Valley Angler-Fishing Canoe

A fishing canoe, like the Old Town Laker, generally has a wider beam for stability. (BILL THOMPSON PHOTO)

“Dip and swing, flashing like silver/Swift as the wild goose flies/Dip, dip and swing.” I am not sure why, but for some reason I haven’t been able to get that old song out of my head. I guess that is the reason why I have needed to get my canoe in the water again.

I have owned all kinds of “personal watercraft” over the years and have found some quite useful. I have owned several different float tubes and when it comes to remote ponds that require a hike to access, the float tube is invaluable. Sitting in a float tube on a remote pond is a wonderful thing. Loons seem to have no fear of a fisherman in a tube, and they will often come close to check you out.

My wife Janet and I thoroughly enjoyed our personal pontoon boats, which we named the Rachel and the Pequod. Like a float tube, waders are required, but on a warm day — and if you don’t mind getting wet — you could go without.

Pontoon boats are heavier than a float tube and more awkward to carry. It is not the best option if a long walk is required to reach the water. They are a pleasure to cast a fly rod from as you sit higher off the water than in a float tube. The fact that you can row both back and forward with these craft is a definite plus for getting into a good casting position.

The one small craft that I have never warmed up to is the kayak. I just can’t get comfortable in one. However, there are many who love them, and there are some excellent models designed just for anglers. They are just not my cup of tea.

As for the canoe, it is the “almost perfect watercraft.” They are easy to car top and launch; although as I grow older this isn’t as easy as it once was. They are a pleasure to paddle and glide effortlessly through the water. And they lend themselves perfectly to fishing.

Although the canoe is a suitable platform for casting it lends itself to trolling. This was another reason for wanting to get the canoe out again, I wanted to revisit my roots and troll a fly again.

If you are a true purist you probably take a dim view of trolling. However, there is an art to it. To be honest, it is fun, and you can cover a lot of water. If you like to paddle and explore you have the added bonus of being able to fish at the same time.

In preparation for my retro outing, I dug around a little and found an old Pflueger 1498 Medalist already spooled with a full sinking fly line. The old Medalist reels are perfect for trolling.

If you are seeking an older U.S. made Medalist you may have to pay a little more. However, the larger size 1495 and 1498 don’t command the higher prices of the smaller models. The newer models, made overseas, are cheaper and work just as well and are fine for bouncing around in the bottom of a canoe.

A cheap level line is all that you need for trolling. There’s no need to break the bank on a tapered line. If the pond you are fishing is not “fly only” try spooling up three or four colors of lead line to get down deep.

There is no need to spend a lot of bucks on a fly rod either. A longer rod has an advantage as it keeps your line away from the boat: a nine footer is fine.

Other important items are a life preserver — don’t head out without one and don’t stuff it under the seat, put it on — and a net. It is hard to hand line a frisky trout, and it can lead to tipping over. Get a long handled net, as the ones you wear on your vest just won’t cut it. I also use a rod holder to keep my fly rod from under foot and within easy reach.

Just about any canoe will do, although there are those that are made just for fishermen. A fishing canoe generally has a wider beam for stability. Mine is an Old Town Laker and has a wide enough beam that I can comfortably stand up and cast. A canoe with a keel is also helpful as it will track better and also adds some stability.

In spite of the spat of cold, rain and wind we have been experiencing lately, I did manage to find a couple of days to get the canoe on the water.

The first trip was a shakedown cruise, and I didn’t expect much in the way of catching trout. However, it wasn’t long after getting my line out that the rod bent, and I had a small trout. Remember, I said it was a good idea to bring a net, well, I had forgotten mine and even though the trout was small he wasn’t buying into the idea of holding still in my hand. I did manage to release him without upending. That proved to be the only trout of the outing.

A second trip, a couple of days later, proved to be better. This time, I had my canoe net and an anchor. I had brought along a second rod for casting. As it worked out, there were a few rising trout and by anchoring up and casting dries I caught some respectable trout.

I never did catch one on a trolled fly, but I did enjoy paddling about the pond. “Dip, dip and swing them back, flashing like silver,” still can’t get that song out of my head.

See you on the river.

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