So began my first conversation with Drew Price; a conversation we had when the snow was still falling, and schools of winter steelhead ran the currents and eddies of my dreams. We've corresponded many times since that first conversation, sending emails back and forth and sharing the occasional phone call. Each time we've connected, the subjects remained the same. I spoke of steelhead, brown trout, spey flies, and the Battenkill. Drew spoke of carp, pike, bowfin, and his love for Lake Champlain.
|An interesting greeting awaited us lakeside|
I must admit that I had often thought of making the short drive up north and fishing the big lake. That I didn't owes much to the incredible vastness of the water. It was - after all - once considered the sixth of the Great Lakes. And while Champlain may only be a fraction of the size of either Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, or Ontario, it is still an enormous body of water, and most intimidating when one is considering his or her first trip to its shores. Where to begin? It seems an impossibly difficult question.
I suppose it is fair to say that cartographic intimidation is the reason, more than anything else, that I decided to do something I've avoided throughout my entire 32 years as a bug chucker. I used the services of a guide - my new friend, Drew Price of Master Class Fly Fishing - to ensure I had a proper introduction to Champlain. Drew is a gentleman, an exceedingly competent fly fisher, and very enthusiastic about his home fishery.
|Drew with one of the many gar we brought to hand|
Until I was introduced to Drew, I had never heard of bowfin. Truth be told, I hadn't heard of quite a few fish until I began speaking with Drew. To my way of thinking - especially now that I've caught a few - a bowfin is twenty or thirty odd inches of prehistoric viciousness eking out a modest living in modern North American lakes. They're the last surviving member of a species of fish whose ancestors swam the waters of the Jurassic period. Also known as dogfish or mudfish, bowfin look a bit like snakehead, but unlike the fish found in so many Florida ponds and canals, they're not an invasive species. Bowfin are native to Champlain, and a vital part of the lake's ecosystem.
|Hard to believe the teeth on these things. Multiple rows of pure evil|
|I had never seen a canoe quite like Drew's boat. Well suited to cruising over weed beds, and very comfortable over a long day.|
When the wind kicked up we switched gears, and moved to a different bay that was both shielded from the gale and loaded with gar. When I say that the bay was loaded with fish, I mean that I could not believe how many gar we were able to mark. Conservatively, we spotted 200 needlefish sunning themselves right at the surface of the water.
|For the sake of perspective, the fly is about seven or eight inches long.|
|I am one of those people who hasn't any idea how to pose for a camera.|