Castwell’s Curse is Lifted

In the short story “Mr. Theodore Castwell”, by G.E.M. Skues, the aforementioned and deceased Mr. Castwell approaches the Pearly Gates and presents himself as a fly fisher. Escorted to a perfectly lovely cottage next to a perfectly lovely piece of water, he catches fish after fish from the same spot, over and over again. When he decides to move along to another spot, he is told he may not, and it slowly dawns on him that he won’t, after all, be spending eternity in the place he thought he’d be spending it.

Halcyon Days

After eleven years fishing the same small watershed and lake in Vermont, Quill Gordon could relate. Same water, same fish, same “fellow” anglers — not all of whom treated him well — year after year. It was a classic case of Castwell’s Curse, exacerbated by the fact that there is some stuff up with which he will not put, and so it came to pass that Quill Gordon broke down his rods, packed up his gear and, unlike Castwell, got the hell out of there, making his way to a cozy hibernaculum at the top of the hill in which to pass the winter while waiting for the sap runs of spring.

“F*ck trout, those dainty, speckled beauties, always delicately sipping in their cold, limpid pools,” he thought to himself. “And f*ck those who are obsessed with them, too.”

Quill Gordon was in a serious f*nk.

Then a mid-winter message arrived, an invitation to fish somewhere other than what had become his home water. Suddenly it made sense again to have all those books about bass on his shelves. Henshaw and Whitlock and Murray displaced Proper and Brooks and Wulff on the table; skinny hackle and tiny hooks gave way to buck tail and an old box of #6 Stingers at the bench; lines designed for delicate presentations were stripped from their reels, replaced by heavy-headed rigs meant for slinging big flies into places where a little commotion can be a good thing.

Places like western Virginia.

The morning plane to Boston flew 150 mph at 5,000 ft. Fortunately, the afternoon plane from Boston to Richmond did 600 mph at 34,000 ft and Quill Gordon soon found himself drinking bourbon, listening to whippoorwills in the Appalachian twilight. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bourbon tasted of maple.

Appalachian Twilight

It was Thursday night, and plans were made to fish for bass on Saturday and Monday, which makes this a good place in the story to inform readers that Quill Gordon didn’t really mean it when he thought to himself, “F*ck trout,” although the jury is still out on the anglers.

On Friday morning, Quill rigged up his 6′ 2-wt while the morning mist rose from the folds of the hills and, after a healthy breakfast, he was off to wade small streams in pursuit of Virginia’s famed brook trout. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bacon and grits tasted of maple.

Morning Mist

Brook trout may not be trout (they are char) but they are enthusiastic, and it was almost anticlimactic to hook the first “away” fish in a decade on the first cast.


Standing knee deep in an unfamiliar stream on the side of an unfamiliar mountain, there was still something familiar about the whole thing. The glint of sunlight on the riffle and the spray of diamonds at its tail when the little fish struck the #14 Adams felt remembered, not as anything in particular that had happened before, but in a vague, vestigial way. Kind of like deja-vu. Kind of like finding home in a place you’ve never been before.

Regular readers know not to expect pictures of fish (unless it’s an old picture of someone else holding them) but that small brook trout was significant. Castwell’s Curse had been lifted.

A Very Heavy Fish

It was a heavy little fish.

Some more photos of small streams fished last week in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia:

To Mark, Gary, Todd, Mike, and Doc, I say thank you for inviting me down and accepting me into the group. Our times in Vermont were always special and I am fortunate to have been included in your spring ritual.

To all seven of my loyal readers, I say thanks for hanging in there with me while I worked on removing the curse that had been placed upon my head. This little jaunt gave me plenty to write about and I look forward to sitting down to share more.

Tight lines, wubbas.






Categories: Fly Fishing, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Castwell’s Curse is Lifted

  1. Buggy D

    Hey Quill,
    Don’t know if you’ve ever come across the little book “Trout Flies & Flowers” by Ivan L. Mahoney but your discovery of fringed polygala while fishing for brook trout might be a good start to a sequel! If you’re not familiar with the book, check it out. Love the pictures.
    Buggy D

    • I have come across that book, but it was a long time ago. I liked the way flowers could be used to figure what bugs would be on the water. One more book for the wish list!

  2. Skip Sims

    Welcome to “The Dark Side,” as the silk-pants trout fishermen might call warm water fly fishing. If you were in the GWNF, you were too close to sneak in and out w/o saying “Hello” to Jim, Phil, Walt and the rest of us. Hope it wasn’t just a short visit. Permanent move?

    • Skip!

      It was just a short visit, unfortunately. Too short. I’m looking at it as recon because I want to go back.

      If it makes you feel any better, I thought about you (and Jim; I laugh every time I look at the “whizzing you were here” fly box he gave me). If I had been in charge, had a vehicle, and if they hadn’t taken my clothes, I would have looked you up.

      No matter how much time I’ve spent fishing for trout, I still say smallies on a fly rod are about as much fun as there is. I kind of like the Dark Side and I detest silk pants.

  3. This makes me happy.

  4. Here in Illinois I know a few creeks about that size that hold smallmouth bass up to 18 inches, with rumors of bigger. I know those exist out your way and down into VA.

    Once you tie into those on either light spinning gear or fly rod in one of those little creeks, you’ll say f*ck trout and actually mean it.

    The difference is… smallies the size of the trout you show all think they’re 18 inches and fight accordingly. And the little creeks are full of them.

    • Every time you did a post about small creek smallmouths, I was jealous. Smallies are a lot of fun, fight like the dickens, and feel a lot bigger than they are on a fly rod.

      I don’t have fishing thirty yards away anymore but I am free to fish where and when I want now. Goodness, I have a lot of water to cover…

  5. Idaho steel

    Here in the bright and cheerful mountains, spring runoff is in full chat. While I could never say “f*ck trout” even jokingly, I have said “f*ck it”. Hence the canoe is now permanently affixed to the truck, I’ve taken to haunting a certain lowland reservoir, I’ve just placed an order to a certain fly shop in Tennessee to obtain more of a certain type of bass bug known as a “bullet”, that when fished with a certain amount of care against the lilly pads of an evening often results in a certain characteristic Ka-Chug noise. Silk pants or not, my first love will always be trout, but catching bass on top water bugs from your canoe… Lets just say I’m feeling the force.

  6. Bob Stanton

    F*ck Castwell…

  7. Pingback: The Cremation of MMXVIII | The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond

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