mis-communications with people I had planned to meet, nor any major disappointments about my destinations.
OK, I stayed in a few cheesy hotels, but that was my own choice because I'm cheap.
So, the lack of negatives equals a big positive!
“Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.”
- Aldo Leopold
Second, I got to do something that perhaps no one else has done before. And in doing so, I visited new places, waded up to my knees almost daily in beautiful water, and experienced nature in all her glory. I befriended many delightful people who went out of their way to welcome me to their towns and sometimes into their homes. And I read a small mountain of books, while learning more about my favorite authors and other writers to whom I was recently introduced.
And, most importantly, I got to cast a fly with some excellent fly-fishers who pointed me toward plenty of fish.
Yes, I did miss my lovely wife, and was glad to get home after six weeks! For me the time flew by, as I was busy every minute with driving, fishing, writing, editing photos, making new friends, tying flies, and sleeping like a rock pretty much every night.
By The Numbers
Here’s a quick summary of my six week odyssey:
The Storied Waters tour was 43 days: I left home on May 12 and returned home on June 23. My odometer logged 5700 miles through eleven states from Maine to Wisconsin and back.
I fished on 38 of those days in eight different states: MA, VT, NY, PA, WI, MI, (NY and VT again), NH and ME, in that order. Because I traveled on many of those days, I usually fished for two or three hours before moving on, sometimes just on hour or less.
When I wasn’t fishing, I was usually taking photos, writing, driving, eating or sleeping. I only took one day totally “off” to hang out with my daughter, Rosa.
I took over 1200 photos, plus a total of an hour or so of video segments which I have still to edit.
I wrote 25 blog posts with references to 40-some writers, and made numerous posts to other social media.
I ate a lot of pub fare, but not too much fast food. I wish I had kept track of all the local micro-brews I enjoyed along the route.
I stayed with friends (new and old) or family for about half the nights, and found inexpensive hotels on many nights, thanks to Hotwire. I had expected to camp out more, but ended up camping just one night- the last night of the trip! (I like to camp, but, hey, why pay $30 to stay in a state campground on a cool, drizzly night when you can stay in a hotel with a free breakfast for $65?)
How Was The Fishing?
While planning the trip, I was nervous that I might run into persistently lousy conditions, either washouts from too much rain, or hot days and warm, low water like we had in 2016. At my going-away party, I joked that I was prepared for six weeks of hearing people say “you should have been here last week/month/year!”
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Overall, the fishing conditions were excellent for the entire six weeks!
A few days were a bit too warm, and a few were pretty chilly.
I only had two days of steady rain on the entire trip, but I took those days off to write or tie flies. So, I never had to fish in crappy weather.
“What a piece of wonder a river is.”
- Henry David Thoreau
We had high water in the Battenkill in Vermont on the second day after an overnight rain, and then some very warm weather in the Catskills and Pennsylvania, but not enough to seriously affect the fishing. In western Pennsylvania, the spring creeks were in top form.
Wisconsin had had a wet spring, and the weather there was comfortable, if a bit muggy, which was fine. The Flambeau River was too high to fish, but the spring creeks in the Driftless Area were in great shape, as was the Namakagon River.
Michigan had decent weather and good water levels, except for the Fox River, which was pretty high and tough to fish. The Au Sable River was spectacular.
For the rest of my trip in NY and New England, the weather was good, with one day of steady rain in the Adirondacks and one at the Dartmouth Grant. The bugs were out in force, and there was a good amount of water everywhere I fished, but not too much.
Mayflies and caddis flies were hatching almost everywhere I went. I ran into impressive Hendrickson hatches in the Catskills, sulfur hatches in PA and WI, flying ants in WI, caddis and brown drakes in MI, caddis and Hendricksons in the Adirondacks, and plenty of caddis flies and a few mayflies in Maine.
I even caught a fish for the first time on a crane fly pattern in WI and again in ME!
“A trout is purty in any light.”
- Dud Dean
How Did You Do?
I was also nervous at the start that I would be sheepishly reporting time and again that I got skunked, flogging the water with no success in any number of promising locations. But I am pleased to report that I caught a lot of fish!
Looking back through my notes, I found that I caught fish on 70% of the days that I fished. If I tally my results by “outings” instead of days (trips to different locations, or a second trip to the same location), my success rate was 60%. Still, many of the times when I didn’t catch something, I had strikes or interested fish to keep me entertained. Or I lost a fish right off before I could consider it an LDR – long distance release.
So, I’d say that’s pretty good action, considering I was often on unfamiliar water, and in a few places I only had an hour or less to fish.
As for numbers? I didn’t keep careful count, but from my notes, I estimate I caught about 200 fish and released them all. Most of the fish were brown trout and brook trout, pretty evenly split, with several rainbows, smallmouth bass, landlocked salmon and a couple chubs in the mix. And one teeny, tiny bluegill.
To recap: 38 days of fishing with about 60 outings total. I got skunked on 12 days. I landed 200 fish, some big, some small, over the other 26 days. I'm pretty happy with those results!
What Was The Best Part Of The Adventure?
When I dreamed up this trip, I had in mind that I wanted to explore famous rivers, ponds and streams that I had read about for years. After the wonderful invitation from Gracie Wood to visit her father’s famous pond - Uncles - on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I decided it would be fun to tie in other storied waters between here and there. I wanted to see these extraordinary places through the eyes of the great writers who had a special attachment to them, and who brought them alive in their stories.
And, for those writers who have fallen from our collective consciousness over the years, I hoped to bring them back to life through my writing.
Going to all these different places, one after another, in a single journey gave me a chance to test my fly-fishing skills in a wide variety of settings. This was an exciting new opportunity to fish for brown trout in spring creeks and big rivers unlike what we have in northern New England.
I also wanted to push myself in my writing and photography, doing my best to capture the moments and comment on the adventures as they happened, not necessarily daily, but as close to real time as I could get. My goal was to achieve an entertaining balance of fishing, unexpected adventures, observations on natural history, commentary on the writers and stories for each location, and profiles of the people I met along the way. Based on the comments I have received, my blog did fairly well meeting that goal.
So, in general, the Storied Waters tour happened pretty much as I had envisioned! Great fishing, great people, some unexpected adventures, plenty of personal and professional challenges, and so many precious memories. And yet, the totality of the entire odyssey was beyond the words and the pictures.
“Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are.”
- Louise Dickinson Rich
And the best part? Easily all the wonderful people who welcomed me into their world, and helped me along the way. I was overwhelmed with generosity and goodwill at every turn. I made some wonderful new friends who share my interest in fly-fishing, literature, nature, good beer, and protecting our environment.
I also appreciate the wonderful comments and feedback I’ve received from the people who followed my odyssey through my writing and photos.
Next, I’ll be working on a video presentation and articles for various
publications. I’m also looking for a publisher to work with me on the Storied Waters book.
As I work through all that, I may have a few more stories to share, so stay tuned.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the Storied Waters tour such an amazing adventure!