fly rod

Graduating to a new experience, this angler is catching bass on a fly rod in the Androscoggin River.

JUNE is a month filled with graduations throughout New Hampshire when high school and college students mark the end of one era and the beginning of another. Commencement speakers encourage growth and tell of unlimited opportunity.

Andy Schafermeyer Adventures Afield

Last Saturday, I attended one of these ceremonies, finding myself inspired by the significance of personal growth and moving on. Not surprisingly, the inspiration had little effect on goals as they relate to my career, but more as a sportsman.

It can be easy to reach a point where one seems to have reached a plateau in preferred outdoor recreation. Many my age find themselves fishing the same water, hunting the same woods and hiking the same trails year after year. Those methods that bring success are naturally duplicated and eventually become the norm — used repeatedly and sometimes thoughtlessly.

In this strange way, familiarity and confidence in outdoor sports can actually stifle growth and limit opportunity. Borrowing from the themes of June graduations, I have decided to keep learning and move on to other challenges.

There are some species of fish that are synonymous with those types of tackle used to catch them. A rubber worm, for example, is designed for bass as clearly as a dry fly is for trout. Perhaps breaking this mold can bring new challenges with exciting results.

As recently as last week, I visited a section of the Androscoggin River in Gorham in hopes of graduating to a new experience. This section of river is known for huge smallmouth bass and I hoped to catch one with a fly rod that since had only landed trout.

I selected a grasshopper pattern and looked for water where bass might live. It was difficult to break the habit of reading the water as it relates to trout and salmon. Instead of fast water with significant turbulence, I walked into setbacks and weedy pockets of the river.

The hopper imitation looked great, as if it might have just miscalculated a jump and landed helplessly in the water. I gave it a few twitches to mimic the struggle of a susceptible food source and it looked even better.

After a few more casts, I convinced a bass to splash aggressively and bite. Once hooked, it swam from calm, quiet water into the busy energy of the river. The bass made several runs up, down and across the river, the action keeping my fly rod bent in half for almost three minutes.

Before releasing the fish, I made sure it had regained its strength while swimming gently in my net. It occurred to me that this net, which has held thousands of trout and salmon, had never cradled a bass and the image was different, fascinating to observe.

The spiny dorsal fin, which stuck slightly out of the water, created a line of symmetry between the dark golden markings of the bass. It moved slowly, comfortably with the current and, as I lowered the net, swam confidently away.

Throughout the day, I fished in a manner that I never had and the change was very exciting. As I often do, I looked forward to writing about it and felt a commencement-like theme weaving among the words.

Perhaps my words can inspire anglers to move on, try something new and move forward.

Adventures Afield appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Andy Schafermeyer at troutandsalmon1@gmail.com