`Presenting' bug to fish: the fine art of fly-fishing
Where's a yuppie to go on those in-between days when spring skiing has turned to slush in Aspen, the theater is dead in New York, and the sailboat is stuck in dry dock on Nantucket? Some make it to Manchester, Vt., a town so picture-perfect it looks as if nothing real has ever happened there. Old New England wooden houses sparkle with fresh white paint and tasteful forest-green shutters. Creamy Vermont marble sidewalks stretch like great slabs of penuche fudge between inviting stores with cutesy names like The Bumblebee and Butterfly, Johnny Appleseed Bookshop, and The Gooseberry.Skip to next paragraph
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But it's more than New England charm that lures the upwardly mobile from across county to rent four-wheel-drives and head for these hills.
Since 1850, Manchester has been the home of Orvis -- mecca of that most cerebral of sports, fly-fishing.
Just a short cast from Route 7 is the gray weathered Orvis showroom where salesmen will help you choose anything from a hand-tied mayfly clone to a French brass duck press -- on sale this week for $285.
You may tour the factory and see how six pieces of Chinese bamboo become a 6-foot, 258-ounce, $875 fly rod. Or watch the famous Orvis graphite rods being honed to the precision of a fencing foil.
The real action, though, is in back of the showroom around a small pond stocked with brown trout -- which share the water with a school of bulbous goldfish dumped in by local pranksters. There, 32 of us gathered that bright spring day -- as 10,000 have over the past 18 years -- to learn the delicate sport of fly-casting. For three days, under the critical eyes of half a dozen instructors, we were patiently guided in the fine art of ``presenting'' a fly to the shy and elusive trout.
After we were divided into two groups, ``Brookies'' and ``Rainbows,'' half went off to watch a video on the sex life of the mayfly. The rest got a chance to fish. Well -- sort of. No hooks and no flies.
``Choose a rod that's comfortable,'' advised Craig, one of our instructors, as he dumped an armload of aluminum canisters on the grass by the pond. ``Then take a reel, and I'll show you how to thread the line,'' he added as we all slipped a spaghetti-thin graphite rod from each canister. The instructors, all bright-eyed and eager, have short, Tom Swifty action names like Craig, Rick, Gordie, and Buck. If they all look a little too square-jawed and handsome, it's not surprising; most double as models for clothes and equipment in the Orvis catalog.
``Now we're not going to give you any flies yet. You don't need them to cast. It's the weight of the line that carries the fly,'' he said, demonstrating by pulling a Hendrickson thorax fly from his 35-pocket fishing vest and throwing it with all his might, only to have it drop like a sinker a few feet from his Lightweight Orvis Wading Shoes With Reinforced Toes.
You never actually fish the Orvis pond with a real hook until the last day. Even then, any fish caught are carefully released.
So there we stood, spaced safely apart, snapping our lines like cowboys on a buckboard.
``OK. OK. Wait a minute. You hear that snap?'' said Craig as he watched our lines wither in midair, tangle, and drop with a plop. ``We love that sound. That's what we call a dollar-fifty cast. That's what a fly costs. When you snap your line, the feathers go flying and you're left with a bare hook.''
As each of us needed help, one of the instructors would rush to our side with words of comfort and advice as we waded in to untangle our lines from the cat-o'-nine-tails.