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Keeping Secrets in Fly-fishing - Part I

Joining the federation of tight-lipped anglers

This is another contribution authored by Carl Ochnio, an avid freshwater fly angler who lives in central Connecticut.  Carl is a former higher education professional who now finds as much time as he can wading in moving water. All photo credits belong to Carl.


One day while scouting for new water, you happened to come upon an amazing honey hole located well off the beaten path. A special place you have since called your own and just thinking about it brings a smile to your face. This find may have occurred last week or fifteen years ago. The exact time or date is not as important as to what happened next.


Finding secret fly-fishing spots (aka, honey holes)


It seems a treasure has been uncovered. In a world where finding solitude has become increasingly difficult, should the lucky pathfinder feel compelled to share this information with their inner fishing circle? Will there be just a tinge of guilt if one chooses not to? What are the guidelines for this particular situation?


Before an angler starts shouting “eureka,” consider this.


On January 24, 1848, a carpenter named James W. Marshall was working at a sawmill on the American River near Placerville, California when he discovered gold in the mill’s tailrace. He informed his employer John Sutter, who requested his workers to keep a tight lid on the discovery. The problem? The find was just too momentous to be kept quiet. Once the news started to spread proclaiming there was “gold in them thar hills,” 49ers soon flocked to California and the gold rush was underway. In retrospect, Marshall and Sutter probably lamented being unable to have kept their discovery secret. Sadly, they never profited from the discovery that should have brought them great wealth.

On a much more modest scale, I struck the motherload a few years ago when the opportunity to retire came along. These days, my goal is to devote as much time as possible wading in moving water. This has resulted in a steady increase in my share of newly discovered sweet spots.

During the spring and summer, I make an effort to be on the water early. Love those morning drives as I am bursting with optimism, caffeine and probably listening to my favorite tunes. Just chugging down the road at a very unhurried pace in my old SUV. I’ll glance in the rear-view mirror and often notice a line of five or six vehicles right on my tail. My standard maneuver is to pull over, allow them pass and let them get to wherever they need to be. The drivers speed by. Their hands clenched to their steering wheel while they actually seem to be leaning slightly forward, trying to coax their vehicle to go even faster. Commuters. I’ll smile and mutter “I’m retired, you’re not, have a nice day.”


Fishing partners can get scarce as we get older….


These days I spend most of my time fishing alone and often this is not by choice. As I have aged my circle of angling sidekicks has dwindled. Some are helping to take care of grandchildren and others are caretakers to aging parents. A few have experienced their own short term health issues and others might be rehabbing one joint or another.

Without question, fishing solo certainly plays a role in keeping these new discoveries from being in the limelight, but it does have drawbacks. One of the major shortcomings is the lack of camaraderie. It also erases the opportunity to reminisce about memorable days and mind-blowing fish counts with someone at a future date. On the favorable side, it’s nice to have someone along, particularly if they have more experience. Should one be unable to figure out what’s going on, a knowledgeable partner might offer insight that could salvage an otherwise poor outing. Of course, it’s wise to have a companion along in the event you take a spill or ever need assistance. Although most excursions start and end without incident, situations can come up on a fishing trip and having a friend along could prove to be indispensable.


…and trustworthy fishing partners even more scarce!


Sure, fishing alone is risky, but so is bringing someone along to a place you consider to be gold. It wasn’t long ago that I was willing to freely share locations with fellow anglers. Today, I’m a bit more reluctant to do so. Should one divulge a find to just a single angler and it turns out to be an unprincipled person, things can start spiraling downhill rapidly. Sure, they swore not to share the news with anyone. Often this oath might last until they are with another friend and utter, “I know a place, but you have to promise to keep it hush-hush.” Then the news seems to spread like wildfire. A trust has been broken, your cherished spot might be burned and a friendship maybe irreversibly singed.


Ben Franklin offered great insight on how to keep things on the down low, “Three can keep a secret, only if two of them are dead.”


This blog post continues with part II, which will be featured shortly.  Tight Lines!

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4 commentaires

Thanks for the stories and articles Carl ... and for turning me on to SW Colorado and NW New Mexico! Blessings, Gary R, USAF-Retired


I’m not a fly fisher, but I do get hooked on Carl’s creative writing!


Since I began my somewhat, mostly annual road trips to the Colorado Rockies in 2006, I would often name the location of the streams I fished in my YouTube videos. I didn't feel so bad dropping the names of a stream after it had already been "discovered" and written or YouTubed about. But this article and a few others are getting me to rethink my approach to "naming names" in future YouTube posts. Thanks for sharing your philosophy on this topic!


Another great article Carl, looking forward to part II…though I recall a conversation we had very similar to this one lol

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