Back in May, I had my first big girl magazine assignment. I wrote and photographed this month’s feature article for New Hampshire Magazine highlighting Northeast Fly Fishing School’s weekend in collaboration with The Hancock Inn, NH. This was terrific fun. I am smitten with this line of work and grateful that the editor took a chance and gave me this assignment. Thank you to everyone involved in the story. It was an amazing weekend filled with good food, good people, and gorgeous natural beauty.
**Article below (with additional photos) as it appears in this month’s August 2016 issue. A salmon dish that I made was featured in the article but I replaced it with this Lemon Zucchini Teatime loaf for the blog:
***Oh, and that handsome man swinging his fly fishing pole…is my Patrick.
When I browse through my tattered and dog-eared copy of New Hampshire Magazine, September 2014, I can’t help but breathe a contented sigh as well as emit a bubbly giggle at the hope this magazine gave us at that time. Living in southern Texas then, we dreamed of a cooler climate filled with less humid outdoor activities that were set among beautiful lakes and mountains. That dream became a reality last year when we left that southern climate behind and signed the paperwork to purchase a century old farmhouse perched on a little hill overlooking a charming covered bridge nestled in the Mink Hills of New Hampshire.
I remember flipping through the pages of that magazine and a photo of a fly fishing scene caught my eye. It was of a river tumbling over giant granite boulders that were worn smooth and round over thousands of years. A cool morning mist hovered over the surface of the water like a silk scarf rests gently over the shoulders of a beautiful woman. A lone fly fisherman in the photo cast his rod out over the fast moving water and the line gracefully curled through the air just like a wisp of smoke does after gently blowing out a candle.
“What a mystery,” I thought. “Fly fishing. I wonder what it would be like to experience this graceful sport on such a rugged but beautiful river?” Fast forward to 2016. In between renovation projects galore on our old farmhouse, we squeeze out weekend escapes to experience beautiful New Hampshire to continue introducing ourselves to our newly adopted state. One of our favorite go-to places is The Hancock Inn in the Monadnock region tucked between Mount Monadnock and Crotched Mountain along the windy Contoocook River. Operating since 1789, it is a perfect example of inns that remain true to their origins and Marcia and Jarvis, the innkeepers, work hard to capture feelings of quintessential New England charm.
I noticed The Hancock Inn is teaming up this year with Northeast Fly Fishing School for weekend packages filled with a scrumptious breakfast, a fly fishing excursion, followed by a relaxing gourmet dinner in the evening overlooking their beautiful flower gardens and sweet little koi pond. Two weekend collaborations are planned for 2016. One was in May and another one will be in September. Without hesitation, we signed up for the May fly fishing weekend.
Going from wandering the pages of a magazine a year ago to experiencing an actual fly fishing weekend indeed happened on a cool misty weekend this May. We packed our warm socks and waterproof boots and left our to-do projects behind for a memorable weekend along the ambling Contoocook River. We met Gerry Crow, our instantly likeable instructor. He is a most genuinely engaging man with a deep rich soft spoken voice and mannerisms not unlike Mr. Carson from the British TV program Downton Abbey.
Our class for the weekend was a handful of five fun-loving enthusiasts of all levels, from amateur to intermediate, hailing from all over New England. The morning was crisp and cool with a fine mist falling gently so we all cozied up indoors, enjoying pastries and hot coffee, while Gerry took us through the beginning paces of fly fishing 101.
“Think like a fish, act like a bug” was the intrinsic lesson for the weekend voiced by Gerry. We all chuckled. But, these words are true. Everything we learned, from which tiny sized fly to select, to how to cast our line onto the water, was based on simulating the movements of an insect in order to fool an unsuspecting and hopefully hungry fish. Gerry divided up his remarkable collection of handmade flies by seasons to show us what would be flying out over the rivers at what time of the year and which flies the fish would consider to be the most tasty.
Filled with more knowledge than we could have imagined, fly fishing involves a combination of biology, physical science, and fish and insect psychology! We spent hours in the morning being introduced to more insects than we could have imagined. After a filling lunch of sandwiches, pasta salad, and scrumptious plump oatmeal cookies, with a side of entertaining stories shared among our group members, Gerry got us all suited up and we headed outdoors. We were going spend the second half of the day at a nearby pond trying out our skills on how to cast a rod gracefully out onto the water and…”think like a fish, act like a bug”.
The afternoon was spent in a steady cooling drizzle around a little pond taking what we learned on paper and putting ourselves out onto the water to begin the road to actual fly fishing. Everything from which rod to select, how to tie a clinch knot, and which fly pattern to choose that imitates our chosen insect, occupied us happily during the quiet afternoon hours. Gerry has a way of making each person in the group feel like the lesson is tailored just for him.
With several hours of practice fly casting, all of us anticipated the next morning when Gerry would bring us out onto the swiftly flowing Contoocook River to fly fish for real. But first, the much anticipated gourmet dinner at The Hancock Inn was the evening destination not to be missed, but savored as stories from the day fill the conversations around the table. Dinner at The Hancock Inn does not disappoint. What an ideal ending to dine on locally sourced meals in their cozy dining room after hours spent building up an appetite outdoors in the exhilarating summer air. From their fresh country flowers cut from the back garden and placed on each table, to their antique oil-burning lamps that flicker light so romantically on each white clothed table, the inn most certainly has found that balance between upscale recipe selection, from many locally sourced ingredients and a comfortable unpretentious ambiance.
With an exquisite dinner in the evening, a good night’s sleep at the inn, a hearty tavern breakfast is the first item on the agenda for the morning. One would think we were a band of long time friends at this point. No one goes away hungry from breakfast at the Hancock Inn. Breakfast in the bright cheery tavern room consists of delicious choices from omelets to French toast, fresh seasonal fruit, and Marcia’s signature muffins.
With a full morning ahead, our little group gathered to trek over to Contoocook River for the real deal…fly fishing on a fast moving boulder-studded river. The experience is everything it appears to be when looking at photos of fly fishing in glossy magazines. Under Gerry’s careful eye, we readied our lines. We carefully waded out into the swiftly moving water, using carved sturdy wooden sticks to keep our balance. Gerry lifted various rocks and swished his stick through the tree branches to show us the insects that were breeding at this time of year that would make tasty morsels for the fish. The water rushing around the thick waders was exhilarating. The sounds of the river rumbling forward and the swishing of the trees overhead was like a coordinated orchestra of lullaby music for outdoorspeople. Once out on the water, fly fishing is a calming and solitary experience. Much space is needed between each person due to the lines flying through the air. Only one’s thoughts of fly acting, fish behaving, and realizing the beauty of our state occupies the tranquil hours that stretch out into the morning. It is a sport that mesmerizes the senses. The repetitive motion of casting the line, working the motion of it on the water, pulling it back in and repeating again play out over and over. I can imagine fly fishing could be a great way to travel all over the state experiencing different rivers with diverse scenery during spring then summer and early fall. Gerry is a natural story teller and he entertained and informed us of the many places in New Hampshire where he has fly fished with his buddies. After hours out on the water it was time to close this memorable weekend adventure. Thoughts of a cup of strong coffee with steamed milk or a casual lunch at the adorable Fiddleheads café across from The Hancock Inn works well to lure one out of the water to search for terrestrial delights.
The day ended with a thoughtful contented drive home. We actually followed the Contoocook River as it winds up and over to our little village of Warner. The Hancock Inn provided the perfect place to relax from a day filled with fresh air and wild waters on the river. We felt as if we had been away from home longer than a weekend. We became friends with each of the people in our small group as we shared light-hearted stories of how we all came to seek out this fly fishing experience. The photos in the magazine are alluring, but the experience of fly fishing in the middle of a tumbling river of water, with a light spray of mist all around, and the possibility of the thrill of victory in catching a rainbow trout cannot be matched by any photo. What started as the capture of a glossy photo in a magazine may indeed become the start of a life long hobby as we make friends and continue to explore more of this state filled with its charming rivers, imposing mountains, rolling lush hills, and quaint timeless villages.
Mentions in this post:
Northeast Fly Fishing School
The Hancock Inn Fly Fishing Weekend September 17-18 2016
- ¾ cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
- 1¾ cups (8¾ oz./275 g) shredded zucchini (from about ¾ lb./375 g zucchini)
- 1¾ cups (9 oz./280 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 1¼ cups (10 oz./315 g) sugar
- 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- hazelnuts roasted, then roughly chopped
- Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese,softened
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
- Preheat oven to 275˚F. Grease the inside of a cake pan. Chop ½ cup of hazelnuts. Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Slide sheet pan in the oven and let them roast for 7-10 minutes. Set hazelnuts aside to cool and then roughly chop them on cutting board.
- Raise oven temperature to 350˚F
- Place the zucchini on a kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. Set aside.
- Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light in color, about 2 minutes. Add the ¾ cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, about 1 minute; do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place cake pan in oven and set timer for 45 minutes or until a wooden stick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool, loosen edges of cake from pan with a knife, and then invert the cake onto a wire rack. Once cool, spread cream cheese frosting on top and add blueberries. Serves 8 to 10.
- Cream Cheese:
- Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add sugar gradually, beating together each addition until blended.
Flour – Littleton Grist Mill www.littletongristmillonline.com/
Cream Cheese – Huckins Farm – New Hampton www.facebook.com/huckinsfarm/
Butter – Benedikt Dairy – Goffstown www.benediktdairy.com/
Zucchini – Vegetable Ranch Farm – Warner www.vegetableranch.com
Eggs – Manning Hill Farm – Winchesterwww.manninghillfarm.com/index.html
Roasted Hazelnuts – Will n’ Roses – New Boston www.willnroses.com
Blueberries – Blue Moon Berry Farm – Warner www.facebook.com/Blue-Moon-Berry-Farm-142761462407864/
Honey Comb – Meadowview Farms – Gilmanton, NH (no website or Facebook) firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot Tea – Bee Field’s Farm “Sunrise” tea – Wilton www.beefieldsfarm.com
Wooden Spatula – Mastro Company
A Few Things:
So so sweet. So pure. This young couple pours their hearts out in song to their baby. What I love is it seems so random. They are sitting in their car as if they just couldn’t resist singing. Watch the baby’s face…precious.