The Heart of New England
Fly Fishing in the Northeast Kingdom
of Vermont
By David Lee Drotar

"Fly fishing is more an art than a science," my naturalist guide Dave Mallard
said as our canoe drifted peacefully on Noyes Pond in the remote corner of
Vermont known as its
Northeast Kingdom.  

"Anyone can drop a line with a worm and catch a fish, but not everyone can
fly fish."

My skills that evening proved I was neither scientist nor artist because I was
unsuccessful in catching any trout.  But his point about art seemed to be
underscored by the scene that unfolded around us.  

The excursion from the doorstep of Seyon Ranch had started out gray and
drizzly, but by the time we had paddled to the center of the pond we had
already immersed ourselves in a palette that would have made Matisse

Bands of neon light brushed the moody, dark
hills that encircled the pond while white-tailed
deer crept out of the forest to sip at its edge.
A beaver swam, ducklings tailgated their mother
and a kingfisher dove from the sky. Clouds
highlighted with multi-hued shades of pink
tumbled over each other in a race to the sunset.

The water itself, however, is always the focal
point of any fisherman's concentration.  Patterned strips rippled alongside
perfectly glassy patches. I saw intermittent surface blips inside widening
concentric circles and concluded that the next morning's breakfast was just
moments away.  

The theory behind fly fishing, I had just learned, is that insect eggs deposited
in the muddy lake bottom hatch out and rise to the surface.  On the insects'
ascent, feeding trout go after them.  Sometimes the fish even break through the
water surface in their quest to snap up a tasty morsel.

The job of the fly fisherman is to duplicate the look and motion of the insects.  
This is not an easy task.  

First, there are infinite styles of commercial and hand-made flies available to
mimic the various naturally occurring stages in an insect's life. Something that
entices the fish one day may be totally ineffective the next. Second, the
fisherman must make the fly move realistically.

As part of my crash course in fly fishing, I received a lesson in casting. Dave
explained the "11:00-2:00 rule."  My arm should extend no further than these
clock positions when powering up and releasing the line.  The momentum
built up and the weight of the lure carries the hook once released.

"The farther you cast, the better," Dave said.

"Why is that?"

"Not only are trout easily spooked by noise," he answered, "but you'll need to
re-cast less often."

I fumbled around with my rod and line, but quickly got the hang of it. I noticed
that a good cast had its own graceful sound distinguishing it from the briefer
whiz and plop of a poor cast.  Conversation faded and we soon settled into the
rhythmic whoosh-whoosh of our rods whipping through the air.  The
tranquility of the act, rather than the intended end product was the reward.  
When we no longer had enough light to see the fishing line, we paddled back
to shore.

The other wildlife that I would pursue in the Northeast Kingdom would be
through my camera's lens, and would prove only slightly less elusive.

"Let the forest come to you," Dave had told me during our hike to the summit
of Big Deer Mountain.  If you stand quietly in one spot for 30 minutes, he
explained, the animals forget you're there.  Soon they will come all around you.

Indeed, on a hike to Peacham Bog we heard the calls of the hermit thrush, oven
bird, black-throated green warbler and chickadee.  From a canoe, we shared
Osmore Pond with a nesting pair of loons who dove under the water and a
minute later resurfaced in a different part of the lake.  Everywhere I turned
there was wildlife, or evidence of it. Dave identified moose scat on the Big
Deer trail.  On a late-afternoon stroll around Kettle Pond I came upon fresh
coyote tracks in a muddy section of the trail close to the water's edge.

For the visitor, the
abundance of wildlife
in Vermont is no less than
idyllic. However, the
conservation management
policies have had to balance
varied sport, environmental
and economic interests in the state. People no longer hunt and trap beavers in
the numbers they once did because the fur market is down as a result of
vigorous animal rights campaigns. Now damage caused by flooding from
beaver dams is actually a concern in some areas.

Bruce Amsden, Information and Education Specialist with Vermont's
Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, cautions that "It's OK at this level,
but if you magnify this then maybe you think some kind of control is

Even the numbers of moose have rebounded so strongly in the state that four
years ago Vermont opened up moose hunting to sportsmen. In an annual
lottery they issue 200 permits for a three-day season. Encouraged by these
statistics as well as seeing "moose crossing" signs on the highways, I went on
my own photographic moose hunt at dusk one evening.  

Driving along Route 105 near the Canadian border, I kept my eyes peeled for
the beasts in the boggy flats east of Island Pond. Remembering Dave Mallard's
advice about letting the animals come to you, I even parked my car and waited
patiently in an area where they were known to be spotted.  But wildlife doesn't
operate on human time schedules and I had to get back.

According to biologists, a moose has a very small brain.  The animals are not
known to become habituated to civilization or to otherwise display any
intelligent behaviors such as those sometimes exhibited by bears.  I never did
see a moose during my stay, but maybe they really weren't so dumb.  After all,
they eluded me for four days and gave me good reason to return to the
Northeast Kingdom.

About the author
David Lee Drotar is the author of Steep Passages:
A World-wide Eco-adventurer Unlocks Nature's
Spiritual Truths (Brookview Press).
Anyone can drop a line with a worm and catch of fish, but not everyone can flyfish...
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"Anyone can drop
a line with a worm
and catch a fish,
but not everyone
can fly fish."
The tranquility of the act,
rather than the intended
end product, was the reward.  
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