Every Man’s Trout

By Doug Humphreys


Without a doubt, trout fishermen are the finest philosophers.

John Gierach wrote, “They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.”

I’m not much of a trout fisherman—honestly I’m not much of any kind of fisherman—but you don’t have to be one to understand the meaning of fishing. Mr. Gierach also writes, “I used to like fishing because I thought it had some larger significance. Now I like fishing because it’s the one thing I can think of that probably doesn’t.”

In a world where we are attacked by tweets and posts and pins that attempt to make us believe that those around us are smart or profound or maybe even bigger than they are, it’s nice to be able to escape to a trout stream as it will never be more or less than it is, and will always allow us to just be.

It is, however, easy to be intimidated by trout fishing.

Trout fisherman can be a tight-knit bunch and even though they don’t mean it, their circle can be a bit tough to penetrate. Heck, most of them will tell you that they hold themselves in higher regard than most other fishermen. They use funny phrases like roll casting and matching the hatch, and they tend to wear and use fairly specialized gear that is expensive even when you buy the cheap stuff.

A newbie to the sport can feel like they need to purchase a pile of priceless gear and learn a new language just to participate. To this I offer an enthusiastic, Pshaw!

If you have the means and aspire to stand in a stream and wag a stick with a hand-tied fly attached, I encourage it. After all, it is a romantic idea and as close as a person can come to actually being art. But if you have your dollars dedicated to other items, and you are satisfied to fish with less heroic tools, you can still be a trout fisherman.

The tools I use are the definition of simple. I use a 3-section 5’6” rod, so I can break it down and stick it in a pack, making the hiking to little trout streams easier. A micro underspin reel with 2-pound test makes sure I have a usable reel casting what is essentially a tippet. I cast a size 10 or 12 hook with a trout worm.

This is really simple, very inexpensive stuff. So much so that many of my fly casting brethren are cringing in disapproval . . . but I know they don’t really mean it.

I flick my worm into eddies behind rocks, into undercut embankments, or let it naturally float the current through pools. On days when the surface of the water is covered with the rings of feeding trout, I sometimes wish for a dry fly. But most days I prove that in a world where humans constantly try to evolve ourselves and the creatures around us beyond our true genetics, fish still like worms. Even fancy fish, like trout.

If you want to try your hand at catching trout, either as a wader-wearing, fly-wagging vision from a movie or a regular guy with a hook and a worm, you can do it right here in the Shenandoah Valley. For information, start at www.seeshenandoah.com/2009/05/fishing.html.

You may catch a fish with almost every cast, you may not catch a fish at all. But remember that regardless of the number of fish in your creel at the end of the day, the worst day fishing is better than the best day at work. This isn’t philosophical theory; it’s simply the way it is.