My Witt's End

Fishing For Truth

A Day on the Stream


The first gift my granddaughter, Ruby, gave me was the opportunity to fish the Batten Kill. (The second was a gift card to Starbucks. At 10-days-old, this kid really has my number.) She had the good sense and good fortune to be born in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Her grandmother and I headed north with the spring migrants as soon as time and vacation arrangements allowed. Rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures for mid April kept me inside the first couple days, doing all the things a grandpa is supposed to do—like staying out of the way doing home repair chores.

The weather broke by midweek and I was off to the Holy water of the famed Batten Kill, or Battenkill, take your pick on the spelling.

The beautiful river has its start in the Green Mountains of Vermont and follows a winding course of about 50 miles in its rush to get to the Hudson River. About half that distance is in New York state.

I opted to fish the sections around Eagleville and Battenville—early home of Susan B. Anthony—in the shadow of covered bridges and freshly budding maple, willow and sycamore trees.

As writer John Gierach has said, any guy who starts a fishing story by telling you how beautiful the place is, probably didn’t catch any fish. And so it was. The Batten Kill is a dry-fly fisher’s dream. Incredibly clear water. Long, smooth runs. Pools so deep they appear bottomless. Riffles that go for a quarter mile. Not another human in sight—which should have been a clue.

Late in the afternoons the blue-wing olives and Hendricksons started hatching. Swarms of insects that created a frenzy of activity among the tree swallows, Eastern phoebes and some empidonax fly catchers I could not identify.

One afternoon I was treated to some music by a nearby barred owl. It sounded close but I could not find it. I watched a pileated woodpecker hammer out its nesting cavity and happened upon a half dozen common mergansers sunning themselves on a gravel bar.

All-in-all a successful day or two on the stream. Anyone who thinks fly fishing is about catching fish misses the point. It’s about not doing what others expect of you.

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