ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The sometimes cost of getting skunked

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 8/12/20

A few months ago, an old friend suggested that my writing style was a bit too technical and professorial for a fishing column, so for this piece, I decided to lighten things up a bit. While the event …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The sometimes cost of getting skunked

Posted

A few months ago, an old friend suggested that my writing style was a bit too technical and professorial for a fishing column, so for this piece, I decided to lighten things up a bit. While the event I described here is not factual, the details associated with the cost of equipment are!

The other night, after a so-so day on the river, I stopped in at one of the local watering holes to grab a burger and a beer, much like my friend Dave Brandt and I used to do after a day’s teaching at the Wulff School. At the bar, I found two of my fishing buddies who had quit the river a bit early, which is never a good sign. Fly fishers seldom leave the water if trout are feeding at the surface. So, I guessed that things were desperately quiet for them, and they chose beer and burgers over the erratic behavior of mayflies and uncooperative trout.

After I placed my order, I walked over, took a stool and asked why they stopped fishing so early. They both replied: “The fishing sucked; no flies and, of course, no rising trout. We did try nymphs, but just a few little guys, so we packed it in and came here for some food and a few beers.”

“How about you?” one of my friends asked.

“I did move two good fish this morning before the river warmed,” I said. We had been fishing one of the Catskill’s freestone rivers in late June, where water temperature tended to cool over night, but warm rapidly during the day.

As the evening progressed and the beer bottles began to accumulate, I decided to have a little fun. “So, you two fished the river for several hours today, with little or no action, right?” They nodded in agreement. “For starters, let’s talk fly rods,” I said.

“What about fly rods?” my other friend asked.

“Well you just received a bamboo rod from Per Brandin—that rod cost over four grand, right?”

“So, what’s wrong with that?”

At that point, I left that conversation and started in with my other friend. “Don’t you have a fairly new Chris Raine cane rod?”

“Yes, and it is a very fine rod; Chris is one of the best rod builders in America, if not the best,” Brandin included. I asked him how much.

“With tax and shipping, almost three thousand.”

“So here we are, drinking beer and kibitzing about fly rods that collectively cost almost $7,000, not fishing and without a decent trout landed, right?” My one friend grimaced but reluctantly agreed. Not wanting to stop the fun, I added another little barb. “In addition to those very fine but costly fly rods, didn’t you both recently buy new Simms G4 waders and new Simms wading brogues? What are we talking here—you know, cost?”

“Why are you asking us all these questions?” my friend asked.

“I’m just having a little fun with you two; trying to figure what it costs to hit the river these days.” He informed that the waders cost about $800 and the brogues another $200. I asked about the reels they were using—Hardy Perfects, they answered, which go about $500 each, if you could find one. The lines cost an additional $100 each.

“So, without taking into account, vests, rain jackets, flies and assorted other gear, we’re talking about, a rough cost to get on the river, $7,000 in rods, $1,000 in reels, $2,000 in waders, $400 in brogues and $200 in fly lines for a total of $10,200 in tackle. Not to mention food, lodging and gas, right?”

“I never thought about my equipment in those terms, but yes, that sounds about right.”

“Keeping all of that in mind, do you remember when we were kids and fished for book trout in the creek up the road, with a $5 Sears rod and a $0.50 reel, a level fly line, a few hooks and a can of worms, and caught more fish?”

“Yes,” they both agreed. “And you know what, sometimes that was more fun.”

In today’s sport of fly fishing, the cost of a day on the river, for some, can be extremely high, depending on the angler’s mindset and bank account. And because of the competition and hype, it’s become—just maybe—not as much fun and carefree as a few kids dunking worms on a local creek, years ago. I know that $10,000 is a lofty figure, yet that is what more than a few folks are willing to spend in pursuit of their sport.

The cost some people pay to get skunked on the river!

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