How It Started

August 3, 2018

There was a small shop attached to the house where he tied flies and built fly rods. Everything was a mystery as I opened the screen door, but I recognize the smell of cedar once I walked in. I knew nothing about leaders, tippets, tapers or nymphs. I just knew I wanted to fish dry flies.

I was turning sixteen that summer, and the fishing had slowed — again. It always did. When the sun climbed higher and my freestone waters grew clear with their summer flows, the minnows I’d learned to fish so well just stopped catching trout. It happened every year, but I was old enough to be aware of the shift this time.

With my driver’s license, I discovered that traveling further to fish new creeks didn’t solve the problem — the minnows still didn’t work. But I knew I’d found better water when trout rose all around me. They delivered a message. They wanted nothing to do with my bait, and now I understood why.

So the gentle, bearded man sold me a hand-crafted fly rod — and a fly line, a reel, a leader, some tippet and a box full of hand-tied flies, all for a price that must have actually cost him money. It was more like a gift to the curious young man in his shop.

He seemed so certain about things. We talked about flies and fishing and rivers and trout. The only other man I knew who carried that kind of assurance in fishing matters was my uncle, who’d taught me the ways of fishing the fathead minnow.

He then drew for me a map to Fisherman’s Paradise on Spring Creek. With pencil and paper abruptly torn from a notebook, he traced a path leading from where I was standing to where I am right now.

He told me where to park and how to fish. He showed me the basic cast, and I left through the screen door.

I removed the minnow needle and double bait hooks from my vest that night. I spent hours in the damp and dim basement, holding a fly rod and the strange thick line, dreaming of what might come. I found a pocket for the box of flies and a home for the spool of tippet. In the dark of the morning, I left my minnow bucket behind and followed the map to the river where I was told there was a wild trout behind every rock.

I caught no fish. But I’ve never forgotten the trout that rose to my flies that day. It’s all I needed.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Alex Argyros

One day, when I was a teenager, I was fishing below the first bridge upstream from Junction Pool on the Beaverkill. A fish rose to my fly and I hooked it. But as I was bringing it in, awkwardly and with wild haste, it got away. A man was standing on the bridge. He tried to make me feel better by saying something like, “It was a small one. There are bigger fish in the river.” I agreed with him, but I couldn’t tell him that I was crestfallen because that little trout was my first on a dry fly.… Read more »


Short though your post was, far too short, the subject matter you touched upon makes this one of my favorites. Nicely said. When I turned 16 I bought an ancient, 1970 Ford Econoline van and it took me to soooo many new streams and adventures. Beyond here be dragons… great fun.

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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