May 26, 2023

I recently sat with second-generation Master Maine Guide, Michael Jones, for an in-depth interview on his FLY LINE PODCAST. Mike seems to know just about everyone connected with fly-fishing in Maine. His easy-going manner made for a fun hour. We not only discussed fly fishing in the Rangeley Lakes Region of western Maine and my books, but also how I began fly fishing, my other life as an attorney, and much more. For a change, I got to tell a few stories orally rather than scribble words across the page.

Clink on the link to hear the interview and share in a few of our family photos. I hope you enjoy:

Fly Line Podcast


March 31, 2023

I recently came into a set of my Rangeley Region trilogy – NORTH OF EASIE, WEST OF RANGELEY and BROOK TROUT BLUES. The first two books have been out of print for quite some time, and are very difficult to find, sometimes selling at ridiculous prices. The set of three books sold immediately. I’ve now come into a second set that I wish to sell at a very reasonable price compared to what you’ll find online. If anyone is interested in purchasing the books as a set, please email me at



March 19, 2023

Ask the trout of Bonnie Brook about their politics and they might tell you they are of the conservative persuasion. They’ll proudly describe growing up from eggs spread naturally by their parents. No hatchery trucks pulling up by the side of the road. No official opening day or closed season. No need for state interference.

What they don’t tell you is, by the nineteen-sixties the stream’s native brook trout had all but been obliterated by over-fishing and environmental degradation. To compensate for these excesses, the state called upon its hatchery trucks to fill the little stream’s riffles and runs with brook trout, brown trout, and even rainbow trout. Back then, the rivulet had the same seasonal restrictions as other larger rivers and streams.

Whether it was fiscal pressures or liberal optimism, the hatchery trucks made their last deposit sometime in the nineteen-seventies. Thanks to the Clean Water and Air Acts, Bonnie Brook recovered from its previous environmental woes and those hatchery fish began to lay eggs, populating its current with their progeny ever since. State restrictions on size and number, a No-Live-Bait regulation combined with voluntary Catch and Release policies have allowed these wild fish to thrive. Opening days and closed seasons became no longer necessary now that taxpayer funds were not required to fund stocking the stream.

All this brings me to this morning. Sun was streaming through my window when I woke. After a hot shower, I brewed my morning tea. Mug in hand, I padded into what had been our daughter’s bedroom until we converted it into a library after she struck out on her own. According to the outside thermometer the temperature had broken through the forties. The usual suspects—finches, a few titmice, and chickadee were flitting around the bird feeders. In between three or four mourning doves and a number of juncos, a small gang of sparrows pawed at the ground. To my surprise, like a bright blue comet, a male bluebird streaked across the yard. It was soon followed by a female. Although it will be more than a month before the official opening day of the fishing season, this was all I needed to declare opening day on Bonnie Brook.

In a mad dash, I managed to collect my gear from the four corners of our house. I pulled a box containing a number of flies from the top of a stack that threatened to topple like the Berlin Wall. Within its plastic compartments were various patterns meant to imitate little black stoneflies. I’d spent the previous few evenings hunched over a vise, experimenting with black dubbing and dun-colored CDC puffs in preparation for one of the little stream’s most reliable hatches.

My fly rod, the shorter one constructed of caramel-colored cane by the Pennsylvania rod maker, Tom Whittle, was waiting in its wooden tube where, sometime near the end of last November, I’d placed it beside the back door along with a number of other rods, both bamboo and graphite. They leaned against the corner as if sharing the latest gossip while gathered at the local pub.

I removed my fly vest from a hanger, a brown-and-red tweed waistcoat my wife bought for me when we visited Ireland, and after a long search, found my flannel shirt crumbled up in the back of the closet. My wide-brim hat was where I set it at the close of last season, below a print of a John Swan watercolor, one that depicts a sport sitting in the bow of a canoe, his backcast rising in a tight loop over the shoulder of a guide who stands in the stern, knees braced, a paddle in his two hands while he steadies the craft. The hat rested atop a row of books, mostly about the rugged country of northern Maine, some published in the 1930s, others in the 40s.

The Orvis Battenkill reel, an inexpensive, but reliable container for my four-weight line, was where I expected to find it. Over the years, my father-in-law had become my best friend. We tramped through forest and field together. In his eighties, he continued to help with felling trees for the wood stove. Electricity and the internal combustible engine are two mysteries too complicated for me to ponder, and so it was Charlie, who wired our pole barn for lights and kept my 8N tractor running. He believed a fish fairly caught belonged in the pan and not the palm. For this reason, although we fished together on other rivers, I never invited him to Bonnie Brook. One winter, he helped me construct a shallow wooden case out of pine boards we sanded and varnished. It contains a number of compartments, with felt along the sides, each large enough to hold a fly reel. Charlie died at age ninety-three. I think of him every time I open the lid of that box.

It was nearly eleven by the time I hit the road. By then, the temperature had risen to a balmy fifty-three degrees. I drove out of town, and after a few minutes residential homes turned to farmland. The fields are fallow this time of year, the cows and sheep in their stalls.

Our home is located in the foothills of the Kittatinny Mountains, and so it wasn’t long before the road began to rise. It’s been a winter of little snow, but a few patches were visible under the dense stands of rhododendrons and mountain laurel flanking the macadam. I hadn’t seen any other vehicles, except for a few cars parked where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. After the familiar climb, the road leveled off, revealing a vista of forested hills. The hardwood trees remained bare. When a passing cloud hid the sun, the landscape suddenly seemed uninviting.

I pumped the brakes at the bottom of the descent, stopping on the small bridge that crosses the little brook. The stream ran briskly. Above the bridge, the current swept down through a narrow ravine for perhaps a quarter mile. Falling under the shadows cast by the branches of swamp maple and pin oak, it formed a number of plunge pools. I’ve taken a ten-inch rainbow in a pool formed in front of a large boulder along the far bank only a few yards above the bridge. There’s a nice run below the bridge where two eleven-inch brook trout like to hold, but only when the water level meets with their approval.

After clipping my hippers to the loop of my jeans, I rigged the little cane rod and set out across a pasture flanking the stream. Although the temperature had risen into the fifties, the ground remained frozen. A trio of deer raised their heads, loping away with their white tails flared in mock alarm.

 I’d been ill for the better part of the winter, culminating in walking pneumonia, and so my legs were not used to the exertion. After making my way down to the stream, I sat on a boulder to catch my breath. The current was slower in this stretch, the pools deeper.  I’d hoped to find stoneflies hovering over the water, perhaps crawling over the branches of the brambles and bushes that grew along the sides of the stream, but there was no sign of the aquatic insects. The sullen current seemed devoid of life.

It took a while to knot a soft-hackled wet fly to my tippet. Making a short upstream cast, I kept my line off the water while allowing the fly to sink as it passed along the far bank, only a few feet away. At the end of the drift, I allowed the current to raise the pattern, relying on the technique espoused by “Big Jim” Leisenring.

In this manner, I worked my way upstream. My first few casts were awkward, my legs unsteady, as they always are this time of year. There was a time when I could thread a tippet through the eye of a #20 trico pattern at dusk while my hearing was as acute as Natty Bumppo’s. These days, I require cheaters to knot a #12 fly. Worse, I wouldn’t hear a black bear rambling in my direction until it tapped me on the shoulder. So, you can understand why I worry that my motor skills, diminished over the winter, may not return. But this stream is like an old friend. Uncomfortable after being away for a time, we have too much history not to fall back into our old ways, and after a number of casts my rhythm returned while my legs slowly regained their confidence.

In this manner, an hour passed, maybe more. I can’t say for sure, for I make it a habit not to wear a watch while on the stream. During that time, the sun remained behind a bank of clouds, the temperature falling back into the forties. It felt like rain.

My mind had drifted toward thoughts of a grilled cheese sandwich and a warm bowl of my wife’s tomato soup when the little bamboo rod bent forward, bringing me back to the stream. Pulling back against the pressure on the other end, I raised the tip of cane. Swinging my quarry into the palm of my hand, I released a soggy leaf back into the current.


February 18, 2023

In a column for The Northwoods Sporting Journal, I reviewed We Took To the Woods, Louise Dickinson Rich’s book about her time living with her husband, Ralph Rich along the Rapid River. Some might say they had a pretty good marriage.

I’m no expert. Don’t pretend to be. But Trish and I have been married for forty-one years and that has to count for something. Hell, we beat the odds or so I’m told. We met while I clerked for a Superior Court Judge. She was juror number six. I later learned she had a thing for guys with beards, and as it turned out, I had grown one while studying for the bar exam. After the case concluded, I asked her out for lunch and we haven’t been apart since.

Well, that’s not exactly true. From the first, Trish was her own gal, a woman who prefers jeans to dresses and a sturdy pair of hiking boots to high heels. Before our daughter was born, we both worked—she in advertising and me as an associate in a small law office. On weekends, we went our separate ways—she to her garden, me to my stream, coming together only at the end of the day to recount our adventures. I guess you could say we gave each other space.


Over the years, my wife has acquired this marvelous collection of skulls, which she displays in a glass case in our living room. When our daughter was in high school I took great pleasure in pointing out these trophies to any boy she dared bring home, suggesting the most interesting skulls were kept out of sight in a special case.

Soon after Father Cull declared us husband and wife, we had our house built on a twelve-acre parcel of land located in the foothills of the Kittatinny Mountains. I remember the first time my father, a man who never escaped his early upbringing in the Bronx, ambled through the woodlot where I still harvest billets for the woodstove, and how he turned to me and asked, “How ya gonna rake all these leaves?”

On her Facebook page, our daughter referred to her early years as living with two hobbits in the Shire.

Emily is an accomplished artist, contributing a number of watercolors to my book of short stories. She’s spent time in France and Germany, England, Ireland, and Holland. When she was younger, we flew to Ireland to “fetch” her home. She’d spent the winter semester at the Burren College of Art located not far from the little seaside town of Ballyvaughan. During our two-week tour of the Emerald Isle’s western coastline, we stopped in the village of Cong where many of the scenes of the 1953 movie, The Quiet Man, were filmed. While there, I fished a small stream, the girls exploring a thirteenth-century monastery. Later in the evening, we sat around a table in the local pub, peat blazing in the nearby fireplace while we ate lamb stew flavored with Guinness.

The Big Pull


My wife spent her childhood summers on Conway Lake, located in northeast New Hampshire. Her father, an accomplished angler, would row a wooden peapod out onto the lake, accompanied by his daughter. Now, I’ve always had the feeling my father-in-law was a devotee of Samuel Clemens’ Tom Sawyer, since it wasn’t long before his daughter was doing the rowing, working those ash oars while he cast his Hula Poppers, Jitter bugs, and Rapala lures to the largemouth bass and pickerel that inhabit the warm water lake.

The year Emily was born, we purchased our camp in western Maine. Soon afterward, our little traveling circus was commuting between “the shire” and our cabin where we spent our free time exploring the rivers and streams, logans and bogs that comprise the northwest corner of the state. By then, Trish had become expert at rowing a boat. Like her father, I was more than happy to endure the snide smiles of men passing our square-stern Grumman while she rowed and I cast my flies.

These days, Emily lives in Texas while we remain on our twelve acres with two black Labs, Winslow Homer and Finnegan. Trish still tends the gardens, taking time to skulk through field and forest while I continue to split wood with a six-pound maul, now and again carrying my bamboo rod down to a little stream where wild trout dimple the surface. Each May, we make the nine-hour drive to our camp.

Seated here in our cabin, the patter of soft rain on the roof, I look around the room. Our two Labs are curled up by my feet. The smell of their wet fur mingles with that of the burning wood in the nearby stove. By the door, a long-handled net leans against the tubes containing my fly rods. My chest waders are draped over a chair. Spread across the table where we take our meals is a novel set in France, a book of cowboy poetry, and Tom Ames’ Hatch Guide for New England Streams. Between the books are my binoculars, Trish’s camera, and the canvas pack she straps over her shoulders when on one of her adventures. Scattered among these are a number of plastic boxes containing my favorite fly patterns.

To borrow a line from Ms. Rich’s book, I suppose you could say our marriage is one “…that you can let yourself go in, a marriage in which you can put up your feet and relax.”


November 28, 2022

Last summer, I was seated on a bench. Not any bench, but my favorite slab of abandoned lumber located beside this little rill where I spend much of my time playing tag with native brook trout while at my fishing camp in western Maine. With a fine cushion of brilliant green moss, it’s just the right size and shape for my skinny ass to rest comfortably while contemplating a bit of this or that. Having no knowledge of quantum physics, I was ruminating on the absurdity of this rock-and-roll planet’s inexplicable ability to spin within a galaxy that like so many others in space has been expanding through the millennia. I’d been wondering too, how, in an infinite universe, with so much stellar junk floating around, we haven’t bumped into anything larger than a chunk of space-rock astronomers call meteorites, say for instance, a British police box containing a shape-shifting time traveler. But no, it seems our only visitors may be those the government has been hiding away in the New Mexico desert.

The temperature, in the mid-seventies, was quite pleasant. A woodpecker hammered against the trunk of a distant tree. Not far away, a crow cawed from somewhere deeper in the forest, another calling back. A harrier hawk swept low over the contours of the marsh surrounding the little stream. With the sun on my neck, I interrupted my cosmic wonderings while staring down on a set of familiar riffles. I was hoping to catch a sign, perhaps a rise or subsurface flash that would reveal the presence of a fish. After a while, my mind resumed its rambling, stopping to examine what might be the opposite of infinity. At first, I decided it must be zero, but if infinity has no end why would its opposite be any different? I mean, if a number can be combined over and over again, then I suppose it can be divided into smaller and smaller bits, however infinitesimal, never actually reaching zero.

As my head began to ache, I heard a rustling of leaves along the far bank. A mink stood on its haunches. Its little head popped above the tall grass, between its jaws dangled the limp body of a garter snake. I remained still when the mink’s beady eyes shifted in my direction. Although I didn’t move, the carnivorous mammal hadn’t survived that long by taking careless risks. Rather than drawing closer, it slinked down the bank and swam to the far side of the brook. A red squirrel, who had been watching from the branches of a spruce tree, chattered a complaint as the sleek animal vanished downstream.

The first law of thermodynamics states the principle known as the conservation of energy. That is, energy can change from one form to another, although the total amount of energy does not change, making the cosmos an enormous recycling plant­—Mayfly becomes trout, trout becomes mink, mink becomes man, man becomes…. You get the idea.

The second law of thermodynamics states that all natural systems tend toward disorder, a characteristic called entropy, which means that every system, including our bodies, our social groups, the very atoms comprising the universe, the earth, those galaxies I’d been thinking about earlier, are gradually dissipating.

It’s hard not to argue that everything from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the universe as young as it may be, must someday come to an end. But to admit that we are mere stardust, poof and we’re gone, is that a bridge too far? Is the mayfly, the trout, the mink, the bear, and even the angler, nothing more than a collection of molecules that are constantly expanding, dying, changing, comprised of flesh and bone, mere containers to hold a mixture of bodily fluids?

What about that other part of us? You know, the part that while standing naked in the shower worries about what the day may bring or over previous mistakes. The part that curses when we miss a strike on an exceptionally large fish or dances with glee when we bring that fish to the net. The part that strikes out in rage or falls helplessly in love. The part of us that hums, even sings from time to time, the part that decides to sit in thought for seven weeks under the shade of a banyan tree or for an hour or so by a little stream in western Maine.

The snow melts, the rain dries, the rivers flow, the mayflies hatch, the trout spawn, our bodies shed flesh, our stomachs grow fat, our hair turns gray, (worse yet, we lose it altogether), the earth warms, the universe expands, and yes, we all die.

Rising from my bench on that early-summer afternoon, I came to the conclusion that when it’s all said and done, I’d continue to play tag with the occasional trout. Taking the advice of my favorite singer-songwriter, Iris Dement, I decided to “just let the mystery be.”


September 9, 2022

Early morning fog is slow to fade as I pull the fly rod from its cotton sleeve. When the sun breaks through the shroud, leaves of poplar, black birch, oak, and shagbark hickory appear to glow. Awash in color, the surrounding hills complement the two sections of golden cane.

It won’t be long before sugar maples cease the production of chlorophyll, their crimson leaves, adding to the early autumn palette. Although the season is winding down, I hope to hold one last brook trout in my dampened palm before releasing it back to spend the winter contemplating the error of its ways.

A doe, her twin fawns, their spots nearly gone, lope into the tree line as I tramp through a field of tall grass that glitters with dew.

At the edge of the field is a narrow trail. Beads of moisture glisten on webs weaved by spiders among barberry and wild rose. Thorny branches reach out to grab the sleeves of my flannel shirt as I tramp down the path that leads to the little stream that remains open for a few more days and where wild trout can be found. The air is breathless, filled with the earthy smell of forest duff. I hear the tick of leaves as they fall through hardwood branches. They flutter to the ground like flaxen snowflakes.

Along the trail, I’m greeted by a pair of chickadees that flit from tree to tree. A white-throated sparrow calls out for Mr. Peabody.

As I approach the stream, wisps of vapor slip over its surface. A blue jay cries out from beyond the far bank. Another answers. Then, another and another, the cries dissipating as the flock flies farther into the wood. A sweet perfume rises from the delicate blossoms of autumn clematis entwined in the streamside verdancy.

Pulling a metal pill box from my shirt pocket, I stare down at the few patterns inside. Unlike brown trout, that require imitations closely resembling the insect du jour to appeal to their neophobic nature, the brook trout of this little stream are rarely selective, willing to play tag with any fly, provided it is cast with a bit of stealth.

I choose a #14 pheasant-tail to knot to my tippet. The parachute wing of this dry fly will keep the pattern afloat over the most turbulent of riffles. The calf-tail post makes the pattern easy to follow while the pheasant-tail barbules wrapped around the hook shank are sufficiently “buggy” to interest any fish still looking toward the surface this late in the season.

The bamboo rod that has accompanied me over the last few years was built by Ron Barch. The former publisher of the Planning Form, an international newsletter dedicated to construction of split bamboo fly rods, has been crafting cane rods for more than thirty years. Mine was built based upon Paul Young’s Midge design. Measuring six feet, three inches, it is the perfect tool to cast flies on this stream that is no more than ten feet wide.

For the next two hours, I cast the pheasant-tail into little plunge pools, along the edge of tree trunks fallen into the stream, in front and behind boulders, and over any water that looks “fishy,” all with no success. My legs aren’t what they once were, and after stumbling over an exposed root, I decide it’s time to call it a day.

I can’t complain. The sun has bathed the tannin-stained stream in a golden hue. Although its warmth has waned over the last few weeks, it remained sufficient for me to roll up my sleeves, perhaps for the last time until next spring.

About to turn back downstream, I feel, rather than see movement in a patch of water tight along the far bank. Was it a fin holding the fish in place or maybe the white of a maw opening to take in a nymph? When the sun slips out from behind a cloud, I spy the current moving against a shadow. In the run, no more than a foot wide, the fish, (if that is what I’ve seen) is protected by the limb of a white oak tree that extends within inches of the stream’s surface. 


After a single backcast, ten feet of line unfurls over the surface. The #14 fly flutters down a few inches from the bank where the current carries the combination of feather and fluff along a set of shallow riffles. As the pattern slips under the limb of the oak and onto the patch of water that is darker than the rest, I hold my breath, the line between thumb and forefinger of my left hand, right hand tightening around the cork above the reel. It is this moment of uncertainty, perhaps more than any other, that draws me back to these little rills, with their brambles and bushes, suspicious deer, curious birds, and wild trout.


April 16, 2022

Here, at our home located in the northwest corner of the state, a pair of wood ducks has joined the mallards that flew onto our pond in early March. Each morning, the birds splash down sometime shortly after dawn, flying off at the first sign of human activity. Restless after their winter slumber, ladybugs roam along the inside of our windows. Chipmunks now peek from the tops of rock walls that are scattered about our property. They scurry afield, returning to their tunnels with a welcome morsel, cheeks full of seed gathered from under a bird feeder or perhaps a flower from the tulip tree that towers over our barn.

The skies are changeable as are the temperatures. Early in April, winter clings to the evenings, but slowly, intermittently, warmer weather returns, claiming the afternoons, until mid-month, when temperatures swing from the high forties to the low seventies and everywhere in between.

Forsythia and lilac are beginning to bud, the former flowering yellow, the latter waiting for May to grace the air with its sweet-smelling bouquets. Daffodils have sprung up along the edges of Trish’s gardens. With the first warm days of the month, their yellow flowers are spreading spring’s cheer, tulips soon to follow. The purple flowers of a single Japanese Azalea bloom upon the bush’s naked branches, its leaves not yet formed. Around the pond and in the swamp, the mottled tips of swamp cabbage have forced their way through the damp soil. In the vegetable garden, chives spring back to life and the ruffled tips of rhubarb struggle to break through the soft earth.

Phoebes, the first migratory birds of spring, rejoin the chickadees, titmice, and finches, all of whom have remained at our feeders while weathering snow, ice, and freezing rain. These flycatchers perch upon wire and post, tails bobbing, their eyes focused on the ground, eager to swoop down and grab the first of the season’s awakening insects. By the second week of the month, a pair has taken up residence in a nest constructed of twigs held together with mud. The nest was built a number of years ago under the eave of the lean-to attached to our barn where the birds have raised successive generations, most years having two broods.

A flock of robins join the phoebes, stutter-stepping across the lawn, their heads turned to the side, eyes staring toward the damp grass as they search for earthworms.

Standing on our back porch, the early morning skies reverberate with the sound of bird song. White-throated sparrows call for “Mr. Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” while mourning doves murmur a somber refrain. From a row of low-growing bushes, cardinals sing out “cheer, cheer, cheer,” while red-winged blackbirds add their raspy notes to the robins’ familiar song, and if I listen carefully, there is the gentlest of all melodies, that of the bluebird.

Chickadees call out to one another, titmice complaining about the new arrivals, and nuthatches grunting their agreement. At the same time, throngs of finches threaten to drown out all the others with their ceaseless chatter while now and then, above the raucous din, can be heard the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker echoing through the adjacent woodlot.

As if in celebration of the new season, this avian chorus rolls up from the lower fields and sweeps down out of the hardwood trees, washing over us from first light through early afternoon.

While cleaning out last-year’s nesting material from the birdhouses we’ve nailed to posts around the twelve acres surrounding our house, I was forced to evict a deer mouse. Having been rudely awakened from its mid-afternoon siesta, the cheeky rodent scrambled to the ground, none the worse for the scare. In another nesting box, this one made in Germany using burnt clay and sawdust, a flying squirrel popped its head out of the hole before I could remove the top. Although indignant at being disturbed during such an early hour, it accepted my apologies as I slowly backed away.


Most years, I’ll have spent a few afternoons during the last two weeks of March casting my flies along the banks of Bonnie Brook, but the trout remain sullen, rarely interested in a fly cast upon the steam’s surface. By April, they are beginning to look upward, having awakened from their semi-dormant state, willing to rise to a hatching bug or a hook wound with a bit of fur or fluff if drifted with skill.

In early April, black stoneflies crawl along stream side foliage, their gray wings easily blending in with the drab bark of trees. These aquatic bugs crawl out of their watery homes, leaving inanimate skins on the sides of rocks as they emerge with new wings folded flat along their backs. By late afternoon, the females return to the stream. Like tiny helicopters they hover over the water. If the temperature is warm enough, fish will slash at a black- or gray-colored pattern with swept-back wings, especially if twitched to imitate the actions of these insects as they skitter across the surface to lay their eggs.

Beginning with Paraleptophlebia adoptive, a hearty, dun-colored insect imitated by anglers with a pattern called a Blue Quill, a succession of mayflies will hatch as the month progresses.

After rising en masse from the stream’s bottom, the nymphs of these mayflies will emerge through the surface film where they molt into duns that will float for a time upon the current where they look like so many tiny yachts, their gossamer wings tacking with the breeze. Those that survive the inevitable onslaught of the trout flutter upward where phoebes and swallows will take their share. After a second molt, the adults will return to the stream to mate, after which the females will lay their eggs before falling to the surface, their life coming to an end within hours of first emerging from the stream’s bottom. All of this silently played out under dark and rain-threatening skies for which the month is known.

As April progresses, two other mayflies will hatch from the streambed in much the same way. They are imitated by flies known to anglers as Quill Gordons and Hendricksons, patterns named after sporting legends who once fished rivers running through the Catskill mountains of New York State, only a few hours north of Bonnie Brook.

I often wonder that if more of us spent time along the bank of a stream or in a field of wildflowers there would be less strife in the world. If only we could appreciate those simple gifts found just outside our door, we might be more willing to set aside our prejudices, less inclined to dredge up old grievances, make war. Judging from the lines of a poem penned by the great English romantic poet, William Wordsworth, he might have agreed with this sentiment.

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to mind…


To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Nevertheless, there is something satisfying in casting a fly first created by my fellow brothers of the angle, knowing that each spring I’ll follow in a long tradition of men and women who have found momentary sanctuary from a troubled world whether it be wading up a trout stream, tramping along a woodland trail, or perhaps, simply standing upon their porch and listening to the birds.







April 10, 2022

Bonnie Brook is as much a state of mind as it is a clear running stream that is home to a wild strain of trout. It is always with me. Perhaps after all these years, it’s become a part of me. Lying in bed, I can sometimes hear the roar of its current after an early-spring spate, or the cheerful laughter of its runs when the lilacs are in bloom. Sometimes, I’m lulled to sleep by its muffled sighs, heard during high summer, a time when moss-covered boulders appear above the sluggish riffles as the stream recedes, leaving behind russet-colored shoals.

Lingering long after I’ve chucked my hip boots in the back of the truck are the memories of the dark run that flows through a grove of rhododendron, the quiet backwater shielded on both sides by barberry and wild rose, the set of plunge pools dropping like stairs, as if from heaven’s gate, the bend pool, sweeping around an old pin oak, and just downstream, the run with the undercut bank that holds a brown trout that has resisted all efforts to pique its interest in my flies.

You might find me casting a fly upon the surface while staring down at this laptop or seated beside our woodstove as a mixture of hail and snow pelt against the window, most certainly while stalled in rush-hour traffic.

But during all the times and in all the places, there is one, more than all the others where I’ve found the fish most willing to come out of their hidey holes to play tag with one of my misshapen balls of fur and feathers. It is known as the Land of Nod, best described by Robert Louis Stevenson in his poem of the same name.

From breakfast on through all the day

At home among my friends I stay,

But every night I go abroad

Afar into the land of Nod.

For it’s on my nightly wanderings through that strange and mysterious land where I have found the weather never finer, the stream always inviting. In that land known as Nod, it is always May, that sweetest of months when the scent of honeysuckle and wild rose permeates the air. The trees and bushes are always leafed out, casting a protective shield over the stream’s inhabitants while the hillsides are aglow with sunshine. The birds of field and forest­—warblers, thrushes, and finches fill the air with their song while woodpeckers hammer away and phoebes make their nests of reeds and mud, leaving chickadees and tit mice to gossip about their neighbors. There may even be a flash of color as a redstart or yellow throat flits across the sun-dappled riffles.

Along the edges of the shore, frogs stare up from the stream’s surface, while on the banks, the next generation of the forest’s inhabitants have yet to leave their mothers’ sides. On some visits, I might happen upon a trio of cubs tumbling through the hardwood trees under the protective stare of a watchful sow, while on another, it may be four kits ambling along in single file behind mama-skunk that I encounter or a set of newly-born fawns, the twins frolicking not far from a weary, but tolerant doe.

All by myself I have to go,

With none to tell me what to do–

All alone beside the streams

And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

In that faraway place found only upon day’s end, the trout dimple the surface, forever looking upward to take their meals. My backcasts never catch on a branch or bush, my loops are always tight while my line never drags, presenting the fly as innocently as a newly born babe to its parents.

As frisky as the fawns, brook trout rise to grab my Adams, only to plunge toward the bottom, the fly clasped in the corner of their jaws, while rainbows, after zigging then zagging, splash through the surface, their crimson sash glistening with moisture. Even brown trout, those moody creatures, leave their obstinacy in the waking world, here in Nod rising without suspicion.

Although I enjoy those outings in that land beyond imagination, I am happy to wake each morning, knowing that my next visit to the little stream may find the gnats biting and the winds blowing, the current too high or perhaps much too low, the fish turned fussy, snubbing every effort at my selection of flies. For however uncertain, there remain lessons to be learned, a trick or two still to be played, but most of all, that surprise waiting around the next bend.




February 26, 2022

As I grow older the winters seem to last longer. With the temperature rising into the forties on this, the last weekend of February, I tramp through melting snow in my Sorels, the hood of a sweatshirt pulled tight over the tattered bill of my baseball cap. While collecting an armful of billets, I hear the patter of water dripping off the roof of the lean-to located across the drive from the back door of our home.

After stacking the billets beside the woodstove, I gather my sunglasses, pack, and reel, and locate the fly boxes that have found their way into the four corners of our house like kernels of corn stashed by the mice that live in our barn. The tube that contains my bamboo rod is where I placed it more than two months ago, leaning in a corner by the door. I check twice to be sure nothing is left behind before climbing into my truck.

It’s past noon by the time I pull into a gravel lot where three cars are parked. As is my habit, I check each one, careful not to appear too suspicious should the park ranger amble by. I’m pleased not to find any TU stickers or vanity plates that might indicate the vehicles’ owners are anglers. After completing this essential piece of reconnaissance, I slip off the Sorels and slide a pair of hippers over jeans.

Bonnie Brook appears foreign as I gaze across the snowscape. Gone is the lush grass under the few remaining apple trees scattered across an abandoned orchard between the parking lot and the stream. A large doe appears out of a line of hardwood trees along the far edge of the field. The tawny leaves of a nearby beech tree flutter in the breeze. After a moment, two yearlings follow the doe’s example.

My back rebels when I stretch down to lace my wading boots. The three deer raise their heads and then turn back into the treeline. It takes a few moments to remember how best to adjust the straps of the hippers through the loops of the jeans, but that done, I fix the reel to the butt end of the little cane rod.

After turning up the collar of a fleece pullover, I open one of the fly boxes, taken from the breast pocket of my flannel shirt. Staring down at a haphazard assortment of patterns left over from last season, I choose a #14 pheasant-tail dry fly from the ripples of foam and knot it to a 5X tippet. The parachute wing will keep the fly afloat over the most turbulent of the little stream’s riffles, the calf-tail post making it easy for my waning vision to follow while the pheasant-tail barbules wrapped around the hook shank are sufficiently “buggy” to interest any fish that may consider rising from its winter doldrums to sample a tasty morsel floating innocently upon the surface.

After adjusting a forest-green watch cap over my ears, I tramp toward a section of stone row that has collapsed from the freeze and thaw of successive winters.

Climbing over the rockslide, I trudge through the field, my wading boots making prints in what remains of a half-dozen inches of the white stuff dropped by a late-season storm. Unlike in Munchkin Land, each fall, the gnarled branches of the apple trees in this orchard give up their tart fruit without complaint.

Turning onto the trail that parallels the stream, I’m pleased see only deer prints in the snow. A white-throated sparrow peeps from among an unruly tangle of wild rose, grape, and barberry that separates the path from the stream. Finding an opening, I climb down to the water.

The current tumbles briskly through the ice that has formed along the edges of the stream. The stones are slick notwithstanding my felt soles. A chipmunk pokes a head out from between a row of boulders along the far bank, curious, I suppose, to see who would be so foolish as to be out and about this time of year. In the distance, I can hear the rapid hammering of a woodpecker.


The bamboo rod that has accompanied me over the last few years was built by Ron Barch. The former publisher of the Planing Form, an international newsletter dedicated to the construction of split bamboo fly rods, has been working with cane for more than thirty years. My rod is based upon a taper developed by Paul Young. Measuring six feet, three inches, it is the perfect tool to cast flies on this stream that is no more than ten feet wide.

During the next two hours, I cast the pheasant-tail into the swollen current, especially beside the edges of tree trunks that have fallen into the stream, in front of and behind boulders, along undercut banks, and over any water that looks “fishy”—all with no success.

Although the sun continues to shine, it provides little warmth as I work my way upstream. Cast, mend line, take a few steps forward, cast mend line, then do it again. I’d be better served changing to a nymph, one with a bit of weight to bring the fly down to the fish that continue to hug the bottom this time of year. But I’m more interested in gaining back my rhythm than chucking and ducking.

The sound of the current rises through the canopy of bare branches. Like old friends, parts of the stream rise up to greet me.

There’s the set of riffles falling down from between twin boulders where one summer morning, a fat rainbow jumped three times before coming to my hand. Around the next bend, I find myself beside a quiet glide that slips under the roots of an old pin oak, home to a brown trout that threw my hook last fall.

A few hundred feet upstream, a number of smaller brook trout have, on more than one occasion, grabbed a fly as it momentarily floated over the three plunge pools formed by the current that descends like a set of stairs before continuing downstream.

After a while, I come upon the dark run that sweeps across a fallen willow where a number of years back, on an overcast morning in early June, a large trout rose through the tree’s submerged branches to sip a tiny dry fly, the fish breaking me off before it could be identified.

Now, looking up to discover the sun has fallen below the tops of the trees, I turn toward the snow-covered bank. Trudging back down the path, my creel is heavy with memories, enough to sustain me until next time, when a fish or two may be willing to come out and play.


January 14, 2022

Seated here beside the wood stove, rain mixed with hail pinging against the windows, I’ve been thinking about a statement attributed to Thoreau that “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Izaak Walton certainly knew this. That may be the reason his book has endured down through the centuries.

Compleat Angler

Perhaps John Voelker aka Robert Traver, said it best in his Testament of a Fisherman: “I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly…”

In those beautiful environs, whether trekking to or from the stream, hiking along its side or wading through its waters, you’re sure to encounter an interesting character or two. Now, I don’t propose you stop to flirt with a lovely milkmaid as Father Issac had the pleasure of doing. (If so, be prepared to make a run for it when she texts 911 on her smart phone!) Nor do I suggest catching a mermaid as the good judge alludes to in the latter half of his 1964 Testament. (If you do, don’t be surprised if some government agency with a bunch of letters in its name whisks you off to an undisclosed location.) No, I’m talking about encounters with those four-legged animals that live stream side.

Just last August, I was wading down South Bog Brook, one of countless streams slipping unnoticed through the North Woods of Maine, when I heard the high grass rustle along the far bank. I stopped, expecting a deer or perhaps a moose to break out into the stream, but instead was surprised to spy a young coy-dog peering over a tall clump of Joe-Pye weed. No more than ten feet away, the inquisitive animal sniffed the air while standing on its hind legs, front paws in the air, seeking a better view. When I took a step, the canine yipped twice before disappearing back into the forest.

On an afternoon in early July, I’d been wading up Wiggle Brook, another mountain rill, this one falling off western Maine’s side of the Boundary Mountains. I’d been taking native brook trout with my go-to dry fly—a pheasant-tail, with a parachute wing and calf-tail post. It was an unfair contest, the palm-sized fish rising to inhale the innocent-looking pattern on every third or fourth cast. Having spent the better part of that afternoon drifting the dry fly through the sun-dappled riffles and into the many plunge pools that characterize this stream surrounded by balsam and fir, I decided to take a breather.

While seated on the trunk of a fallen spruce, I noticed a splash below a boulder in the middle of the stream. Looking closer, I watched a red squirrel bob to the surface. I thought of wading out to help the poor bugger, but a moment later watched as it doggy-paddled toward the limb of a tree that had fallen into the water. After climbing onto the large branch, the cheeky rodent shook from side to side, water spraying from its russet-colored fur. Now what? I thought, but then the intrepid traveler slipped back into the stream and swam the final twenty feet to the far bank. Who knew squirrels could swim?

A similar incident occurred while I fished the West Branch of the Delaware, downriver from the town of Deposit, New York. I’d been sight casting a #20 soft-hackled nymph with reddish-orange dubbing to large brown trout that were plucking sulpher nymphs from the fast water in front of the cabins of the West Branch Angler, a sporting lodge I frequent when in the area. I noticed movement some forty yards or so below me. Something had been attempting to cross the long, slow run that lies below the cabins.

At first, I thought it might be a muskrat. I’d once spent a frustrating afternoon casting the tiniest of tiny Blue-winged Olive emergers to a single brown trout that continued to rise under the branches of a large willow tree while one of these rodents kept me company. As I switched from one fly pattern to another, the spritely rat repeatedly swam to a lodge it had built under a massive limb split from the willow’s trunk, each time carrying a mouthful of reeds clasped between its jaws.

Leaving the trout to dine on the sulpher nymphs, I reeled in and waded out of the fast water, deciding to investigate the little ball of fur that was making negligible progress against the sluggish current in the lower run. Drawing closer, I found that the fur ball was a tiny rabbit that must have slipped off the high bank. The cottontail was about done in, having gone under more than once as I waded down the pool. It took a few more minutes, but I managed to work my way below the animal that now pressed against my thigh. We were still thirty or more feet from shore when I slipped my hand under the poor creature that appeared more than happy to allow me to do so.

A few moments later I was seated beside the rabbit on a grassy knoll. I’d never seen such a sorry sight, the bedraggled thing lying on its side, heart pumping wildly, lungs breathing overtime. After some time, the little guy, or gal, one never knows with rabbits, shook off the remaining water, and began preening. When I rose to my feet, it hopped away, soon I’m sure, to slip under the wire of the lodge’s vegetable garden.


This was not my only encounter with a stream side rodent. More than a dozen years ago, on a rainy afternoon in June, I’d been wading down Bonnie Brook. With a rain jacket zipped over chest waders and a hood pulled tight over my cap, I’d been in the zone while casting a Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear. Twitching the wet fly each time it sunk under the surface had provoked a number of the stream’s brown trout to come out of their hidey holes. After bending forward to release one such fish, I looked up to discover a tiny field mouse, no more than a foot or so away, trying to stay dry while seated on its haunches in an indentation along the bank, its beady black eyes staring back at me, as if to say, “move on, nothing to see here.”

Time does not permit the story about the flying squirrel too fat to fit its backside into the hole of a blue bird house, or the one about the wood turtle found dozing after a flash flood, in the branches of an alder some ten feet above the stream’s surface, or the fox kits that each morning popped their heads out of a den dug into a hillside beside our seasonal cabin, spending their afternoons entertaining my wife and I with their playful antics.

Instead, I’ll close with an afternoon some three years ago. I was wading up Devil’s Hole, a fast-moving streamlet in northeastern Pennsylvania. It was a lazy day in August, the sun high in the sky with only a slight breeze. The branches of swamp maple and those of tulip trees cast shadows over the little steam’s surface, and although the temperature had slipped into the eighties, the current was cool against my calves. I was wearing hippers and one of those lightweight shirts made of some type of parachute-like material while teasing ten-inch, wild brown trout with a black-ant pattern, the big, bushy fly making a loud splash whenever it plopped upon the surface.

Stooping to wet my neckerchief, I heard a strange noise coming from a grove of rhododendron. Scanning the far bank, I spotted a large black bear, its back toward me. Seated on the trunk of a fallen tree some twenty feet away from the stream, the bruin’s massive shoulders were bent forward.


After reeling in my line, I debated whether to advance while continuing to hear the sound that first drew my attention to the bear, something akin to a handsaw cutting through wood. Although doubting the wisdom of proceeding forward, I nevertheless advanced, staying in the middle of the stream, ready to turn tail at the slightest indication of trouble. After passing, I looked back over my shoulder to find the bruin’s eyes closed, snores emanating from his long brown muzzle.

River Flowers

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