Our tour of New England’s tippy top continued as we said goodbye to Pittsburg and made our way down blue highways out of the Granite state and up into Vermont’s lakeside town, Newport, on Mephremagog. Before we left we Bill Bernhardt, a fishing guide with Lopstick Outfitters, who makes his living taking visitors out fishing in his favorite trout streams and on the First Connecticut and other nearby lakes.
Movie star handsome with bronzed arms and a serious mien, Bill relaxed as we chatted about his eleven years as a fishing guide and his experiences casting into trout streams in Patagonia, Montana and Wyoming. He always hires an guide when he goes on vacaction, and he said he doesn’t even tell his local guides that he himself is a guide. He let’s the local guide show him the way, ‘because nobody knows their local streams like that local guide does.’
I was impressed by his humbleness–who but a very confident man could resist spilling that he guides for a living too?
We made our way wearing waders and carrying well-crafted Orvis rods down to the narrow roiling waters of the Connecticut. The Connecticut! We crossed the clear flowing stream by foot–never thinking in all of the years we have lived beside this giant body of water that somewhere we could do that. Bill affixed tiny nymph flies onto our 8 1/2 foot long rods, and we casted out into the water, letting the bobber float and the flies work their magic six feet down the thin leader.
The feeling of the water compressing our legs as we waded deeper is just one of the things that makes fly fishing so enticing. That and the complex nuances that Bill shared with us about water depth, behavior of the landlocked salmon, brown and rainbow trout we were pursuing, and the sunlight glinting off the beautiful Connecticut as it flowed out of the First Connecticut lake. The saying “a day of fishing beats a day of work’ could never have been more true.
Only four other fishermen were on the river on this Saturday morning, quite the contrast from the crowded streams I’ve seen before. It helped that Bill had taken us down a ways from the more crowded positions right under the dam. I hooked an 18″ rainbow trout and my heart pounded as I listened to Bill coach me to whip the rod up to set the hook…but I didn’t do it fast enough and that big one got away.
I understand now why so many men my age spend thousands on rods, reels and guides to pursue fish that they don’t even bring home to put in a frying pan. The crisp air, the feeling of solitude on a river, the expertise that Bill demonstrates as he casts his flies and the multitude of other calming effects of a morning fishing are easily explained and understood once you’ve done it.
You should have seen that big rainbow I almost landed!