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Rodgers Forge couple finding new ways to enjoy fly fishing, helping others

Towson resident Don Haynes gives a brief demonstration on the Tenkara method of fly fishing in Gunpowder Falls.

Eight decades after the supply of trout in freshwater streams and rivers in the Eastern U.S. was seemingly close to being depleted, the fish and those who revel in the art of catching them are doing quite well.

Although plenty of work remains to be done, there are folks who give up much of their free time battling the forces of nature and man that pressure natural habitats and waterways.

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Two of those people, Rodgers Forge couple Don and Norma Haynes, are part of a national organization — Trout Unlimited — with 150,000 volunteers dedicated to the preservation and conservation of aquatic natural resources for future generations.

Although it may seem odd that avid anglers would be credited for preserving fish while doing their best to hook them with replicas of flies like the real ones fish eat living in or near the river, Trout Unlimited members are dedicated to a catch-and-release protocol among its various preservation initiatives.

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The Maryland chapter of the organization boasts more than 800 members, mostly from Baltimore City and Baltimore and Harford counties. Norma Haynes is the chapter's newly elected president and her husband is the vice president.

Don Haynes is also the chair of the organization's Mid-Atlantic Council.

"People think that we're just a fly-fishing club," he said. "But our real goals is to preserve, treasure and conserve cold water habitats."

Both are avid anglers who think nothing of taking a 180-mile round trip from Baltimore to Boiling Springs, Pa., for a day of fly fishing on the Yellow Breeches Creek, the spot where Don has had his most enjoyable fly-fishing experience.

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"I fished a Japanese Tenkara Rod (that) is a very light rod designed for small brook trout (8 to 10 inches long)," he said. "I caught a couple of rainbows and browns, one that ran to about 16 inches. The rod literally bent double handling the fish, but I did get them into the net. A trout that big on an ultra-light rod feels like a monster. Catching bluegills in the spring on (a) Tenkara (rod) is a lot of fun, too. It is fairly easy to catch a lot. On a local bluegill pond, Norma and I caught well over 100 in only about three hours fishing."

His enthusiastic reaction to the experience shows the passion the couple has for fishing.

"We try to go every weekend," said Norma, an assistant in Dr. Suresh Pattanashetti's Towson dental practice and an instructor for Casting for Recovery, a group dedicated to helping breast cancer patients by teaching them the art of fly fishing. "I just like being outside. It's just a bonus if you catch some fish, too."

For closer mid-week jaunts, the Haynes often go to the Gunpowder River for stops at popular sites at Bunker Hill, Basemore and York roads in Northern Baltimore County near Hereford.

And when visiting their son, Michael, 25, a Towson High School grad living in Boulder, Colo., they are happy to try their luck in the nearby Big Thompson River.

While the couple may continue to visit familiar spots, near and far, the style of their fly fishing has changed as they embrace the aforementioned Tenkara — a Japanese method of fly fishing that has become very popular in the last couple of years in the United States and other western nations.

In essence, Tenkara is a more simple version of fly fishing in that, instead of employing shorter, heavier rods with reels, anglers can now use longer collapsible rods with just a line and a fly.

According to the Tenkara USA website, the Japanese version of fly fishing first documented by English diplomat Ernest Satow in 1878 is perfect for "people who like the idea of fly fishing but have always found western fly fishing too complex, and to excite experienced fly anglers through an undeniably effective but simpler approach to fly fishing."

Although Norma and Don Haynes are more likely to use Tenkara in smaller streams and rivers, they're still using "western" or conventional rod-and-reel equipment on a broader expanse in, for example, the Potomac River.

Don Haynes first discovered Tenkara through word of mouth and on the Internet two years ago after taking up fly fishing four years earlier.

"I read about it, and I was curious about it," the political science professor at the University of Baltimore said. "And when Tenkara USA offered deep discounts on a rods, I bought one."

A couple of months ago, Norma decided to learn Tenkara as well.

Don and Norma Haynes of Rogders Forge demonstrate the tenkara method of fly fishing in Gunpowder Falls in Parkton on Wednesday, Oct 7.
Don and Norma Haynes of Rogders Forge demonstrate the tenkara method of fly fishing in Gunpowder Falls in Parkton on Wednesday, Oct 7. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

They will be among those who will gather at a Trout Unlimited meeting at Towson Presbyterian Church (400 W. Chesapeake Ave.) on Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. to hear Rob Lepcyzk give a Tenkara presentation.

The St. Paul's School grad is both a certified Orvis guide and a Tenkara USA certified guide. A drawing for a Tenkara USA Amago rod and accessories will be held after the event, which is free and open to the public.

At 27, Lepcyzk, is already an expert by virtue of fishing, as he says, "almost" every day and working at Great Feathers fly shop in Sparks.

"It shortens the learning curve," he said about gaining practical experience with a high volume of fly fishing under his belt. "Tenkara makes you realize you don't have to do what the guy in the magazine says, that you can find a newer, different and more effective ways to fly fish."

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