A Crash Camping Course: Learning Fly Fishing Techniques and Canoe Navigation

A four-day crash camping course learning fly fishing techniques and canoe navigation, and the sheer joy of being soaked to the skin.

| April/May 1996

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    Anita and Robin breaking camp.
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    Six good flies. A handful of patterns will get you started. I gave Peter my short list of favorites. He can use these flies for just about any freshwater species, and I guarantee that he'll catch fish. The Hare's Ear and the Wooly Bugger are subsurface flies. The others are dry flies and should be cast and fished on the surface. Smaller sizes are more widely applicable.
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    Patrick with a perfect cast.

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Planning a four day camping trip: learning fly fishing techniques and canoe navigation. (See the fly-fishing lure illustration in the image gallery.)

Learning Fly Fishing Techniques and Canoe Navigation

You don't often get to swap anything even up with a physician. When health and life are in the balance, it's hard to imagine what might approach a fair trade. So having the chance to exchange a few hours of basic fly-fishing instruction for some river-canoeing lessons with my physician-friend Peter was, in my mind, a rare occasion where non-doctor and doctor might actually walk away square. Not that Peter is your average physician or that I am your average fly rodder. Peter and his wife Anita, and Ditte (11), Patrick (7), and Robin (5), their three children, live deep in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains in a house that they built themselves. And my wife Kit and I live in New Jersey, in the shadow of the big city.

We sized it up like this: Peter would figure out the route to and down the river. During the trip he would give us an on-the-water river-canoeing tutorial. Peter and his family are experienced river trippers and have covered all kinds of water from Texas to British Columbia. Kit and I had not canoed much in moving water. We could move our boat well enough for most average adventures, but we had never taken it on a river trip or portaged over any significant distance. The East Branch of the Oswegatchie, from its headwaters down to the area known as the Inlet, would be just the ticket for our exercise—slow but curvy, with maybe one or two class-I rapids for good measure.

I have been fly-fishing on and off for the better part of my adult life. On my side, I would round up a serviceable fly-fishing outfit for Peter and by the end of our trip in the Adirondacks ensure that, in addition to his tackle, he would also be equipped with at least a decent basic casting stroke.

The Route  

We planned the trip for the first week in June. This would probably give us the best conditions for a down-current trip. The only disadvantage to this choice of season would be the blackflies. Considering the East Branch starts in a boreal swamp, they would probably be thick.


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