Fly Fishing the Harriman Ranch (Publisher's Proof)
John McDaniel '64
Experienced anglers argue that the Ranch offers the most challenging light tackle fly fishing on the planet. There are reasons for the legendary difficulty: prolific hatches of aquatic insects occur throughout the season. The slow, clear water allows our trout to carefully inspect potential food sources. Finally, the rain- bows are educated daily by skilled anglers.
Our difficult fishing is great fun. The broad, open, flat water allows the angler to locate rising fish at remarkable distances. Ninety-eight percent of the time, we sight fish. The Ranch is the perfect place to fly cast. The water is shallow, the bottom is even, the current is gentle, and there are no obstacles to hit with your back casts.
I recorded data for every hour I have fished or guided since 1983. The 10,500 hours provided many insights including the type of fly I used to take each of the 1,523 fish that my clients or I landed that was 17 inches or longer in length. Ninety-three percent of those fish were taken on dry flies. No less than 514, or 34 percent, of the 1,523 rainbows were twenty inches or longer in length—any one of which would be the fish of a lifetime if it were taken on a dry fly on most flowing trout water of the world.
I am proud of my detailed descriptions and many photographs of our trout. These are not just targets in the most exciting fishing imaginable—they are incredible creatures. You do not have to seek Atlantic salmon to find a salmonid with stunning power, speed and acrobatic ability. Our twenty inch class fish will thrill you.
Anglers captured by the Ranch are an important part of the American story. These are not wealthy English Lords who have exclusive access to the best rivers of Europe. Citizens of modest economic means fish our water for many days each year. The Ranch is democratic. If it were the exclusive domain of the rich, it would not be the place it is.
The sub-cultural language of Ranch anglers indicates how fly fishing a specific piece of water can significantly impact the way we organize data in our brains. The sub-cultural language is also an index of how important fly fishing can be to contemporary humans.
From a historical perspective, it is important to describe the Ranch during the first thirty years of public access. It is a sobering comment—and it should challenge all of us to do as much as we can to protect it—but it is essential to document the fishery today, because there is no guarantee it will be of the same quality in the future.
The Ranch is spectacularly beautiful. The most avid anglers enjoy seeing otters, badgers, fox, moose, bear, antelope, deer, coyotes, elk, and yes, wolves. If you have curiosity, you will learn the birds’ names—including many species of raptors, shore birds, and waterfowl.
Serenity is conferred by the Ranch. The water is calm, and comforting. I suspect very few of us fully appreciate how much we derive psychologically from the pervasive tranquility.
Many Ranch regulars have gained solace and support from the Ranch after suffering difficult problems. It is sustaining for those of us who love it. For me, and others, it is more sacred than any religious place, structure, or shrine in the world.
Signed by John McDaniel