As the snow begins to melt across the Pocumtuck Valley, students at Deerfield gain opportunities for many outdoor activities. One of the many pastimes open to members of the community is fishing on the Deerfield River. On weekends and even on some weekdays during the spring, many students are at the river casting out their lines.
In Deerfield’s past, an active fly fishing club organized interested fishermen and allowed them to collaborate to maximize their fishing potential. With this access, students were able to pick up a sport to which they may not have otherwise been exposed. There has been buzz around campus of reviving this club to give others the same opportunities as before. With the Deerfield River being one of the best fisheries in New England, there is an incredible chance at success, even as a beginner. That is not to say that there are not ways to pick up the sport without a formal club. With so many students with fishing experience on campus, there are many to look up to in the field.
Willy Conzelman ’21 started fly fishing just last year, and is excited to continue fishing at Deerfield. Under the guidance of many skilled upperclassmen, Conzelman has found much success during his short time at Deerfield. Conzelman noted the calming benefits of fishing, saying, “Fishing is an escape from the real world and an opportunity for one to discover his or her place in nature.” He expressed passion for the sport and has made efforts to expand and diversify the fishing community at Deerfield.
Philip Weymouth ’18 added that fishing has helped him “realize the beauty of the Valley” and allowed him to respect his surroundings in a more thoughtful way.
Fishing in the Deerfield River clearly serves not only as a way to have fun with friends but also as a way to reflect on the events of one’s life.
This can be seen even in spring electives. In English Teacher Dr Mark Ott’s Literature of Fishing, students read and analyze texts pertinent to the art of fishing such as A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean. This novel was adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt, and is the central idea to a course about fishing. During long periods, members of the class have the privilege of trying their hand at the sport on the Deerfield River.
Dr. Ott spoke fondly of the course. He said, “Because the Deerfield River is such an integral part of campus, it seems like more and more students are excited to engage with it more deeply through fishing and observation. In the Literature of Fishing course, students read a broad range of texts by Melville, Hemingway, Thomas McGuane, and Norman McLean among many authors, as they consider the natural environment — oceans, lakes, and rivers–and how it is entwined with the human race through fishing and the maritime experience.”
Tommy Whiteley ’18 noted that his favorite part of the class is “being immersed in nature, which is incredibly soothing during the hectic routine of a Deerfield week.”
Molly Fischer ’20 also enjoys fishing and commented on the gender imbalance in the sport, saying, “I think there is always room for improvement in gender equality, and I think if the fly fishing club was formed again, we could see real growth in female participants.”
Fishing is an activity that has brought mindfulness and joy to lots of members of the Deerfield community. It may continue to grow in the coming years.