If traditional fishing blends seasoned discipline with a touch of luck, fly fishing contrasts with a unique element of its own: artistry. Unfurling like brush strokes on a canvas, a fly fishing line appears almost effortless in flight — assuming graceful curves that show the angler’s skill even before the lure finds its target and attracts a bite.
“It’s more of a rhythmic casting stroke as opposed to a power stroke,” says Bob Shannon, owner of The Fly Rod Shop in Stowe, Vermont. Unlike conventional fishing, “when you fly fish or fly cast, you are casting the weight of the fly line, not the weight of the fly.”
A timeless pastime for anglers, fly fishing utilizes a tapered rod and line along with a hand-tied fly, or lure, that is designed to resemble natural foods in the water.
The sport reaches its peak in Stowe during the spring and fall seasons when the climate is perfect for days spent wading in rivers and casting leisurely from drift boats. And with Tradewind’s direct shuttles or charters into Morrisville-Stowe State Airport, those river days are just a quick flight from home.
For adept fly fishermen and those new to the sport, the beauty of fly fishing in Stowe lies both in the tranquility of the outdoors, which Shannon attributes to the town’s low population, and in the actual number of rivers and lakes nearby. (There are seven rivers within 10 miles of Stowe, from small, upland brook trout streams to large drift boat rivers, and to the south, Waterbury Reservoir is known as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the state.)
“It’s a sanctuary,” says Shannon, while relaying fishing tales of Stowe. “It’s peace, it’s solitude.”
Shannon himself has been fly fishing for most of his life, having taken over The Fly Rod Shop 18 years ago. He originally began instructing to supplement his winter job on the ski patrol, and today the thriving 45-year-old business is the preferred vendor of Stowe Mountain Lodge and other top-tier hotels in the area.
Beginners can benefit from The Fly Rod Shop’s free casting clinics held each Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning starting in May. The hour-and-a-half lesson covers all the basics of fly fishing and fly casting, from the anatomy of streams to the equipment to two types of casts. (According to Bob, the roll cast is the easiest to perfect, and the false cast requires more practice and timing.)
The casting clinic is recommended, but not required, for those who plan on taking a half- or full-day guided trip either on foot or by drift boat, because those that already know how to cast can head straight nearby rivers such as Lamoille, Winooski, Dog, and Little River. Says Shannon, “It’s a way to sweeten the deal as far as getting out on the water sooner.”
Throughout each trip, hand-tied flies are used, which you can purchase at any local fly shop or make yourself as you excel in the sport. There are no machine-tied flies in fly fishing. As Shannon will tell you, “The art of fly fishing is not only learning how to cast and how to outsmart the fish, but it’s also about how to make the flies that you use to catch the fish.”
Once you have reached your fishing destination, The Fly Rod Shop instructors can help you perfect your technique as you fish for rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass. The choice of catch-and-release or take home to eat is yours (as long as the law allows for the type of fish you have caught).
In the Lamoille River – Shannon’s personal favorite located 10 miles north of Stowe – you can find all three species of trout. “It’s an awesome fish to eat,” says Shannon, “and The Fly Rod Shop guys are more than willing to share their secret trout recipes.”
The Fly Rod Shop fishing tours run from May 1 through October 31. Spring and fall trips take place during “banker hours,” while summer fishing trips take place at sunrise and sunset to take advantage of the cooler hours of the day.
“Spring and fall, with the cooler water temperatures, are typically the best, most productive time of the year,” says Shannon. “However, because Stowe is located at a higher elevation, the dog days of summer still allow for excellent brook trout fishing all season long.”
And if you are looking for even more of a challenge, ask the team at The Fly Rod Shop about fly fishing for the predatory pike.
*Featured Image: Heikki Immonen via Wikimedia Commons