Thirty Years

Hendrickson’s Pool, more than a decade after I first glimpsed its historic environs. I kept coming back…

To the best of my knowledge, it has been sixty years since I first held a bamboo fly rod. My grandfather was the fly fisherman in our family, born in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Hills, he returned when he could to fish the brooks and rivers he grew up on. Pieces of his old, broken bamboo rods I found in his garage early on became my playthings. When I was five, he strung up the rod he fished with and placed it in my hand, showing me how to wave it back and forth to cast the line. That brief moment left an impression.

In 1990 we moved from Southern Maryland to Ellicott City, an historic old town west of Baltimore, and I found myself at last close to trout streams. The Patapsco River, Morgan Run and the Gunpowder Falls drew me to their bright waters, where I fished for trout with an ultralight spinning rod. It was a beautiful experience, something I had longed for since boyhood, but there was something missing.

On the Gunpowder I chanced upon a fly fisherman, and there before me was that old rhythm. As I watched the line roll back and forth in the air, then thrilled as the rod arched with a splashing trout, I understood my path. When next I visited the stream, I carried an eight-foot fly rod. I learned some from reading, and watching Scientific Anglers’ video series that was broadcast on our cable TV, but most of all I learned from time on the water. My fly rod took me further afield as I discovered the limestone country of the Cumberland Valley and the glorious Catskill Mountains.

The last stone arch bridge crossing the Falling Spring Branch in Chambersburg, PA, captured on a June evening with sunlight dancing upon the water.

Seemingly before I knew it, I found myself thirty years downstream, living in those same Catskill Mountains and taking my soul’s sustenance from the bright waters which rush and glide from their summits. A bamboo fly rod simply belongs in my hand now, a part of me as inseparable as the hand itself.

Life is measured in time, but for me the value of life may be measured in river miles. The years twist and turn, following the meanders of the flow. It is a continuous journey, for even though I may tread the banks by trails my feet have grown accustomed to, no river remains the same; it is new each moment of each and every day, vibrant and magical.

Looking back there has always been wonder in my time along rivers. Much that I struggled to learn has been folded into my mind and my heart now, thirty years of experiences, trials and errors, victories and defeats. Though I am counted an old hand at this fly fishing game, all of that wonder remains. In the quiet moments of solitude, working a trout rising to something I cannot see, the magic and mystery of it all tantalizes my imagination. Those of us touched by waters live for that moment!

3 thoughts on “Thirty Years

  1. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed this read this morning while having my coffee!

    I too remember my 1st time holding a fishing rod and have had similar paths in life, growing up along the Yough River in Western PA. I now live in Maryland and often fish Morgan Run (20 minutes from my home), the Gun Powder and various streams in PA (Little J, Penn’s, Pine, Spruce and Yellow Creeks); when ever I return to my boyhood home area to visit family, I always try and get time on the Yough as well as Laurel Creek.

    My younger brother and I have our 2022 sites set on venturing into the New York Catskills area — beyond the once a year fall trip into the Oak Orchard area — with stops at the Archer’s Club for Browns and Steelhead.

    I find your posts a great source of information, kinda helping in advance to ‘ready my senses’ by mapping in my head the possibilities and adventures to fish such beautiful waters (as shared in your photos and words)…thanks again and I hope to be there in person before I turn 66 in June.


    1. Weather is the great variable but, given wadable river levels, the last week of May and first week of June are prime time here, though you will find a host of anglers then. Good Luck!


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