Archive for May, 2009

Since yesterday’s blog post www.tinyurl.com/henrydavid we have recieved some good responses as well as “expert testimony” which prove that Henry David Thoreau was not the originator of the following famous fishing quote:

 “Many Men Go Fishing Their Entire Lives Without Knowing It Is Not Fish They Are After.” 

Drop this quote or one of it’s many variants into Google and you’ll get over 2 million hits.  Many that we’ve read attribute this wonderful passage to Henry David Thoreau, one of the most important naturalists and writers in our history. 

Well, while this quote is beautiful and evokes the meaning and depth of what it means to be a fisher, it looks like Henry was not the originator. Over the years it seems that we as fishers have collectively Thoreau’n ourselves a curveball. We have transferred our ability to tell massive, truth stretching fish stories to the world of quotes and literature.

 The first reader to reach this conclusion was Greg Harris aka “The Idaho Caddis”.  Greg is is the 2nd Vice President of the Fly Fishers of Idaho. He sent us this link to the Thoreau Institute’s page of HDT Misquotations . Thanks Greg!

We had also put an inquiry into the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. The Institute’s webpage is www.walden.org . Their curator of collections and Thoreau scholar Jeffrey Cramer was kind enough to email StoneFly Vineyards with his position on this matter.  Pasted below is the fascinating series of emails, pasted into this post with the permission of Jeffrey and the Thoreau Institute

Dear StoneFly Nick,

I just wanted to follow up on our conversation about the quotation, “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.” (Variant: “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”)

Although it has been attributed to Thoreau in many places, particularly on the Internet, it was definitely not written by him. It is probably based on the following passage from his Journal of 26 September 1853:

It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.

The closest parallel in a non-Thoreau text is from E.T. Brown’s Not Without Prejudice: Essays on Assorted Subjects (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1955) p. 142: “When they go fishing, it is not really fish they are after. It is a philosophic meditation.” There may be other non-Thoreau variants but I haven’t found them yet.

Being immersed in Thoreau’s life and works on a daily basis here at the Thoreau Institute, having read him for a lifetime and published several works on Thoreau, I can without hesitation say that there is no doubt that the quotation is not Thoreau’s.

Here’s a little information on the Institute: The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods Library is a  non-for-profit research center that collects research materials relating to Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), his historical context, and his contemporary relevance to environmental and human-rights issues. It provides the most comprehensive body of Thoreau-related material available in one place, consisting of 8,000 books and over 60,000 items, including manuscripts, clippings, articles, correspondence of Thoreau scholars, photographs, maps and surveys, personal histories, slides, scrapbooks, ephemera, and realia. The Institute is owned and managed by the Walden Woods Project, which preserves the land, literature and legacy of Henry David Thoreau by fostering an ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.  The Project accomplishes this mission through the integration of conservation, education, and research. Our website is: www.walden.org.

And then the follow-up email:

Dear StoneFly Nick

 Nick, I’ve tracked the misquotation to a writer named Michael Baughman, who wrote in A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995), probably mis-remembering the journal passage:  “I think it was in Walden where he wrote that a lot of men fish all their lives without ever realizing that fish isn’t really what they’re after.” I’m fairly confident that this is where it all started.

Thanks to Jeff and to Greg for helping to clear up the truth on this matter. And given that we at StoneFly Vineyards winery were about to use this quote in one of our booklets and attribute to Thoreau we have learned a good lesson in doing our research before incorporating common quotes and passages into our materials.

StoneFly Nick


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We have a project for you wine, fishing and literature lovers. StoneFly Vineyards needs your help and expertise in identifying the source of the following quote or one of it’s related variants.  

 “Many Men Go Fishing Their Entire Lives Without Knowing It Is Not Fish They Are After.” 

Is this from Henry David Thoreau? Well, if you get digital and ask Dr. Google you would mostly read “yes”. It seems to be commonly accepted by novice and expert fly fishers alike that the source of this beautiful passage or a very close variant was Henry David Thoreau.

Yet we’ve never been able to find the exact page in the exact book that proves this to us. And on a recent writing project this issue became excruciatingly problematic. We wanted to use the quote as it perfectly encapsulates our perspective on fishing and fly fishing.  But who were we to cite as the author?

From fishing lodges to fly fishing magazines this passage seems to be as frequent as the trusted words “Lefty Kreh” or “Orvis” or “Elk Hair Caddis”. We even found ourselves mired in a friendly argument on this subject in a Bozeman, Montana bar (Fortunately we made it out safely)!

The fact is we have never seen or read the proof that good old Henry D. Thoreau wrote or muttered these words…EVER. So can one of you who’ve read more Thoreau than us help by providing verifiable evidence?

Email nickp [at] stoneflyvineyards.com with a scanned image of the original quote in it’s original context. Or you can send us the copy of the text you own and we’ll send it back to you promptly.

Whoever is the first to prove that Henry David Thoreau was the originator of this stunningly beautful quote will soon be enjoying wine from StoneFly Vineyards.

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Fly fishers…The one of a kind, remarkable film “The River Runs Through It” will be re-released on Blue Ray disc in early July.

Check out the press release at Mid-Current: http://www.midcurrent.com/news/2009/05/the-movie-remastered-rerelease.html

The new release, as described in Mid-Current, will feature:
Never Before-Released Deleted Scenes
All-New Featurette: Casting a Line: The Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing
Hosted by master fly fisherman Brandon Boedecker, this segment takes us step by step through the process of fly fishing.
All-New Featurette: The Blackfoot Challenge: Rescuing a River
The compelling true story of the destruction of Montana’s Blackfoot River, and how a committed group of volunteers (assisted by Robert Redford and the film crew) helped generate enough money to restore this natural treasure.
All-New Featurette: Deep Currents: Making a River Runs Through It
In an in-depth exploration of the movie’s creation, Redford talks about his long and challenging journey to turn Norman Maclean’s evocative book into a transcendent piece of cinema.
BD Exclusive: On The Blackfoot River Hi-Def Looping Screen Savers

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Grand Slam Fly Fishing’s Rob Provo is passionate about his business of “planning and hosting fly fishing adventures on some of the most picturesque and world renowned bodies of water in the world.” 

In speaking with Rob today I am particularly impressed by one of his offerings tailored to organizations and companies who are needing some time away from the office to relax, fish and strengthen their ties as a team.

Grand Slam Fly Fishing Destinations, LLC can match your corporate outing goals with the perfect fly-fishing destination to create a memorable annual event for your top employees and clients.


Additionally Rob and his much better half have spent their careers serving in the armed forces (USAF in this case). We thank them for their service.

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Dear StoneFly Vineyards and Sipping Trout fans: Recently, noted author and outdoorsman Bill Semion gave us a ring and offered to share his wealth of knowledge of Northern Michigan.  At StoneFly we are honored to meet folks like Bill on our journey and welcome the opportunity to share their wealth of knowledge with you our readers and fans. We hope everyone enjoys the read!!! Please comment and let us know your thoughts and questions.


Grayling. Home to two of the Midwest’s top canoeing streams. Grayling. Home to arguably the top freestone trout fishing streams east of the Mississippi. Grayling. Home to a state park that tells the story of the forests that re-built Chicago after the Great Fire. And home to other outdoor fun, from downhill and cross-country skiing in winter, to mountain biking and just kickin’ back stream- or lakeside in summer.

Is it any wonder that this north central Lower Michigan town, about a five-hour drive from Chicago up U.S. 127 is revered by so many? Here’s some of what this small town has going for it:

Take a canoe trip from several hours to several days on either the Au Sable or Manistee rivers, within a few miles of each other here. Liveries in town will outfit you for day trips, or prepare you for an overnight trek on the Au Sable, up to 150-miles to Lake Huron, or on the Manistee west to Lake Michigan.

Don your waders or hire a guide like retired teacher Bob Andrus for a trip through the famed Holy Waters flies-only stretch of the Au Sable, where the national conservation group Trout Unlimited was conceived, or in the more rustic Manistee, in a historic Au Sable River drift boat (call him at 989-390-2814). He’ll tell you what to use. If you want to wade, get advice on where and what flies to use at Gates Au Sable Lodge, (gateslodge.com) where there are great riverside rooms, a great fly shop and a restaurant.

Or, try the river on your own at one of the many public access sites, some of which also feature rustic state forest campgrounds. The river hosts lots of mayfly species hatching throughout the late-April-through September season. For more river information, check out oldausable.com.

Six miles north of town, visit 10,000-acre Hartwick Pines State Park (michigan.gov/dnr, then click to “recreation, camping”). See how 19th century lumberjacks lived at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum. The Michigan Forest Visitor Center tells the story of lumber in Michigan’s past and present.

Walk the park’s trails through its redwood-like virgin white pines, with a canopy so thick that little vegetation grows below. Step inside the contemplative Chapel in the Pines and drive the park’s interpretive trail, or pedal its mountain bike trails, open for cross-country skiing in winter. Or, try downhill skiing at Skyline Ski area, or nearby Boyne Mountain (see accompanying story).

Stop at the Grayling Fish Hatchery and walk the 1914-era raceways to see huge trout. Take home a bit of the town from Goodale’s Bakery, home of the best cinnamon bread you’ve ever tasted, and unique English muffin bread, shipped nationwide.

Contact the Grayling Convention and Visitors Bureau for more, at 800-937-8837, or grayling-mi.com.

In nearby Roscommon, stop first at the Fifth Street Market (989-275-7300) which has the best wine selection in North Central Lower Michigan. Then choose from several canoe/kayak liveries in town for a float down the Au Sable’s South Branch. Or, don your fly fest and waders and head for this area’s other Nirvana of trout, the 4,500-acre Mason Wilderness Tract, about three miles north of town, and starting only a mile downstream from my riverfront vacation home.

Given to the state by the widow of an auto company magnate,  fishing access sites are tucked into the woods along a two-track road here (it’s best to go in with a GPS so you can find your way out again if you’re not with a local) that runs the length of the tract. Expect real wilderness stuff, including a roaming black bear or several, and some say even cougar.

Some of the best brook and brown trout fishing in the eastern U.S. reaches its height here in June and early July with the “hex hatch,” the appearance of the giant Michigan mayfly, or Hexagenia limbata. These three-in-long mayflies are active at night, bringing out the biggest brown trout in the river to feed with wild abandon as the flies hatch out or blanket the river in a spinner fall.

Don’t let the river fool you by its placid looks on a sunny summer afternoon. The trout know the dinner bell rings evenings that time of year. Earlier in the season—which always starts the last Saturday of April—best action will be in the afternoon on Henrickson mayflies, caddis and stoneflies.

Fly shops in Grayling (again, oldausable.com), will have information on the progression of hatches.

While you’re waiting on the fish, the river is also a great kayak adventure. You’ll be maneuvering around “sweepers,” skeletons of cedar trees that swoop over the river and up. The Mason Tract hiking and cross-country ski trail also parallels the river for 12 miles. There’s rustic camping at the north end, at Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground.

Nearby, relax during the day at what are considered two of the best inland lake state parks in the state, on Higgins Lake. Families love the Higgins Lake South State Park (michigan.gov/dnr, see the “recreation, camping” section) especially, as it’s knee-deep nearly 700 sandy feet into the water, perfect for keeping an eye on the kids.

Closest major Michigan airports to the Grayling-Roscommon area are in Saginaw to the south and Traverse City to the northwest, but there are smaller public strips in Houghton Lake and Grayling.


Make It Boyne for Golf

Got northern Michigan golf on your agenda? Head to Boyne Mountain, where between it and its sister resort Boyne Highlands, you’ll find 162 championship holes within 30 minutes’ drive.

Boyne’s ski slopes became the launching pad for the country’s largest privately owned resort business. Boyne Mountain’s renaissance includes the Mountain Grand Lodge, a stunning combination of 220 one- to three-bedroom suites, Avalanche Bay Waterpark, and Solace Spa. For more information, call 800-GO-BOYNE, or go to www.boyneusa.com.


Bugling Elk Near Gaylord

The largest elk herd east of the Mississippi are within easy sight near this alpine-themed town just east of Boyne Mountain.

Grown from just seven re-introduced in 1919, the elk are just north of town in the Pigeon River State Forest and the best viewing month is September. Head to the Forest Field office for maps and information about elk viewing. For more information, call 989-732-3541, or go to michigan.gov/dnr, and look up. For more on Gaylord, including its two-dozen-plus golf courses as well as resorts, contact the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau, 800-345-8621, or gaylord-mich.com.


Mackinac In Fall

Early- to mid-October is tops for fall on Mackinac Island. Fall color, and falling prices, that is, as this car-less island starts closing up shop for winter. Summer’s throngs of “fudgies” (local term for tourists) are gone. For bargain-hunters it’s time to hit sales up and down the island’s streets.

In between, stay at resorts like the magnificent Grand Hotel, Mission Point, or gingerbread B&Bs in between, where shoulder rates apply. Enjoy the colors while mountain biking its wooded pathways or ride its paved trails. Book a carriage ride or drive one yourself, and after dinner, enjoy a crisp night stroll as most of the island readies for well-deserved winter nap. For more information, including what to see and do here in winter, contact the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, 800-454-5227, or mackinacisland.org, or more info is at mackinac.com.  Save travels!


Bill Semion is an award-winning author, travel and outdoor writer. His travels have taken him to the jungles of South America and the ski slopes and trails of North America’s top ski states, as well as Michigan He is the author of two books, Fun With the Family in Michigan and Michigan Winter Trails, a description of 42 cross-country ski areas across the state. He is the author of numerous general travel articles, plus outdoor articles on skiing and fishing.

An Avid Fly Fisher and StoneFly Vineyards Wine Fan

An Avid Fly Fisher and StoneFly Vineyards Wine Fan

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