Fishing the Third Branch with Finn

When your dad is Brendan Barden, there’s a good chance you’ll follow in his fishy footsteps. We’ve known Finn and Brendan for a number of years thanks to Green Mountain Troutfitters and the Ditch Pickle Classic, but we didn’t really know just what a keen young angler Finn was until he spent the week fishing with us at Seyon Lodge this summer. The following is an article that was written by Bob Eddy and appeared in The Herald this past August. You can link directly to the article HERE.

Fishing the Third Branch with Finn

Randolph 10-Year-Old Finds Joy Casting Flies on the River

“This is a roll cast,” 10-year-old Finn Barden explained. “After your cast, on the end of your drift, you pull the tip of your rod back slowly, leaving the fly in the water, and then quickly flick it forward, creating the looping of the line as the fly, leader, and line are lifted off the water and the fly is advanced further into the stream.” (Herald / Bob Eddy)

Finn Barden of Randolph Village turned 10 this summer. Like any young boy, Barden enjoys the long mornings and lengthening afternoons of play associated with vacation, now sadly over.

During those long summer days, you might see him riding his bike from his home on hospital hill, down to the banks of the Third Branch, a long fishing pole gently cradled under one arm.

Fishing is Barden’s greatest joy. And not just any fishing; fly fishing, where the weight of a rod is measured in ounces, where the line spools out to a leader as fine as the gossamer, and a hand-tied fly that will float upon the White, tempts fish to rise and strike.

Scooting around the village on his bike, Barden becomes an old soul as he contemplates and speaks of fishing. At water’s edge, and wading waist-deep, he is connected with currents in his Irish past.

“Finn is my name for short. Finnegan is my full name. It’s Irish. There were many Finnegans before me.

Barden displays a hopper (a dry fly which floats on the surface) with an additional very small nymph (a wet fly that sinks below). “With this setup, I get two chances. If the fish hits the nymph, the dry fly will drop under, and I set the hook. Or, the fish could just go straight to the dry fly. One time last week I caught a fish on both hooks with one cast!”

“It’s hard for me to recall my earliest fishing, but I do remember one time when I was maybe three years old. I was fishing with a Barbie rod; it had Barbie pictures all over it. I was using a lure, a blue fox, with a spinner. Our whole family was fishing from a boat on Silver Lake, and I caught a pike. Hard to say how big it was. I was so small at that age it seemed really huge! It was probably 16 inches, maybe bigger.

“We don’t keep many fish, it’s mostly catch and release. That’s fine with me because I don’t like fish now, probably because when I was three or four I used to catch dace with my bare hands and eat them live!”

In Randolph’s Third Branch, Barden reports having caught suckers, brown trout, brook and rainbow trout, and black-nose dace.

“Brook trout aren’t really trout,” he advises. They look like trout, but they’re char, a different family of fish.

“I love catching smallmouth bass. They’re in the main stem of the White in the summer, but not in the Third Branch. Smallmouth are a big fighting fish, very strong, much stronger than largemouth bass. You won’t find largemouth in the White River; they’re a lake fish, like lake trout.”

After five hours fishing on the Third Branch, Barden walks home along Pleasant Street. Beginning early at the golf course, he worked his way upstream to the village bridge. Barden’s boots are specially made for sure footing on the river bottom; his pack holds flies, line and tippet, clippers, forceps to assist in hook removal, a file for hook sharpening, and maybe a bite to eat.

Barden often fishes with his father, Brendan, and quickly launches from one recollection to the next. “Just yesterday, we were coming home from a weekend of camping near Bretton Woods at Mount Washington. We stopped at the Ammonoosuc for 10 minutes and I caught two small rainbows.

“I loved fishing with him in Ireland. At Fairy Glen we caught brown trout that looked like brook trout.

“We do the Ditch Pickle Fly Fishing Tournament on Lake Champlain in the early summer. My first year was 2017. You have to be seven, but I turned seven the day after.”

Asked how they did this summer, Barden wrinkled his nose, saying with a twisted smile, “Not very well.”

Barden is also keen on learning to tie his own flies. His favorites to tie now are eggs. He explains, “You take a small clump of puffy thread and yarn, lay it along the hook shank and wrap it, beginning at the loop, working back as you go. Once you’ve gone the length, you reverse to the loop and tie it off, making a soft bumpy egg imitation.

“I don’t do dry flies yet; they’re too complicated.”

Selecting the right fly for the day, the river, the time of year, is part of the fly fishing art. At the river’s edge, as he is prepares a new leader from tippet, Barden eyes the water, considering his options, “The smallest hooks I use are 24s, and those barely ever. I only use them when fishing for dace, or when the fish are really picky. Mostly I fish with eights, tens and twelves.”

His tackle readied, Barden walks slowly into the water, vision aided by polarized lenses. Moving with the current, he approaches a pool. Then, with deft arm and wrist motion of the rod, the line alternately braking and slipping through the fingers of his left hand, he sends the fly farther and farther out, finally presenting it gently upon the water.

“I let the nymph float downstream, moving my rod tip with the current. The fish will find it.”

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