Fly-Fishing & Friendship in the Dartmouth College Grant

The Confluence

If you’ve ever spent time at a camp with your hunting and fishing buddies, you may have thought, more than once, that it would be fun to capture the experience and all the stories in a book. And that’s just what these guys have done, publishing a collection of essays, art, poetry, recipes, and tall tales, about their many years of gathering at property owned by Dartmouth College in northern New Hampshire.

David Van Wie, Phil Odence, Norm Richter, Bob Chamberlain, Ed Baldridge, David Klinges, and Bill Conway each contributed to the book, The Confluence, and their stories are interesting and entertaining.

Lou Zambello, who many may recognize as an author and angler, wrote the introduction. Lou is a friend of Dave Van Wie’s and was invited to join Dave on these trips a few times. Noting that he’d, “been along on plenty of guys-only fishing weekends,” Lou realized, immediately upon arrival at the cabin, “that this group was not the typical bunch of fly-fishing bums that I was familiar with. One guy was sitting on the cabin steps strumming a guitar; another was fiddling with the settings on his camera, trying to catch a photo of a hummingbird; and another had his watercolors out and was painting a landscape. The food was gourmet with choice of wines and beers. These guys were getting the most out of their weekend at a rustic cabin.”

Boy, didn’t that introduction inspire in me a desire for an invitation to this gathering! As you dive into the book, you’ll find that these guys also know how to fish, and how to enjoy beer (all day every day). Some years they caught lots of fish, and others, not many. There are plenty of adventures – two of them nearly drowned in a canoe attempting to paddle down a rain-swollen river – but it’s mostly fun and friendship, times 7, and sometimes more. Quite often, others join them, from dogs to kids and even wives on occasion. That’s when the guys are on their best behavior.

The Dartmouth College Grant sounds like my kind of place. “Not only are the trout wild up here, so are the rivers,” writes Van Wie.” After twenty-some years, we know we can fish in the same place on the same weekend of the year and never get the same conditions twice in ten years.” Boy, I’ve been there, done that, in my favorite fishing destinations. “the unpredictable conditions are a big part of what makes fishing such a challenge in the Grant – and very rewarding when we have success,” reported Van Wie.

I appreciated the chapter on Catch and Release, written by Odence and Van Wie. “Wild trout are delicious,” they begin. “In a rustic camp, pan-fried is the way to go.” But in the next paragraph, we read, “The Boys all love trout, but we almost never eat them in the Grant. Maybe once every few years. Seriously. Some may assume that our catch is for consumption, but that’s not how we roll.” Good for them.

The page 74 photo of Odence’s daughter Bookie landing “a whopper” with her Dad manning the net, is priceless. And so’s the rest of the story. When Odence and Bookie got back to the cabin, the rest of the family was gathered outside on the porch, where they’d been for two hours after spotting a very large snake in the cabin. And there’s more to that story, but you’ll have to read the book to enjoy that.

From the gorgeous photos to the stories, you can enjoy this a chapter at a time – preferably at camp.

More information about the book can be found at www.confluencebook.com. And you will also enjoy Van Wie’s website and blog at www.watchyourbackcast.com.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.