There were no rising fish and no pauses in the sighter. No trout were maneuvered into the net and released back into the cool water. I didn’t pop off a gas nozzle or slip on wet rocks. I didn’t hear the sound of tumbling water or feel its power pushing me along its path. There were no beavers slapping their tails or minks scampering along the water’s edge during my morning dog walks. This was a week where work deadlines, soccer practices, back-to-school nights, and other meetings took precedence over my fishing time. Life didn’t allow fishing this week, but fly fishing was evident in my life in other ways.
Fall is pushing in, and the cold nights start their grip earlier in the evening and hold on longer through the morning. The greens of spring and summer are still contending with the cold, but you can feel the yellows, oranges, and reds will emerge any day. With the changes in air temperature, my brain goes to football, sweatshirts, back-to-school, and safer fishing temperatures in the freestone streams. Those safe temperatures in most years correspond with fall stocking with some fun after-working fishing. With COVID, stocking schedules are more uncertain and have not been managed as in years past.
Instead of stocking schedules, keeping track of virtual class schedules has been my weekly online schedule-tracking exercise. This week I had two virtual back-to-school nights. I am amazed how much hard work the teachers have completed to make the online classes as valuable as possible. One of the many unusual things about the back-to-school night is the ability to see into teachers’ homes. All of us who have constant Zoom calls have seen our co-workers’ kitchen tables, home offices, or any available work space they may have, especially for those parents with young children.
During the back-to-school night, one of my daughters’ teachers had a piece of artwork that I noticed. I could tell it was a rising trout sketched with great detail and the perspective of an avid fly angler. When I mentioned that I liked his artwork, he explained to me it was a piece completed by Frank Burt Smoot. Embarrassingly, I had never heard of Frank Smoot. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about him, his art, and the history of fishing in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Frank Smoot lived to be nearly 100 years old. In his 100 years, he was an accomplished conservationist, educator, and artist. He helped develop a migratory bird treaty with Mexico, hunter safety classes, the 1985 striped bass moratorium, and bans against the use of chlorine in sewage treatment plants that discharge to trout streams. He also led many conservation, hunting, and fishing organizations. He was a founder, leader, and member of the Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock, an organization focused on teaching conservation and stewardship to young people through fishing and outdoor recreation.
His talents and accomplishments were tremendous, and he left an environmental legacy in Maryland and Pennsylvania that is still felt today. My daughter’s teacher won the drawing donated by Mr. Smoot at a Trout Unlimited banquet years ago, and he honors the drawing as a connection to fly fishing and a testament to to the greatness of Mr. Smoot. I won my first fly rod and reel at a Trout Unlimited banquet. That was a big moment in my connection to fly fishing. I appreciated that the teacher also cherished something he had received at a banquet. I now plan on fishing with the teacher and learning more of his experiences and knowledge.
I attended the Trout Unlimited general meeting last week, and I am so impressed at how much the Maryland Chapter has accomplished and the talent and dedication of the members. It is a great organization with great members. I was inspired to share my passions and positive energy, and I look forward to contributing to the Trout Unlimited members, even if I only make a fraction of the impact of Frank Smoot. Fly fishing is building stronger connections in my life, creating more ease in expressing myself, and connecting me to a larger world of driven conservationists, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts. These benefits continue even with a week of no fishing.
I also realize I want to learn more of the history of the sport and learn more about the great things accomplished by those who love the sport. I want to read more and connect with more folks who can share great stories of community and advancements of fly fishing. My first step is to start reading “Caddisflies” by Gary LaFontaine. I’ve heard so much about LaFontaine, his research, and his accomplishments. I am looking forward to learning from his book and finding additional resources to learn about the history of fly fishing.
In the times I can’t fish and I’m having fun spending time with my family, accomplishing things I need to for work, and helping my kids with schoolwork, I can still see how fly fishing has helped me in those spaces. My abilities to focus, learn, and listen have grown from my time fly fishing and have helped me in my time off the river. While being able to fish is something I look forward to, in the weeks without fly fishing, I know my lessons on the river are now a part of the lessons of my life.