Wanna’ know what a real Vermonter does in April?
Most of us, with the exception of my 9th generation Vermonter wife, Katie Carleton, come here from somewhere else. When I first arrived in Vermont in 1975 I knew that my heart had found its home. I felt a sense of belonging like I had never felt before. I was a skier and had done a little hunting back in Pennsylvania. But once the snow melted, what comes next?
Two pronounced characteristics of a real Vermonter are that they celebrate sugaring season and the holy grail of spring, Opening Day of Trout Season.
Granted this year we are joking about having to use an auger to get through all the ice, but seriously, there are streams with open water that hold hungry rainbows and browns that have held over throughout the frigid months of winter.
It’s been a couple of years since my dear friend, Sara Blum, of Shelburne and I have had the opportunity to fish together. But this year I am making a public pledge to get her on the water. Sara started fly fishing just a few years ago, and like many who try this sport, she struggled with the amount of information and technique needed to actually land a trout. Sara is a tenacious business owner (she owns Acorn Marketing which stresses the competitive advantage of highly focused public relations) and as such, she is remarkably adept at learning new means to an end.
On a gorgeous spring day we ventured to the Winooski River to wet our lines and enjoy the dappled sun on the riffles of a feeder stream while throwing colorful iridescent flies into the tail outs of the rippling water.
Fly fishing is more Zen than any sport I know. Listening to the fly line swish by over your head and standing in the current makes one feel as though he or she is a part of a magnificent world. The water and the sky absorb your spirit and soon you find that your mind is at peace with the present.
I was watching Sara as she practiced her back cast and lay down finish. It was a moment of sheer joy to be watching someone learning. I drifted back 46 years to my first fly fishing expedition and recognized that the intense concentration for achieving the perfect four part cast had evolved into a lifelong passion. After numerous false casts, Sara released her forward cast and laid the 6 weight line down on the water in a straight line about 20 yards out and just in the end of the riffles.
I watched her breathe a sigh of relief having accomplished what she had been longing to do.
As she relaxed and reveled in her success, it happened.
Smack! A nice rainbow trout surfaced and hit the elk hair caddis with abandon.
The reel began to scream, ticking off the gears of the internal mechanics, and literally singing as the fish made a run downstream.
“Raise your rod!” I yelled. “And if he jumps bow down to him!”
And jump he did. The feisty rainbow threw himself a foot into the air, sparkling in the bright spring sun. His colors flashed pink and green in the sunlight.
“Did you see that?” I whooped as I walked over to her to coach her on bringing him in.
“Wow! That was fantastic!” Sara replied.
I watched as she played the fish until he was tired enough to bring in to the gravel bar we were standing on.
Sara knelt down, partly in reverence and partly in awe at the glorious being. A smile came over her face that shone brighter than the sun above her head. Together, we were experiencing the present as it is meant to be – a gift – a present - from the Great Spirit. She said goodbye to the piscatorial deity and released him back into the gurgling water.
If you have ever wanted to experience this kind of connection, please feel free to contact me and I will be glad to assist you in finding your own piece of Zen in the outdoors.