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Fly Fishing: Vermont’s Backcountry

by Deirdre Frost…..

Fly fishing seems, relatively, a simple matter of casting a fly rod and getting a fly out to the fish. But yet, the sport is not just a physical activity, it is both an art and a science that draws on entomology – connecting bugs and hatches, and mastering the casting arc with its own rhythmic action.

Part of the attraction, of course, is the famous Battenkill River, which bring anglers far and wide to fly fish for trout.  That attraction creates an opportunity for sports minded individuals like me to become seasoned anglers.

The Battenkill River is famous as a fly fishing destination.

In this world of fly fishing, the Orvis Flagship store in Manchester, Vermont is a mecca for attracting anglers to this premier destination. It also seemed the ideal place to make inquiries about finding instructors at fly fishing schools who have expertise in freshwater fly fishing.

The Orvis Flagship Store in Manchester offers  anglers a full range of fly fishing gear.

In my case, I need a refresher course on fly fishing and arrange for an experienced guide to show me where and how to fish for trout. Starting in mid-May, I feel this is a great time to brush up my skills and consider dry fly fishing for this season.

In my previous training, I discovered that there is far more to fly fishing than merely casting flies. There are fundamentals that one needs to know before getting started. Ideally, to become adept at the sport requires getting expert instruction.

Peter Basta, Orvis endorsed fly-fishing guide, enjoys working with anglers of all ability levels.

Peter Basta, Guide Service and Outfitter, has spent over 35 years in guiding and helping anglers improve their fly fishing skills.  I have heard it said that to be successful at the sport, one must be able to cast and present your fly to the fish properly. “Presentation” as Peter mentions, makes all the difference in the experience.  Often, the ability to “read a river” means being able to recognize the type of stream habitat the fish are most likely to favor, both at rest or while feeding. According to Peter, fish often prefer to be in slower current that helps them conserve energy. Trout, in particular, like to lay near rocks or in spots where two currents meet.

Finding good places to fish is a challenge, yet, Peter scouts the rivers daily and assesses the best places to fly fish along the Battenkill, Mettawee, or Delaware Rivers. In choosing a site, his preference for “small, tight water” means fly fishing the Mettawee River for brook trout. This river near Pawlet, Vermont, flows for sixteen miles as a small freestone stream with small tributaries of cool water that are local habitats for trout. In my initial visit, the river seems ideal for practicing the rudiments of fly fishing in a protected setting.

In one day, the experience is exhilarating in practicing casting and moving along the river to find prime spots to fly fish. The different pools and drifts along the river heightens my level of activity as I test the waters to consider whether to use dry flies, nymphs, or streamers. Several times, my casting is too high with my fly catching on overhanging branches until Peter suggests that being left-handed that I try back casting over my right shoulder to perfect my fly casting technique.

Despite fly fishing in relatively swift currents, I cast my fly into some deep pools where I canfeel in the moment. The tranquil setting provides for sheer relaxation.  Although I do not catch fish, I have an enjoyable day, engaging in a sport that I now feel passionate about.

Battenkill Spillway

Having had such an exciting time fly fishing, I do not want to leave without exploring the beautiful sites in Manchester.  Starting with the river walk along the West Branch of the Battenkill River and admire the views of the rushing waters, before reaching the Battenkill Spill.

The Battenkill Spillway offers natural splendor in the historic heart of Manchester.

After watching the cascading waters of the Battenkill Spillway, I continue to explore the historic district of Manchester Center. Several of the old mill buildings have been turned into chic restaurants including the Mystic Café & Wine Bar on Main Street.  The ambient light brightens up the space that is further enhanced by the three panel wall art. In keeping with the modern décor, the upbeat feel and eclectic menu reflect unusual selections of octopus and wild Scottish salmon. The dining experience proves to be casually elegant with a sophisticated flair.

Dorset Rising Bakery:

Nearby in Dorset is an extraordinary, boutique bakery called Dorset Rising that is a popular breakfast and lunch restaurant that blends American classic baked goods with European flair. The provincial-style décor and warm, inviting atmosphere attracts locals and visitors alike to experience this unique establishment.  A top choice is the Vietnamese inspired dish, Bahn Mi, which uses locally sourced ingredients to create a delicious, country-style fare breakfast.

Stopping in the country for wholesome, baked treats at Dorset Rising is a popular pastime. 


Within a short drive is The Arlington Inn in Arlington, VT with its classic Greek revival style architecture that provides a special romantic getaway to spend time in a country setting.  This bed & breakfast inn is also known for its fine dining that rivals other formal dining restaurants in the region.

The Arlington Inn offers warm hospitality in a beautiful country setting.

The inn offers a quiet, peaceful ambiance that makes it a special place to unwind and relax in a small town that is within easy reach of Manchester and Bennington.

For further details:

Peter Basta Guide Service & Outfitter, Dorset, VT; Tel: (802) 867-4103; website:

Orvis Flagship Store, Manchester, VT Tel: (802) 362-3750; website:

Mystic Café & Wine Bar, Manchester, VT; Tel: (802) 768-8086; reservations:

Dorset Rising Bakery, Dorset, VT; Tel: (802) 867-7021; website:

The Arlington Inn, Arlington, VT, Tel: (802) 375-6532; website:


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