June 29, 2013

Allen Afield: A storybook upbringing rediscovered riverside in Windsor

By Ken Allen

Thomas McGuane, an acclaimed American novelist, wrote a superb collection of fishing essays collected into a book entitled "The Longest Silence," published in 1999 and reprinted since. In the beginning essay, a line reminded me -- emphatically I might add -- of my home river.

McGuane quoted a man who once told him about dumb fast-water trout as opposed to smart slow-water ones, describing my home river perfectly. In short, anyone can catch salmonids in this river's rushing rapids, but it took advanced skills to fool salmonids in slower currents with a flat, picture-window meniscus, so typical on flat-surfaced glides and pools.

I grew up on this small, classic, dry-fly river with wild brown trout, hatchery brook trout and the occasional small landlocked salmon. The browns and brookies liked a long, pocket-water stretch that rushed and tumbled from a pond above to a densely wooded bottomland, where the river flattened into long, gravel-bottomed glides that smiled up evenly at the sun.

Browns and occasional brookies liked this bottomland, and to catch them in such flat pools during hatches with dead-drift bugs required perfect, drag-free floats. If a fly had a subtle drag -- even a barely perceptible drag -- rising browns and brookies would ignore the offering. Often it would frighten them enough to stop sipping bugs, and they would go hide.

In springs during my teens and early 20s, I learned the intricacies of dry-fly fishing on this home river but back then, never appreciated this water. It bothered me to grow up in Windsor instead of in more storied spots like the Rangeley region, the Ripogenus stretch of the Penobscot's West Branch or other legendary locales.

Years later I would recognize that I had grown up on one of this state's most classic fly-fishing rivers with wild browns. Across the world, when people talk trout fishing in world-renowned places, they mean "browns." Brook trout aren't even trout -- they're char.

Fortune smiled when life put me near this classic river that taught me plenty. I've sold articles to most of the big national fly-fishing magazines and have my home river to thank. It didn't hurt to be able to offer brown trout as the quarry with a smattering of brookie anecdotes for purists.

One recent year, just below a dam on the pond above, I had a fast evening of June brook trout fishing with small dry flies on glides below fast water boiling from the dam. The evening also offered me two 16-inch wild landlocks that fought like demons against a 4-weight rod. Wild fish do fight harder than hatchery pets, but I wouldn't debate that claim with anyone.

The following evening, John Diffenbacher-Krall accompanied me to the same spot, and we cast dry flies and emergers -- a fast time casting to hatchery brook trout. They were fun all right, but neither wild nor native. John grew up fishing Catskill rivers with utra-wary trout and liked my home river.

John lives in the Bangor area and called me this spring, and naturally it took us no time to remember that special evening the last time we met. Good times while fishing stick in the mind.

That spring, Heather, my oldest daughter, fly-fished with me on the same glides just below the pond and did well, too, pleasing me big time.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)