Active fishing in fall

Last modified: 9/14/2012 12:00:00 AM
Somehow, somewhere, someone tried to draw a line in the sand between "traditional" outdoor sports like hunting and fishing and "active outdoors" sports like hiking, paddling and camping. Utterly ridiculous.

I've been a hunter and a fisherman all my life. Many of the longest, most enjoyable hikes or paddling excursions I've ever taken have been while fishing. I began biking seriously, in large part, to reach more distant trout streams before I could drive. I imagine many of you are the same.

Now, fishing can get pretty sedentary. Sitting in a lawn chair beside a pond and watching a bobber float on the surface, or sitting in a motor boat and trolling, or even casting for fish is, well, sitting. But is hiking to a backcountry pond or walking and wading several miles of river any less active than the same hike if you weren't fishing? I don't think so.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, I fished for Atlantic salmon in the Petit Saguenay ( river in Quebec. When I booked my morning on the water with a guide, they asked me if I wanted to walk from pool to pool or take an ATV ... silly question.

I met my guide, Samuel Dalpe (who spoke excellent English) at 7 a.m., and we began our day with a three-mile hike up alongside the river. Yup, we walked three miles, in waders, before we ever made our first cast. The walking wasn't hard - we were on a good trail, but still ...

We started fishing at the top of the river and walked at least another three miles downstream. I say "at least" because we followed the twists and turn of the river downstream, fished through several pools more than once, and didn't get to walk on a nice trail - most of the time we were treading carefully on riverside rocks, which is much more tiring than just walking on a trail.

I'd guess, in all, we covered close to eight miles by the time we arrived back at our starting point. And, frankly, I felt like I'd walked a whole lot farther than that. Another couple of hours of fishing on two pools farther upstream (accessible with just a short walk from the cabin where we were staying) ended my day, and by the time I fell asleep to the sound of rushing water that night, I was ready to sleep through the night.

Who says fishing can't be an "active outdoors" sport? And with the water cooling, the fishing is going to get better for the next month or so. You just have to approach it the right way and look for ways to make it more active, healthier and more fun.

Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

 Active angling in Vermont

My son Justin lives in Stowe, Vt., and has been bitten hard by the fishing bug. One might say he's tipped over the edge into complete obsession - a good thing, in my worldview. His main quest this summer has been to catch a big trout, one measured in pounds, not inches. He's been out every evening after work, plying his local ponds and steams, but it's been a rough summer for trout fishermen in Vermont and elsewhere in New England, with low, warm water. Despite that, he's landed and released some very nice fish, but not the really big trout he's been looking for.

With that in mind, I recently booked an evening of trout fishing for the two of us with guide John Synnott of Stream and Brook Fly Fishing ( Hiring a guide for a few hours to show you new waters can be money well spent, and I was hoping Justin would see some new spots and learn some new techniques as we shared time together on the water.

John is easygoing and personable and really, really knows his stuff. When I told him we weren't afraid of walking, you could hear him getting excited. We met him near Otter Creek, which flows north along the western foothills of the Green Mountains into Lake Champlain. Thunderstorms the day before had raised and cooled the water enough to wake the trout up from their summer stupor.

We started with a long walk to reach an area where few other people fish. In fact, we didn't see any other anglers until we were almost back to the car. That's another advantage of being willing to exercise for your angling - the farther you walk from a road, the fewer people you see.

Over the course of our evening, we probably walked three miles or a little more, much of that scrambling over streamside rocks or wading in knee-deep to waist-deep water in strong currents. My legs felt it.

I caught and released five nice trout and couple of smallmouth bass; Justin fished hard and caught more fish than I did, including one gorgeous rainbow that must have been close to 16 inches. The fish were a bonus to a great afternoon spent hiking and listening to the voice of a beautiful river in a beautiful spot.

 Walking and wading

Unfortunately, an invasive algae, Didymosphenia geminate, more commonly known as Didymo or, poetically "Rock Snot," has made its way into some waters in New England and Quebec. To prevent the spread of this infection, Vermont and other places now ban the use of felt soles on wading boots. The porous felt absorbs and holds water, giving hitchhikers a free ride to new waters.

Hiking and wading has always been hard on felt soles - they wear out quickly. So the new wading boots with soft rubber soles and, usually, metal cleats, are a better choice anyway. The best I've found are made by Korkers ( They offer excellent support for real hiking and come with interchangeable soles.

(Tim Jones can be reached at


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