Word has reached us of the passing of former On The Water columnist Charlie Place after a long battle with cancer. I met Charlie in the early 1990s while working at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth, Massachusetts. He came in with a group of friends, all members of the Connecticut Fly Fisherman’s Association. They were looking for advice on where to do some fly fishing for stripers and I was immediately struck by their enthusiasm, especially Charlie’s. They returned to the Cape many times I was fortunate to fish with them on occasion and to get to know them. Later, when I became editor of On The Water and we needed someone to take over the regular fly-fishing column, I immediately thought of Charlie and he continued to write the column for eight years. He had many fans among regular readers of this magazine, fly fishermen and conventional anglers alike who loved Charlie’s casual, conversational style, wit and wisdom.
What I’ll remember most about Charlie is working with him at fishing shows in Connecticut when he volunteered to man our booths. His friends and fans of his writing were almost always around, and Charlie was especially good with youngsters. He spoke to me with true joy about teaching his young grandson to cast and fish; I’m sure more than anything else he would like that to be his legacy.
Every time I tie on Charlie’s fly creation, his Yellow Mustache, and fool a trout I will think of him. Charlie Place was a credit to the sport of fishing and he will be missed.
~Gene Bourque, Editor at Large
An Outdoorsman Award for high school students has been established in Charlie’s memory. Donations may be made and sent to Windsor Locks High School (W.L.H.S.) Charles
Place Outdoorsman Award, 58 South Elm Street, Windsor Locks, CT 06096.
Posted below is Charlie’s On The Fly column from December 2006. Charlie’s writing always made it clear that while the “catching” is important, it was the entire experience of fishing that he loved – the strategy and the humor, the planning and the traveling, the food and the friendship.
A Fishing trip to MaineBy Charlie Place
Jerry Wade, Gary Steinmiller, Roger Plourde and I are going on a fishing trip to northern Maine for several days to fish for landlocked salmon, so I spent this morning packing warm clothes and fishing gear and sorting through a few boxes of flies. Paul Beaudreau and Ernie Boutiette introduced Jerry and I to landlocked salmon fishing in Maine in the early 1980s. I don’t know if that was a curse or a blessing. We looked forward to it every year though and it is so much fun that it must be a blessing. The four of us had been taking this particular fall outing, on and off (mostly on), since then. Roger and Gary are counted as newcomers since they have only been casting for landlocks with us for the past 10 years or so. That’s important because rookies get to do the camp dishes. Unfortunately, neither Paul nor Ernie could make it this year. We are going to miss both of them. I’m sure that the landlocks won’t, though.
The stuff I pack for any trip is usually about the same. You would bring different rods, reels, and flies depending on what you are fishing for, but you are going to bring rods and reels in any case. The rest of the stuff is unchanged. Ernie agrees that he packs almost the same stuff for every fishing trip too. He says, “The only thing that changes on my packing list is how many pairs of underwear and socks I bring.”
I always seem to be in a dilemma about how many boxes of flies to take. I end up taking them all, even though I only use a few different flies. It’s the same as going to a local river. My vest is loaded with flies but in actuality, I don’t use that many different fly patterns on a given day. Streamer use is a little different though, as I tend to change them more often than I do dry flies. Fly line choice is a question too. I do the same thing as I do with the flies. I agonize about what to bring and then I decide to take all the appropriate-sized lines, both in sinking and in floating, so I can cover the water from the top to the bottom. Imagine being on a fishing trip and needing a fly line to do a specific job and it’s at home.
If you have not been fly-fishing for landlocks, you should definitely put it on your list. It is exciting fishing, to say the least. My favorite way to fish for them is with a full-sinking line and a streamer. The streamer that I use most often is a Barnes Special. However, I have found that when the salmon are being uncooperative that it pays to keep changing streamers. I often change to Yellow Mustaches and then after a while change again to an Orange Mustache. From experience, what tends to happen with the catching is that one or two salmon will eat the Barnes, and then the rest of them will ignore it, rascals that they are. Switch to the Yellow Mustache, and you will maybe pick up another fish, then switch to the orange, and you will possibly collect another fish. I don’t know why. If you add a couple of your own favorite flies to the list, say a Gray Ghost and a Hornberg for instance, then you would have a five-fly rotation that should increase your catching, especially in heavily fished pools. I would not overlook the Mickey Finn as part of your five-fly arsenals, especially for landlocks. In fact, I would make it a point to show up at a heavily fished pool, say the Dam Pool at Grand Lake Stream, Maine, with a fly rotation already in mind. Perhaps three attractor patterns and a couple of smelt imitations. Just before you leave, toss out a Mickey Finn for 10 casts or so.
Anyway, landlocks hit a streamer so hard that even though I’ve been fishing for them for more than twenty years I’m still surprised when the streamer suddenly stops in the middle of a strip. For the first two seconds or so I always think that I’m on a snag. Then, of course, the fish takes off like a rouge missile in any direction it feels like and jumps like a bull trying to toss off a rodeo rider. Sometimes I just give up trying to keep a tight line and put my rod tip down at water level and just reel in the slack, hoping that the untamed and brawling landlocked salmon is still attached to my leader when I collect the slack. Usually if you take the pressure off of any fish, it will stop fighting, go to the bottom, and just sit there. If the fish is hooked well, you should be able to reel up slack and reorganize. Once the line is tight again though, hang on.
Dry-fly fishing for landlocks is certainly enjoyable too. The neat thing about it is that if the fish notice two caddis bugs coming off the surface of the stream that constitutes a hatch as far as the aggressive landlocked salmon are concerned. In other words, it doesn’t take much to get them going. Sometimes a drag-free float is just not exciting enough for a landlock. On occasion, they like the fly to move erratically, so letting the fly drag on purpose actually brings on a strike. Other times letting the fly float drag free for a foot or two, then abruptly moving it six inches or so, will also bring on a strike. Popping the fly several times during a drift may turn on a salmon too. I have seen them eat a dry fly when the angler was stripping it across the surface as fast as he could. Salmon seem to like bugs that are moving. I’m guessing that it is part of their aggressive nature. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional drag-free float works too, but keep in mind that it pays to be diverse with your dry-fly presentation when fishing for landlocks.
I’m meeting Jerry at his house at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. We’ll stop for a coffee and donut to go, just down the street from his house, and then plan the demise of those wily Maine landlocks on our way to our first stop, which will be at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine. In Freeport, we’ll pick up our fishing licenses, some leaders, tippet material, an odd feather or two and have something to eat. On the remainder of the trip, there will be more fish talk, probably about Montana trout, Rhode Island stripers, albies and blues, and Roscoe trout. Then we’ll talk about the Farmington River trout, Housatonic bass and trout, Willimantic fall trout and next year’s fishing trips. At some point, we will decide whether we want to stay on Route 95 to the exit for Lincoln, Maine or get off the highway and take Route 9 out of Bangor toward our destination. If we get off the highway, we stand a chance of seeing an eagle as we pass by the Eagles Nest restaurant just outside of Bangor. A couple of years ago, while traveling in the area of the restaurant, we saw an eagle swoop down and capture an eel from the Penobscot River. It was quite a sight seeing that eagle fly off with an eel gripped in its talons. I think that I’m going to vote for taking Route 9 when the time comes.